Wednesday, March 23, 2011

sweden q&a, part I


So, time to start answer some questions me thinks. There were a bunch of them, intriguing, thoughtful, some easier answered than others, so I'm thinking three posts will do better than one on the subject of Sweden, Swedish life and Swedes. I'll start with the ones easier to give shorter-ish answers to.

:: I was curious about the authors Stieg Larsson and Lindquist (Let Me In) their portrayal of Sweden. They're both pretty you think it's an accurate portrayal?

Admittedly I'm not a fan of the Millennium-trilogy books by Stieg Larsson, I have read them but as interesting as the stories in themselves are I do not like the writing style, which really isn't my cup of tea.

But I love John Ajvide Lindquist, he's a fantastic writer, he plays in a whole other writing division than Larsson. His stories are great and his writing is exquisite and multi-layered.

A third Swedish writer, another favourite author of mine, for the same reasons as Lindquist, is Arne Dahl, if you haven't read him, do that. Now.

That said, I think that yes, they all have many accurate points in describing Sweden, Swedish life, Swedes. In general I get the impression that people not living in Sweden, non-Swedes, have a notion of Sweden as picturesque, idyllic, clean, well-organized, caring for its citizens as well as the world, with a well-functioning well-fare system. Which sadly is quite far from the truth these days.

Once upon a time I would have agreed with that in general. I feel I grew up in a country that had, possibly, more visionary politicians, people who knew what solidarity was and acted on it. These past, well 10-15 years or so, the well-fare system (with its flaws, I'm so not saying it was a perfect security blanket or that a security blanket is always a good thing) have crumbled in many parts.

Compared to less fortunate (as far as economy and infrastructure are concerned) countries and cultures (as far as equality and freedom are concerned) Sweden is probably rather idyllic. Though we can do so so much better. And yes, we do have fantastic places, cities, towns of spectacular, picturesque beauty. But as far as political and human visions, creative problem solving, the prudent use of tax-payers money, solidarity, completely open discussions without constant insinuations regarding issues like integration, unemployment, animal welfare, true equality, environment and so forth Sweden is very far from idyllic. Or rather, perhaps like most western, wealthy countries in general.

:: I was excited to see you're reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I'm always trying to get friends to read it. What do you think of it?

Ahem, well, I have to say that I was completely swept in to the story. It's clever, quirky, full of character and dry wittiness, a fantastic Dickensian story that is in theory very much worth reading. But. And this is probably just me personally, half way through the book I felt the minuscule text, the brick-novelistic size got a bit too much. Currently I (sadly since it's such a big part of me and my life) get no real pleasure from reading. Thus, Mr Strange and Mr Norrell (and all the other books in the pipeline) will just have to bide their time until I get my true self back, start reading again.

::  I met this Swedish girl and she's been pretty forward and I'd like to know, are Swedish people just friendlier than other nationalities, or is sex on a second date normal in Sweden? I mean, I know Swedes aren't Catholic so there's none of that nonsense, but still, I'm surprised. Hey, I know I'm asking you to generalise massively, but I am interested in your opinion.

This question made me chuckle. The only thing I can really say is that there are about 9,5 million Swedes, some of them are more forward than others, like in any population with a general open attitude and gender equality consensus. One might generalise and say that growing up in such a society one might get more comfortable about one's own sexuality, other than that, no, I don't think Swedes are "friendlier" than other nationalities.

:: Do you like lutefisk?

No. I'm a vegetarian, have been for many, many years. But I do remember eating lutfisk (stockfish) at Christmas when I was a child and I really didn't like it back then either. Didn't enjoy neither consistency nor taste.

:: You have traveled a lot - where do most Swedish people like to go on their holidays?

Apparently Spain is supposedly Swedes' favourite holiday destination (incl the Canaries and Mallorca). Second place is Germany. Then come destinations like Thailand, Turkey, South Africa, Croatia and Egypt.

Myself I have several favourite destinations, Scotland, England being number one. But I do love Copenhagen, Hamburg, Berlin, Venice. I'd love to go back to South Africa, see more of Italy, Spain, USA, Poland, more of Europe in general and oh, many countries, continents I
haven't been to at all. Ah, for time and money to travel more...

:: I've heard the Finland is one of the happiest places in the world (according to a study that I can't remember the name of or who did it), how do you think Sweden measures up to that?

This question made me look this up and apparently there's a Dutch database of happiness, I just had a quick glance there, but found this compilation on "top 10 happiest countries in the world". Happiness is of course quite a subjective feeling, and I really do not agree on many of the things said about Sweden there, but on that list Sweden is on 7th place, Finland on 5th and Denmark on 1st. If one doesn't analyze the results too much, that might be reasonably accurate, I guess. Some days more than others. Like life in general.

End of answers for this time. Hope there were glimpses of interesting information amongst the personal and general impressions of undersigned.

1 comment:

Jana said...

Hi Pia - interesting to hear your views and also to know that my native Scotland is a favourite destination for you.It is, of course, the home of the vegetarian haggis which, for us veggies, is a source of real joy!
I have to say that I have visited Sweden and found it to have many positive, attractive qualities - not least a respect for and connection with the natural environment. I enjoy 'dropping in' to your world too from Scotland so thank you!

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