Monday, May 26, 2008

Advertising in Stockholm’s Central Station

The last two weeks has seen me take heed of a couple advertising campaigns. And honestly, that’s not something I very readily admit to. Usually I don’t pay direct attention to ads I see hanging around town. In Central Station for example. In the last two weeks that has changed.

Last week I noticed an ad campaign with people drinking out of a gas pump. Caught my attention. The one that really grabbed my eyes was of two children, one sitting on the pump holding the nozzle while the other one sucked on it. Others showed people pumping gas into a glass. Various other forms of drinking really. It was effective. I paid attention. The ad was for Flygbussarna, the bussing company that takes you back and forth to the airport. They’re using bio-fuel now. So good for the environment you can drink it. That’s the claim. I don’t know if it’s true or not but the campaign got my attention.

The thing is I’m not going to use them even after the ad campaign. Not because I hate the planet, or because I was offended by the ads. But because the train is cheaper. Or almost cheaper since I haven’t hit 25 years of age yet. And since it takes about half as long on the train, I’ll stick with them. Hell, I even think the train is better for the environment anyway. After I turn 25 though? Maybe I’ll give them another chance. We’ll see.

But now on to this week’s ad campaign that snagged my eyes. This one literally made me rubberneck. Turn my head. Damn near trip on the stairs. The ads were in a series on the wall climbing the stairs in Central Station. And what caught my eye was a large poster sized ad of a purse open with the Bible, Bakis (an anti-hangover medicine/supplement/nonsense), and a vibrator. The message being that even Christian girls like to get drunk and pleasure themselves. Or that Swedes, who we already know like to drink and pleasure themselves, also read the Bible. Suppose it depends on your point of view.

Actually, to be honest all I caught of this ad campaign was that it was for some sort of girl magazine. I’m thinking Cosmo på Svenska. Presumably focusing on Swedish fashion, sex, alcohol, and religion? Now obviously (I hope), I wasn’t the target market here. But if I was they dropped the ball. Because I couldn’t tell you the name of the magazine to save my life. So while they might have caught my attention I didn’t actually pay attention to the brand. They just did too good of a job catching my attention.

Unfortunately some people got fired up. But not for the ad you might think. They were mad about the bio-fuel ad. Because it might give kids the wrong idea. And they might start sucking on gas pumps. Obviously.

I find it interesting though that the ad campaign that created the most controversy was the one focusing on the environment, not sex, alcohol, and religion. Not sure really if this is something unique to Sweden. Or to Stockholm. Maybe Swedish advertising is just a bit more risqué because I don’t know that the combination of the Bible, vibrators, and anti-hangover pills, would fly in the US of A. Maybe.

I like it though. I’m all for a little advertising that wakes some sort of emotion. Whether it be shock, disgust, anger, whatever. Make people pay attention. And both ad campaigns did just that.

Well done Sweden. Well done.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision Song Contest 2008. Stockholm Edition.

I had a cultural experience last night. Without even leaving the apartment. DCP and I took in the Eurovision Song Contest 2008. It was amazing. Disgusting. Intriguing. Addicting. I don’t have enough words to describe it.

Basically 43 countries in Europe take part in a singing contest. There are semi-finals and finals and all of that good stuff. Last night we watched the finals from Belgrade. There were 25 entrants. Now some countries take this very seriously. Others… not so much. For example, Latvia sent a group dressed as pirates called Pirates of the Sea. Their song? Wolves of the Sea. I can’t make this stuff up.

Sweden takes it pretty seriously. They have their own competition to decide on who will be sent. And over a million people watch the stuff on TV. This is a country of nine million. Keep that in mind. It’s a long winded affair that sees all kinds of well established Swedish artists take part. This year’s winner was Charlotte Perrelli. In Sweden, her song, Hero, has been playing non-stop for months. Luckily you can’t see her on the radio. Because unfortunately Charlotte, or Lotta as I will so lovingly call her, has an alien face. Eyes very far apart, huge forehead. It’s a bummer. The French even made fun of her referring to her as a bad advertisement for plastic surgery.

Regardless this is a singing contest and Sweden was considered by some to be a dark horse favorite to beat out Russia, the eventual winner, and Ukraine. Perrelli didn’t even come close. Lotta came in 18th. Out of 25. That’s not good. She actually lost out to the Latvian pirates.

