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Thread: Ten things about Sweden that are actually quite good

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    Ten things about Sweden that are actually quite good



    Shared parental leave is the single best thing about living in Sweden.

    The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in many countries, including Sweden, and it is a strange time to be living far away from family. The Local's contributor Richard Orange reminds himself of why he chose to make this country his home.

    I am in Sweden by mistake. Like many other foreigners, I got dragged here for love, on the promise (I might even go so far as to say, downright lie) that it would only be for a year or two.

    I look with something between fascination and horror at true Swedophiles: those who came after developing an obsession with Sweden's social democratic model; those who have concluded that Sweden is the world's best country after a thoroughgoing analysis of international statistics; those with an unhealthy obsession with Abba and Melodifestivalen.

    What I find most frustrating is the consensus culture.

    I miss being able to have a passionate, barnstorming argument about literature or politics, where voices and tempers get raised, but you're all still friends at the end of the night (which I concede may be less possible in the UK post-Brexit than it was when I was growing up there).

    So to witness the way the consensus on coronavirus has developed over the past year has been agonising.

    The media's unwillingness to really raise the really big questions until well into the autumn; the public's acceptance of a performance from the government and its agencies which compares very poorly to those of other Nordic countries, it confirms some of my worst preconceptions.

    But as I see the tone get ever more angry and disdainful, I'm finding myself wanting to defend Sweden.

    It is still, after all, a fairly well-run place. So here are ten things about the country which are actually quite good.

    Parental leave and massively subsidised daycare

    That fathers are more or less expected to stay home with infant children for as long as six months, and sometimes more, is where Sweden really stands out (along with the other Nordic countries).

    The country's 480 days shared paid parental leave, at as much as 80 percent of your salary for 390 of them, has huge knock-on effects for gender equality, and for the way the family functions.

    Instead of the mother sacrificing their career while the man continues more or less as normal (which has happened with just about every straight couple I know in the UK), in Sweden both partners make time for childcare.

    I feel very fortunate to have been able to take half a year off to look after both my son and my daughter.

    People born and bred in Sweden perhaps take it for granted, but it would have been very difficult to do in the UK, and I feel it has given me a very different kind of bond to my children.

    So thanks for that, Sweden.

    The 'lagom' approach to work

    One of the knock-on effects of Sweden's more gender-equal parenting is that no one, male or female, is expected to work really long hours. Of course there are exceptions, but in general, it is absolutely OK to clock off at 4pm. In many big Swedish companies, working unusually long hours is more likely to get you a referral to the in-house psychologist than a promotion.

    This doesn't mean Swedish office life is bereft of back-stabbing. You still may have to play office politics. But when it comes to work hours, it's 'lagom': everyone needs to do just enough hours for the system to function (which it obviously does), but no more.

    This makes family life much more manageable than it is in the UK. Working mothers are less likely to risk total cognitive collapse. Fathers can generally eat with their children every evening and then put them to bed.

    Those without children have much more time and space to play in bands, renovate houses, or do sports.

    The downside, of course, is that there's very little after-work socialising with colleagues.

    Also, as a freelancer, the only way I benefit is that the pressure put on me by my wife and peers prevents me working late into the night.

    The 'lagom' approach to play

    Whether it's nightlife or entertaining at home, socialising definitely seems lower key in Sweden than it is in the UK (something reflected in the smaller number of bars and pubs).

    This seems especially the case for parents. My family and friends in the UK will often hire a babysitter and roll home well after midnight. In Sweden, or at least in the circles I move in, people tend to socialise as a family, so a late night just means keeping the kids up past 10pm.

    The sort of smart parties my brothers' friends put on, where people lay on an impressive spread and serve expensive wine, seem fairly unusual (perhaps I just move in the wrong circles).

    You might think this is a bad thing, but I'm starting to appreciate it. It's quite relaxing not feeling you have to make an effort to stay up past midnight, or perform socially at glitzy drinks parties. It's nice to break up adult chat with games with the kids. It may be that I'm getting old.

