Swedish culture and living in Stockholm

These days with riots around the city of Stockholm, my friends around the world contact me to ask me if I am allright. At first I did not understand their question, or rather why all of a sudden so many asked me how I was doing. But then I realized that the media outside of Sweden focused intensly on what is happening in Stockholm. Probably because the image of Sweden is now being questioned? Well, Stockholm is not burning. Yes, of course I was aware of the unrest in Husby and later in other suburbs, but it did not make me feel insecure or frightened. I did not question why this is happening (or if it still is safe for me to live here). Why not? Because I believe that what has been happening in Stockholm, and to a certain extent also in other cities throughout the country, is a tension that is human and exists in all societies in the world.

However, that in Sweden these tension not very often rise to the surface I believe can be explained by the Swedish culture. Equality is a strong value of the Swedish culture. People and institutions will strive after equality as much as possible and therefore offer education, systems, rules to enforce equality. In practice this means that many people with a non-Swedish background, like myself, will feel well taken care off. Reality turns out to be a little bit different than what people wish for. So even though there exist many programs to get people into jobs, free education, integration programs etc, in the end it is still a fact that people with a non-Swedish background have a more difficult time to finding a job, just like everywhere else in the world for non-natives. The Swedes just did not believe it would become a part of their reality too as they value fairness, equality, and the right to a nice life so much that they thought these values could overrisde the struggles of integration other societies are facing. The Financial Times wrote an article on May 26 that expressed an important part of the Swedish values very well

The reliance on the state – more complete than in perhaps any other democracy – liberated Swedes from the social and moral bonds of family and local communities. That permitted a paradoxical individualism, with a seemingly collectivist society inhabited by people refraining from being their brothers’ keepers.

I don’t know how the problems why people choose to revolt can be solved. But I do know that Swedes will search for solutions that will suit their values and will continue to strive after a society where they can offer each inhabitant what they value themselves so much: the possibility to life a good life for everyone.

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  1. Pingback: Work, management and welfare in Scandinavia | Gigi de Groot

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