Luckily, for those of you who read Swedish, Dagens Nyheter gave us a running diary a la Bill Simmons from ESPN. But let me sum it up for you. We were inundated with horrible English from the hosts. Who, to their credit, gave a damn good effort. We laughed in horror as the hosts threw it back to the green room where we were assaulted by two hosts hopped up on something butchering their English lines and making fools of themselves. Questions were asked that were never answered because they just didn’t understand each other. In between all that my ears were attacked by some sort of music. Ranging from ballads in Hebrew (Israel apparently counts as Europe here) to Latvian pirates, to a Portuguese woman who looked like Ursula from The Little Mermaid. All the while the Swedish commentators were making snide remarks, commenting on others English skills (which granted I have done but I’m a native speaker and feel that I can make these sorts of judgments), and just kind of being assholes. I was a little disappointed in the Swedes. Luckily, they were often overshadowed by Spaniards singing about “El Robocop” and a blind woman from Georgia singing about peace. Incredible. Hell, Vlade Divac even made a guest appearance and launched a basketball into the crowd. All in all just an amazing night.

Along with the cultural experience I learned another thing. It is possible to get drunk on 3,5% beer. It just takes a few extra.

Welcome to Sweden.

Sweden Embraces Smart Kids

I recently referenced Jantelagen. An idea that Swedes should never consider themselves better than anyone else. Sometimes it’s a lovely concept. Other times it leaves those who excel twiddling their thumbs.

Late last year I was taking a Viking History/Archaeology class and was talking to a Swede who was actually in high school but taking the class. She was one of the excelling students who had found a way to fill her time instead of twiddling her thumbs. I remember sitting on the subway back to Central Station wither talking to her about the differences in the educational system. She wasn’t impressed with the Swedish way because she felt that she was being, if not held back, at least allowed to stagnate while she waited for those less driven and less intelligent to catch up. I was intrigued.

Well recently it seems that the Swedes have decided to do something about this. And in my opinion it can only be for the better. Sweden will begin offering classes aimed specifically at advanced high school students allowing them to earn college credits while in high school. It basically sounds like an Advanced Placement program. And I love AP. A school here in Stockholm will be the first to try it out.

My favorite quote is from Jan Björklund, the education minister who says “Vi måste göra oss kvitt den socialdemokratiska jantelagen i skolpolitiken.” Or as The Local translates it: “We have to leave behind the Social Democratic schools policy where nobody should think they are special.” Mostly I love it because even with a great idea like this the government found it necessary to take a dig at the Social Democrats. Seems they might be a bit worried still that their popularity numbers just aren’t quite where they would like them to be.

The Social Democrats of course aren’t impressed, believing that the focus should instead be on making sure everyone meets the goals. But that is the point, doing so just leaves the elite students floundering. Sossarna are silly.

From what I have read in other blogs and a most scientific poll given by Aftonbladet, many Swedes are in favor of this. And I love it. Although, I must say I am a little surprised considering the Social Democratic dislike of the idea and the fact that, despite the Moderates being in charge, most Swedes would back the Social Democrats. Perhaps it is an evolution in Social Democracy that will allow for the individual to grab a bigger piece of the pie.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones in Sweden

Went and saw the new Indiana Jones movie last night here in Stockholm. It was pretty solid. And it was nice to be able to watch a movie that wasn’t three months old. Sweden has a habit of being a little bit behind n the new releases. Every once and a while the big movies will come out at about the same time as they do in the US. A world premier if you will. That seems to have been the case here. And I’m glad. Good to feel a part of that Hollywood world. All the way over here in Stockholm.

I’ve managed to see movies in the US right before coming to Sweden only to find out that they are hyping the Swedish premier here. Kind of puts a damper on things when I tell people I already saw the movie in theaters. It also seems like it really kills the selling potential. I would imagine that a lot of Swedes just go online and download it seeing as how some movies have been out for months in the US. I understand that it takes some time to work out all the translating and subtitles and all that. But come on. Put a little effort in and I’m sure the extra movie sales would make up for it.

Anyway, the movie was solid. Commies were the enemy as opposed to the Nazis of the past. And I read today that the Communist party in Russia is fired up and wants to ban the movies. They say that it teaches young Russians that they were in the US in the 1950s trying to start nuclear war and chasing ancient relics in order to take over the world. Of course, seeing as how this is a fictional movie it seems to me that the Russians should instead be worrying about their current educational system that allows for young Russians to actually take Indiana Jones movies for fact.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tornadoes in Colorado. Sunny in Sweden.

