Comments about Sweden

Two blogs in one day! Writing blogs is a lot more fun than cleaning house. And gotta catch up somehow! As I have lots, and lots to write about Sweden still – 3 months in one place is a long time! Although I found travelling in Asia challenging, I think living in Sweden has also challenged many of my beliefs, and in ways I didn’t expect. In some ways, because I expect all western countries to be similar to each other, the shock becomes even greater when I see that not everything is done the same as in Canada. Especially by living in another country, you realize how challenging it can be to be out of the environment that you’re accustomed to. I really recommend it to everyone, to try living in another place for awhile. As in, longer than the average North American 2 weeks of vacation allotment – which I think sucks big time 😦

My previous blog about Sweden vs. Canada got the lengthiest comments to date, so I’ll quickly respond to Ryan’s comments (sorry to pick on you ;)):

Ryan: “1) Swedes are generally more attractive than Canadians. True, the population is more homogenous in Sweden, so the “diversity” of appearances isn’t as strong; but geez, talk about a country with a good gene pool! haha.”

Definitely agree. Your point homogenous population isn’t a good argument though – look at Britain! I read on someone else’s blog that though they think the proportion of extremely attractive people in Sweden and the US is more or less the same, the average Swede (the one you would date and marry) are much better looking than the average American. Definitely true in my case 🙂 I think this could also be tied to the fact that Swedes seem to be in much better physical shape and health than the average North American too.  Morbidly obese people are never attractive.

Ryan: “2) They generally dress better too, though this point is debatable. I noticed some took the “Eurotrash” look to new levels. Maybe it’s the overabundance of H&Ms? Kind of a double-edged sword that place is.”

Hmm, generally true, but debatable like you said. I never saw anyone wearing something extremely sloppy like I do in Edmonton (where many people think t-shirts and sweatpants are the answer to everything). Also, the stereotype of Europeans wearing a lot of black (at least in Sweden, Barcelona, and Paris) is comically true! One coffeehouse we went to in Sweden, I looked around and not a single person was not dressed all in black! In my opinion that’s a shame, since life is too short not to have fun with colour. Says the person with countless black sweaters, and all brown furnishings 😉 Hey, I mainly buy clothes with colour now!

Another bad development in fashion in Sweden is that many girls are orange! They take the fake/sunbed tans too far! They’re orange with bleached(?) blond hair (they probably have dark blonde hair which they’ve lightened). I thought it was only a California thing to go orange, blonde and black (as in too much makeup crap around the eye), but it’s a big trend in Sweden. And the thing is – the women don’t need it! They’re already naturally pretty! It’s like when Asian women whiten their skin – natural is good. It’s only a portion of the population that does it though.

I would add that Swedes are a lot more design-conscious, without realizing it. Everyone’s homes I’ve peered into (they don’t generally cover their windows!) showed some sign of effort in making it look nice. It also seems that every Swedish kitchen has many extremely useful kitchen gadgets that I don’t have. Could be that I don’t shop in houseware stores and don’t see these gadgets here (at least since I bought a house and as a result didn’t have as much disposable income to support my hobby of shopping when I was bored).

Ryan: “3) Care more about their health, but this is also debatable. Noticably higher tobacco (smoking and snus) rates, especially amongst youth (though not as bad as Denmark). Still, Swedes were more physically fit, and take advantage of excellent cycling networks to get around rather than relying on cars.”

I agree! Not as many obese people, and everyone seems much more active. They have a much better network of cycling paths – even *I* rode my bike to town 18 km round trip on a regular basis instead of taking the bus! I wanted to take a picture at one of the bike stands after a snowfall of snow piled on bike seats, but didn’t have a chance. Our North American car culture is pretty much killing us…

PS to Per – stay off the snus!

Ryan: “4) Excellent transit systems, intracity and intercity rail, bus and T-bana. They’re easy enough for tourists to understand, and must be a no-brainer for locals.”

Yep. In the city centre of Linkoping, they had an electronic sign at bus stops indicating when the next buses would arrive! Their bus system kicks Edmonton’s ass, and we’re a city of 1 million??? Very sad.
Ryan: “5) Lower crime rates, friendly people who will stop and take the time to help you out with a question, minimal urban decay, and so on.”

Definitely felt much safer in Sweden than I do here. I wasn’t sure how our crime rates compare, but it did seem lower in Sweden. Not sure of the friendly people since I hardly talked to strangers. The stereotype is that Swedes are a bit reserved until you have a drink together, which I found to be true sometimes (though I’m like that also).

There’s a few more ways I think Sweden has Canada beat, but now I’m tired of writing 🙂 Sweden sounds like an utopia? Perhaps in some ways, but there’s also a few negative things about Sweden, which would make life for me not exactly easy, should I decide to move there. Also, I think Sweden is about to experience massive change, partly due to the increase in immigration and demographic change.

