• 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
Late summer sun set to hit Sweden

Late summer sun set to hit Sweden

Forecasters have predicted sunshine across Sweden this week, with a warm front moving in from Russia and temperatures of up to 25C. READ  

International police hunt
Swedish killer arrested after European hunt
Photo: Police

Swedish killer arrested after European hunt

UPDATED: Police arrested a man on Tuesday afternoon after he went missing from a psychiatric ward in western Sweden at the weekend. The man had been convicted of murdering a five-year-old schoolgirl in 2003. READ  

Music
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Swedish singer Tove Lo. Photot: TT

The five best Swedish songs of the month

The summer may be (almost) over but the music will keep on playing here at The Local. Our resident music guru Paul Connolly will be selecting his top new Swedish tracks for us in a new monthly feature. READ  

Hedgehog pet craze sweeps Sweden

Hedgehog pet craze sweeps Sweden

African pygmy hedgehogs are being bought by growing numbers of Swedes, as a trend for keeping exotic pets sweeps the country, the Department for Animal Welfare and Health tells The Local. READ  

Poisonous mushrooms cause stir in Sweden
The mushroom in this picture is not the same as the one from the story. Photo: Shutterstock

Poisonous mushrooms cause stir in Sweden

A person selling freshly-picked mushrooms in Gothenburg has come under fire after it turned out the delicacies were not only poisonous but also hallucinogenic. READ  

Pirate Bay founder case starts in confusion

Pirate Bay founder case starts in confusion

The largest hacking case in Danish history began in confusion on Tuesday, after lawyers representing Swedish Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg accused the prosecution of "unreasonable" tactics. READ  

Swedfund joins H&M in Ethiopia expansion

Swedfund joins H&M in Ethiopia expansion

As H&M expands into Ethiopia, Sweden's state venture capital unit Swedfund has announced that it will back the clothing giant, in a move hoped to create more jobs for local women. READ  

Elections 2014
Social Democrats reveal election manifesto
Photo: TT

Social Democrats reveal election manifesto

UPDATED: Sweden's main opposition party the Social Democrats has revealed its election manifesto at a press conference at a high school in Stockholm, with a key focus on education and welfare benefits. READ  

Teen run over by train after 'shoplifting' chase

Teen run over by train after 'shoplifting' chase

A teenage boy is in a critical condition after he was hit by a passing metro train in Stockholm. The accident ground rail traffic to a halt, and has police suspecting attempted murder. READ  

Swimrun
Record win at Sweden's tough island race
Photo: Jakob Edholm/ÖTILLÖ14

Record win at Sweden's tough island race

Two Swedes crushed last year's course record at the Swimrun world championship in Stockholm's archipelago on Monday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
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
Blog updates

02 September

America night (Blogweiser) »

" There was an event this weekend for the ‘Americans in Sweden’ Facebook group. I’m a member, and I brought my girls to the evening. The gathering was at a Boston-themed sportsbar in a mall. There were loads of screens, a bowling alley, a game room and a jumbotron. It was as good a place as any to..." READ »

 

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 
 
 
Politics
How immigration became a key election issue
Society
Brit's life in Sweden becomes BBC radio show
Gallery
People-watching August 27
Gallery
Top ten false friends in Swedish
National
Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize
Society
Meet the man who made a Swedish store recall its high heels for kids
Business & Money
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Politics
Expert explains why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
National
City plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally
Society
For Stockholm Fashion Week, here's the A-Z of Swedish fashion
National
'Amnesiac' man avoids deportation for ten years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
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

757
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