Wow. I was so lucky to get the chance to go back to Sweden in September for a Swedish wedding. I got to see my friends, the town I lived in, and experience even more Swedish culture (including hockey!). And it was heart-breaking, realizing I had to leave.
Realizing the awesomeness of Sweden and what I was missing by not living there. But really, what am I missing when not living in Sweden and living in the US? Well, let’s take a look at the awesomeness of Sweden a bit.
Sweden is gorgeous! In Norrland there are little people and lots of trees. I love it. I could go forever seeing trees in the forrest and the lakes of Sweden. It is definitely a beautiful country. And this is not comparing it to anything else (Montana is beautiful too!)
And then the people. I think it must have something to do with the sun not being up during the winter, but people in Sweden have the greatest skin! They are a beautiful, beautiful people. I think I have yet to meet an ugly Swede.
Universal Health Care
So, in the United States we don’t have this. And I miss it, and more than ever after living here for 11 months.
True, I did like Czech Republic’s health care better than Sweden. Sweden’s health care is not flawless. Epsecially their lack of focus on prevention. But everyone has it.
There are no fundraisers for a child with cancer. Or for your friend with cancer. Or for your neighbour with cancer. There is no need to fundraise because people are taken care of! True, higher taxes pay for it. But why force people to worry about money when they are sick??
I applied to get my master degree in Sweden because it was free and I wanted to get my masters. Amazing. Sure, you have to calculate cost of books and cost of time, but you don’t have to actually pay for your education if you are a Swedish citizen.
Back in the U.S. my brother has more than a $30,000 to pay off for his masters, my roommate has a loan for her education, and my little brother will be getting a $160,000 loan to pay for his schooling. And yes, there are interest rates on these loans.
For some reason, I think tax paid education is awesome!
When I think of Sweden, I think of blue and gold (the flag), and white (snow). But the true color of Sweden is green! They recycle everything and are super innovated when it comes to technology. But they are very aware of the affect they produce on the environment. There are rules in place such as not running your car on idle, in order to protect the environment.
It may not work perfectly, but Skelleftea recycles it’s organic waste to make fuel for the garbage trucks and other city vehicles. Sweden turned me completely green, and now I miss living in a country where the environment takes a huge priority.
More Play, Less Work
Swedes know the importance of free time and enjoying your life. Remember, we only have one life to live, or at least that we know of. So we should enjoy our life!
Which is why, in Sweden, you get 5 weeks paid vacation. Not two. 5 weeks to enjoy yourself and live your life! This does not mean that nothing gets done, or that the economy suffers from it. Nope. Sweden functions extremely well with 5 weeks paid vacation.
And shall we talk about maternity leave? 480 days of materinty leave last I checked. Daddies get some days off too! So you actually have time to enjoy your child’s early years. This is actually quite common in Europe, to have maternity leave longer than 6 months. And I think in the U.S. many people don’t even get 6 months. Maybe two.
I know that I want to enjoy my life, and my children when I choose to have them. And not only work until the grave.
When I left Sweden, I kinda felt kicked out of my home. I didn’t dive too much into my personal situation on here, but all you need to know is that it didn’t end on a kindly note with the people involved.
With Skelleftea being such a small town, and with most of my friends being people I met through my ex, I was afraid I would be ostracised. I was afraid that everyone would think I was evil.
Silly American. How untrue that was! Everyone was so welcoming. They were so happy that I made the trip out there for the wedding, and they treated me with such grace and respect. We know that Swedes hate confrontation, which could have been part of it, but I felt loved and welcomed and wanting to return home!
As an American, I do find Swedes hard to read sometimes, because they are less emotional than what I’m used to. But also as an American who lived most of her adult life in Europe and now finds herself thrown into middle America, I find many Americans way too emotional, dramatic, and hard to deal with. Even the men!
In the end, everyone’s true colors come out. Once you get to know Swedes, you will realize how kind hearted the majority of them are.
Taking your fair share
This story I tell my American friends over and over again. And it still shocks me today when I think of it. But it is proof that Swedes know how to take just their fair share and nothing more!