Northern Colorado, more specifically Windsor, was blasted by tornadoes yesterday. Which is unfortunate. Greeley took a bit of a hit too. Which is also unfortunate since Greeley is home. Somehow, and I say somehow based only on the pictures and videos of the mile wide tornado, only one person died. Out at the missile silo. Considering the circumstances that’s not bad.

The buildings on the other hand are a different story. The roof of my dad’s warehouse was torn off by the wind. He seems to be ok. The rest of the surrounding buildings are ok. The cars are ok. No word on whether the new trees we planted while I was there are ok. According to Morfar, an old forest service man, the trees are perfect for resisting wind because of their root system. Of course these trees were about a foot tall when planted. So we’ll see.

Of course the destruction that probably put a bit of a damper on BGC’s day was not done. A brand new office building of another company he is involved in was blown down in Windsor. I had just been given the tour when I was there in April. Pretty crazy. And shitty really.

But while businesses being blown down aren’t good, other people are without homes. Windsor has taken a beating. Which is even less good. So donate some money. Or some time. Or something of use. And here’s how (I have shamelessly taken this from the Greeley Tribune’s website. It’s a staff report published on the 23rd of May (that’s today) for those of you who are really interested in that sort of thing.):

Here's how to help victims of Greeley and Windsor tornadoes:
Several agencies are accepting support to assist the victims of Thursday's tornados:

›› The Tribune, Windsor Now, Fox 31 TV and The Community Foundation are partnering on a special fund to provide relief for victims of the tornado. Checks should be made out to the Community Foundation, and "Tornado Relief" should be written on the memo line. Donations may be sent to the Community Foundation, 711 8th Ave., Greeley, CO, 80631. These gifts are tax-deductible and supervised by the foundation's board. For more information, call the foundation at (970) 304-9970.

» United Way ... United Way of Weld County has established a Tornado Disaster Response Fund for victims of Thursday's tornados. To donate, contact United Way of Weld County by dialing 2-1-1 or visit the United Way Web site: http://www.unitedway-weld.org/.

Checks made payable to United Way of Weld County may be mailed to: UWWC/Tornado Fund, P.O. Box 1944, Greeley, CO 80632 or delivered to the United Way office, 814 9th St. in Greeley.

People also can drop off donations at the following Cache Bank & Trust locations: 4601 W. 20th St. and 924 11th St. in Greeley, 100 S. College Ave. in Fort Collins and 410 17th St. in Denver.

Also, United Way is helping coordinate volunteer efforts. To volunteer, dial 2-1-1.

» American Red Cross ... The American Red Cross helps people respond to emergencies. To donate to the Centennial Chapter of the Red Cross, go to http://www.coloradoredcross.org/ and click on "supporting the Red Cross," or call (970) 352-7212.

» Salvation Army ... The Salvation Army responds to many disasters by providing food, shelter, clothing and spiritual comfort to victims. Donations can be made by credit card, money order or check by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY or going to http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/.”

This has very little to do at all with Sweden, and some of you who come here looking for the usual deep revelations that I so often come with will be disappointed. But as I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for a good cause. And while it had nothing to do with Stockholm. Or Sweden. It did have something to do with moving to Sweden. Because I feel somewhat useless as I sit in front of my computer knowing that the old man could probably use an extra pair of hands to help clean up. And that’s a feeling I haven’t been prepared for. Apparently this is what happens when you grow up and move away. Doesn’t make it fun though.

So good luck with the clean up. And in case you were wondering, the sun is shining here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Leadership in Sweden

I’ve been at a leadership course the last couple of days for work. Sounds fancy huh? It was pretty solid. Very interesting. Somewhat awkward at times for various work related issues. And completely exhausting.

I’ve taken a few classes about leadership before. Had all kinds of leadership theory dumped on me ever since junior high actually, so I was relatively familiar with a lot of the stuff we went into. But I was not familiar with it in Sweden. Which was pointed out very quickly and very early on. In fact the very first activity. It involved defining what makes a good leader on a post-it note. Or numerous post-it notes actually. So I did. Intelligent, strong, well-rounded, and so on. I thought they were pretty solid. And the kind of person I would not only like to be but also to work for. I was promptly told that my ideas were very American. Especially the intelligent one. Apparently that is a bit of a social faux pas to specify that a leader should be intelligent. The next few days saw a few more of these opinions arise. Very cool. It’s amazing how cultures react to different issues and characteristics.

