• Sweden's news in English
 

'Britain is medieval compared to Sweden'

Published: 14 May 2014 16:29 GMT+02:00

Bill Bailey knows Sweden so well that he could pass as a Swedophile. The British comedian has read every Wallander book, has strong opinions on Saga Norén from The Bridge, and managed to guess the country's population to within 100,000. And that's just the start.
 
Not bad for a British comedian. 
 
And as it happens, Bailey is set to hit Gothenburg and Stockholm this week as part of his Qualmpeddler tour. So, before we probe the comedian about his interest in all things Sweden, what exactly is a "Qualmpeddler"? 
 
"It's a word I made up. If you Google it, you'll always come to me. Quite handy, really," he says.
 
"To have a qualm is to have a worry - you don't often see qualm in the singular though, there are always several qualms. And a peddler is a door-to-door salesman. A qualmpeddler is really what a comedian is, it's a euphemism for stand-up comedy."
 
The tour has already begun and offers 17 live shows this month across Europe, two of which will be in Sweden. The comedian, who stars in QI, Black Books, and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, has a soft spot for Sweden.
 
"Of all the Nordic countries, Sweden has made the biggest impression particularly on British and western culture, certainly as I grew up," he explains.
 
"Whenever people tried to do Scandinavian accent it was always Swedish and very sing-songy... oooeeoooeeoo," he adds, sounding suspiciously like the Swedish chef from The Muppets. 
 
But the Brit's knowledge of Sweden isn't limited to a children's TV show. He's visited several times, and was even in Stockholm last week. He also mentions a visit to Lund in southern Sweden that earned nothing but praise from him and his family, who loved "the cobblestones, the cafes, and the little streets" - a far cry from life in London.   
 
But it's not just the under-crowded and quaint towns of Sweden that Bailey enjoys. He's a big fan of Sweden's approach to life in general.
 
"I applaud any kind of modernity, any attempt to try and live together in a better way," he says. 
 
"When you look at the attitude towards women in Britain, we seem almost medieval by comparison," he continues. "It bothers me. I always get so wearisome of the rather slow progress we have here."
 
Does that make Bill Bailey a feminist?
 
"Well not being a woman...  it seems odd for a man to be a feminist. But to me it seems entirely natural. I get very cross, from time to time, when I find casual, everyday sexism. Women belittled and treated in a way that makes you think 'God!'
 
"It's like 'Really? Come on, it's the 21st century now. We got over this surely by now, lets move on'," he says.
 
And the comedian's admiration for Sweden doesn't stop at gender equality. He also finds himself a fan of the cultural scene. 
 
In fact, he admits that he's obsessed with Nordic Noir. Among his favourites are The Bridge ('superb, beautifully filmed, and a brilliant character in Saga Norén'), The Killing, Henning Mankell ('I've gone through his entire oeuvre'), and Stieg Larsson ('extraordinary and preposterous').
 
But perhaps it's no surprise that Bailey - a classically trained musician - is most impressed by the music scene. 
 
"I'm a big fan of some of the metal bands and I've always been a big fan of The Cardigans. She [Nina Persson] has a unique vocal style and lyrics, and they have such wonderfully bitter-sweet tunes," he says.
 
"That's where Sweden excels," he says. "In making shiny pop that dominates the charts."
 
Bailey dislikes when people try to separate popular culture from high culture. A person who only reads Dan Brown and listens to the charts misses out just as much as the person who reads only Paul Auster and listens to Shostakovich, he argues.
 
"I like to mix it up a bit, I'm intrigued by mass culture. I like to listen to the music like Avicii. This is the music my son and his friends are dancing to at the disco. Why is it capturing public attention? Is this a legacy of Abba's success? You can't deny it, it's a phenomenon and it's following the line of incredibly catchy pure pop."
 
But popular culture aside, for Bailey it all comes back to a system that seems to work.
 
"Sweden is seen to be a kind of utopia, a society, a country to aspire to be, and I think there's a great amount of truth to that. Other countries could learn from its egalitarian nature -  equality, the welfare, the story of general contentment and how the government has organized itself in sensible grown-up coalitions with cross-governmental cooperation," he says.
 
But surely Denmark and Norway, despite being smaller, can boast all this too?
 
"Well I suppose Abba has a lot to answer for here," he says. "I suppose there was a kind of very effective PR from Sweden that projected this country of beautiful outdoorsiness," he says.  "And of course, the excellent furniture."
 
Bailey's Qualmpeddler will be in Gothenburg on Friday and Stockholm on Saturday. More information here
 
 

 

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sweden heading for coldest weekend of 2015
Snowy weather in Stockholm last week. Photo: TT

Sweden heading for coldest weekend of 2015

It's only Tuesday, but meteorologists are already warning that the weekend could the coldest this year, with temperatures dipping below -10C in the south of the country. READ  

Sweden's national radio blocked by 'Nazi' tape
The front door to the offices of P4 Dalarna on Tuesday morning. Photo: Johannes Rosendahl

Sweden's national radio blocked by 'Nazi' tape

Staff at P4 Dalarna radio, which is part of Sweden's national public radio broadcaster Sveriges Radio, discovered tape put up by neo-Nazis blocking the entrance to their office's main entrance on Tuesday morning. READ  

