‘Home gets more precious when you’re not there’: How Americans in Sweden reacted to US election

We reached out to The Local's American readers to hear how they felt about the US election.

'Home gets more precious when you're not there': How Americans in Sweden reacted to US election
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, right, with Joe Biden on a visit to Sweden in 2016 during the latter's tenure as vice president. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

“I can begin to breathe a little easier now,” said Marjorie Burnelle, a 64-year-old English teacher and New Yorker in central Sweden, as congratulations and well-wishes kept pouring in for US president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris from leaders around the world.

Her feelings were shared by many readers who responded to The Local's latest reader survey, in which we asked Americans in Sweden how you felt about the 2020 US presidential election.

This should perhaps come as no surprise.

Even with less divisive presidents in the White House, Swedish politics in general tend to be more left-leaning than US politics; in fact a survey by pollsters Novus in September found only nine percent of Swedes who said they would have voted for Republican President Donald Trump.

And out of 168 people who responded to The Local's questionnaire and had voted in the election, 93.5 percent said they had voted for Biden, 4 percent said they had voted for Trump, and 2 percent answered “other”. Two people said they would have voted for Biden, but did not receive their mail-in ballots in time.

The survey was not scientific – just a snapshot of our readers' thoughts. To help make sure the answers were genuine, we asked people to give their full names, but with the option of being anonymous in the article, so we deleted a handful of responses which didn't. These included supporters from both camps, although mainly Biden voters, some of whom appeared to be genuine, but were not included for the sake of consistency.

We also deleted answers by evidently fake names, mainly Trump voters, such as Biden2020, Donald Trump (we like to think we have global appeal, but doubt either of the presidential candidates took the time to respond to our survey), Kanye East, Abra Cadabra and Hugh Mungus (nice try though, well done Mr Mungus).

President Donald Trump giving two thumbs up to supporters on November 8th. Photo: AP Photo/Steve Helber

A 22-year-old teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, was one of the handful of respondents who said she had voted for Trump.

Speaking of the political divide, she told The Local: “One side focuses on building the economy while ignoring social issues. The other side focuses on social issues but with the state that America is in it will be very difficult to implement several ideas that will force prices for things like gas to rise. This will have a negative impact on those who commute long distances and those who are struggling financially. It will take a long time for America to reach a balance between the two.”

A 20-year-old student in central Sweden who also requested anonymity said she had also voted for Trump, but acknowledged that “the fact that Joe Biden won makes Americans more likable to Swedes”.

The latter was in fact echoed by many other readers.

“I believe the world sees this as a step in the right direction. My Swedish friends were celebrating as much as my American friends and family,” said Elizabeth, an American based in Stockholm.

Nicole Alvarez-Torre, who has lived in northern Sweden for 25 years, appreciated not having to defend or explain the US as much to fellow Swedes in the future. She said: “It means I can feel less embarrassed about being an American. It means I will less likely be asked personal political questions which is something I dislike.”

Tyne Uzo made similar comments: “I'm no longer as embarrassed of my country (although there is still plenty to be embarrassed about). I'm looking forward to a lessening of questions from non-Americans, especially the questions that have obvious answers (I've been asked a trillion times if I voted for Trump. I am a woman of colour).”

But she criticised the Swedish media's election coverage: “I don't know if the Swedish-speaking media is abysmal or lazy in their coverage but good lord, I think that pissed me off more than anything. I don't expect David Frost here, but context, actual reporting, the slightest scrutiny of sources and not regurgitating whatever AP or Reuters blurbs out would be beneficial. They're doing a disservice to the Swedes trying to wrap their head around it.”

President-elect Joe Biden on a computer screen in the White House press room. Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Mike, a Gothenburg-based businessman, said the result affected his life in Sweden “a lot”. He added: “The Trump years have been painful as his lies and attacks negatively impacted America's image in Sweden and abroad. Joe Biden will restore the dignity.”

“It has an immediate impact on the questions and comments I get from people here, and it will be nice to hopefully have less constant apologising to do,” said Keith Mattingly, a 34-year-old Californian.

“Living here has made it easier for me to disconnect from the stream of deplorable quotes and events of the past four years, but I'm glad for my family and friends at home to hopefully be able to return now to a political sphere of relative normality and decency.”

Like Keith, many also spoke about relief – and continued worry – for their friends back home.

Melissa in southern Sweden said that although she was concerned that Biden was not right for the role either, she could now “worry less about my family and friends in the US who are LGBTQ”.

“By no means have I lost love for my native country, I consider myself a patriot and served in the US Marines for six years; I am simply disappointed at what a Trump presidency has done to my country. People I know and love, good people, have voted for Trump. It's difficult to wrap my head around just how divided everything has become, but I'm hopeful that the US can still come back to being a country others look up to. We have so much potential, but we waste it on fighting each other,” said Adam Ramos, 33, who is based in the Stockholm region.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

“As a Black American, it means a lot, symbolically, to see a Black female as Vice President,” said Stockholm-based software engineer Gregory Joshua. “Hopefully, the result will also lead to responsible action in response to the pandemic so that I can safely return to living in the United States one day.”

“Home always gets a lot more precious when you're not there,” reflected Peter, a 62-year-old living in central Sweden. “Like a lot of other expat parents I put a lot of effort into passing on an American identity to my kids. I have been there when they have defended core American values like being fair, honest, sticking to your convictions even when you are in the minority and showing an acceptance for immigrants. It made me proud.

“It also hurt to have that buffoon in there trashing all of it and making a mockery of me and what my ancestors did to contribute to their homeland. My background is very similar to Joe's and his victory feels like a vindication. If you hold out and don't lose faith, goodness and decency really do win in the end.”

Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey about the US election. We aimed to include a representative sample of the responses, and whether or not we included yours, we read every one and appreciate the time you took to share your story and help others see they are not alone. The Local is here to report on the issues that matter to you and affect your daily lives in Sweden, and you are always welcome to email us at [email protected] with ideas or feedback.

Member comments

  1. As a Canadian, I’ve always considered Americans to be my neighbour and as much as we have a little rivalry going on (ice hockey!!), I care about my neighbours and hope they can come together and restore what has been lost. It’s been sad to see how divided they have become. I wish them a bright future and I hope Biden will help lead them to that!

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