    Abundant nature

    While most foreigners tend to live in the big cities, one of the things that makes Sweden so special is the extraordinary nature that you can access very easily from even the centres of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. In southern region Skĺne, where I live, nature trails are all mapped out and colour-coded, with excellent visiting centres at most of the big reserves.

    Outside of pandemics, it is easy to get out to nature on public transport, so you don't even need a car.

    Most of the official trails have barbecue spots, toilets, and rudimentary shelters spread out at sensible intervals, and Sweden's allemansrätten 'freedom-to-roam' law means you are free to camp almost anywhere.

    The seasons (and particularly the summer)

    This is something Sweden has in common with all of northern Europe, Russia and Canada, but the enhanced contrast between the seasons is for me one of the real pleasures of living in the north.

    In most of Sweden (but not in Skĺne, where I live), you can expect at least a month of proper snow cover every year, and then, when you finally get some sun, the forests explode in greenery and spring flowers.

    I've started to love the contrast between the near hibernation of the winter, when social life in Sweden slows down to a near standstill, and everyone huddles home with friends and family, and the summer, when there's a lot going on.

    Summers in Sweden are wonderful.

    Most people take at least three weeks off and move to some idyllic part of the countryside, where they then live a simple, stripped-down life of swimming in lakes and the sea, country walks, barbecues, visits to flea markets, berry-picking, and lots and lots of ice cream.

    How practical people seem to be

    In my experience, Swedes loving bonding over doing tasks: chopping wood, painting a house, putting up a new door in the shared office. It perhaps reflects the puritan work ethic: it's easier for Swedes to relax with one another when doing something useful, without an overhanging sense that they're somehow wasting time.

    As a result, people here can be very generous with their time if it's for something practical. It's almost a tradition to get friends to help you move house, pick up a piece of second-hand furniture, or fix your car in a way it isn't in the UK.

    I've also learned to appreciate the 'practical Swede' you see wearing tool belts and many pocketed work trousers at out-of-town DIY supply shops. Sometimes they're hobbyists, sometimes members of the prosperous class of small-time builder, plumber, or electrician that seems to be a big part of the local economy, at least where I live.

    Swedes sometimes seem a bit out of place to me when discussing high culture. The role of the cosmopolitan intellectual comes more naturally to the French, Germans, Italians, and even Brits.

    But when they're sawing a piece of wood, Swedes are in their element.

    Bicycles and box bikes

    The UK is catching up in this regard, but I love living in a city where there are fewer cars, and so many people ferry their kids, dogs, shopping, and newly acquired furniture around in box bikes, be they Christiania cycles, Cargo Bikes, or one of the more upmarket battery-powered brands.

    It's not quite a classless society, but it's better than most

    "It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him," George Bernard Shaw opined in the preface to Pygmalion, back in 2012. It's still a bit true (although it doesn't seem to have hurt the career of the ultra-posh Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg).

    Economic inequality in Sweden has been on the rise for years, but it remains one of the most equal countries in the world, and is certainly a lot more equal than the UK.

    The parents at my children's school come from a wide range of backgrounds and somehow it doesn't matter as much as it would back home.

    Girls are more likely to make the first move

    This is something I have never in fact experienced first hand (I was the first mover in my only ever relationship with a Swede, which thankfully still continues).

    But it seems that for many foreign men who end up living in Sweden, much of the initial appeal comes from the gender dynamic in their relationship. The relative gender equality in Sweden perhaps makes Swedish women a bit more assertive, more likely to talk, less likely to listen, and perhaps more likely to make the first move.

    Perhaps the foreign women who end up moving to Sweden for love find it liberating that Swedish men have different expectations about how they should behave too.

    It may be slow, but when Sweden decides to change something, it does it properly

    Parental leave is the big historic example. Sweden didn't just pay lip service to gender equality, it carried out the big structural changes in society required to make it possible.

    Today, it's the ambitious transformation of the heavy industry in the north of Sweden, with enormous investments being made to decarbonise the iron ore and steel industry.

