Prior to moving to Sweden, I spent time researching the country, the crime rates, and the school systems. This research reassured me that it was a safe place for our growing family. Violence on the streets and on public transportation did not necessarily surprise me in the United States. When I witnessed it, I generally removed myself from the situation and tried to forget that it happened. That is not necessarily the best way to handle the situation in Sweden. Today I want to discuss proper procedures for dealing with unruly passengers on trams and busses in Göteborg.
This week I witnessed a young man on the tram who was sober, but unruly. The music from his phone filled the tram car with loud beats and lyrics. The look he gave other passengers made it clear that he was hostile. Generally, the passengers on the tram focus on their own affairs and ignore socially uncomfortable situations. However, when this man began loudly cursing about Swedes in Svenska and using inappropriate language, the tram car rapidly emptied.
My first impression was that these people were fleeing the situation, much like I would have done in the U.S.. I was wrong.
Shortly after the departure of half the car, a man approached and tried to reason with the angry passenger. He failed. A woman tried next. She failed. Finally, having been alerted to the situation, the driver approached and attempted to reason with the young man. He failed.
At the next major stop, two police officers boarded the tram and began to speak with the young man and the two passengers who tried to engage him. They all exited the tram and we continued on our way.
This taught me a lot about conflict management in a confined space. While approaching the man at first appeared to be the right solution, it failed. The passengers who exited the car and notified the driver made the correct decision.
They enabled him to assess the situation and contact the authorities. While the young man did not become overtly violent, his language and behaviors went against the social norms and made everyone uncomfortable.
If you find yourself in this situation, please remember the example of the individuals who alerted the tram driver.
This is an orderly country in which everyone is an equal. That means that if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you are within your rights to report it and that action is appropriate. As a newcomer to the area, you do not want to expose yourself to a potentially violent situation. The public transportation authorities have clear measures in place to ensure the safety of every passenger and most will be able to understand you, even if you do not speak Svenska.
Written by Jessica Arifianto
Hej! I’m Jessi, a newbie to Sweden and a blogger over at When Quirky Met Nerdy. Nearly three years ago I left the United States with my husband and young son to begin this crazy awesome journey, from Seattle to Surrey, to Sweden. Göteborg became our home during the height of the snowstorm this past January and it’s been an adventure every day since. I hope you enjoy my newbie stories–thanks for reading!