That being said, knowing that the jantelag is somehow still relevant, it didn’t surprise me that Swedes would shy away from that sort of characteristic that can set someone apart, and especially above, others.

As the days went on. There were a lot of them. Well three at least. I got tired. At first I couldn’t really figure out why I was done for at the end of every day. Then it hit me. I was back in school. Using my head a whole lot more than I usually do. And I was doing it in Swedish. And granted, I speak Swedish every day, and in great detail at work but this was different. This was academic. And exhausting. I think I mentioned that.

My notes are filled with the ultimate Swenglish. Sometimes I was translating as the instructor spoke. Sometimes I was just writing in Swedish. And sometimes it was just a hodgepodge of nonsense. I’m a little worried to even look back at it.

Either way though, it was a good time. And the Swedish improved. Didn’t really have much choice. And a whole new insight into the Swedish business world opened up for me.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Swedish Soccer Song

The European Championship, or Euro 2008 for those in the know, in soccer is about to begin. It’s kind of like the World Cup. But without the rest of the world. Eurocentric if you will. Sweden seemed to end up with a pretty good draw group wise. No group of death. So that’s always a plus. I’ll probably watch a game or two because I’m here and it seems like that is what you’re supposed to do.

But what really intrigues me is the singing. Sweden has an official EM song. EM being the Swedish way of abbreviating European Championship (I’m not in the know). They also have plenty of unofficial ones. And this is all over. Seen it in the newspaper, online, on TV, they even have commercials about EM songs. It’s mind boggling.

Apparently a while back (maybe last tournament? The World Cup?) the official song kind of got pushed to the side as an unofficial one high jacked the ratings. And I know this. Not because I was here for it. But because it has been brought up this year. Anyway, this year it will be sung by a little kid. Frans. He’s 10 years old. He was behind the song of the last tournament. Now the question remains: will he be able to push this one to the top of the soccer charts? Or will this be a case of the counter culture rearing its head and saying no to the already established Frans and his soccer themed singing? Only time will tell if it will be this song Swedes sing in the streets of Stockholm to celebrate a victory.

This is an amazing country though isn’t it? Some countries have to devote news time to murders, natural disasters, and all kinds of depressing news. Sweden can devote time to songs about soccer.

Welcome to Sweden.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Swedish Army Naked. With a Rocket Launcher.

The Swedish military has been hit by a few scandals recently. They are said to have done nothing as the French tortured a man in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2003.

Then there are the elite soldiers accused of buying sex in Gabon. In 2006.

And now there is this. Naked soldiers shooting rocket launchers. And filming themselves. Also in 2006.

Good times in the Swedish military. But my question has to be this. Why are these things being brought up now? These all happened a while ago, some of them having already been brought to the attention of the Swedish people. Yet here they are again.

Either way this video is ridiculous. I think you’d have to be half idiot to shoot a rocket launcher naked. Seems like certain things just shouldn’t be done naked. Playing with large tank piercing weapons that get really hot has to be somewhere at the top of the list. The screaming suggests that the soldiers learned this also.

I suppose some people are upset because of the lack of discipline in the army. The lack of respect. Mostly I’m just upset because it seems like there are a bunch of idiots running around with rocket launchers.

But that didn’t stop me from getting a kick out of the video.

Welcome to Sweden.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Allemansrätten in Sweden

Guaranteed in Sweden’s constitution is the right of public access, Allemansrätten literally, everyman’s right. According to Naturvårdsverket, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency: “The Right of Public Access is a unique right to roam freely in the countryside. But with the right come responsibilities – to take care of nature and wildlife and to show consideration for landowners and for other people enjoying the countryside. The Swedish EPA sums up the Right of Public Access in the phrase ‘Don’t disturb – Don’t destroy.’”

DCP and I took advantage of this and headed up a ways north. About 300 km north. To Dalarna. Home to the infamous Dalahäst. And a 75km lake formed hundreds of millions of years ago by a huge meteor. Lake Siljan. We made the drive, after a slight detour early in the trip (from which it has been decided it is better to trust an old fashioned map than it is to trust hitta.se or eniro.se). The sun was shining, Sweden’s summer weather was warming our skins, or warming DCP’s, burning mine really, and life was good. We were going camping.

