Stockholm Syndrome: Swedes all singled out

Herding together a bunch of foreigners and encouraging them to speak Swedish is, in principle, a Good Idea. Having such diverse backgrounds, values and reasons for being in Sweden, you would expect the conversation to gush as we share our experiences of our new country.

But it turns out that conversation is more easily stimulated by similarities than by differences. And returning to the class after Christmas, we had all shrunk back a little, heightening the differences and chucking grit into the cogs of conversation that were whirring so smoothly before the holiday.

Luckily, there is a fail-proof lubricant which has eased me through many a coffee break: family.

Wives, husbands, kids – a single question can spark a torrent of detail. Whether it’s Rumanian Linda with her troublesome sons, Theo the Greek with his beautiful wife and beautiful daughters or Manuela and her “naughty, naughty” husband, it’s just a question of a question, assuming I can remember the cast of characters to ask after.

With my Swedish friends, and, more specifically, those of the female persuasion, remembering the cast of characters in their lives is impossible.

For here’s a thing, as an adolescent, I never thought I’d hear myself say (or rather, watch myself write): I have an awful lot of single female Swedish friends.

Never mind their cast of characters – it’s considered a steady thing these days if Mrs Syndrome and I see the same leading man in more than one performance.

Many of these women are decidedly attractive. They’re also intelligent, most of them, with good jobs and healthy interests. They range in ages from early 20s to late 40s and they’re sociable and fun. So why in the name of Cupid are they all single?

In my more beveraged moments I joke that it’s because I’ve come along and raised their expectations to an unattainable level. They never fail to say that they are single by choice, having seen Mrs Syndrome become a sorry shadow of her former self since she hitched up with me.

A quick flick through a glossy magazine will give you the impression that it is indeed a lifestyle choice, that inside every couple there’s at least one single person fighting to get out.

But if there’s one thing my single friends are singular about, it’s finding a partner. And by God, they try. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, if all the single women in Stockholm were laid end to end over the weekend, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

But it’s no joking matter. Above Stockholm’s streets you can see window after window of single people living alone, like that unforgettable scene in Brazil – or is it Twelve Monkeys? I can never remember – endless rows of humans, solitarily confined.

Despite lifelong queues for apartments, rising prices and high graduate unemployment, more people live on their own in Stockholm than in any other city in Europe. That is not only a symptom of the problem, it is also a cause.

In many other international cities, flat sharing is the norm. People become used to giving up some of their space, compromising a little, accepting a different brand of butter in the fridge or different standards of cleanliness in the bathroom.

But young Swedes go from their cosy families to their single student rooms to their own little flats, and at every stage their ways become more and more entrenched. That makes them less and less likely to be compatible with anyone whose ‘come hither’ look temporarily appeals to them.

“It didn’t work out,” says the female Swede, popping up again after a few weeks’ absence and listing the array of sins that the latest Johan or Stefan committed in their short time together.

(Presumably there are just as many single Swedish men, but they seem consoled by spending their time squiring around with younger models, who, by the time they’re ready to settle down, will go for younger models themselves.)

New Year’s Eve, of course, is always the big night for Singles. Everyone’s looking for a fresh start, everyone’s self-confidence is fortified by Systembolaget.

As usual, Mrs S and I found ourselves the pariahs at a gathering of our single friends – with an entirely different selection of potentials to last year.

But it was nothing doing on the love front. The only fireworks were the ones exploding dangerously close to our heads as we squeezed into the narrow footpath of Monteliusvägen, overlooking the whole of Stockholm.

Mingled with the smoke and booze, I sensed a certain lack of optimism in the air. Fewer resolutions to meet the right partner this year. Less effort expended on the new crop of potentials.

It seems as though my Swedish friends are giving up on the whole idea. My immigrant classmates would be speechless.

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Swedes ‘like it hot’: Erotic audiobooks all the rage

The number of Swedes listening to audiobooks has nearly doubled in just two years and a big part of the explosive growth is driven by an insatiable desire for erotic tales and romance novels.

Swedes 'like it hot': Erotic audiobooks all the rage
Photo: AllaSerebrina/Depositphotos
Broadcaster SVT reported on Wednesday that 37 percent of the Swedish population listened to an audiobook last year, a marked increase over the 20 percent who did the same in 2016. 
While audiobook streaming services report that all categories of audiobooks have seen increased listenership, certain types of books are clearly leading the way. 
“Amongst the listening public, genres such as romance, ‘feel good’ novels and eroticism are growing. We are thus seeing increased demand [from listeners] as well as an increase in the number of publishers who are putting out these types of books,” Anna Riklund, the head of content curation at audiobook streaming service Bookbeat, told SVT. 
She said that the growing number of Swedes who want to listen to racy novels has led several publishers to launch imprints that focus exclusively on erotic literature. 
Audiobook streaming service Storytel also reported increased interest in erotic and romance novels, particularly among female listeners. Listener numbers peak around Valentine’s Day and during the hot summer months. 
Author Susanne Ahlenius, whose erotic novels include titles such as ‘Climax’ and ‘Lust 2.0’, said that the audiobook format is perfect for fans of the genre. 
“You don’t have to sit with a paperback that shows what you are reading. No one knows what you’re listening to,” she told SVT. 
Ahlenius said that her books are most successful when she “writes very explicitly and there is a lot of sex”. 
“People like it hot,” she said.