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'Sweden isn't a socialist hell hole after all'

The Local · 9 May 2012, 14:13

Published: 09 May 2012 10:44 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 May 2012 14:13 GMT+02:00

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There seem to be two reasons Americans end up in Sweden: a marriage to Ericsson or a civil union with a Swede. I belong to the latter group, which is not an easy place to be for those of us from the land of the free and the home of the brave.

In addition to the already annoying task of explaining to my family and friends that life on the other side of the Atlantic is not one long day spent chain-smoking in a Paris cafe or running with bulls in Pamplona (thank you for ruining my life, Mr. Hemingway), I now have to try and describe the concept of co-habiting with your partner (“samboende”).

I don’t think my parents (or myself for that matter) have been able to get a firm grasp on this idea at all.

It’s alright though - maybe in another ten years, couple of Stadsauktion bids and two strategically-planned children later, my boyfriend and I might actually sound the wedding bells and sort out all of the confusion.

But beyond the nuances of cohabitation, Sweden presents a special set of challenges to even the bravest of American expats.

First of all, many Americans really don’t know a darn thing about the country, except that it is either a socialist paradise (according to the hordes of liberal trust fund Yanks flocking to Europe under the ‘poor’ bohemian guise) or socialist hell hole (as described by your average Tea Party protestor).

And the fact that neither term applies doesn’t really matter to us anyway - Americans like to see things in big, essentialist pictures – without fact checking.

And I should have done some more fact checking before I got on the plane to Arlanda.

Because I had been living in Berlin for two years prior to my move, I committed a major American faux-pas before arriving in Stockholm: imagining Europe as a monoculture.

As in, Germany, Sweden… meh what’s the difference? The language?

Incidentally, this crime goes both ways, since many Europeans seem to think that America is one large ice cream scoop of Jersey Shore sprinkled with guns, Cops, and Hollywood Boulevard...with a dollop of conservatism on top.

I am being a bit hard on all of us, but I am not going to lie: in terms of cultural adjustment, I just assumed Sweden might be only a little bit more difficult for me - a colder, quieter version of my life in Berlin.

And I was very wrong.

It took a few months, but it slowly began to dawn on me that I had misjudged the Swedish beast.

I began to realize that people did not want to argue with me (and arguing is so much fun!), people were not really going to help me learn the language, and people were not looking for new friends.

I also discovered that sartorial and ideological conformity were at an all-time high, people had very strange ideas about gender, and it was really, really dark in the winter.

In other words, the general clichés about Swedish culture actually began to take a toll on my American spirit.

I felt lonely and utterly out of place. I started to feel like a dog backed into a corner and found myself melting down for the most inane reasons.

I knew that I had gotten close to the end of my rope when, in the throes of strep throat, Swedish emergency care turned me away and I burst into an endless river of tears, blubbering on and on about how the Swedes didn’t want me here and how universal health care is evil.

My poor, poor sambo (who has been nothing short of magnificent about all of this by the way).

For the sake of our relationship, my sanity, and the neighbours, I needed to make some changes. I needed to find a way to become a better person and thanks to my socialization in the American culture of self-help, I decided to do some Chicken soup soul-searching.

And here is what I found.

Surprise! It wasn’t actually Sweden’s fault. I was suffering from a major case of American narcissism. That’s right, my stars and stripes Super-ego was spinning way out of control. I was erecting American cultural defense mechanisms left and right in order to avoid self-introspection and humility.

Instead of questioning my own thoughts and values, I was branding all things Swedish as terrible out of my own sense of fear and isolation.

Granted, Sweden is far from the easiest place in the world to live from a social vantage point - but I have yet to meet a Swede who doesn’t admit this fact.

If they can admit to their own flaws, then I should be able to do the same because America is teeming with them, from our continued and unapologetic poisoning of the atmosphere to our strange interest in war-mongering instead of taking care of our own compatriots in need.

Admitting your own shortcomings is definitely cathartic and catharsis opens up room for change and growth, so I took what is perhaps the best part of the American character, optimism, and put it to good use by turning the Swedish negatives into positives.

Instead of complaining that Swedes don’t like to argue, I started to see the value peaceful, non-confrontational approaches to discourse.

Instead of complaining that Swedes don’t want to teach me Swedish, I started to try that much harder to learn it myself.

Instead of complaining that Swedes don’t want to find new friends, I started to see the value in slowly building trust towards long-term, intimate friendships.

Instead of complaining about sartorial and ideological conformity, I started to see the value in consensus.

Instead of complaining about the dark winters, I started to see the value in sunny winter vacations.

