Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sweden from an internal/external perspective

In order to explain the Swedish social mechanisms it's important to analyze the characteristics of this country which are related to its particular history.

Sweden is a country which is different not only from the rest of the countries that shape up the European Union but also and above all from any other country in the world.


Along with Switzerland, Sweden is the only country that has not fought wars over the past 300 years. Unlike Switzerland, however, Sweden is not located in the heart of the European continent, influenced by the important states which surround the Helvetic Republic, but instead lies fairly isolated and reluctant to contamination of the main European countries.

In Sweden, the memory of any war does not exist among the elderly and even in the “collective memory of the species”, which determines that it is not present in the “Swedish collective consciousness" the “perception of danger”.

All this implies that there is no such social mechanism (typical of any other country in the world, independent from any religion): the need for the people to stay close to their own family and to their dearest friends to guarantee their survival.
In the Swedish "cultural gene pool" war is not present, they do not know the perception of danger, if danger is there it is not perceived and therefore Swedes usually don't feel like maintaining necessarily close relationships with their parents and even with people outside their family. Not in a way comparable to that characterizing the other cultures worldwide anyway.
The non participation to wars has allowed Sweden to grow economically and to address conflicts between industrials and workers in a peaceful way that satisfied both sides. So the Swedish social system was developed with its advantages and drawbacks which continue nowadays.

Sweden is in good and bad ways antithetical to Anglo-Saxon countries.

The bright side is the free education, lack of crime, respected rules, the assistance of those who cannot make it on their own, high standards in many fields and the emancipation of women.

The drawbacks are the lack of evolution in Darwinian terms: talent is not awarded, everyone has to make it, ambition becomes a negative factor, there are no incentives to develop excellence.

The Swedes are generally happy with their system: they read data about crime and sustainable life and pride themselves of being among the leaders in the world; while traveling they realize that the standards to which they are used in many fields do not have many equals in the world.

Most are surprised why other nations don’t reach the same standards of living and usually their explanation is the difference in the density of population.

Only some of those who live abroad are able to understand what is the main reason that leads to these differences, what is the price that the Swedes pay, while others are unwilling to do so, to have these standards: human relationships.
In Sweden the rules are respected with neither “ifs” nor “buts”, they are right by definition. The ability of the Swedes to be proactive or leave the scheme tend to zero.

The Swedes are very lonely and often call themselves “boring”, but they don't not understand why: how these aspects are just the reverse of the coin of their ability to stay in their schedules assigned by the Leviathan system that guides them throughout their whole lives.

The "rebels" are usually those who had the opportunity to live abroad and felt freer: not to do what they wanted but to express their thoughts and emotions. These Swedish "rebels" are used to moving to the U.S., England or even to Australia because English is a language they speak, does not require time to be studied and the Anglo-Saxon culture is known throughout television which is colonized by TV shows made in USA or UK.

The most brave “alternative” Swedes choose Latin countries as a destination but it is still a small minority.

Those who live their whole lives in Sweden usually tend to start working when they turn 30 years old, have a decent salary, do not ever work a minute after office hours, are not big savers, succeed however in affording their 10/15 day vacation in Thailand, where sometimes they meet the partner who will become their “Sambo” in the future.

But how's life in Sweden in the social aspects? Who commands there? How do people get to know people? How do couples shape up? And friendships? What interests do people have?

Having interviewed many Swedes and having obtained very similar answers from everyone (fancy that!) I can rely on them for the explanations.

Everyone agrees that women command, there are more disputes on the elucidation. Mary, 27 year old worker, claims that there's a tacit agreement between men and women: women are happy to command while men are happy not to have to prove their masculinity. Kåre 28 years old teacher confirms this view and argues that the problem arises when men are called to pull out the balls when the situation needs that and they are unused to it so they are unable to do that. Isabel 25 year old just moved to Stockholm and points out that girls are more structured and organized, and men are less, in every corner of the world, therefore Swedish girls would lead the relationship even with non Swedish men.

No one knows when historically the "seizure of power" was perpetrated by women, we can therefore rely on the historiography which tells us that the feminist movement took place in the '60s which mark the turning point; the movie Flickorna made by Mai Zetterling in 1968 is quite enlightening.

In the current European Parliament, the Swedes have 47% of women as national representatives,

Germans 32%, the British 24% to give a dimension to the difference of the women weight in various nations.

It seems there is no such big difference as to how new friendships and new love relationships start. All agree on the point that in Sweden and especially in Stockholm people are rigid and skeptical about new acquaintances: it is almost unthinkable to make friends on the streets or in a non-conventional way. The protocol which has to be followed takes that the new friend or partner comes from school or work, depending on whether they are students or employees. Even more typical is common friendships: this appears to be the main source of new friendships and loves. In particular with regards of the emergence of new sentimental relationships it seems that this is favored by organized parties where friends of friends can get to know each other and with the help of alcohol can also take immediate action: the possibility that two unknowns with a common friend can end up together the same night is not very rare and it’s often the way a relationship starts. Being Swedish girls emancipated and not having socio-cultural blocks they don’t need to wait to see this guy 2 or 3 times (as it happens often in the Latin world) before they get what they want.

Regarding “flings” originated in pubs or clubs the girls don’t believe so much in them: it’s not that they never happen; it can happen once a year that a girl after several drinks ends up with a total unknown she is attracted to. Swedish girls usually agree that stable and reliable relationships don’t originate that way.

"Historical" friendships are considered typical and rarely repeatable: the Swedes usually have a couple of friends they have known before turning 14 years old and the friendships continue throughout their entire lives. The Swedes can associate with new people but before creating intimacy it takes long time and a series of rather daunting tests.

Friendships between boys and girls are not very common: girls accuse boys of being only sexually interested in them; the boys argue the opposite: they say if a girl is not attracted to that boy she is not interested in a potential friendship, not even as a vehicle for new acquaintances. Neither the 19 year old Ida nor Isabel agree on that: they have many male friends due to their
hobby: the former plays the guitar, the latter is passionate about football since she is a former player.

The most widespread activities in Sweden are: sports during the weekdays, attending coffee shops after work or after school, getting drunk in clubs or private parties in the weekend; during their alcoholic euphoria the Swedes seem to be more human and accessible but they act in an "altered state of consciousness" and then everything ends when the night terminates and the next day they are back on their rules. People should thereby stick to the methods described above to make stable acquaintances.Provided that it’s worth it!


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Jacob said...

hmmm... you don't understand Sweden because you don't know enough of its history. Ideals of democracy, order and egalitarianism go back for thousands of years. This fact explains Sweden on a deeper level, and the lack of war that you mention is only a small detail in the big scheme of things.

Writings by the Roman historian Tacitus confirm that women have had a strong position in society for at least 2,000 years, and that order and egalitarianism were ideals even then.