Kate Reuterswärd is an American, a serial expat, and a travel addict who has been lured to the university city of Lund by love. More than a year and a half into her Swedish experience, Kate shares her experiences of life as an expat in Sweden as she tackles a new language, new traditions, and a new marriage.
She found 43 reasons why she loves Sweden. They are funny, witty and accurate. With her permission I reproduce them hereafter. Read more on her blog
43 Things I Love About Sweden Thanks to the wedding, my parents are here in Sweden for the first time, and I am really getting to show off my new home to two pairs of captive ears. Poor people¦ there are so many fun things to see and do (and eat) that I might be totally exhausting them, but we are on day six and they still seem pretty game for exploration, so it cannot be that bad. Besides touring all the tourist sites and cafes in the country, though, I find myself peppering them with a constant stream of facts about life in Sweden. When we got off the train in Lund from Stockholm, I found myself suddenly emotional about how much I love this country that has become home to me. Without further ado, 43 things I love (tangible and intangible) about life in Sweden.
1. The social welfare system: Free education and health care, for starters. (Mostly free, at least.) Once you’ve got your personal number, you’re on your way. Yeah!
2. Everyone speaks English: Makes it so easy to get around for tourists and expats alike.
3. Extensive paid parental leave: From before your due date to a year after the day when you give birth, you get government support based on your income, plus your job is waiting for you when it is time to go back. There are about a million different ways to make the system work for you and your family, so it’s best that all would-be mothers check out the official government information at this link. Oh, and it is for Dads, too.
4. Food culture: Bring on the Holy Herring and pastries baby! I may have forgotten to mention the bread. The bread is quite fantastic. Photo: Kate Wiseman
5. Balanced lifestyle: People here think it is unhealthy to work too much. You should work and exercise, travel, be a lifelong learner, etc. Better yet, most employers actively support their employees in this.
6. Very high standard of living: It is Europe, but you will have your central heating and broadband Internet. Things in your apartment get fixed when they are broken. Safety regulations are in place everywhere. These things cannot be taken for granted.
7. Five weeks of vacation every year: By law. Woot woot!
8. The plethora of food holidays: There is a special food day almost every month. National consumption of cinnamon buns? I am on it.
9. Meatballs: If you have only had the Ikea version, you do not know what you are missing. They are especially good when you go the whole nine yards of boiled potatoes, gravy, lingonberry jam mmmm.
10. Public transportation everywhere: Thank you for making it so easy to not have a car. Double points for giving me an easy way to be environmentally friendly. Between the trains and buses, I can get pretty much wherever I want with just my handy bus card.
11. Gender equality: According to the World Economic Forum€™s Global Gender Gap Report, Sweden is the 4th most equal country in the world in terms of economics, health, education, and politics. That means more women in decision making positions within government, businesses, and nonprofit/bureaucratic organizations, great earning parity, and laws that treat women more fairly than in other countries. It is a noticeable difference that permeates everyday life here.
12. Ridiculous amounts of juice: People might mistakenly take the emphasis on meat and potatoes in Swedish cuisine as a lack of creativity, but no. Crazy juices are mainstream. Strawberry lime! Blackcurrant blueberry! Raspberry mango peach!
13. Variety of dairy products: See comment above regarding culinary creativity. Last week I had passion fruit vanilla yogurt; this week I bought strawberry rhubarb. There are also lingonberry, gingerbread, mango cardamom, blueberry cinnamon€¦
14. Love of human rights: Does not matter if you are gay, straight, immigrant, ethnic Swede, in Sweden or outside of¦ If someone is acting against your human rights (broadly interpreted), Sweden is on your side.
15. Green mindset: I get a little warm feeling when I see people sorting their recycling and get on a bus with an environmentally friendly of sticker. Damn hippies! I am one of you. Sweden is really leading the way when it comes to organic, sustainable food and makeup as well as new initiatives for clothing libraries and city-based solutions.
16. People value tradition: Swedes are pretty into trends, from what I can tell, but underneath all that is a deep love for tradition. Coming from a country made up of people from many different backgrounds, it is very cool to see the whole country sort do certain things in unison, like prepare for holidays and the changing of the seasons.
17. Love of nature: I have never been so at one with nature in my whole life. Picking mushrooms and berries, going for long walks in the woods, instinctively knowing the names of trees and flowers¦ it is all part of a day's work for a Swede.
18. Chocolate: European chocolate is better than chocolate in the United States. It is a scientific fact. Yet another reason why I was destined to live in Europe.
19. Familiarity with American culture: This might be lame and fairly US-specific, but it is just so nice when you talk about some aspect of your own culture that you think will be totally incomprehensible, but people know exactly what you are talking about as soon as you start describing it.
20. Saunas: I am such a heat lover, and yet I live in a very, very cold country. *Trumpets blare* SAUNAS TO THE RESCUE!! I love that when the weather gets cold and the nights get dark, a bunch of friends will get together and hang out in the sauna. The best part of winter (besides the cookies and hot chocolate and Christmas decorations and snuggling) is the sauna.
