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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8cd30001A blog featuring the work and work life of NHPR's interns and fellows.

Why Sweden Isn't Quite As Perfect As We Thought
Mariusz Kluzniak

Maybe we should just move to Sweden.” It’s a common refrain in some households, this desire to move to a country that we paint as utopian. Well, after talking to Michael Booth about his book The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, taking a cue from Michael, we came up with five reasons you may not like Sweden as much as you thought.

“When I moved to Denmark, I discovered that there was this weird, kind of dysfunctional family relationship up here. The Swedes … they’re kind of like the older brother, the head boy, the goody-goody.”

Reason #1: Family tension between countries. So if you’re moving to escape family tension, don’t move to Sweden.

“They all are kind of homogeneous. They think the same, eat the same food, drive the same cars, wear the same clothes, see the same films.”

Reason #2: There is a culture of uber-conformity. If you want to stand out, act un-Swedish, and not be frowned upon – this might not be the place for you.

“They’re really shockingly rude, from an English perspective. Maybe that’s the Viking gene coming out, there.”

Reason #3: Think of the Swedes as super chatty and friendly? Think again. Booth comments that they’re not afraid to use elbows, and aren’t inclined to be chivalrous. They even describe themselves as “stiff,” as the Swedish Institute of Public Opinion Research found out when asked young people to describe their compatriots. The words the youngsters chose? Envious, stiff, industrious, nature loving, quiet, honest, dishonest, and xenophobic.

“The Sweden Democrats are a pretty odious bunch.”

Reason #4: The Sweden Democrats. They’re not what we Americans would think of as democrats. They support slashing immigration by 90%, and though they insist they’re through with their racist past, research from Linköping University suggests that they have “drastically more negative views” about Muslims than other groups. They have roots in the neo-Nazi party and white-supremicist activism. (It might be noted that Sweden, for the moment, has an open-door policy on immigration – they’ve welcomed thousands of refugees from Syria, for instance.)

Worth a mention: Sweden is also one of the world largest arms exporters.

“You’re free, but you’re free to be Swedish.”

Reason #5: You’re free to be whoever you want and say whatever you like – as long as you act like a proper Swede.

But as Michael Booth points out – it really is almost nearly perfect.

“It’s a great place to live, it’s safe, things work, it’s fair, it’s equal. And I don’t really see anywhere else that’s doing it any better.”

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