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Single skint transvestites

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12:45 CEST+02:00
You wait weeks for a new report to pull the rug out from under a worn-out old stereotype and then three come along at once. Apparently 'frugal Swedes' are lousy savers, 'sexy Swedes' are all single, and the typical transvestite is a grey-haired married chap with children.

Monday's Svenska Dagbladet picked up on a study by Länsförsäkringars, a banking and insurance association, which showed that 15% of adult Swedes have no savings at all. As the paper pointed out, "if the car breaks down or the washing machine packs up, they could be forced to take out an expensive loan with an interest rate of 30%". Tut tut.

The majority of those who are hanging on by the skin of their financial teeth are unemployed, students, and pensioners.

"Their income clearly lies below the average and they can face problems with unforeseen purchases which can quickly grow to even bigger problems," said Elisabeth Hedmark, an economist at Länsförsäkringars who inexplicably declared herself surprised at the result.

As if pointing out that people who don't earn much money don't have much money wasn't helpful enough, Hedmark told SvD that there are no short cuts when it comes to savings.

"They need to sit themselves down and have a good look at their income and outgoings. You've got to think what you really need and try to live more cheaply. Maybe then you can put away a couple of hundred a month."

Another group who struggle to save, according to Länsförsäkringars, were singles. And that could be a problem - apparently 42% of Swedes live alone, more than any other country in Europe. But Saturday's DN reported that far from being a tragic consequence of a misguidedly independent relationship culture, it's actually a jolly good marketing opportunity.

The Swedish tourist board is in its fourth year of organising 'singles trips' to the mountains - over 30s only, mind - and things have never been better. This summer is almost fully booked.

"I must admit, we've been surprised at the interest in the trips," said Charlie Ekberg, a tourist board manager in Grövelsjön, one of the destinations for singles. "Many people want to go to the mountains but have nobody to go with, so this isn't a dating service. Although it's inevitable that people will get together."

Börje Börjesson is banking on that inevitability too. He started a dating web site called Mötesplatsen (Meeting Place) following his divorce five years ago. He decided he needed a new network and now has his pick of 40,000 registered members. With 300 new members a day he's found that being frank about the service pays dividends.

"It's an online pick-up joint - if I said anything else I'd be lying," he told DN.

Even Debenhams, the British department store in the centre of Stockholm, is getting in on the act with twice-yearly 'singles shopping' evenings. After closing "they roll out the red carpet for singles who are offered discounted goods and events specifically targeting their needs."

Indeed, in the brave new world of savings-draining innovations like one-to-one marketing, we'll all soon be offered such well-targeted shopping evenings - even the grey-haired, married transvestites among us.

Actually, that's not such a minority group as you might think. According to a new study from Karolinska Institute, 3% of Swedish men "have become sexually aroused from wearing women's clothes".

Expressen reported that the researchers questioned over 1,200 Swedish men and found no significant differences between the lifestyles of transvestites and "the average man". They are just as likely to be married and to have children, and use drugs and alcohol no more or less than average. In fact, the only difference appeared to be that they like wearing women's clothes.

Niklas Långström, who lead the research, says it pours cold water on the psychologists' traditional picture of a transvestite as a bisexual or homosexual man with psychological and substance abuse problems and relationship issues.

"Our study shows that the majority who get turned on by dressing in women's clothes are well-adjusted and feel good," he said.

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