I have been meaning to write this forever, but is quite long and consists of personal anecdotes, so I have been procrastinating, but here goes:
Back in the early 1980s, I had a German girlfriend living in Hamburg, which meant that I went from CPH to HH by train 2-3 times a month. I was a student at the time, so I spent much of the time on the train reading, but I also couldn't help listening in on conversations among people from different countries. Many of them were Danes and Germans, of course, but many were Scandinavians, in particular Swedes, but there were people from all over the world.
Many conversations were about what people thought was wrong in their own countries, and often they would try to outdo the others with examples of the stupidity of the political leaders of their respective countries. At first, it surprised me because most people tend to be nationalists. It seems to be the default setting of bourgeois thinking: All countries are worse than mine! However, I soon began to realize that it was a way of establishing a kind of international camaraderie: Instead of bragging about the accomplishments of their respective countries and thus creating animosity, people established a kind of bonding based on putting down the authorities of their own country - if possible with funny and absurd anecdotes about what their political leaders had said and done. And it seemed to work: For as long as the train ride took, people seemed to feel that 'we have something in common, we are all in this together, ruled by assholes.'
However, one nationality always stood out: the Swedes. Sometimes they would listen and become more and more conspicuously upset by the stories they heard, and their own contributions would then invariably be that, 'No, things like that could never happen in Sweden!'
1) It was obvious that the Swedes never caught on to what was going on. They never understood that the sole purpose of these conversations was to find some common ground.
2) The other nationalities weren't really interested in listening to the stories about how wonderful Sweden was because that was obviously not the point of the game, and they seemed to feel that the Swedes broke the rules of the game: 'I criticize my country, and you then reciprocate by criticizing yours!'
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Another way of bonding across national borders, and this time it has nothing whatsoever to do with Swedish exceptionalism, was to pick on a third country, one that wasn't represented by any of the nationalities involved in the conversation. This principle became apparent to me on a trip I took from CPH to Berlin where I would meet up with my girlfriend who had friends in Berlin where we were going to celebrate New Year's Eve. Many other Scandinavians had also had the idea of celebrating New Year's in Berlin, so the train was so full that there was standing room only for many of us, which made reading harder to do, so the discussions were livelier than usual - also fueled by alcohol.
When we arrived in East Germany, I was surprised to see how unpleasant many of them were to the East German border police when we were asked to show our passports. (I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was.) This also turned out to be a kind of bonding, but slightly different: By being rude to the East German border police, people proved to each other that they were all freedom fighters standing up to the perceived tyranny of the GDR. At that point, I had recently visited Prague with a group of students from the Hotel and Restaurant School of Copenhagen where I was teaching English, German and Social studies, and some of my students got into trouble in a supermarket because they had acted out of order, apparently because they thought it was the right thing to do since they were in a country that wasn't really respected by Denmark. (I fear that they might have done the same thing in a third-world country. Most of them weren't high up on the scale of political thinking.) But this is the reason why I shouldn't have been surprised by the behaviour of adults on the train.
I was even more surprised (and again, I shouldn't have been) when the train passengers began to comment on the train station building in East Germany. (Probably Rostock, but I don't remember.) They called it, "Typical East German!" I looked at it and just couldn't see what they meant. To me it looked much like train stations in West Germany, which I was very familiar with, so I said so, unaware that I had breached the convention and was close to ruining to consensus. However, two of them looked slightly confused and then said, "Yes! Typically German!" thus reestablishing the threatened bonding.
At that point, I knew better than to say that train stations in Southern Jutland, where I had family, weren't very different from the ones on the other side of the border. That would definitely have placed me beyond any feasible consensus!