Why are people in Sweden waving Confederate flags and driving old muscle cars? It's all part of a unique little subculture in Sweden, called Raggare, and they're just about as far removed as possible from donks. What's their deal with America? As part of our semi-ongoing series, allow me to explain.
What are Raggare?
Raggare are members of a subculture in Sweden, the frozen bit stuck in between the frozen bits of Finland, Norway, and just above Denmark. They like classic American cars, rock music, drinking beer, and a lot of the South in general.
Why would you wanna do that?
They've actually been around since the 50s, and mirrored the greaser subculture that developed here. When you want to be a part of the counter-culture in a country like Sweden, it helps to be loud in more ways than one. A 1957 Chevy Bel-Air is about as far as you can get from a POÄNG.
Isn't gas really expensive up there? Why not just drive a diesel Volvo?
You're right, gas is really expensive in Sweden, as are most things automotive. In fact, its easy to stand out as a Raggare without even having a big muscle car, and just having some regula-old American iron. And if you can't even manage that, which is understandable, many Raggare just take an old Volvo and paint it black.
So why the confederate flags? I thought Swedes were generally nice people?
Of course Swedes are generally nice people – most people around the world are generally nice people. Like most cultural icons, the Confederate flag doesn't translate fully when its taken overseas. Even in the United States, the Confederate flag doesn't always translate well. In Sweden, it's both a symbol of America and rebellion, and not of anything with scary undertones.
To some, maybe, but bits of culture get interpreted differently in disparate parts of the world. Look at us, we invented Spam Musubi. But back to Reggare.
You keep saying that word, "Reggare."
Yeah, Raggare. That's what they're called.
Why "Reggare?" Does it have something to do with Reggae too?
Nah, "ragga" roughly means "to pick up girls" in Swedish. And that's what you do. See?
Looks dangerous, what with the girls and the cars and the drinking and the rock n' roll music.
Nah, nothing to be afraid of. Raggare have been to known to occasionally get into fights with other Swedish subcultures, such as punks (punkare), but those incidents aren't really that prevalent. It's mostly about having a good time.
I wanna have a good time!
No, I mean with the Raggare.
I don't blame you, they've got great music.
Where can I meet some?
Well, raggare culture is all over Sweden. But if you want to see the culture up close and personal all in one place, you'll need to go to the Power Big Meet in Västerås.
Yeah, it's in Sweden. And there are some great cars. Just look:
Raggares are awesome!
Dude I know! Go to Sweden. They're pretty great.
Photo credits: MGSpiller, Stefan Olsson