A surprising Swedish statistic

In Sweden, there is a population of ten million, with two million residing in the greater Stockholm region. Of the overall population, around half of the citizens live in flats.

In a recent survey of flat dwellers in Stockholm, 80% said that they don’t know the name of any of their neighbours. That figure is surprisingly high. I have lived in my flat since October and I can rattle off the first names of at least five of the neighbours. 80% surprises me. And I wonder if this is typically Swedish? If you asked the same question in London or New York or Madrid would you get the same result?

One aspect that might affect this lack of neighbourly knowledge is the type of flat that people live in.

In Sweden, flats are typically either rental flats or resident-owned flats.

Resident-owned flats. When you buy a flat in Sweden, you also buy a percentage of the building which you own together with your neighbours. In these resident-owned flats, the building is run as a private cooperative, governed by an elected tenant board. This means that you are forced to work together with your neighbours to operate and maintain the building. For example, once a year there is a ‘shareholder annual meeting’ and twice a year there might be clean-up parties for the communal spaces. This means you meet and interact with your neighbours. In Sweden, resident-owned flats make up about 21% of the total housing stock.

Rental flats. In rental accommodation, a private company owns the building and takes care of all the communal areas such as gardens, laundry room and stairwells. This means tenants in theory have to never interact with their neighbours. Rental accommodation is about 28% of the total housing stock.

Finding a flat is extremely difficult in Sweden’s cities. To buy is expensive and waiting lists for rentals can be over 10 years. This creates another market for ‘second hand’ rental, where people sub-let their apartments out to others. This creates even further anonymity as the renter is often only there for short periods. In this case, there is probably no necessity to get to know the neighbours. In research from Sweden’s Ministry of Housing, an estimated 200,000 people live in this form of housing in Stockholm.

So, on reflection, maybe it isn’t so unexpected that 80% say they do not know the name of a neighbour in their building.

Statistics aside, one can wonder what impact this has on local communities and Swedish society as a whole. While this encourages the Swedish qualities of privacy, respect and integrity, it surely also contributes to loneliness, unfriendliness and alienation?

Sources: HSB, The Local, SCB, Boverket

Graduating in a pandemic – Swedish style

Usually at this time of the year, a common sight on the streets of Sweden is students on trucks, as seen in these pictures. Dressed in traditional white caps, and bolstered with alcohol, the students jump up and down to the booming music from loud speakers concealed in the vehicle. They scream and shout and spray beer on each other and sometimes unsuspecting pedestrians.

They are celebrating the end of their school career. Most of them are 19 years old and have just graduated from Sixth Form College/High School. Every year the media reports accidents and injuries, which is not entirely unexpected. And trucks have been banned from certain roads and areas in the towns.

In Sweden, graduating or doing ‘studenten’, as it’s called in Swedish, is a major rite of passage into adult life. The youngsters finish their last day at school, come running out of the building to be greeted by waiting parents and families. They then climb aboard their trucks for their lap of honour. After that they go around to each other’s homes where each family usually arranges a reception to honour the newly-graduated student.

This year though is a bit different. Due to COVID 19, the trucks are banned. Parties are cancelled. Parents are not allowed to gather in large groups. It is a necessary action to try to stem a pandemic, but highly disappointing for the affected youths.

However, people are finding other solutions. Trucks may be banned but cars aren’t. The streets are full of young people screaming around in cars, flying their flags and cheering themselves on. Boats float around the city waterways with groups of less than 50 graduates, drinking sparkling wine and dancing to their booming music. The parks are full of picnicking revelers, huddled on shared blankets but socially distanced from other groups.

Proof that people will always find a way. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

161 years old today!

If Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf was alive today, she would be celebrating her 161st birthday.

Born 20 November 1858, Selma Lagerlöf was a Swedish author, publishing her first novel, ‘Gösta Berling’s Saga’, at the age of 33. She is considered to be one of Sweden’s most significant writers throughout history.

She was a woman of firsts. She was the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which she was awarded in 1909.

