Problems arising when picking berries in Sweden Posted by Katja on Jul 31, 2012 in Culture, Living in Sweden
Right now the berry season is in full bloom. Many people pick berries around their summer cottages (sommar stugor) where a lot of older people live as well. I’m going to tell you about an incident which occurred not too long ago and even surprised me but which however seems to be pretty normal when you talk to people about it. I was out picking blueberries with my mother and suddenly I saw a very good spot with tons and tons of blueberries. I stopped and sat down to start picking while my mother walked on to take a path through the woods. I had picked for no more than five minutes before an old man and his wife came out from the opposite house and the man started walking over to my mother while his wife stood on their porch with her arms crossed looking angry. I didn’t hear what they said but I could guess that he was telling my mother off because after only a couple of seconds she walked back onto the main road and the man turned towards me. Since I was actually on somebody else’s property I knew all to well that this old nosy-body was going to tell me off. And sure enough, once he was within hearing distance he said
“Du får inte vara här!” Meaning “you are not allowed to be here!” I replied by acting as if I didn’t know that, ignoring the fact of how rude he had been, no saying hello or even smiling. This wasn’t even his property and he had rushed out as if he were the neighborhood police. The thing is, most of you have heard of the Swedish phenomenon allemansrätten ie. the right to walk anywhere as long as you don’t destroy anything or leave garbage. I should have been allowed to stay and pick even if it was on somebody else’s yard because I was doing no harm. The man however would not leave it alone. “Det här är privatmark, ni får inte plocka bär här!” “this is private property, you are not allowed to pick berries here!”. At that moment I didn’t feel like having a discussion so I didn’t bother, but people can get very protective and even really nasty when it comes to berries, the underlying principle being “rätt ska vara rätt!” translated as “things should be done the right way” or “rules are rules” maybe even. The fact of the matter is that there are more berries there than anybody ever picks, so it is just silly that people should get so worked up about other people picking their berries, and to rush out of their cottages patrolling the neighborhood just seems so unlike the Sweden I usually know, people being so outspoken and everything…
Does this surprise you about Swedish culture? Has this ever happened to you?
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