    The UK as a nation seems much more capable of double-think, of saying one thing and acting in another. When Sweden collectively decides on a change of course, the system somehow works through all the implications and slowly but surely makes the change happen.

    The pandemic has arguably shown up the weaknesses of Sweden's system of government. It may be slow, but once the public enquiry has been completed, and everyone has agreed on what to do, the level of execution can be impressive.

    Local.se

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    "Girls are more likely to make the first move"

    This is complete bullshit. The only women making the first move in Sweden are either ugly or immigrants. If a woman looks anything close to a typical Swede, she has a huge list of suitors which includes men of all races and income brackets. She would never "lower herself" to chase a man.

    It stands to common sense that the countries with the most desirable women would be the ones where women approach the LEAST.

    The feminist lie that Swedish women approach is outlandish bullshit that never made any sense in light of the female privilege in dating even in traditional societies. A more feminist society would never make young Nordic women, who already enjoyed a position of absolute privilege, chase MORE. To the contrary, it would increase even their already inflated value, making them chase even LESS, and this is indeed the way it looks in Sweden and other Nordic countries.

    I was aware of these two worldviews before living in Sweden:

    *If the feminists and the racial egalitarians were right, it should be EASIER to get a Swedish than an immigrant girlfriend. After all, no race is more desirable than the others, and the more "modern, progressive" Swedish women would approach more.

    *If the traditional point of view was right, Swedish women would approach the least being traditionally thought of as more beautiful than darker women, and women being understood by most "mysoginistic" men to enjoy a position of privilege in dating and therefore not approaching.

    I can tell you from my time there (over 5 years in campus environments alone + 7 years in work and other areas of life) that the only women who chased me or made anything close to an approach were immigrants or exchange students and none of these of Northern European origin. Swedish women are an extremely sought after commodity in Sweden, and the more Swedish they look, the harder they are to get. To expect them to approach a guy is like expecting Bill Gates to apply for a position at your local MacDonalds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gegenschlag View Post
    [I]"Girls are more likely to make the first move"

    This is complete bullshit. The only women making the first move in Sweden are either ugly or immigrants. If a woman looks anything close to a typical Swede, she has a huge list of suitors which includes men of all races and income brackets. She would never "lower herself" to chase a man.

    It stands to common sense that the countries with the most desirable women would be the ones where women approach the LEAST.

    The feminist lie that Swedish women approach is outlandish bullshit that never made any sense in light of the female privilege in dating even in traditional societies. A more feminist society would never make young Nordic women, who already enjoyed a position of absolute privilege, chase MORE. To the contrary, it would increase even their already inflated value, making them chase even LESS, and this is indeed the way it looks in Sweden and other Nordic countries.
    ....
    I'd also expect them to be pissed.

    The Swedes I recall, were quite reserved, but usually very friendly people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Theunissen View Post
    I'd also expect them to be pissed.

    The Swedes I recall, were quite reserved, but usually very friendly people.

    Angry about what? Immigration? Becoming a minority in their own country? Quite the opposite. They are the part of the population that cares the LEAST.

    In part because of brainwashing in the media, schools and the university. In part socialization with immigrants. But also because they aren't nearly under as much evolutionary pressure in dating/mating as the men.

    It is surely ironic that the people who profit the most from being born of a certain race care the least about its preservation, but most critics of immigration in Sweden are men or older people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gegenschlag View Post
    Angry about what? Immigration? Becoming a minority in their own country? Quite the opposite. They are the part of the population that cares the LEAST.
    .....
    I was talking about attractive woman being approached all the time by pesky man. While that may be flattering to some, I can imagine that it can get quite annoying to most, since they don't want to be bothered.

    Well, I won't know, since I'm not an attractive woman, but an ugly man .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Theunissen View Post
    I was talking about attractive woman being approached all the time by pesky man. While that may be flattering to some, I can imagine that it can get quite annoying to most, since they don't want to be bothered.

    Well, I won't know, since I'm not an attractive woman, but an ugly man .
    I suppose so, but that's a bit like a millionaire being annoyed by starving beggars on the street. There are people with much worse problems...

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