Once again according to Naturvårdsverket and Allemansrätten “You may pitch your tent for a night or two in the countryside as long as you don’t disturb the landowner or cause damage to nature.” So we did.

We managed to find a little dirt road, took that, parked the car and found a spot for the tent about 10 feet from the water. I promptly went swimming. Which was nice, and not as cold as it was in early April down near Helsingborg.

Having taken a dip there wasn’t much left on the
agenda. And that’s the beauty of camping I suppose. So we stared at the lake. Ate some food. And enjoyed being outside. It was light well past 11 in the evening.

And I woke up around 4:45 to the sun streaming into the tent as if it were the middle of the day. So I took pictures. Because it’s not every day you are camping in front of a lake with the sun shining before 5 am.

The morning was spent packing up. And taking another dip. This one much colder than the evening before. But finally I managed, before permanent shrinkage set in to submerge myself and get the hell out.

We started driving home in the afternoon. Leisurely. Stopped at a giant Dalahäst and took pictures. Apparently some sort of world record. I didn’t actually stop to read the whole sign because it was all just a bit ridiculous. Of course it’s a world record. What other country is going to build a giant concrete Dalahäst?


Having seen the horse we continued on. And found another lovely little lake to stop at. This one also involving a dip. A dopp if you will. Quite a bit warmer. And lovely all around. Kind of red murky water though. Which I summed up to being copper from the copper mining done in the area. Basically, that just made me feel better about the redness.

After having done enough swimming for the day we made it back to Stockholm and the lovely apartment. A wonderful weekend behind us. A wonderful usage of Sweden’s Allemansrätten. A wonderful usage of Sweden’s nature.


So Welcome to Sweden. And enjoy the Siljan Lake area pictures.






Saturday, May 10, 2008

Summertime in Sweden

It’s summer weather in Sweden. Sweden pays no attention to the weather calendar that we in the US are used to. Summer comes when it gets warm. Not when a certain date tells us. And I love it.

According to meteorologists in Sweden, summer is when you get a 24-hour mean temperature of 10 degrees Celsius five days in a row. So that means your average day is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Doesn’t sound too warm right? It’s not. But that’s because it’s calculating the middle of the night temperature as well as the middle of the day temperature.

You can also have summer temperatures. This is when you get the 24-hour mean temperature of 10 degrees Celsius for one to four days.

I love this system. And I love it because it makes sense. For some reason, it always bothered me in Colorado when the calendar said it was spring, and the thermometer said it was spring, and then the next day it snowed. Not because I didn’t like the snow or the crazy weather changes, but because I didn’t like just having an arbitrary day tell me when the seasons changed. Luckily moving to Sweden has remedied that. I’m a simple man really.

This weekend it’s supposed to be 20-25 degrees Celsius depending on where you are. That’s between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit for those of you scoring at home. Oh yeah, and sunrise today was at 4:25 a.m. The sun is supposed to set at 9:04 p.m. That’s pushing 17 hours of daylight.

Welcome to Sweden and the glorious summertime.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Decay of the Swedish Model?

The headlines the last couple of days have focused on murders. More specifically the lack of punishment for murder. In the last two days Sweden has demonstrated, once again, a lack of balls. There’s no way around it. And I believe this has inundated the majority of Swedish society. In the most negative way possible.

A group of 16 year olds beat a classmate to death late in 2007. The accused, or in this case convicted, come from pretty well off families. One of the convicted is said to come from one of the most successful and richest families in Sweden. So obviously this got a bit of press.

During the trial, one of the accused decided it was a good idea to go to his ex-girlfriends house and beat up on her a bit. You know… for publicity purposes. Trying to help his cause. Had they been kept in jail under the trial this might have been avoided. But come on, they are just kids. Maybe they didn’t really beat and kick another kid to death.

Of course, none of the accused has admitted to anything. But they were convicted. And sentenced to three years. 3. And appeals followed. And the decision came down yesterday. Three years was a little harsh. How about one? 1. Uno. Ett år. For murdering another kid. So they will spend one year in a youth ward.

The Riccardo murder in Kunsgholmen got a lot of press in Stockholm and around Sweden not only because of the social standing of the kids involved but also because of the growing problem with teenage street violence. Sweden has been suffering from an epidemic of teenage violence. This ranges from gangs of girls beating up other girls, gangs of boy threatening everybody from other boys to the neighbors to the public transportation personnel. Knives tend to be the weapon of choice. Not a week seems to go by without a high profile teenage fight resulting in a stabbing.

