The first few times I visited Sweden and tried to use my Swedish language skills, I was always somewhat frustrated. Every time I spoke in Swedish, people would reply in English. “Are my Swedish language skills that terrible?”, I thought to myself. They would always reply politely with “Your Swedish is very good”, but then we would continue the conversation in English.
After a while I began to wonder if they, in return, wanted to practice their English language skills. But why would they bother? Occasionally, there are colloquial words some of my friends do not understand, but by and large Swedes speak fluent English.
The “reply in English” thing has frustrated other friends, too, but now I don’t mind so much. “I speak Swedish like a five year old”, I’ve concluded.
I laughed, however, to see this happen was I watched Melodifestivalen, the Swedish heats to choose their in the Eurovision Song Contest.
As well as the popular vote by ordinary Swedes, they also have an “international jury”. In the last couple of years Australia participated in this, though not this year.
As I watched the contest, I was truly undecided about which song they would choose. There was last year’s winners, The Mamas back with another song. There were also two well known Swedish “heart-throbs”, Danny and Anton who I thought would be popular with the audience. Though they were both quite attractive, and they both danced well, I realised this time they were terrible singers. Both dropped a couple of bum notes, despite their polished performances.
In the end it came down to two. Eric Saade has represented Sweden at Eurovision twice, and he’s very popular in Sweden.
And then there was Tusse, a nineteen year old who only a few years ago had arrived in Sweden as a refugee, having fled war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Though the general international feeling is Sweden is a nation of people of blonde hair and blue eyes, it’s also a nation that’s changing rapidly. Eric Saade, for example, has a Syrian father and a Swedish mother. For the last two years, Sweden has chosen people of colour as their entrants. And they’ve done it again, choosing Tusse.
I really like this song. Tusse performs it well. I hope it does well in Rotterdam.