So to respond to Loyal’s comment: “All I am saying is that for whatever reason, there seems to be some popular (North American?) notion that Sweden’s social safety net is very generous – perhaps too generous that people may take advantage of it.”The negative stereotype of Sweden’s overly generous welfare state is a bit true, and is ripe for the pickings from sneaky immigrants. Hey, I might be one of them too – abusing their free education system 😉 Swedes as a general rule seem bound to “do the right thing”. I admire their honest and trusting nature and think if everyone was more like that, the world would be a better place. But I can’t help but think that the opposite will occur…

As an example, I’ll respond to Per’s comment: “Joyce told me about a man who was unemployed for one year without seriously trying to get a job? In Sweden there is a system to stop this, if you don’t apply for a job you are qualified for you don’t get any money. But Canada don’t have this system? So it may be easier to take advantage of the system in Canada?”

Of course we have the same system. But shocker of all shockers – people lie! You really don’t need to do much to “prove” you’re looking for a job. Sending off a few half-hearted resumes doesn’t get much result. I should know – I sent off 100 resumes (and not half-hearted) to get the 1 job I have now as an engineer! We sneaky, dishonest immigrants can take advantage of Sweden’s system just as easily, if not more so (as Swedes would probably trust someone who said they were looking).

More blog(s) will follow, as it might take some more thought to word it in the right way.

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3 thoughts on “Comments about Sweden

  1. I more or less take for granted that “we” are more physical fit than North Americans. Still my best friend and I always discuss in how bad shape everyone is and how much better it could be with simple measures. In contrast to your opinion of how good we look (the body, not face hair etc) I would say, and the media with me, that we have a growing problem with overweight. I am really not attracted by muffin tops and things like that. Especially I think of my very young friends at university who at an age of 19 has muffin top or potbelly. How will that look at the age of 30? It will be interesting to see the North American population when I have in mind what Joyce told me.

    About rising immigration; I don’t know if the immigration is rising. We are and have been famous for a generous refugee acceptance. Although, of course debated. But I think we accept about the same number a year now as we did before. Have not looked at any facts though.

    Now I will provoke you, so please tell me I’m wrong. Loyals attitude could be interpreted as that if in her world people would be given the same welfare as in Sweden, that is equal to her as people would certainly use it in that degree very few still would work? That if you are being taken care of generously, it will surely be abused? And add to that the fact that Joyce take it for granted that people lie to use the system? Maybe, if you would have wanted, a welfare system, it wouldn’t have worked because Canadians are way too lazy and lie so easily and just eager to benefit the system? So please tell me this is not the case and that you have another perception about yourself and your own country? Or is it the attitude “everyone else” would use it, not me? Or is it only swedes and “others” who would use the system? And what are exactly the big differences? Both of us has unemployment insurances, you even have FREE healthcare, we “just” have cheap healthcare. I don’t know exactly what areas goes into “welfare”.

    I don’t like the tone in how the immigrants are blamed for the problems. And a bit surprised that they come from you Joyce? We talked about the differences between Canada and Sweden and how to become “Canadian” vs becoming “Swede”, your prejudices about immigrants is exactly what makes the attitude.

    And Joyce, I’m glad that you have found some good things in Sweden. But believe me, we have lots of assholes and problems too. And it is expensive right? 😉

  2. Sure, maybe there’s muffin tops in Sweden. But do you have bowling balls on chopsticks?? Come tour my workplace and you’ll see that half the men look pregnant! (at least in the office, on the workshop floor is different) I don’t recall seeing obscenely fat people in Sweden either. And no one under 70 on a motorized scooter! (Actually, I think the people I saw over 70 weren’t on motorized scooters either – they may have even been riding a bike!) But yes, probably obesity is growing in Sweden. The number of McDonald’s signs on the highway in Sweden did disturb me a bit.

    When I say rising immigration, I mean Sweden has a lot more immigrants in the past decade compared to 20, 30, 40 years ago.

    People do abuse the welfare system in Canada. The attitude is, why work when they can get free money? Canadians are much more right wing than Swedes, and I hardly see more $ going towards welfare budgets in the near future (as in matching Sweden’s welfare system). The problems with the lowest income people in Canada probably aren’t that easy to solve and would take more $ – not in giving them money through welfare cheques, but in having money in programs that prevent the situation in the first place (better education for everyone, for one). But again, the average right wing Canadian probably isn’t in favour of that either (increasing taxes).

    I think you misunderstood me – I’m not blaming immigrants for problems in general. The problem comes when people of 2 different cultures come together and they clash. I think that Sweden is more trusting and honest as a general rule compared to other countries… In my opinion, Swedes are more honest than Canadians. Your honour system to pay for TV? Canadians pay/bribe the cable guy to give them FREE cable!

    Sweden expects everyone to be truthful, and do the right thing, and you may not be prepared or anticipate that a newly arrived person will do things differently, like taking advantage where they can. I don’t think I would ever pay for TV if I live in Sweden. (Sorry – it’s my cultural upbringing 😉

    The negatives about Sweden may follow in a later post.

  3. Oh, and I think Swedes’ faces do look better than North Americans (on average). Hair is debatable – many people prefer blondes here, though to me it’s not more attractive than dark hair. Good thing you have other things to make up for it 😉

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