Happy Swedish National day: what is Swedish? Lets ask advertising.

Today it's nationaldagen in Sweden, and as Wikipedia will tell you, it's sort of a recent holiday: "National Day of Sweden (Sveriges nationaldag) is a national holiday observed in Sweden on June 6 every year. The day was renamed and finally justified as national day by Riksdagen, the Swedish parliament, in 1983. Previously it was commemorated as svenska flaggans dag, Swedish flag day." We're confused about this as we don't have the 4th of July bombastic fireworks tradition, or the 17th of May all-day family friendly Norwegian happy party. Nor do we have a national day of massive parades, wine and cheer like the French Bastille Day which is so contagious even other countries celebrate it. After all, we never had a revolution, nor did we free ourselves from occupying forces, so what are we partying for? Oh, right King Vasa who rebelled against Denmark.

So every year as we gear up toward the national day off, Swedes are a bit confused as what is Swedish, as it can't just be the flag and extravagant princess-weddings that let us eat cake. Have no fear, Swedes, advertising is here to let you know just what is truly Swedish. The most recent is the Swedish diet ad where we learn that all Swedes are blond and like to drive Vespas or roller-skis on the long country roads.

The Danish will tell you that their brother-country Sweden is full of people with mullet haircuts, who can't hold their beer, and only travel to Copenhagen in order to drink too much, flirt with the Danish girls, throw up in public, and then fall asleep on the street. At least if you are to trust Carlsberg, who make potential Swedish customers swear an oath that they will not do any of these things and have to take the last boat home before they are served decent Danish beer.


Carlsberg - Svensker - (1992) 0:45 (Denmark)

We're often confused with Switzerland, in fact all of Scandinavia is, if you are to believe this Radio Shack ad which plays a Swedish summer hit song while showing off phones in the alps playing alphorns. That might be part of the joke though.



Radio Shack - Phonelandia - (2009) :30 (USA)

When Conan went to Sweden to make a Bud Light ad, he ended up wearing leather pants mumbling an unintelligible catch phrase. Everything in this ad screams German eurotechno, apart from the tagline which actually is in Swedish.


Bud Light - Conan O'Brien / Sweden - (2009) :30 (USA)

Speaking of Germans, they LOVE us. In fact the only thing they don't like about Sweden is that our bread is "too sweet", so they'll bring their own. They'll spend their holidays here so much they even buy their summer houses in sunny spots in Sweden, which the locals gripe about as it raises the prices of houses. Meanwhile we'll buy our vacation apartments in Spain without batting an eye - despite that beam lodged firmly in it. Germans will also happily familiarize themselves with our bizarre midsummer traditions, and participate. Here they'll explain how midsummer really works in Sweden. This is about as accurate as an Attenborough documentary. Which is to say, extremely accurate.

Top brass at Ikea were offended by the above midsummer-mocking ad, so Ikea Germany had to replace those ads with this one mocking our near-national anthem "små grodorna". That's a song about little frogs, where you have to hop around a giant maypole waving your hands by your ears and ass to do it right. And yes, we're sober when we do this. Well played, Ikea Germany.

IKEA midsummer in Sweden part two

What else does Sweden have to offer? Oh yes, sexy ladies. A factoid firmly established in Hollywood films and shaving cream ads from way-back-when.

Gillette - Swedish lady barber - 0:30 (USA) 1969

...of course, it doesn't go so well when you get exited about "Swedish twins" so much, you forget that there's males in this country as well. They like to play hockey, by the way. Yep. All.of.them.

NBC - NHL - Swedish Twins (2007) :30 (USA)

Also, while all the Swedish men play hockey, Swedish women are all stewardesses who find pretzels too exotic to eat. Yes. There's been feature length movies based on sexy Swedish fly girls (who fly out of Copenhagen airport....I suspect the Danes are behind this reputation, you never did get over the Gustav Vasa revolt did you guys?).

Schaefer Beer - Stuck in elevator with Swedish stewardesses - (1973)

Unless they're older, older Swedish women are housekeepers who don't use bleach. If they didn't nab themselves a golf-pro while au-pairing, in which case they'll have housekeepers instead.

Borateem - House keep, Mom and Laundry man - (1970)

So happy national day Sweden. You might not know what "Swedish" is, but everyone else does.

p.s. a truly Swedish thing is our love for fish-roe-tomato-paste, in tubes. Here a few gals demonstrate how to get the last bit out of the tube. The tube itself is a yellow-and-blue design classic, the colors of the Swedish flag. Be careful not to highlight the colors in any ad campaign though, as that is considered "too Swedish" and reported for racism in Sweden. I wish I was kidding.

Kalles Kaviar

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

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    Jun 06, 2011
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