Cultural differences in the laundry

Even though I curse laundry day, I am secretly very thankful of the Swedish solution to washing our smalls.

In the UK, if you don’t have your own washing machine, then you have to trudge down to the nearest laundrette, loaded like a mule with heavy bags of dirty washing, clutching a handful of pound coins and hoping that there aren’t masses of people queueing.

In Sweden, most apartment blocks have their own laundry room. Usually in the cellar or the attic, you book your time on a board on the wall and then it’s just to carry your dirty clothes there when it’s your turn. You don’t even have to take your flipflops off. And it’s free.

And even though laundry day is a drag, you can’t deny the convenience of it compared to the UK.

Nowadays, many people also have their own washer in their apartment or house of course. Some friends of mine were recently planning a refurbishment and were trying to decide where to put the washing machine.

‘Why not put it in the kitchen?’ I said ‘there’s lots of space there’.

You see, in the UK most people have their washing machines in the kitchen. What’s the problem?

‘Uggh! No!’ they whinced. ‘Doing the laundry where you cook food, that’s disgusting!’

In Sweden, people usually put their washing machine in their bathroom.

So, can somebody please explain to me what’s so pleasant about doing the laundry where you crap???!!

My letter from the Greens

Well, I got a response from the Green party yesterday. And here it is.

Hej, och tack för ditt mejl.

Miljöpartiet kommer inte bli något stödparti åt Alliansen, Miljöpartiet kan inte heller ingå i en regering som bedriver en politik där de mest utsatta i samhället, kommande generationer och människor på andra sidan jorden får betala för vårt samhälles kortsiktiga tänkande. Vi gör bedömningen att vi inte fått mandat från våra väljare att inleda några förhandlingar med Alliansen vare sig om att bilda regering eller att inå i något närmare samarbete.

Sverigedemokraterna har kommit in i riksdagen och fått en relativt stark ställning. Sverige har inte blivit främlingsfientligt, men vi har fått in ett främlingsfientligt parti i riksdagen och det är djupt beklagligt.

Om det oklara parlamentariska läget kvarstår efter sluträkningen på onsdag så anser vi att det naturliga vore att Fredrik Reinfeldt tar kontakt med de rödgröna partierna för att diskutera situationen.
Ansvaret för att hantera läget gäller för sju partier, inte bara för ett. Det vore konstigt om inte Socialdemokraterna, som riksdagens största parti fanns med i en sådan diskussion.

Vänligen, Gabrielle
Miljöpartiet de gröna

As a brief translation for you non Swedish speaking people, the answer was no. The Green party will never cooperate with the minority centre-right government to keep out the racists. That’s me told.

Watch this space.

My letter to the Greens

If, like me, you believe that the Green Party should cooperate with the minority government in the name of democracy, then I urge you to send them an email declaring this. This has even more impact if you are a member of the Green Party. Rarely before has it been so important to take your citizenship, or residency, seriously and communicate what you feel. Send your comments to

Here is the mail I sent yesterday. I apologise to those of you who don’t speak Swedish. And to those of you who do, I apologise for my Swedish.

Jag heter Neil Shipley och jag blev svensk i juni i år. Detta val var mitt första riksdagsval. Jag tog uppgiften på största allvar och läste på de olika partiernas mål innan jag bestämde mig för att rösta. Jag känner mig stolt med mitt beslut.

Nu har vi situationen som vi har med ett främlingsfientligt parti i riksdagen. Som invandrare själv tycker jag att det är av yttersta vikt att våra folkvalda representanter hittar ett sätt att lösa detta. Den toleranta Sverige som jag älskar ska inte gå förlorad.

Fredrik Reinfeldt har sagt att han vill gärna öppna diskussioner med er för att skapa ett eventuellt samarbete och på så sätt slipper beroende på rasisterna. Jag uppmanar er att gör detta i demokratins namn. Det är upp till er. Om ni inte gör det så ökar chansen att regeringen är tvungna att samtala med SD. Och det skulle vara förödande för svensk politik och samhället. Vi måste visa omvärlden hur vi hantera situationen på ett mänskligt och moget sätt och inte gå samma väg som Danmark till exempel.

Jag hoppas att de flesta av era väljare inser hur viktigt detta är. Det är inte att bara visar avsky för främlingsfientlighet, det är även att agera. Och ni har alla möjligheter att göra detta. Även om det inte är det mest önskvärd situation måste vi göra någonting av det. Dessutom är det även en möjlighet att få fram Miljöpartiets hjärtfrågor ändå och påverkar.

Så av alla de röster som ni fick, här är min. Prata med Fredrik Reinfeldt. Lös detta. Och gör mig och Sverige stolta.

