• Sweden edition
 
Swede-bashing Brit tells why Sweden is like China
Booth found Swedish enthusiasm for selling arms odd. File: Tony Crider/Flickr

Swede-bashing Brit tells why Sweden is like China

Published: 29 Jan 2014 16:54 GMT+01:00
Updated: 29 Jan 2014 16:54 GMT+01:00

On Monday, Booth took something of a swipe at Sweden and its Nordic neighbours with a piece published in the Guardian entitled Dark lands: the grim truth behind the 'Scandinavian miracle'.

As it turns out, the description comes from his upcoming book The Almost Nearly Perfect People – The Truth About the Nordic Miracle, out on February 6th in the UK. Booth also spent enough time among Scandinavians to avoid the moniker 'parachute journalist', including a decade on-off in Denmark with his Danish wife. But then that Guardian piece came out. The one in which he said Sweden is a one-party state, the "China of the north", a comparison that ruffled feathers among more than a few Swedes.

"(Sweden) continues to thrive economically thanks to its distinctive brand of totalitarian modernism," Booth argued in the piece, "which curbs freedoms, suppresses dissent in the name of consensus, and seems hell-bent on severing the bonds between wife and husband, children and parents, and elderly on their children. Think of it as the China of the north."

Yet he was also quick to point out that any Swede-bashing about to appear in his article could never compete with Swedes' own image of themselves, which, a recent survey found, contained a few stereotypical gems like "nature loving", but also envious, stiff, industrious, quiet, honest, dishonest, xenophobic.

So whose myths was Booth busting. He answered The Local's questions via email. 

Any pleasure in myth-busting? And what myths did you encounter in Sweden specifically?

What I wanted to do with the Guardian piece was to shake up Guardian readers who have been fed a diet of virtually 100 percent pro-Nordic news for the last few years. The piece was, by definition, very selective and subjective. You could call it stretching a point to make a point. 

The book, on the other hand, is a little more balanced (the title should give a clue: 'almost nearly perfect'), but I have to say, when I was doing my research, I was quite shocked by the negative self-image the Swedes have in terms of their cultural output and their characteristics.

Did you ever think about how the Swedes would react to your book? Did you/do you care?

Again, I don't really say anything about the Swedes that they haven't said before, or that observers more expert than I have said. Plus, in the book there is space for counter-arguments from a range of Swedes, which there wasn't in the more polemical Guardian piece.

That said, the book wasn't written with Swedes in mind (why would they care what some random Brit thinks about them? I am guessing they have thicker skin than that), but to explain to us ignorant Brits and Americans more about the diversity, excellence, and down-sides of the Nordic societies.

Are then any misconceptions that you are happy you sorted out?

I was surprised by Sweden's enthusiasm for making and selling arms. One tends to think of them as a peaceful people (assuming you can ignore the Viking rampages, the European wars, etc.).

I was also surprised by the role played by a small handful of very powerful industrialists in the country's post-war Social Democratic history. That can seem a little sinister to an outsider. Surprised by the rise of the right wing in recent years. Surprised by the relationship to Finland. Sweden is a very surprising country.

Do Scandies tell more jokes about each other than say people in Scotland/England/Wales do about each other?

I doubt it. The Brits joke about everything: it's one of our failings. It is interesting, though, who the subject of the jokes is in Scandinavia...

The worst thing about Sweden? Peoplewise, foodwise, political wise?

Time to dwell on the positives! I went to Umeå recently: it was fascinating.

Have you ever had an encounter in Sweden where you just felt, f*** this, I give up? And if so, how when where what.

I do find the civic manners very, very difficult to deal with: prime among them, trying to get on trains while other people are still trying to disembark. Just seems illogical, more than anything.

Then again, the British have very peculiar, baroque manners, so who am I to judge

Anything the rest of world should learn from Sweden? And vice versa? 

Sweden has a great deal to teach the world about openness, three-minute pop songs, and modernity in all its forms. From what I understand, what might be lacking in Sweden is a plurality of viewpoints in your media (that's what the Danes say about you, at least).

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Politician reported for selling 'negro ball'
A selection of Swedish chocolate balls. Leif R Jansson/TT

Politician reported for selling 'negro ball'

UPDATED: The Afro-Swedish national association has reported Swedish politician Eva Sidekrans to the police for selling chocolate balls labelled as "old fashioned unprejudiced negro ball" saying it incites racial hatred. She has since apologized. READ  

'Dead' Swede's damages claim killed off

'Dead' Swede's damages claim killed off

A 36-year-old woman in central Sweden who was listed as deceased by the tax office has lost her claim for damages after the Chancellor of Justice rejected her demand for compensation. READ  

Five dead in 'black Friday' drownings
A life ring pictured in Stockholm. Maja Suslin/TT

Five dead in 'black Friday' drownings

Five people died in drowning related incidents on Friday, further raising the death toll of those lost in the water in July. READ  

Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

An EU public opinion poll released on Friday revealed that Sweden is the only nation which thinks the environment should be a top priority for the union. READ  

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
File photo: TT

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'

Police in Gothenburg have confirmed that sex trafficking in the city has developed into a full-blown slave trade - but that they lack the resources to do anything about it. READ  

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution
Photo: TT/The Missionary Church of Kopimism

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution

Peter Sunde has complained that his religious rights have been impinged after he was refused permission to meet a representative of a church inspired by the keyboard shortcuts for cut and paste. READ  

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported
Police at the scene of the threat in June. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported

The 43-year-old man who threatened Stockholm's Gamla Stan with a bomb in June was sentenced on Friday to two years in jail, followed by deportation. READ  

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'
Swedish cops are unhappy with the heat. Photo: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'

Swedish weather agencies say the summer's warmest day is yet to come, but police in the north have decided that they can't take the heat - and filed a report about the own stifling police station. READ  

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv
File photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv

SAS Scandinavian Airlines has resumed flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv after the airline completed a 'thorough security analysis' of the situation in Israel. READ  

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself
A Stockholm police car. File photo: TT

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself

A man and a woman, reported to be both 45-years-old, were found dead on Thursday in an apartment on Lidingö in Stockholm with police suspecting a murder and suicide. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
Blog updates

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 

22 July

Det (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! “Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways, and it might me confusing if you always translate “det” to English “it”. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”. Det replacing a word, a phrase or a clause Let us begin with the less confusing..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Gallery
People-watching July 11-13
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

747
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
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
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