An Adventure of a Lifetime on Realtime TV
By Birgitta Lauren
Anders Lundin, the host of Allt För Sverige, was initially fascinatedby the idea of hosting a show created to help Americans with Swedish heritage discover their Swedish ancestry. After the first season, Anders and the production team started developing and polishing the concept into a show so exciting, emotional, and “real” that 1.5 million Swedes now tune in every week. One contestant even moved to Norrköping after falling in love with Sweden during his season. It is difficult to watch any one Allt för Sverige episode without shedding a tear.
What surprised you the most about how the Swedish public has received the show?
I always thought that this show would work well, but I was surprised at how dramatically taken and touched people are by the fate of our contestants. There are strong real feelings involved in sharing the experience of learning how hard our ancestors worked for us to live well today. It is very touching.
What has surprised you the most about how the contestants have reacted or experienced the show?
We were taken aback in the first seasonas we couldn’t believe their reactions. They were so emotional when they got to see family photos; it was overwhelming to see such strong emotions. We definitely didn’t count on that.
Throughout the years, we have improved the show. The winner now receives a treasure chest (Skatt), each story is developed, and we have some amazing researchers that find homes and items that the contestants’ ancestors had. The Swedish church has incredibly well-documented data on all of its citizens for centuries. We also do my “school”, in which I teach the participants Swedish language, history and other fun things.
Allt För Sverige season one contestants
What do the contestants take home with them when they leave?
We realized that it was too mean to send them straight home after losing the first round, so they get to stay for at least 2 weeks. During this time they learn about Sweden. Except for the treasure chest, we give them all the information we found about their ancestors, so that once the show has aired, people know who they are and they can contact their families.
We Swedes do travel a lot, much more than Americans do, but we don’t really understand how people live in the USA between New York and Los Angeles. These folks sometimes have never had a passport before they come to Sweden. So it is a very big adventure for them just to travel across the Atlantic, with the awareness that something in their lives is missing. They don’t know what is on the other side. They only have a few stories about Sweden, so when they get here they end up quite emotional both about the hard work their ancestors endured and the adventure as a whole. Those who go on to the finale and end up wining the show are tremendously overwhelmed. For example, we had a priest here called Brian. He was a likable, smart man with a very interesting way of thinking and reflecting. Despite not being a very competitive person, he ended up winning the show. His story was beautiful and his incredibly insightful reflections about life, himself and his family during his time here made us all so glad.
Allt För Sverige season two contestants
What aspect of the show influences the contestants most?
I think some of the off-camera pieces, which don’t end up on the show are sometimes the most influential for the contestants. For example, our Swedish habits, laws, safety, collaborative understanding, paternity leave, vacation time – all these things that we explain to them are very impressive to the contestants and interesting to talk about together.
How do you come up with the activities?
It comes down to being alert to things that most people don’t think about. We wanted to have lots of competitions involving things one should know how to do as a Swede… like going in reverse with a house trailer, picking kids up at daycare, sorting the trash, using the laundry room, etc… things one must know how to do in order to qualify. It has been a lot of fun.
What is most positive about the show?
That we have managed to create so much real emotion, that the viewers get to think about their own heritage, and that Swedes get to see Sweden through the eyes of Americans. An interesting aspect of this show is that a century ago, it was us who sat in boats leaving our homeland, and now the traffic is in reverse… it is our turn to receive.
Allt För Sverige season three contestants
What was the most fun that happened on the show?
When someone (off camera) was out on the town in Stockholm and was fascinated to see so many homosexual “mannies”. We had to tell them that those were dads on paternity leave. Another highlight occurred when Mathew Anderson managed to find a cultural difference in how our two countries end conversations. Americans will often say something like: “It was very nice talking to you,” when it’s time to leave. He thought it was very strange how Swedes will literally just turn around and leave mid-sentence while still holding a cup of coffee. This often happens as they may find it rather stressful to figure out how to finish a conversation, but Anderson thought he had insulted them.
Allt För Sverige season four contestants
How long will the show keep going?
“I just read somewhere that one should always hold on tight to concepts that work. We have an excellent viewership of 1,5 million for a concept that everyone now knows and understands. It works… so we will keep going for as long as we can. We who have worked on this show want to continue working with more Americans. To get any information out of a Swede, you must ask 10 questions, but when you ask an American a question, you may get an entire essay for an answer. Americans have a fantastic ability to express themselves and to produce exactly what we need. It is a joy to work with them. They are such impressive, spontaneous speakers without ever needing scripts.”
Allt För Sverige season five contestants