In 2003, the Council for the Promotion of Sweden decided to launch the Study of Sweden's Image Abroad and included 23 countries and the city of Brussels in its study. Knowledge and attitude differed from country to country, the content of the stereotypes varied as well ranging from "welfare model and gender equality" in Spain to "god-fearing, suicide prone and promiscuous" in the US. In general, the attitudes were rather positive.
According to the study, the most common perceptions and clichés about Sweden are 1) welfare, 2) music, literature and films such ABBA, Astrid Lindgren and Ingmar Bergman, 3) beautiful women and sexual lieberation, 4) nature, 5) cars, particularly Volvo, c) sports, 7) IKEA, 8) good neighbours (coming from the Nordic countries), 9) the cold, 10) sparsely populated country, 11) neutrality, 12) meatballs, 13) alcohol, 14) Nobel, and 15) high taxes and extensive prohibitions.
Positive attributions to the Swedish are: open, well organised, efficient, punctual, thorough, law-abiding, well educated, knowledgeable, pro-technology, modern, honest, reliable, correct, skilled in languages, urbane, nature-loving, peace-loving, faithful friends, friendly, kind-hearted and possessing strong work ethic.
The negative ones are: gloomy, lacking in humour, rather boring, coldly remote, introvert, too controlled, provincial, impolite, boorish, naive, insensitive to the subtleties of the English language, know-alls, impious, depressed, shy, and inclined to drink.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs Sweden (2003) Images of Sweden abroad. A study of the changes, the present situation and assessment methods (via)
Photos of Ingrid Bergman via and by Bob Landry for Life Magazine (1941) via and via