5 things that are wrong with Sweden

When you’ve lived in a foreign country as long as I have, you become blind to the differences that were so obvious when you first moved here. That’s a natural development I guess. Call it emersion, or integration, or adaptation, or assimilation. Or in my case, Swedification.

However, there are still some differences in Sweden that I notice on a regular basis. Things so deeply ingrained in me from my cultural background that they still feel wrong in Sweden. Here are my top 5:

1) Front doors open the wrong way. Doors open outwards, instead of inwards. That means if you are visiting someone, ring their doorbell and stand on the landing, there is a big risk that you get smacked in the face as they open the door outwards, towards you. It’s just wrong!

2) Plumbing is often on the outside of the walls. Especially in bathrooms, and around radiators, ugly pipes are not hidden behind the plaster in the wall. They run up and down and side to side along the outside of the wall, visible to everybody. So ugly, and just wrong!

3) Driving. Swedes drive on the right side of the road. It’s just wrong.

4) The ‘tunnelbana’. On the underground (tunnelbana) in Stockholm, most people don’t wait for passengers to get off the train before trying to get on. As soon as the doors open, people pile in. At the same time people are trying to get out. The resulting caffuffle in the door opening is so unnecessary and just wrong!

5) Celebrating the Eves, instead of the Days. I’ll never get used to it. Especially at Christmas. Santa coming in the afternoon on Christmas Eve instead of the night between the Eve and the Day, is just wrong!

I know what you’re thinking. How unimportant all of this is.

And you’re not wrong.

I’m happy to live in a place where the only things that seem off to me are so minor. When it comes to values, structures, systems, behaviours, lifestyle and attitudes so much about Sweden is, for me, just right.

Take a breath – and speak Swedish.

Probably ‘antiestablishmentarianism’ is one of the most notorious long English words that exist. However, in general we don’t have so many long words in the English language. This is because we use the space bar to separate words. Unlike Swedish.

In the Swedish language, grammar rules allow many words that would be separated in English to be arbitrarily conjoined, making it one veeeerrry long word. This can be mind boggling for the new language learner trying to get a grip on the linguistic acrobatics of the Swedish language.

Here are some of the longest co-joined words in Swedish. Take a breath. And speak Swedish…

1) nagellacksborttagningmedel – nail polish remover

2) diskrimineringsombudsmannen – ombudsman for discrimination

3) realisationsvinstbeskattning – capital gains tax

4) hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliofobi – fear of long words!

5) blodsockerprovtagningsmaskin- blood sampling equipment

6) användervänlighetsundersökning – enquiry into user-friendliness

7) trafikavspärrningsarbetsupgifter – traffic barrier tasks

8) eurovisionsschlagerfestivalsfinalsdeltagare – eurovision finalist

9) korttidsanställdasommarlovspraktikanter – summer job workers with short term contracts

10) mindervärdighetskomplex – inferiority complex (what one gets trying to pronounce these words!)

And finally… try this one out. According to the Guiness Book of Records the longest Swedish word is nordvästersjökustartilleriflygspaningssimulatoranläggningsmaterielunderhållsuppföljningssystemdiskussionsinläggsförberedelsearbeten.

Non-binary Swedish and English

For a while now the non-binary pronoun ‘hen’ has been used in the Swedish language. ‘Hen’ is used to refer to somebody who does not relate or feel represented by the established pronouns for he (han) and she (hon). Initially met with ridicule by some people in Sweden, the ‘hen’ pronoun is slowly starting to gain in usage amongst Swedes and in ordinary vernacular.

I have long assumed that non-binary pronouns do not exist in English apart from the neutralizing use of ‘they’. Imagine my surprise when I read an article today in the Huffington Post which proved me wrong. The article talked about the queering of language. The guide to English non-binary pronouns are presented in the table.

It’ll certainly take some getting used to to add new pronouns into the vocabulary. However, language is one of our greatest tools for celebrating diversity and increasing inclusiveness.

For that alone, I think it’s worth the effort.

How Sweden’s population stacks up

 

sweden-population-pyramid-2016

One way of understanding the present and future challenges a society is facing is to look at their demographic and an interesting method of presenting this information is in the form of a population pyramid.

According to ‘The World Factbook’ which is information gathered by America’s CIA, the population pyramid, related to age, for Sweden looks as above.

In a socialised society like Sweden, this picture can tell us several things:

  • Women in Sweden seem to live longer than men.
  • There are more men than women in their 20’s in Sweden. So if you are attracted to men, Sweden could be a great place to visit!
  • For the last 10 years there has been an increase in births in Sweden. This is good as these citizens are future workers whose tax contributions will support the pressured welfare state!
  • A potential problem may arise for Sweden in 10-15 years when the largest population group (currently 50-54) will retire and start taking out their pensions. A smaller group of workers will be left to support the growing number of pensioners. This suggests birth rates and immigration need to increase!