Additionally, she was the first female to be granted a membership in The Swedish Academy in 1914 – the famous literary committee that selects the Nobel prize laureate amongst other things.

She wrote prolifically – mostly novels, religious texts and short stories. Other than ‘Gösta Björlings Saga’, her most famous works are probably ‘Jerusalem’, ‘The Treasure’ and ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson’. The latter has been translated into over 30 languages.

Selma was a politically active woman – involved as a speaker for the Swedish Suffragette movement, and herself living in a controversial same sex relationship. She was also a vocal anti-nazi.

The house where Selma Lagerlöf was born on 20 Nov 1958, grew up and later lived is today open to the public as a museum. If you’d like to visit, it’s in the county of Värmland and can be checked out at Mårbacka

How to meet Swedes and maybe even find romance

I met up with a good friend yesterday who has just got two puppies. We went for a stroll through Stockholm’s Old Town and out onto the harbour island of Skeppsholmen. These two little puppies are of the breed Daschund, and they were incredibly popular with passers by on the street. Countless times, we were stopped and chatted to by Swedes and tourists alike. It seems that getting a dog is a great way to get people to talk to you in Stockholm!

In Swedish there is a concept called ‘hundtricket’ (the dog trick) which basically is about getting a dog so that you can pick people up on the street. And it obviously works! It’s actually how another friend of mine met her husband.

Of course, this isn’t a specifically Swedish phenomena. It’s been proven to work on dating site Tinder. A UK company carried out some research recently into how attractive people are perceived to be if they have a dog with them in their profile picture. According to the research men got 38% more swipes if there was a dog with them in their picture. Women got 69% more swipes!

People with dogs are apparently perceived as more open, relatable and approachable. Having a dog seems to be a great conversation starter, whether you’re on a dating app or walking down the street.

So, you want to connect more easily with Swedes? Get a dog!

22 Swedish farts

outfart or infart dr heckle funny wtf signs

One of the fun things about learning a foreign language are the words that are rude, or funny in your own language.

Swedish has a few of them: slut, kräpp, plopp, kock, spurt

But the funniest one is probably the most purile; it is the ever prevailing ‘fart’, especially when you see it on street signs. This is the word that has most visitors to Sweden holding their sides with laughter.

Even after all these years, I can still have a little giggle when I think about the word ‘fart’ and its various usages in Swedish. In Swedish, ‘fart’ can mean a lot of things such as speed, drive, route, pace, spirit, vivacity, rate. But it is when it is put together with another word that it becomes amusing. Childish, I know…but here we go…

  1. utfart – ‘out fart’ – exit from a building
  2. uppfart – ‘up fart’ – driveway
  3. infart – ‘in fart’ (sounds painful) – entrance
  4. avfart – ‘of fart’ – exit from a motorway
  5. framfart – ‘forward fart’ (quite an accomplishment) – progress
  6. fartkamera – ‘fart camera’ (didn’t know these existed) – speed camera
  7. kringfart – ‘circular fart’ (also sounds painful) – causeway
  8. fartfylld -‘full of fart’ (know a few people like that) – speedy
  9. krypfart – ‘crawl fart’ – crawl
  10. luftfart – ‘air fart’ (the worst) – air travel
  11. fartrand – ‘fart stripe’ – go faster stripe on a car
  12. maxfart -‘maximum fart’ – top speed
  13. farthållare – ‘fart holder’ (dangerous) – cruise control
  14. blixtfart – ‘flash fart’ – flash speed
  15. fjärrfart -‘distant fart’ – transocean traffic
  16. halvfart – ‘half fart’ – half speed
  17. snigelfart – ‘snail fart’ – snail speed
  18. förbifart – ‘passing fart’ – ring road
  19. fartgräns – ‘fart limit’ – speed limit
  20. marschfart – ‘marching fart’ (like a hit and run!) – cruise speed
  21. överljudsfart – ‘supersonic fart’ (impressive!) – supersonic speed
  22. fartblind – ‘fart blind’ (although deaf is probably preferable) – when you become desensitised to the speed you are driving and stop noticing it

 

If you like this, please share it. Let’s see if we can share some farts over social media!

