Ester Marklund is a 22 years old student from Piteå, a town in the north of Sweden about 13 hours from Jönköping. Ever since Ester moved to Jönköping, a question that is commonly asked when she meets new people and they hear her dialect is “Oh are you from Norrland?” She finds this both funny and annoying, and here is why.
The term Norrland is according to Ester rightfully used in weather newscasts, the weatherman uses it as well as Svealand and Götaland to divide Sweden into three different areas. The terms Svealand and Götaland are not very common to hear besides in this context but for some reason Norrland is more than often referred to as a place. A place where people live in cabins, chop wood and ride on reindeers. Which is the case for some people. But in reality Norrland covers 60% of the country and therefore referring to it as one place is very misleading.
“When people ask me if I´m from Norrland, I want to say, no I’m not from 60% of the country” Ester says.
Another common misconception is that everyone that lives within the framework of Norrland has the same dialect. Ester first started to notice this when moving from her hometown to the US and met swedes but from the south of Sweden. When hearing her dialect, one Swedish person exclaimed that her cousin was from Sundsvall, and thought maybe Ester knew who she was. Ester got very confused since Pite (Piteå) and Sundsvall are 6 hours apart.
“It’s like meeting a person from Jönköping and telling them you have a cousin in Copenhagen” Ester explains.
Another person asked her if she maybe played in the same football team as her friend who played in Falun, which is a town 9 hours away from Pite. Ester answered that the commute was a bit too long for her and therefore she chose to play in a team in her hometown instead.
“These situations get a bit annoying after a while,” Ester says.
Ester believes that the misconception that everything in Norrland is the same has to do with how it’s presented in the Swedish media. Not only is it referred to as a place where everything is the same, it also often also presents a specific stereotype. A prime example are the characters from the TV-show Leif och Billy. Two brothers who live in a cabin in the north of Sweden, they love hunting, wear flannel shirts and get up to all sorts of nonsense. Ester appreciates the TV-show since it’s so exaggerated, but it’s problematic that people in the south of Sweden could easily believe that´s the typical lifestyle in Norrland. That is the case for some people, but in reality most of the people live the city life in places like Umeå, Gävle or Sundsvall.
Once at a party when Esters dialect was noticed and the common questions about Norrland and references to the TV- show Leif and Billy was brought up. She decided to spice things up with a white lie that she was cousin to the characters of the TV-show, which was believed without hesitation. This situation was fun, however it does show people’s view on the north of Sweden.
Yet the main problem is that Norrland is being described as a subculture in the Swedish culture. Thinking of Norrland as a whole culture is a lack of respect to the cultures that actually exist there, like the Same- culture that is a very important part of Sweden’s history. To sum up, Ester thinks that people generally should gain knowledge of the northern parts of Sweden and the media should just stop using the term Norrland unless it’s for weather reports.