• 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

Don't miss...X
Left Right

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
'Concept of race is a slippery slope': Ullenhag
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

'Concept of race is a slippery slope': Ullenhag

On Thursday the Swedish government announced plans to remove the term "race" from all Swedish law, since "there are no races". The Local speaks with Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag about the decision. READ  

Northern Dispatches
How I tackled northern Sweden's savage insects

How I tackled northern Sweden's savage insects

Ex-Londoner Paul Connolly has just survived a northern Sweden heat wave. But it wasn't the high temperatures that were the real problem, he recounts. READ  

Railway fatalaties on the rise in Sweden
File photo: Carl Dougge/Flickr

Railway fatalaties on the rise in Sweden

Even though Sweden's Traffic Agency has drastic plans to reduce the number of people killed by trains in Sweden, a new report shows that figures are on the rise. READ  

Woman finds Ikea bags stuffed with 80 skeletons

Woman finds Ikea bags stuffed with 80 skeletons

UPDATED: A woman in southern Sweden is furious after stumbling upon scores of skulls and human bones inside Ikea bags in a church. The man who dug up the bones, however, says it's not as bad as it looks. READ  

Swedish Wikipedia jumps to second biggest

Swedish Wikipedia jumps to second biggest

There are now more Swedish Wikipedia entries than any other language in the world, besides English. And there's one Swede who's largely responsible. READ  

Assault with iron pipe 'no hate crime': police
The aftermath of the attack in Seved, Malmö on July 6th 2014. Drago Prvulovic / TT

Assault with iron pipe 'no hate crime': police

Police in southern Sweden have concluded that a man who was beaten with an iron pipe for hanging an Israeli flag in his window was not a victim of a hate crime. READ  

AstraZeneca hikes earnings outlook

AstraZeneca hikes earnings outlook

After fighting off a fierce takeover bid from Pfizer, Swedish-British drugmaker AstraZeneca raised its 2014 earnings outlook and posted rising second quarter sales on Thursday. READ  

Race to be scrapped from Swedish legislation
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag meets children in Husby, Stockholm. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Race to be scrapped from Swedish legislation

The Swedish government announced that it plans to remove all mentions of race from Swedish legislation, saying that race is a social construct which should not be encouraged in law. READ  

US aircraft 'violates' Swedish airspace

US aircraft 'violates' Swedish airspace

A mystery airplane that passed over Swedish airspace recently has been revealed as an American aircraft, sources revealed on Thursday. READ  

Elite schools stripped of 'special' privileges

Elite schools stripped of 'special' privileges

Sweden's three elite boarding schools can no longer charge tuition fees, the government announced on Thursday, in a string of changes following a two-year review. READ  

Stockholm demonstration against Israel
Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats
Gender neutral pronoun 'hen' enters dictionary
Top ten cafes in Stockholm
People-watching - Stockholm Pride
Blog updates

31 July

Calling a speedo a speedo (Blogweiser) »

"There are a lot of speedos on Europe’s beaches. Some European males are evidently more comfortable sporting small, stretchy suits on public beaches than I would be. I accept it may be nice to have swimwear that’s not long and cumbersome. A speedo is maybe also good for tanning. But strolling around town in a..." READ »


27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

Photo: Henrik Trygg/Imagebank Sweden
Sweden worst in EU at getting foreigners jobs
Stockholm Pride kicks off
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ
Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high
Politician reported for selling 'negro ball'
Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
Stockholm Pride: Allsång på Skansen with Conchita Wurst
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Top ten Swedish taboos
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
What's On in Sweden
People-watching July 23
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
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

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:
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.
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: