Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sweet Sweden

The Icelandic police have launched an investigation into what happened to our missing summer. Their website announces that they are presently interviewing witnesses and suspects. And I am not making this up.

But Icelandic weather is not today‘s topic. Sweden is. So here goes. Please not that I will be generalizing a lot, going by the principle that sweeping statements are OK if highly positive.

Sweden is the largest of the Nordic countries in terms of population with 9.5 million inhabitants and the third largest country in the European Union in regards to area. It is considered the best governed country in the world in 2013 according to the Economist. Sweden, like Denmark and Norway, has a monarch that serves a figurehead purpose but is for all accounts a democratic state with a parliament and cabinet ministers running the show.

Not being an expert in political science I can only note that popular belief in Iceland considers Sweden to be the inventor of Social Democrats and the welfare state. It is also said that in Sweden any action is one of two things: compulsory by law or forbidden by law. But whatever they are doing it seems to be working.

For one, Sweden has a long standing relationship with the arts and design. Swedish music, literature, furniture and various functional design objects are well known to the rest of the world. They are also known for meatballs, pickled herring and lutefisk, the last-mentioned not likely to reach IKEA popularity. Most of those reading this are well familiar with the numerous great crime writers Sweden has begotten – the first widely translated being a husband wife duo Sjöwall and Wahlöö that wrote 10 novels that set the stage for the crime-novel with a social agenda. The next international sensation was Mankell, followed by the sensation to end all sensations Steig Larsson.   

Having just come from Stockholm I must say that the clean and elegant style one has come to associate with the country‘s products is not a chance happening. It has apparently been this way for some time. The old buildings are beautiful and the dwellings within seem prepped for impromtu photoshoots for magazine spreads, no matter what the household income bracket. The Swedes have mastered some sort of minimalism that manages to look warm and livable - not like a cool place for open heart surgery like so many other minimalistic spaces. I think I am not taking too much of a risk by saying that in general the Swedes are stylish at heart. There must be a special nucleotide pairing in DNA strands for style.

The people I saw on the streets also seem in a whole lot better shape that in most other countries I have been to. Life seemed less processed somehow than in other, larger EU countries. Everyone I met could have passed for a personal trainer and the population just seems effortlessly gorgeous. I did not see anyone that appeared to have had their face done or gone loopy in a hair salon. The Swedes just seem to be a nation of very healthy people which in part relates to the Swedish lifestyle being quite healthy.
The exception to the rule - the not so stylish lit candles on the head. Why do that to such a beautiful girl?
In a small way that lifestyle is governed by official regulations. What is bad for you is made expensive and hard to access - what is good for you more affordable. For example, my husband attempted to buy a Long-Island-Ice-Tea at the bar of our hotel but was told by the barman that he would feel like a robber if he were to sell him this drink. It is basically made up of nothing but alcohol and the more alcohol in a drink in Sweden, the more expensive it becomes – exponentially. The price tag for a single Long-Island-Ice-Tea at the bar was 68 dollars. My husband ended up having a glass of Prosecco. We had both begun to show signs of increased healthiness when we departed, only to be thrust down by depression into our previous more unhealthy look, when seeing the baggage collectors at Keflavik through the window of the plane. They were wearing parkas and woolen hats with ear muffs.

A local clothing store has just taken to advertising:  great selection of waterproof winter coats for your vacation.

Anyway, cry me a river. There will be sun at some point, here, there or otherwhere.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Yrsa, I have three little words for you and your suffering countrymen. It's something even the Swedes do...

    Come To Mykonos.

  2. From this and Stan's similar, recent complaints about bad weather, it seems as if summer this year in Northern Europe happened between 1 and 6:43 AM on June 8th and most of the citizenry slept through it.

  3. One thing I noticed about Sweden is the absence of young ladies with fake tan the colour of a three day old kipper. They like being pale - and interesting.

  4. Despite the cost of the Long Island Tea, Sweden is one of the countries that I have visited where, on Fridays and Saturdays, there are many people kissing the sidewalks. (Finland has even more) Or maybe it is not kissing. And maybe it is not from alcohol, but depression that the summer is over before it has arrived. I just returned from Denmark, where the people danced when the temperature reached 15 (about 60F). Not to mention the rain. And the wind.

  5. Sweden is nice - and so much space (says a Dane, with half the population of Sweden but on much less ground...). But Stan, it's actually 24deg here today! No rain. No wind. Okay not TOO much wind...