So at this amazing Swedish wedding, there was a beautiful cake. Now the bride and groom did their typical cake cutting, and then sat down. In the U.S., usually the cake is served by the staff so everyone gets a fair share. Or there is so much cake it doesn’t matter how much you take. But this was one cake. One. And we were serving our selves.
I took my fair share, not to big, not to small, and went to sit down. And I watched. I watched the line of people who wanted cake, and I watched the cake dwindle. I thought for sure, for sure! this cake was going to run out before the last person. There just wasn’t enough cake for everyone.
Not with Swedes. They know how to take their fair share. Not too much, not too little. And I was wrong. There was enough cake for everyone. There was exactly one slice of cake left over after the last person took their fair share and sat down.
That is part of an amazing, work together, help one another, culture. And I love it.
As I’m writing these, I’m getting very teary-eyed. I wasn’t done with Sweden. And I’m not done with Sweden. They are building their country into something the whole world should model after. They help each other, help the world, and become better in the process.
Now, Sweden is far from perfect. They have flaws, just like any country has flaws. But they are on the right track, going in the right direction, at Swedish speed. Not to fast, not to slow, just right.
And it is something I would be proud to be a part of. So as I write this, I make a declaration.
I am moving back to Sweden.
Jantelagen – The Law of Jante
In Sweden we refer to the American people as the world’s “big brothers”, to the British as their “little brothers” and our selves as their “envious little siblings”, never tall enough, with an ironic twist.
The Swedes are known to be a bit shy and cold but very polite, contrary to the Americans who are outgoing and love a hero or to boast about every success story. Well they say that in Sweden we´re taught that´s a big no no since the Dark Ages. There´s some truth to this and the blame goes to Martin Luther with his preaching of an ascetic life and living. But his legacy imposed unto us is slowly fading away and thanks to the Internet and improved travelling we´re all becoming enlightened cosmopolitans.
You´ve probably heard about those little voices of conscience talking to you from your shoulders whenever you´re tempted to indulge and become a sinner. There is the devil on one shoulder telling you to go ahead and an angel on the other telling you not to indulge.
Well in Sweden the angel is replaced by Martin Luther and he is even more uncompromising than the angels, telling you to devote your self entirely into following the Bible to the letter, to pray, living simple and never to indulge. Thus avoiding the devil and a future in eternal flames in hell (i.e. Purgatory).
Since the medieval priests preached and scared the living wits out of the Swedish people, Martin Luther always followed us in our night mares telling us to be humble followers and to stay in line.
With this in mind it´s easy to understand why Jantelagen and lagom eventually appeared as Swedish expressions and there´s little room for boasting.
Jantelagen i.e. the Law of Jante (Danish and Norwegian: Janteloven Swedish: Jantelagen) is a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities, which negatively portrays and criticises individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate.
The Jante Law as a concept was created by the Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose, who in his novel A fugitive crosses his tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor 1933, English translation published in the USA in 1936) identified the Law of Jante as ten rules. Sandemose’s novel portrays the small Danish town Jante (modelled upon his native town Nykøbing Mors as it was at the beginning of the 20th century, but typical of all small towns and communities), where nobody is anonymous.
Generally used colloquially as a sociological term to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success common in Scandinavia, the term refers to a mentality which de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers or tend to believe that they are better than the average guy. This phenomena occurs at many places all over the world and is referred to as tall poppy syndrome in English.
There are ten different rules in the law as defined by Sandemose, all expressive of variations on a single theme and are usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.
The ten rules state:
- You’re not to think you are anything special.
- You’re not to think you are as good as us.
- You’re not to think you are smarter than us.
- You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us.
- You’re not to think you know more than us.
- You’re not to think you are more important than us.
- You’re not to think you are good at anything.
- You’re not to laugh at us.
- You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
- You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
An eleventh rule recognized in the novel is:
11. You’re not to think that there aren’t a few things we know about you.
In the book, the Janters who transgress this unwritten ‘law’ are regarded with suspicion and some hostility, as it goes against the town’s communal desire to preserve harmony, social stability and uniformity.
These 11 principles or commandments form the “Jante’s Shield” of the Scandinavian people.