So a debate has begun. And that debate focuses on causes. What causes this violence? Why is it happening? How can we stop it? And in typical Swedish fashion the answer involves tax money. Clearly they are fighting and stabbing each other because they are bored. So let’s pump more tax money into programs for teenagers. Let’s pump more money into the same thing that Swedes have been doing for years as the teenage violence continues to rise. Let’s do more of the same. Of course, while the adults continue to try to find causes, the kids committing these crimes continue to do so. And they grow bolder. A defense attorney was quoted as saying that the kids themselves have said “ingen satt ner foten” (“no one put their foot down”).

And why should they? Conflict might arise. And it’s probably someone else’s fault. Maybe it’s their upbringing. Or their lack of education. Or their lack of extracurricular activities. Or maybe it’s just that they are being allowed to run free with no fear of consequence. No one in this country needs to take responsibility for their actions. And even if they do they will face little to no punishment. Or they can just lay the blame elsewhere. As the next man did.

This one also involved teenagers. This time the teenagers were harassing and making life hell for an entire family. Not a nice thing to do. Granted. In fact the night of the murder, because regardless of what the courts say that is still murder, six teenagers armed with various forms of weapons came to the man’s house in the middle of the night threatening his son. So this man did what any man would do. He shot them. Now in Colorado that’s called the Make My Day law. And internationally, hell even in the US, there are a lot of people that take potshots at it. But basically that’s the situation we are dealing with here in Rödeby. Excellent. He killed one of the kids and messed another one up a little bit. He went on trial.

And he was acquitted. When I was little I never really understood that word. It means he walked. He will serve no time. He didn’t know what he was doing. He was temporarily insane. Maybe, but one of the kids was shot while crowding around his dying friend. The kids getting shot knew exactly what he was doing. *

Today I also saw a bunch of teenagers throw their trash on the ground and just walk away. It was right in front of the door to my office so it gets pretty shitty there and I notice.

In other news, DCP is doing an internship through her bio class. The one Swedish girl she is working with almost didn’t come on the first day because she was tired when she woke up. She then showed up late.

DCP still hasn’t received her grade from her last class. That was nearly two months ago.

A woman I work with has stopped answering the phone calls of a few people who are wondering where their paycheck is.

These things might not seem like they are connected. But I disagree. Sweden is a country that has been so pandered to by the government; people don’t feel the need to take any sort of personal responsibility.

Kill someone when you are a kid? No worries. Take a year and spend it in a youth ward. Fifty years old and happened to kill a 15 year old? No problem. You can go home after the trial. Throw your trash on the ground? Thanks, you’re creating jobs for the numerous local government sanitation workers. Just got an internship at a company you really want to work for after graduation but a little tired? It’s cool. Show up late. Still no idea what your class grade is? Relax, it’s only been two months and there were a solid 15 of you in the class. Didn’t receive your paycheck on time? Chill out, it will come when it comes, it’s not like you’re really living on this right?

The government will help you. The government will clean up the mess. Or maybe we can blame it on someone else. Or maybe it’s the systems fault. Let’s throw some tax money at it and see if that helps.

It’s amazing that anything of value gets done in this country sometimes. I am absolutely appalled by the Swedish attitude in certain aspects. How this can be seen as acceptable is beyond me.

Most Swedes might not even see a problem with this.** They might see this as a form of freedom. A form of freedom that is contingent upon the government taking care of them. A form of freedom that is so freeing that no personal responsibility should be taken.

Some might argue that this will result in a continuing degradation of Swedish society. If this keeps up maybe I’ll argue that. And in all honesty, until Swedes realize that everyone can’t be catered to. Shouldn’t be catered to. And that people need to take responsibility for their actions, I believe Sweden will continue to see a rise in violence, a decline in self sufficiency, and an eventual decay of their once proud Swedish Model.

Sure there are exceptions. But enough Swedes have this attitude that for any foreigner it is incredibly noticeable. And for those Swedes whose blood is boiling now. Let’s not start comparing the US. I’m not comparing Sweden to the US. I’m not even thinking about the US. There are problems there also. With violence. With teenagers. With all kinds of things.