A deeply disturbing thing

I am disturbed. Very disturbed. I sit at my desk and should start working. My mind drifts. I can’t focus.

A deeply disturbing thing has happened in Sweden – something that threatens the foundation of society and turns the idea of Swedish tolerance and egalitarianism on it head.

On Election Níght last night it became clear that the Swedish Democrats, a national socialistic, racist party, have been elected into parliament. With just under 6% of the vote (360,000 votes), they have 20 seats.

But that’s not the worst of it. These 20 seats give them the balance of power, since the current government were re-elected, but with a minority.

This is a shock to the other 94% of Swedes who didn’t vote for them. People mention the right-wing gales that are whistling over Europe and that have now reached Sweden. They talk about the xenophobic disease which has infected Swedish politics.

The Prime Minister last night said he will never cooperate with the national socialists. Can we trust him to keep his word when his power is what’s at stake?

There is talk of solving the problem through cooperation across the blocs in order to elbow out the Swedish Democrats and render them impotent. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Can the different parties put aside their prestige and return to their shared basic assumptions about life and people? That we are all equal. Can they work together to uphold democracy as the majority see it?

Today, Sweden became a colder place.

It’s now up to our elected politicians to turn up the heat on the racists that have wormed their way into the Houses of Parliament.

Election Day

And so it’s election day.

All the parties have been campaigning up to the last minute, trying to sway the thousands of voters who still haven’t made up their minds. By the lake today, one party, the currently-reigning Moderates, were offering coffee and cinnamon buns to passers-by in exchange for a little chat about the election.

The tv has been full of election issues. The papers have been packed with it. The streets have been full of campaign workers and, for the first time, the parties have been knocking on doors. Apparently, never before has so much focus been placed on the election and on increasing election turnout.

This interested me. So I checked the IFES Election Guide to see how parliamentary election turnout compares between different countries.

And, to be honest, Sweden does really well already.

In the last election, the election turnout in Sweden was 81.99%

Compare that figure to the UK (65.52%), Switzerland (49%), Czech Republic (39.12%) and Hungary (30.94%).

The best countries are Belgium (91.80%), Malta (93.30%) and, wait for it, Luxembourg (100%!!!)

Of all the 70 countries in the list, only 11 have a higher election turnout than Sweden, many of them only very slightly. That’s not a bad statistic, which reflects that Swedes, in general, take their democratic rights seriously.

In Sweden, voting is not only a right. It is a duty.

No immigrants

Only two days to go to the election and, in the latest polls, the Swedish Democrats are increasing their share. The Swedish Democrats (laughable name) are a right-wing, racist party that want to send immigrants home and to reduce immigration to Sweden by 90%. In a report in the newspaper today, a journalist explained how Sweden needs immigration. Being such a small country, and the fact that Swedes are not rampant breeders, we need immigrants to grow and develop. Without immigration Sweden will stagnate.

As a reaction to the Swedish Democrat’s policies, a new Facebook group has opened. It’s called Inga Invandrare (No Immigrants) and it is working hard to show lost Swedes what good things immigrants have contributed to the nation.

What would Sweden have without immigrants and their influence?

No pizza
No sushi
No kebabs
No football goals
Shut down hospitals, nursing and retirement homes
Dirty streets
Only ‘dansband’ music, and some watery pop
No new buildings
No modern Swedish language

And much, much more.

And although I choose to be non-political in this blog, on this occasion I make an exception.

Do not vote for the Swedish Democrats.

Not unless you want a colder, dustier and stagnant Sweden.

Concrete blocs

At first glance, Swedish politics can be a bit confusing. Unlike the UK, or the USA, there are 7 major parties all vying for the voters. You’d think with 7 parties, it’d be easy to decide who to vote for. But it isn’t. Apart from the far left and the far right, all the other parties seem very similar.

This time round, however, the parties have tried to make it easier for us by forming two blocs: the Alliance to the right, and the Red-Greens to the left. Two concrete blocs to choose from when we are standing in the polling station on September 19th.

Or at least that’s the theory. The trouble is that both blocs are making the same election promises. More money to pensioners. Better schools. Better healthcare. More jobs.

The forming of the two blocs has made the decision even more difficult, and in the end it may become simply a choice between the far left or the far right.

To get clarity, I decided to ask some Swedes what the main ideological difference is between the two blocs. And surprisingly, they couldn’t really tell me. Lots of people couldn’t tell any difference at all. Some people made a brave attempt to explain. I heard things such as,

‘one side wants to reduce tax by 1%, the other wants to increase tax by 1%
‘one side believes in benefits, the other in jobs’
‘one side wants to put more money than the other into the public sector’

None the clearer, I will have to chew over my options. Before election day, I’ll decide. Like millions of other voters. And a new government will be chosen.

And we’ll probably notice very little difference.