Welcome to Sweden

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Welcome to Sweden TV Poster Image
Fish-out-of-water comedy has rude jokes, sweet laughs.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

You can live cheek-in-jowl with a loving family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bruce and Emma are a sweet couple who really are in love and working on starting their lives together. It's heartwarming to watch them struggle to make it despite cultural differences.


An entire episode revolves around the couple finding a place to have sex in private, and various family members walk in. We see Emma on her knees about to perform oral sex. Men are shown naked in a sauna (no private parts are visible) and viewed jumping into a lake naked, with buttocks blurred.


Very occasional bleeped curses, such as when a character with an obsession with Americanisms yells out Bruce Willis' famous line, "Yippee ki-yay, motherf--ker."


Plenty of brands, movies, and trademarked characters are mentioned, including Arne Jacobsen chairs and Mickey Mouse.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Swedish parties and get-togethers are frequently an occasion for doing shots with a hearty "skål." At one point Bruce passes out after doing shots in a sauna. He also tells an immigration officer that he does no drugs at all but occasionally smokes "weed" because "that doesn't count, right?"

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Welcome to Sweden has the occasional rude joke, as when a woman's parents repeatedly walk in on her and her boyfriend attempting to have sex. A woman is seen sinking to her knees in front of a man with his pants down; men briefly are seen nude from the rear (with blurred buttocks) as they skinny-dip in a lake. There's a great deal of drinking, mostly of the festive variety, including characters doing shots in a sauna (which ultimately causes a man to pass out) and an entire family enthusiastically singing drinking songs before downing drinks. A man says he uses no drugs except weed, which "doesn't count, right?"

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What's the story?

When nebbishy New Yorker Bruce Evans (Greg Poehler) decides to emigrate to be with his Scandinavian girlfriend Emma Wiik (Josephine Bornebusch), it's WELCOME TO SWEDEN and a host of cultural mishaps. Whether it's passing out after doing naked shots with Emma's dad, Birger (Claes Mansson), in a sauna, trying to force his attentions on typically private Swedish neighbors, or failing to show proper respect for Emma's Arne Jacobsen chair, Bruce is your typical clueless American. But he loves his girlfriend, and he's determined to make a go of it, even if all of Sweden seems slightly perplexed by him.

Is it any good?

Most Americans know little about Sweden beyond massage techniques and ABBA records, so Welcome to Sweden is like a cultural curio wrapped in a series of gentle jokes that go down so smoothly, you'll want to keep the good times rolling by watching episode after episode. This is more "hmm!" humor than the belly-slapping variety, with funnies resulting mostly from cultural mix-ups. Bruce is earnestly trying to understand his new home -- and to fit in, and to make his new (sorta) in-laws like him. But he can barely understand a word of Birger's heavily accented English, and his mother-in-law, the luminous Lena Olin, seems intent on making snippy jokes about Bruce's height and dire prospects for making a go of Swedish citizenship.

What makes this show rise above what could be sitcom tropes is its abundant sweetness, evident in a family that sits together in the garden enjoying homemade cinnamon buns (even if the desserts give Bruce diarrhea) and sings Swedish drinking songs at parties. Bruce is genuinely bewildered by most aspects of Swedish life, but his gameness and the relatability of his struggles (absurd as they are) make this show a winner. Oh, and since it's widely known that the Poehler who plays Bruce is the brother of Amy Poehler, it should be noted that she, and other American stars such as Aubrey Plaza and Will Ferrell, show up frequently, playing themselves, usually to pretty good comic effect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Welcome to Sweden's pedigree. Its star, Greg Poehler, is the brother of Amy Poehler, a famous actress and comedian. Do you think a relationship to a star helps get a project made? Is Welcome to Sweden worthy despite (or because of) its impressive connections?

  • Much of the dialogue on Welcome to Sweden is said in Swedish and subtitled in English. Does that add to or detract from the humor for you? Why?

  • Welcome to Sweden is based on the real life of Greg Poehler, who moved to Sweden to be with his girlfriend, who is now his wife and the mother of his three children. Does the factual basis make you enjoy the show more? Why, or why not?

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