Islamism 'threat' greater than Nazism: SD leader
Acting Sweden Democrat leader Mattias Karlsson. Photo: TT

Islamism 'threat' greater than Nazism: SD leader

Acting Sweden Democrat leader Mattias Karlsson has said Islamism is "a greater threat than Nazism", sparking a strong response from Jewish and Muslim communities as the world marks 70 years since the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. READ  

Opinion
Sweden's health care is a shame to the country
A Swedish hospital emergency room. Photo: TT

Sweden's health care is a shame to the country

For this week's debate article, Johan Hjertqvist, president of Health Consumer Powerhouse, an organization which compares global healthcare systems, reacts to a new report which reveals that waiting times in Sweden's hospitals are among the worst in Europe. READ  

Ericsson profits drop as US demand slumps
Ericsson's Stockholm office. Photo: TT

Ericsson profits drop as US demand slumps

Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson's profit plunged by over a third in the fourth quarter of 2014, dragged down by falling demand in its key market North America, the company announced on Tuesday. READ  

Record 'Oscar' win for Sweden's Ruben Östlund
Swedish director Ruben Östlund. Photo: TT

Record 'Oscar' win for Sweden's Ruben Östlund

Sweden's hottest director of the moment, Ruben Östlund, was celebrating on Tuesday after his movie Turist scored a record number of awards at Sweden's Guldbagge 2015 ceremony, the country's version of the Oscars. READ  

Sweden 'soon' to return missing Maori skulls
The Karolinska Institute where the skulls are currently kept. Photo: TT

Sweden 'soon' to return missing Maori skulls

Maori skulls taken from a burial cave and later used as part of attempts to scientifically justify racism by Swedish scientists are set to be returned to New Zealand in the near future, despite 'red tape' stalling the process. READ  

Sweden Democrat head to remain on sick leave
Jimmie Åkesson on election night. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrat head to remain on sick leave

Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of Sweden’s nationalist Sweden Democrats, will remain on sick leave until the end of March 2015. READ  

Sweden remembers Holocaust victims
A wall remembering Jews with links to Sweden, next to Stockholm's Great Synagogue. Photo: TT

Sweden remembers Holocaust victims

Events are taking place across Sweden to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. READ  

'I’m in Sweden thanks to Sven-Göran Eriksson'
The Local's Editor Maddy Savage with a statue to 'Svennis' in 2006. Photo: Private

'I’m in Sweden thanks to Sven-Göran Eriksson'

Maddy Savage moved to Stockholm five months ago to become The Local’s editor, but it was a chance assignment to the Swedish home town of former England football manager Sven-Göran Eriksson in 2006 that set her on an unlikely path towards a career in Sweden. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
IN PICTURES: January snow snaps
Gallery
Property of the week: Skanör, Vellinge
National
Why Sweden's Left party wants a European 'Red Spring'
Lifestyle
'Life as a Swedish candy-maker is sweet'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's hottest new fashion designers for 2015
Blog updates

26 January

The mysterious -s, part 1 (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! How is your Swedish coming along? A while ago I read on a forum on The..." READ »

 

23 January

Editor’s blog, January 23rd (The Local Sweden) »

"Happy Friday from The Local’s team in Stockholm. We can’t wait for the weekend, when we’re planning..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Who travels on Stockholm's different subway lines?
Lifestyle
Why this Swedish baby is a US hit
Lifestyle
'Limousine' snowplough for sale
People-watching: January 24th - 25th
Gallery
People-watching: January 24th - 25th
Society
Meet the 'beggars' buttoning up immigration critics
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden this week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Madeleine through the years
Features
Learn Sweden's bizarre dating lingo
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Gallery
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Society
Why Sweden's viral 'genital' video is getting an English remake
National
Why does Sweden's Luleå have a giant ice beaver?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Who are Sweden's richest one percent?
Business & Money
How a classic Swedish snack got a revamp for 'busy' Stockholmers
Lifestyle
The Local's top Swedish acts for 2015
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Årets Bild photography prize winners
Business & Money
'I met my Swedish man in Tokyo's first Ikea store'
Gallery
Property of the week: A cozy apartment in Bromma, Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: January 17th - 18th
Lifestyle
How to make Swedish gravad lax
Lifestyle
Four hot Swedish home design trends
National
How The Local's video on a strange Swedish sound went viral
Gallery
People-watching: January 14th
National
The Local's guide to Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Politics
Paris attacks: Knock-on effects in Sweden and across Europe
National
Swedish Muslims react to new Charlie Hebdo magazine
National
The Local talks to Sweden's Home Affairs Minister about Paris attacks
Business & Money
Will Spotify launch on stock market after users rocket?
Accelerated
Texans and Swedes to play ice instruments
Gallery
Property of the week: An 18th century mansion in Stockholm
Business & Money
'Snowboarding drew me to work in chilly Sweden'
National
Are Sweden's royals moving to London?
National
How Sweden's Charlie Hebdo rally broke a winter protest record
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Madeleine through the years
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Stockholm's 'no pants' subway day 2015
Gallery
People-watching: January 10th - 11th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Stockholm holds Charlie Hebdo rally
National
Have you seen Sweden's viral children's 'genital' song?
National
Mother of 'Superman' victim warns of ecstasy drug trend in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Everything you need to know about moving to Stockholm
Sponsored Article
How to jump-start your career in southern Sweden
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

1,094
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options