21. Safety: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo be damned, I haven't felt so safe since I lived in a tiny college town in suburban North Carolina.
22. International societies: Perhaps because Sweden is so international and expat-friendly, there are a lot of international societies in the major cities. Whether you belong to a certain group or are just interested in learning more about it, there are a lot of opportunities to gain exposure to other cultures even within Sweden.
23. Swedes travel a lot: Because Swedes travel so much, they are generally open to new cultures and interested in hearing about your experiences in Sweden. (Case in point: this blog.) Very cool for international folks.
24. Lots of support for starting new businesses: OMG SWEDEN IS A SOCIALIST NATION AND THEREFORE HATES/KILLS THE PRIVATE SECTOR. Oh wait, no it does not. I went in to talk to the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen), and they told me that if I wanted to start my own business, they would help me get financing and then subsidize my work by paying me a standard eight hours salary every day while the business got started. Amazing.
25. Beautiful men: You always hear about beautiful Swedish women, and yes, they are here. The beautiful men are, however, totally under-appreciated.
26. Pastries/baked goods: From apple cake to cardamom buns to princesstårta (Princess Cake in English, Schwedentorta in German), Sweden has got it going on.
27. Great appreciation for sarcasm: Not every culture thinks sarcasm is as funny as I think it is, but Sweden does. Nice.
28. Working life in Sweden: My husband works for a Swedish real estate management company, and he gets a free breakfast buffet every day, a subsidized gym membership, free tickets to different sporting events, cakes and pastries at work, and the best of all free massages twice a month at the office. And those are just the perks I know about. Not available at all workplaces (not available at my workplace, for that matter, but not that uncommon either.)
29. Small income gap relative to other places in the world: Between the free education and the small income gap between white and blue collar professions, there seems to be greater social mobility here than other places I have been, fewer social divisions between the haves and have-nots, and a greater emphasis on building a balanced personal/work life than building a career.
30. Stockholm: One of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to, and one I love.
31. Technologically advanced: What a shocker, if the birthplace of Skype and Spotify is technologically advanced. We might have to wait a little longer for Apple products to launch here, but for the most part, it is right on par with life in the US for the average person.
32. Castles with moats are a real thing here, and private families still live in them: Furthermore, said castles with moats often have horses prancing outside. What a dream.
33. The Royal Family: You have got to love an egalitarian, progressive society that just so happens to have a Royal Family. So cool!
34. Once you are in, you are in for life: It can be difficult to break into a Swedish friend group without some sort of "in"to the group, and even then it might take awhile to really feel part of the group. Once you are in, though, you are in for life.
35. People believe in Sweden: Thanks to the financial crisis and the attendant political developments, people are pretty despondent in many European countries and the United States. Not so in Sweden. People here seem to be not only optimistic about the future, but they believe in their political and cultural institutions without a lot of the cynicism I hear from my American and Italian friends. Sweden must be doing something right in all this mess! Photos: Robyn from kulturbloggen.se, The Knife from dolfinaandromeda.blogg.se, The Tallest Man on Earth from hoovesontheearth.com
36. Great music: Did you know that Sweden is the third largest exporter of music (per capita) around the world? Well, now you do. ABBA and Ace of Base might have been among the first big names, but Swedish acts are all over, from pop singer Robyn to club favorite Lykke Li, folk musician The Tallest Man on Earth, and other acts like Basshunter, The Hives, Jose Gonzalez, Mike Snow, Jens Lekman, the Knife, the Whitest Boy Alive, and more.
37. No mainstream macho culture: To me, macho means muscle-bound, testosterone-laden, anger management-needing cavemen whose brawn and bravado often overpowers the women around them. I am not into macho. Macho is very scary to me. The Swedish men I have encountered are cool with working and competing with women on equal playing fields, and the culture they live in does not frown on being sensitive, showing feelings, or practicing personal grooming.
38. The clothes: I am not a very fashionable person in general, but just living in Sweden has upped my game 1000%. People wear such cool clothing here in shapes and styles that are not commonplace in the U.S. If only I had a million crowns to afford everything I fall in love with¦
39. Cool architecture: Awesome Scandinavian design has clearly carried over to its architecture. Between Västra Hamnen in Malmö, the old and new in Stockholm, and the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden is full of very cool architecture.
40. Progressive politics: Works well for my bleeding heart liberal self.
41. Coffee: When I lived in Italy, I had access to the all the cappuccino a girl could ask for, but there was still something missing¦ that giant mug of brewed coffee you can bring to your face with two hands. I found it in Sweden. Coffee anytime, anywhere, in enormous quantities and usually with something sweet. Love it.
42. Art galleries in castles, barns, cafes, etc: Art is everywhere here. Maybe it is the long winters, but there are so many people engaged in creative activities at a high level, whether it is visual art, music, crafts, or something else.
43. Valuing things being cozy: Of all the values a population could have in the world - being trendy, being on the cutting edge of technology, being able to display one's wealth through luxury items â€”the emphasis on things being "cozy", especially during the cold of wintertime, is just totally cute in my opinion.