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Thanks!

 

 

The most popular names in Sweden

Oliver was the most popular name for male newborns in the UK last year. And Olivia was the most popular female name. In London, it was Amelia and Mohammed and in Ireland it was Jack and Emily.

So what about Sweden in 2018? Just-released information from Sweden’s office of statistics give us the following answer.

The most popular top 5 names for male newborns were:

  1. William
  2. Liam
  3. Noah
  4. Lucas
  5. Oliver

In fact, there are 44010 males in Sweden with the name William. And 58 females!

And for newborn girls it was:

  1. Alice
  2. Maja
  3. Lilly
  4. Ella
  5. Wilma

Interestingly, there are 38957 females called Alice in Sweden. And 22 men!

The names Ture, Lias and Amir are the fastest climbing names in the list of boys’ names. And for girls, Hailey och Bianca. The names Sebastian, Neo, Simon, Emelie, Ellinor, Idun and Noomi have left the top 20 list.

If you want to see how many people have your name in Sweden, go to svenskanamn.alltforfaldrar.se

Remember to follow me on Instagram! watchingtheswedes

A Swedish thing, or a generational thing? 

Sitting in a restaurant yesterday beside two Swedish women in their mid 20’s. Eavesdropping on their conversation. They were talking about their employment situation. As I sat listening, I was caught between the emotions of affection and horror. 

One said ‘I don’t think employers should be able to place demands on us employees. If they keep placing demands on us, don’t they get that we won’t be happy. Then they’ll have a hard time finding staff’ 

The second woman nodded in agreement. And added ‘yeah, what if we decide we want to do something else like go to Thailand for three months? I want to be able to just go tomorrow if I feel like it.’ 

A Swedish thing, or a generational thing? 

Swedish sunflowers

sunflowers

Sunflowers might not be the first thing you think of when you think of Sweden. But at this time of year, the place is full of them. Well, not really sunflowers per se, but a type of sunflower.

The fantastic thing about sunflowers, apart from their brash yellow colour and the flocks of buterflies that they attract, is the way in which they move. Their big, open faces look up at the sky, reaching for the light, and when the sun is out the sunflower moves its face to follow the its path across the sky. They really enjoy soaking up the rays of light and the warmth that the sun provides. It’s a fantastic sight to behold as you drive through the countryside in France or Italy.

But we’re not in France or Italy, we’re in Sweden. So what has this got to do with Sweden then?

Well, Swedes are like sunflowers.

Confused? Let me explain.

After a long, dark, cold winter, Spring eventually arrives.  This year, it seemed to arrive yesterday. Temperatures soared to 17 degrees celcius, the sky was blue and people hit the streets and the parks. Everybody emerged from their winter hybernation.

They sat on park benches, on blankets, on window ledges, on balconies. They leaned up against sunny walls. And as they sat there, they lifted their faces, just like sunflowers, to face the sun and to feel the warming rays of light on their pale wintery skin. Sometimes people just stopped randomly on street corners and lifted their faces up to the sun, eyes closed, to soak up the light.

So you see, Swedish sunflowers are the Swedes themselves. And you’d be hard pushed to find a more sun-worshipping, thankful population at this time of the year.

Austrian stereotypes of Swedes

I was in Vienna at a wedding this weekend and mingled with the other guests. When they found out I lived in Sweden, they wanted to talk about Stockholm and Swedish people. They were very pleasant and what was interesting is how stereotypes persist. Amongst other stereotypes, they thought Swedes were reserved and formal. When I explained that maybe some are but it’s not the case entirely,they actually looked sceptical.

This is the funny thing about stereotypes – they’re often outdated and almost always wrong. How can a single characteristic be applied to 9,000,000 Swedes, or 70 million Brits, and still be accurate? Stereotypes can be fun to talk about but if we start believing them, we’re in trouble. Instead, let’s look at the individual to form our perceptions of that person (understanding we can still be wrong) and try to avoid sweeping condemnations of the collective. I think we’ll get a lot further in our cultural sensitivity that way.