6 July, 2016

Public Transportation Safety

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.

Passengers from behind

Passenger on the early tram.

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.

Waiting for the night buss

Waiting for the night buss

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.

Public transportation stairs

On their way to the train.

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.

Happy travels!

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!

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4 Comments on “Public Transportation Safety

18 July, 2016 at 23:42

Very well writen 🙂

23 July, 2016 at 10:01

A question. In a similar situation in the USA. Will people not notify the driver to take action, as was done in your example?

Jessica Arifianto
24 July, 2016 at 23:14

I think it depends on the area you live. In my experience, people usually looked the other way and got off the bus as soon as possible. I’ve never actually witnessed someone reporting the behavior to a driver before. That said, the US is a huge place, so my experiences are not necessarily indicative of the masses.

14 April, 2017 at 20:21

Whereas when something gets stolen from someone else, nobody reacts, nobody calls the police. Poker faces all the way.


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