WE OFTEN HEAR THAT it is important to learn the local language and culture in order to best adapt to and integrate into Swedish society- and SIT does support this idea. But there is a difference between functioning within a society and becoming just like the locals. If one is not from Sweden, can one ever become a Swede? Is being Swedish a nationality, a citizenship, or perhaps (as some would say) a result of specific gene sequencing?
THE INGLEHART-WELZEL CULTURAL VALUES CHART above illustrates that the world's populations can be grouped along attitudinal lines, often with correlations between philosophical, political and religious ideas. The chart plots most of the cultures of the world in terms of traditional values vs. rational-secular values and then also in terms of survival values vs. self-expression values. This chart comes from the World Values Survey (WVS), "the largest non-commercial, cross-national, time series investigation of human beliefs and values ever executed, which dates to 1981 and includes nearly 400,000 respondents from 100 countries, according to Business Insider--which also explains:
- Traditional values emphasize the importance of religion, parent-child relationships, and authority, and people who embrace these tend to reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. (These societies usually exhibit high levels of nationalism and national pride.)
- Rational-secular values represent the opposite of traditional values and tend to relate to liberal ways of thinking.
- Survival values revere economic and physical security and safety and are linked to low levels of trust and tolerance. These are characteristic for eastern-world countries.
- Self-expression values give high priority to protecting the environment, promoting gender equality, and tolerating foreigners and gays and lesbians. These are characteristic for western-world countries.
BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US? For one thing, as an immigrant, it illustrates why integration is difficult and why "becoming like the locals" may be challenging. Look at Sweden. It is an outlier among the Scandinavian countries. Its reverence for individual rights, liberal social thinking, and secularism is so pronounced that it earns itself a spot on the very top right point of the chart. Can Swedish society relate to the "others" within its borders- especially those whose beliefs may be very different? Those who may come from cultures that have more pronounced religious and family institutions, for example?
WE THINK, ACTUALLY, THAT SWEDEN IS IN A UNIQUE POSITION INDEED. Not just from its top-right placement on the chart above. Because of all the "others" in its borders, it can more easily learn from- and understand the world. We also think that it is every foreigner's responsibility to not become a Swede but to add to this culture's existing richness by adding in a global perspective. Of course, these can more easily be achieved if the "others" are allowed into the labor market, where they can come into contact, in a daily, regular, and non-threatening way, with the original inhabitants of this land.