Polar bears on the streets – a Swedish stereotype Posted by on Feb 28, 2018 in Living in Sweden

There are many things that people believe to be true about Sweden. Some are pretty close to the general truth, others are way off. What about there being polar bears on the streets of Sweden?

An interesting stereotype (en stereotyp) about life in Sweden is that occasionally, a pedestrian (en fotgängare), driver (en bilförare) or cyclist (en cyklist) may have the traumatizing experience of coming in contact with polar bears on the streets (isbjörnar på gatorna). Some people even believe that people are harmed on a regular basis by polar bear attacks!

Is this stereotype true? No. Polar bears don’t even hang out in Iceland. On the other hand, polar bear attacks (isbjörnsattacker) are a serious problem in Greenland. But that’s Greenland, not good ol’ Sweden!

Sweden doesn’t have polar bears, other than in zoos (djurparker). What’s even more interesting than this myth is that many of the foreigners (utlänningar) I’ve talked to haven’t even heard of it! Yet, it is a very popular belief amongst Swedes that a majority of non-Swedes think that Sweden has a recurring polar bear problem.

The question is:  Who outside of Sweden believes in this myth? Do people in your country associate this stereotype with life in Sweden? Let us know in the comments! It really would be something if the idea of foreigners thinking that polar bears roam the streets of Swedish cities and towns came from the speculations of Swedes themselves about their own country.

So no worries if you’re planning a trip to Sweden – you won’t be attacked by a polar bear unless you end up in a zoo accident. Cheers!

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About the Author: Stephen Maconi

Stephen Maconi has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2010. Wielding a Bachelor's Degree in Swedish and Nordic Linguistics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Stephen is an expert on Swedish language and culture.


  1. Or Cohen:

    Never heard of it, but can’t imagine I’ll believe it since I know how hard it is to even find bears in the Swedish nature.

    It’s like people out of Israel that believe all Israelis use camels for transportation.

  2. Coenegrachts JP:

    No, this story I hav’nt heard. But people ask me about the long, dark and cold winters. In the south at least there is no serious problem with winters. Altough in 2015 I was there in february and there was no snow. In march however they had to tow me out of the snow! And everybody helps everybody there!

  3. Martin Sharman:

    I have never heard of polar bears in Sweden. Not before I visited Sweden, not when I began to visit the country, and not in the time since I began to live here a couple of years ago. I think you’re making it up!

  4. Margaret Dungan:

    I did not expect to see polar bears when visited Sweden nor did I see one but hat did not spoil a wonderful visit.


  5. Barb:

    Never heard of this myth. I’m in the US and I do know of places in Canada and Alaska where you will see polar bears in the street. But not Sweden.

  6. Deahna:

    Never heard of it. I’m in Northern Germany and there are a good many people who spend their summers in Denmark or Sweden and I can’t remember anyone telling them to avoid polar bears.