Any other conclusions you can draw from this information?

Please share below…

 

 

 

A casebook example of civil courage

baudin-jpg

Sometimes the best thing we can do is protest with our wallets.

Swedish bank giant Nordea announced recently that they are moving from Sweden to Finland because of a new bank tax that the Swedish government is planning to put in place. The final decision will be made at an annual meeting next year. The threat to move has caused a lot of hoo-ha from both sides of the equation – those who criticise the bank for tax evasion and greed, and those who criticise the government for forcing companies to leave Sweden due to unattractive taxation laws.

Criticising the banks is Sweden’s largest trade union ‘Kommunal.’ – the union that represents council and municipal workers. Just today they announced that if the move happens, they will remove all their money from the bank. We are not talking about a small amount of money either. The amount is one billion Swedish crowns.

‘ We choose banks that reflect our morals and values and who act responsibly. Neither Nordeas MD or board do this,‘ says Kommunal’s chair Tobias Baudine

Kommunal joins other trade unions ‘Handels’ and ‘Seko’ who have also decided to leave Nordea and take with them investments to the value of half a billion Swedish crowns respectively.

Agree or disagree, this is definitely a great example of moral and civil courage. Sometimes as consumers, the best thing we can do is protest with our feet and our wallets.

  • If a business is acting in a way that is contradictory to our values and beliefs then leave them as a customer.
  • If a newspaper is spreading lies and hate, do not buy it or go to its website.
  • If an industry is employing dubious methods, then stop consuming their product.

Do not fund hate. Do not fund greed. Do not fund unethical behaviour (whatever that means for you).

By taking a stance, we have the power to change the world around us. If only we would realise it.

 

Amazing immigrants in Sweden: Part 7 Mustafa Can 


Negativity. Fear. Concern. These are some of the reactions many Swedes are experiencing about the influx of immigrants to Sweden in the last couple of years. So, I became curious to learn about some of those individuals who came here as refugees or immigrants to make a better life for themselves. People with roots somewhere else who built a home here and who contributed to Swedish society in a positive way.
For the next seven days, I will celebrate these people. My hope is that we can lift our eyes from the challenges of immigration and understand what useful contributions these people can make to society if given the chance. To our society. Our Sweden

 

Part 5: Mustafa Can 

In Sweden, every summer there is a radio series called ‘Radio Talkers’ where various people get a chance to tell their stories and play music. It was in this program some years ago that I first heard of Mustafa Can. His program was very moving and focused around his mother. It was so moving that he won many radio and media prizes as a result.

Mustafa Can works as a prize-winning author, independent journalist and public speaker. His recent work focuses mostly on cultural diversity, identity and xenophobia in Sweden. He provides a controversial voice to the Swedish integration debate.

Mustafa has lived in Sweden for over 40 years. Orginally from Northern Kurdistan in Turkey, he fled with his family when he was 6 years old. He is a great example of someone who arrived in Sweden as a child, became well integrated and uses his position and his voice to try to make Swedish society a better place for everybody.

Amazing immigrants in Sweden Part 6: Hanif Azizi


Negativity. Fear. Concern. These are some of the reactions many Swedes are experiencing about the influx of immigrants to Sweden in the last couple of years. So, I became curious to learn about some of those individuals who came here as refugees or immigrants to make a better life for themselves. People with roots somewhere else who built a home here and who contributed to Swedish society in a positive way.
For the next seven days, I will celebrate these people. My hope is that we can lift our eyes from the challenges of immigration and understand what useful contributions these people can make to society if given the chance. To our society. Our Sweden

   
Part 5: Hanif Azizi

At the age of 9 years old, Hanif Azizi arrived in Sweden as an unaccompanied refugee. His parents were active in a political military organisation, a rebel Group fighting against the regime in Iran. When he was 6 years old, his father was killed in battle and his mother decided to send her children away to safety.

In 1991, Hanif arrived in Sweden with his younger brother and were placed in a host home. In this home, they were subjected to physical and pyschological abuse and were eventually removed by the Swedish Social Services and placed in a secure and supportive environment.

Today, Hanif is 35 and works as a policeman based in the Stockholm suburb of Järva. Here, he works to prevent crime but also to support youths who are at risk of falling into criminality. In Järva there are lots of individuals with an ethnic background. Hanif tries to help them feel involved in Swedish society so as to avoid radicalisation and crime. 

His contribution to Swedish society is extremely valuable. Hanif is an amazing immigrant in Sweden and a positive role model and contributor to Swedish society.