This blog isn’t about the US though. It’s about Sweden through the eyes of me. A Swedish-American. Not everything I write that criticizes the lovely Kingdom of Sweden should be read as a comparison. So give it a rest. I’m writing what I’ve seen here in Sweden. Living in Sweden. Working in Sweden. Invoking that Swedish passport of mine. I love being here. It’s been an adventure. But sometimes these things just hit. And they just blow my mind.

So Welcome to Sweden.

Some of you may have noticed the asterixes. I have added a few comments but didn't want to take away from the original post. Some of this comes up in the comments I responded to below, some I even straight copy and pasted. Feel free to read on and react.

* (Added Friday May 9th, 2008) I would like to point out that there have been some good comments about this since my first posting it. The beauty of blog posting is that you get quick, gut reactions. Which is what you got from me. The downfall is that you sometimes don't get time to think everything out. After having read some of the comments I have thought a bit more about the Rödeby case.

My reaction focused more on the end result. The judgment of the father, rather than all the surrounding circumstances. While I still believe there is a difference between standing up for yourself, putting your foot down, doing what is right, and killing someone, I have never been in this sort of situation. I don’t know how I would react. I also believe in this case there were other options: Threaten them with the gun without shooting, fire a warning shot, or stop shooting after you have shot one of them. But I don’t know.

Clearly the father felt threatened enough that he felt self defense was necessary. But, I still can't get over the fact that you can kill someone and completely get away with it. I'm torn between the need to be able to protect yourself and your family and the value of a human life.

The kids were armed with sticks. Granted blunt objects like a stick can do a lot of damage. But is this a situation that requires the use of deadly force? Lot's to think about. But I stand by my above argument, and in fact believe that this case, while some might see it as hypocritical because one is self defense and one is not and I call for people to stand up for themselves, actually strengthens my argument.

This family had complained to the police, had complained to the community, and nothing was done. And so he did it himself. And after that, the justice system again did nothing. It’s a frightening cycle where you see Sweden standing by, on both ends of the spectrum. The justice system stood by. And then the family took it into their own hands. And again, the justice system stood by. Nothing was aided by the Swedish system. It became a laissez-faire attitude in which violence was met with violence.

** (Added Friday May 9th, 2008) Thought I should add a note here. There has been a bit of outcry against these judgments. Although there are still a lot of people who agree. But in the end, the Swedish system has allowed for these sorts of things to happen.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sweden Supports ride for HOPE

A good friend, who once threw up in my basement, has decided to change the world. Anyone who knows him shouldn't be all that surprised. But he needs help.

Along with his brother, he is riding his bike from Canada to Argentina starting in September of this year.

Check it out.

He calls it Ride for HOPE.

So go to the website. Read it. Explore it. Donate. Because they are accepting money from the world over. And everyone knows Swedes like to help. And Canadians are friendly. So clearly this is a match made in heaven. Or at least the west coast of the Americas. So show off some of that Swedish charity. Or American charity for that matter.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Happy Cinco de Mayo from Stockholm, Sweden

Today is the 5th of May. Cinco de Mayo if you will. Den femte maj if you really will. And we will indeed.

Unfortunately, in a stunning display of cultural insensitivity I saw no one celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Strange. What with Sweden being so close to Mexico and all. But so it goes. Apparently the Swedes aren’t so interested in celebrating the Mexicans victory over the French nearly 150 years ago. Silly Swedes.
I celebrated by going to work. And eating fried zucchini lovingly prepared by DCP. And then eating bacon and eggs. A glorious evening all in all.

But anyway, to the happenings in Sweden, because who are we kidding, my dinner, no matter how delicious, just isn’t that interesting.

And so I bring you the news. Gas prices in Sweden are on the rise. Because they aren’t very high already. About 13 SEK per liter. About 6 SEK per dollar. About 4 liters per gallon. That’s a lot of dollars per gallon. And now thanks to a strengthening dollar, and the continued rise in oil prices, and of course the normal summer price increase, Swedes can expect even higher gas prices.

Someone out there probably knows exactly what percentage of the price goes to taxes. I don’t. I’ve been told the number numerous times. And for some reason, despite it being pretty solid, I can’t remember what it is. But it’s a lot. And it seems gas taxes are something that most Swedes can agree on. Very seldom do you hear a lot of outcry against the gas prices being so high. Or the gas taxes being so high. It’s very interesting to me. Especially considering Billary’s plan to revoke the gas tax for a little bit during the summer. To ease the burden she says. Despite the outcry from economist’s everywhere saying it’s a bad idea. Unfortunately, to my dismay, people don’t always listen to the economists.

