• Sweden edition
 
'Sweden is more complex than a Billy bookshelf'

'Sweden is more complex than a Billy bookshelf'

Published: 20 Jun 2012 15:34 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 Jun 2012 15:34 GMT+02:00

Herrmann, 37, works as a foreign correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. In addition to spending his days scouring for Swedish stories of interest to readers in Germany, he has also written two books detailing his impressions of Sweden and the Swedes.

As the son of a Swede who grew up in Germany, Hermann has a closer relationship with Sweden than the average German.

His latest book, "Alter Schwede! Zwei Hochzeiten und ein Elchgeweih" ('Goodness Swede! Two weddings and an elk antler'), was published in January and uses his own personal reflections as the basis for a humorous exploration of Germans' often-idealized view of Sweden.

The Local: You've lived in Sweden for six years now. What were the stereotypes you had in mind before moving to Stockholm?

Gunnar Herrmann: Since I have relatives here and spent a year studying in Lund, I knew the country pretty well. So I didn't have a picture of [children's author Astrid Lindgren's] Bullerby in my head, that's for sure.

Knowing Ikea, you associate Sweden with simplicity and practicality. And then you come here and realize that it may be something more complicated than putting together a Billy bookshelf.

TL: And now, what do you value most in Sweden?

GH: The wonderful nature, of course. And Sweden is a safe country. And because I have two small children, I definitely value the child friendliness and child care.

In most coffee shops, there are baby changing areas. The kindergartens are fantastic. In Bavaria, where I come from, that's not always the case.

TL: In your new book, you alternate writing chapters with your wife. Do men and women see Sweden with different eyes?

GH: I think there is no general difference in the way men and women look upon Sweden. Although my wife works, she is the one who takes care of our children the most. So we get to know different sectors of society.

My view of Swedish society is through my work, especially the official parliamentary parts of Sweden and the government ministries.

My wife however, goes to the parent evenings in school or organizes children's birthdays with the other parents. She may even get to know Sweden in a more intimate way.

TL: What gets on your nerves about Sweden?

GH: Sometimes the food. I find it somewhat monotonous. And Sweden is sometimes very bureaucratic. It's all very well organized and everything follows clear rules.

Therefore, it is often very inflexible and exceptions are rare. That's something I could go crazy about sometimes.

TL: Speaking of crazy: Valborg and Midsummer are two rather mad Swedish festivities. Do you celebrate these parties too?

GH: Definitely, together with my relatives. But just as we celebrate the Swedish traditions, we also celebrate Germany's traditions too. Many events can be transferred easily, because the cultures are so compatible. There are Midsummer celebrations in Bavaria, too - they look just different.

TL: Is participating in these festivities the best way to integrate into Sweden?

GH: I think Swedes have a small circle of acquaintances, but very close friends. Getting into a clique can be tough sometimes.

But at parties or in clubs, Swedes always like you to join in. You just have to be open and engaging.

TL: You have now written two very humorous books about your time in Sweden. Do you think it's easy to write about Sweden in such a manner?

GH: Yes, because Sweden is very well known in Germany for being like this. Many Germans have a connection with Sweden, either by Pippi Longstocking, Ikea or just through their holidays.

And then there are certain images or stereotypes they have, coming from movies, books, or vacations. But they are not all true. And if you play around with these stereotypes, a certain humour often follows.

Susann Eberlein

Your comments about this article

22:01 June 20, 2012 by HelmiVainikka
"And Sweden is sometimes very bureaucratic. It's all very well organized and everything follows clear rules.

Therefore, it is often very inflexible and exceptions are rare. That's something I could go crazy about sometimes. "

Yeah, Germany is the land of the non existing paperwork and very flexible.

If anything, Germany is just as bad if not worse than Sweden.
Today's headlines
Science
Swedes discover rare Antarctic fossils

Swedes discover rare Antarctic fossils

Researchers from Sweden have been speaking about a rare discovery of mammal fossils in the Antarctic. READ  

Ukraine conflict
Sweden Democrats reject EU-Ukraine pact
The Sweden Democrats have two MEPs, seen here with the party's leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrats reject EU-Ukraine pact

BREAKING: The European Parliament has backed an 'historic' agreement to allow closer trade between the EU and Ukraine, but the nationalist Sweden Democrats were among those trying to block the deal on Tuesday. READ  

Elections 2014
Löfven to get no help from Sweden's Liberals
Liberal party leader Jan Björklund. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Löfven to get no help from Sweden's Liberals

UPDATED: Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund says he has no plans to join a government with the election-winning Social Democrats, as Sweden's political future remains uncertain. READ  

Analysis
'Evolution' for Sweden's crowd-funding scene
Photo: Victor1558/Flickr

'Evolution' for Sweden's crowd-funding scene

The Local checks out crowd-funding in Sweden as US giant Kickstarter announces plans to launch in Scandinavia. READ  

Opinion
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Brit Kester Gibson (left) thinks Scotland should split from the UK but Swede Mimi Coglianos disagrees. Photos: private

Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?

Scotland votes on whether to become independent this week and the Scottish National Party has suggested closer ties with Scandinavia if the 'yes' camp wins. The Local asked two readers if they agreed with Scotland splitting from the UK. READ  

Sport
Malmö gear up for Champions League
Sweden's biggest club Malmö face Juventus on Tuesday. Photo:TT

Malmö gear up for Champions League

Malmö are the first Swedish club in the Champion's League for more than a decade but they face a tough debut fixture against Italian champions Juventus in their Group A opener. READ  

Sweden earthquake 'was strongest in 100 years'
The town of Mora, near where the earthquake hit. Photo: Shutterstock

Sweden earthquake 'was strongest in 100 years'

An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale shook parts of central Sweden on Monday and experts have revealed it was the strongest in a century. READ  

Elections 2014
Löfven rules out making government with the Left
Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt. Photo: TT

Löfven rules out making government with the Left

Election winner Stefan Löfven announced on Monday that he would not form a government with the Left Party, a move that party's leader called a "huge mistake". READ  

Elections 2014
Six big headaches for Stefan Löfven
Stefan Löfven: a man with a lot on his plate. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Six big headaches for Stefan Löfven

Stefan Löfven has started talks to form a new government, but the former welder faces huge challenges in bringing together an administration that will work. The Local explains why. READ  

Business
Microsoft to buy Swedish Minecraft makers

Microsoft to buy Swedish Minecraft makers

UPDATED: Microsoft announced on Monday that it was buying Swedish company Mojang, which was behind the hit game Minecraft, for $2.5 billion (17.9 billion kronor). READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Blog updates

15 September

Liten, litet, små & lilla (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej igen! Have you ever been confused about when to use “liten”, “litet”, “små” and “lilla”? Today I’m going to sort out how use the adjective “liten” (small) and the different forms of it. Liten or litet? “Liten” is the form we will use when referring to a noun with the gender “en”. For example: Min pappa har en..." READ »

 

12 September

EU sanctions: necessary, effective and timely (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Regular readers of this blog know I’ve written about the Russia-Ukraine crisis here. Today I’ve chosen to share an article by the UK Minister for Europe, David Lidington, with my readers: This week the European Union imposed further sanctions on Russia. This decision followed months of destabilisation of Ukraine by Russia, and months of political..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
National
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
Politics
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Politics
How immigration became a key election issue
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

868
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN