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The definite guide to the wonderland known as Sweden

av Björn Barr

1. Sweden is like GOT – but for real!

Foto: HBO.
”Winter is coming, therefore a swede always pays his taxes. Otherwise the dragons of Skatteverket will destroy you.” Foto: HBO.

This is actually true. You can pick anyone of the three main houses of HBO´s GOT and find something swedish. A Lannister always pays his debts, they say. Well, that goes for swedes to, but we tend to focus on our taxes. Targaryens are all blond and longhaired – and so are we (some of us at least). And the Starks both live in some kind of eternal winterland AND have a saying that is the most swedish thing we´ve ever heard. We always talk about the weather, and since it´s cold half the year here, winter is actually coming sooner or later. Besides, Westeros is not a continent. It´s a misspelled swedish town (Västerås).

2. This is how we feel most of the time

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Edward Munch may have been norwegian, but his painting ”The scream” captures the essential feeling in every swede: Will I ever be able to pay my mortgage? What am I doing with my life? Will the russians invade us? Why is there a stranger talking to me on the tram? (We are still kind of nice though)

3. This is our church…

All play and no work makes swedes a dull boy. Foto: Niclas Hammarström.
All play and no work makes swedes a dull boy (or girl). Foto: Niclas Hammarström.

4. … And this is where we heal our hurts

Coffee and cinnamon buns are our modern communion. Foto: Björn Lindahl.
Coffee and cinnamon buns are our modern communion. Foto: Björn Lindahl.

Some say that Sweden is one of the least religious countries on Earth. Nothing could be more wrong. But good ol´Jehovah has been replaced by the almighty god of Work. What you do for a living is one of the first question you´ll ever hear from a swede (unless you are talking to someone from Stockholm, they will only ask you where you live). Why? Because modern Sweden has Luther on one shoulder, and 60 years of semi-socialistic rule on the other. And whenever we get tired, we take a coffee break known all over the world as ”Fika” (it happens quite often).

5. Our humble personalities are NOT a result of the ”Jante law”

How would you feel living like this? Foto: Börje Thuresson.
How would you feel living like this? Foto: Börje Thuresson.

A common myth about Sweden is that we are all subjects under the law of Jante (it´s not an actual law, more a state of mind). The law of Jante tells you to not to think that you are anything special, or that you are good at anything. But the real reason why swedes are humble, quiet and a bit aloof, is because we are still suffering from when our society was torn apart in the beginning of the 19th century. For thousands of year the swedes had been living in medieval-like villages with the arable land surrounding the houses. People lived, worked and died together. But a land reform changed it all. In 1827 the villages were divided and the farmers forced to move their houses closer to their own plot of land. This dramatic change created a whole nation of farmers living alone in the woods. We might be an urbanized country these days, but at heart we are still the lonely farmer.

6. Why do we pay so much in taxes?

Foto: Gustav Mårtensson.
Foto: Gustav Mårtensson.

Ever heard of Avicii, In Flames or Robyn? Of course you have. Well, the main reason why Sweden is home to so many great musicians (and writers and artists and actors) is because we pay a lot in taxes. Here´s why: The tax money finances the so called ”cultural schools” which ensures that almost every child gets the opportunity to play an instrument. The taxes also finances free education, the world´s most generous maternal leave and free healthcare (and a couple of other benefits). But by all means, continue to argue about ObamaCare and whatnot.

7. Conclusion: come and stay forever

Foto: Robin Lorentz-Allard.
Foto: Robin Lorentz-Allard.
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