Anyway, the gas price phenomenon blows my mind. Because 13 SEK per liter is a lot. There’s no way around it. But no one seems to mind that much. I guess it just comes back to Swedes being very comfortable with the idea of paying high taxes. In contrast to the Americans.

But, in order to fully embrace my Americanness I’m still going to drive a bit this summer. Because damn it. I have a car. And an American driver’s license that is legitimate for a little while longer at least. And there is still plenty of Sweden to explore.

And in case you were really interested, a Swedish beaver attacked a four year old girl. Apparently she wanted to pet it.

Welcome to Sweden. Where gas prices rise. And beavers attack.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sweden’s Feminists Kill Herr Gårman

In Sweden, the cross walk signs have a character known throughout Sweden as Herr Gårman or Mr. Walkman. If said out loud it can be pronounced as Här Går Man. Literally, Here One Walks. It’s a cute little play on words. Personally, I love it. It’s a little creative, kind of fun, and very easy to remember.

But now the feminists are at it again. It looks like a Fru Gårman, Mrs. Walkman, will be gracing the cross walk signs also by October of this year. The reasoning is simple when you think about it. Women also walk in traffic. Seriously, that was one of the reasons given for this change. Well no shit. But they seem to have been managing alright so far. As far as I know there hasn't been a large number of women who have been run over in traffic compared to men. But in the name of equality, Fru Gårman will soon be with us.

Obviously, numerous people have reacted to this in the newspapers and on TV. One reaction that I really appreciated was a woman who brought up the educational use of Herr Gårman. The play on words being important. The argument being that the signs are really targeted more towards children, and the play on words becomes a strong pedagogical tool. Easy to remember, easy to identify, easy to figure out that this is where you walk. I love it. Well said unknown Swedish woman.

The image itself of Herr Gårman is your standard silhouette of a person. Aside from a somewhat broad chest the figure looks pretty gender neutral really. Just a person walking. No discernible hair, no discernible penis, no discernible breasts. Basic person figure. But the Fru Gårman will most likely have a skirt. Because all women wear skirts. Which brings up all sorts of strange sexist questions in and of itself. But no matter.

I’m just appalled that this is seen as progress. Is this really what equality is about? Making sure that a road sign is changed? Really? Work on something that matters. Because the gender of a black silhouette on a crosswalk sign can’t be what those women who fought for the right to vote were really worried about.

Then again, I’m not a feminist. Or a woman. So what do I know.

But either way, I’d like to say Welcome to Sweden. Where feminists have managed to emasculate even a road sign.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Valborg in Stockholm, Sweden

It was Valborg yesterday. Basically a Swedish celebration welcoming spring that is very much student oriented in places like Uppsala. In Stockholm it seems to give a chance for teenagers to get drunk. Actually that seems to be the case throughout Sweden. And there are big bonfires also. A glorious time really.

Since there was no work today (remember it’s a red day), and most people only worked a half day yesterday, I partook in the festivities. Kind of. On a sidenote, the half day off thing was news to me. I found out Tuesday evening around 5:30 when I was leaving work. Not being versed in the way of the Swedish workplace and off days could really result in a lot of labor abuse. Seems like it would be pretty easy to take advantage of the foreigners who don't realize they have a day off. Luckily, I'm just so on top of things, or at least know enough Swedes that can set me straight.

Anyway, DCP and I hung out with the cousin and watched a large bonfire. Which was pretty impressive. And hot. Very very hot. I have a new respect for fire fighters. Then we went and had some homemade Tex-Mex food and booze. All in all, pretty entertaining.

Granted we didn’t go all out like the teenagers. Apparently Valborg is also synonymous with teenage alcohol poisoning. Which there was plenty of also according to most of the news reports I’ve seen and read. So to celebrate the spring you drink and burn shit.

What I thought was so interesting was the paganistic feel to it all. Here were a bunch of Swedes standing around a huge bonfire in order to celebrate the spring. It was incredible. And this happens throughout Sweden. Bonfires everywhere.

The country managed not to go up in flames. Probably in part because of the rain. Which, according to most Swedes, is also a tradition of Valborg. So you’re celebrating the spring in the cold driving rain while drinking and lighting bonfires. This is an amazing country.

Welcome to Sweden.