Story continues below…

Instead of complaining about the radical gender ideas, I started to see the value in challenging my own conceptions of what it means to be male or female (but I will NEVER concede to “hen” - that is still plain ridiculous. We all have our limits.)

Yep, I have a new outlook on life in the land of Gustav Vasa.

And concentrating on the positives is actually making me genuinely happy, imbibing me with a new sense of enthusiasm and saving my relationship.

Disarming my American cultural defense mechanisms doesn’t mean giving up my American identity or sense of values.

It simply means viewing the world through a different lens, an activity that can only ever augment all of us for the better (Americans in particular).

Of course there are some things I will never understand or even pretend to like - blodpudding, a general lack of critical thinking (because the state said so!) and the dreaded moms value added tax come to mind.

However, as an expat you always have the choice to sink or swim and swimming in one of Sweden’s many perfect lakes on one of its many perfect summer days beats drowning in self-pitying and closed-mindedness anytime and anyplace.

Carmen Price is a American freelance writer and former Fulbright fellow based in Stockholm.

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Your comments about this article

13:47 May 9, 2012 by polymorf
Very well written article.

As a recent transplant from the US, I've been experience many of the same things that you've documented here and worked through. But as a liberal bohemian yank, I find that this is more like the socialist paradise we've always dreamed of, and although I'm constantly peeved at the astoundingly high prices of everything, I console myself by telling myself that that perhaps 6 dollars is in fact the real, sustainable cost of a Bigmac. You know, the total cost when you aren't exploiting poor staff, poor farmers, and destroying the environment at the same time.

Hope to see more writing from you.
14:05 May 9, 2012 by hapsh
I am also a former resident of the US. However, I felt the quite differently with my reaction to the reality of Sweden. It just felt like home when I arrived. I am way more in tune with how life is in Sweden than I ever was with living in America. I have always felt uncomfortable in the US. As for the higher cost of everything in Sweden, I don't mind it at all. I think of it as the price that I must pay for a low stress happy life with clean air and wonderful surroundings.
14:14 May 9, 2012 by libertarianism
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
14:30 May 9, 2012 by Eagle63
Very interesting!

It seems for us Canadians its quite a bit easier to feel at home in Sweden.

I wander why...
16:42 May 9, 2012 by k2kats
Good for you! Now if you'd just dig a little deeper, I suspect you'd discover that your new found attitude is less about perceived versus actual cultural differences than it is about coming of age and maturity.
19:09 May 9, 2012 by Kaethar
Yep, good for you! And thanks for sharing this with us. :)
23:42 May 9, 2012 by SecondGen
"...My poor, poor sambo ..." ?

Are you sure you are a transplanted american? Who is "sambo" referring to? Do you often use disparaging and offensive terms? That could limit people being friendly to you.

I'm sorry people don't go out of their way to be friendly to you, but then again, in New York, Chicago or any other big U.S. city, if someone does, they are usually after something and it won't turn out good for you.

Enjoy living in a place where people still get upset when someone gets shot and the body counts aren't in the double digits every weekend. Enjoy not having stories like;

"... At least 10 people were killed and 40 others wounded in one of the most violent Chicago weekends in recent history.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that most of the victims were in their mid-teens or early 30s, with the exception of 6-year-old Aliyah Shell, who was gunned down Saturday while playing in front of her home in the Little Village neighborhood. ..."
00:20 May 10, 2012 by Opinionfool
An article on The Local written by an US citizen that isn't still hankering after the old US lifestyle.


Go learn some Swedish. Guess you'll be offended by "sex" too.
02:33 May 10, 2012 by SecondGen

Whoops, although the article doesn't say she speaks Swedish (nor does google translate say that's what the word means) but I'll stand corrected.

I still don't see the big deal of people complaining that everyone isn't open and friendly unless she's from a very small town in the U.S. that's the way cities are.
06:22 May 10, 2012 by Grokh
"land of the free and home of the brave"

give me a break, more like

"Home of the ignorant and land of the obese" not to mention greedy, fanatic religious , racists.

When will americans wake up and see that the cold war propaganda era is over , and americans are the only one still buying into the idea that USA is great.
08:05 May 10, 2012 by Marc the Texan
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
10:12 May 10, 2012 by GBGcommuter
When is everyone going to stop calling "America" to the U.S.? just a reminder that America is the whole continent, from Alaska to the Patagonia. It really pisses off us "Americans" who are not from the U.S.A.!!!
10:41 May 10, 2012 by CJ from Sunshine Desserts
Been living here since 1990, despite the income tax, 25% VAT, low service attitude & the impossibility to get anything done between June-August, the alcohol monopoly etc....you get your free healthcare & parental leave. For a yank that must be amazing, but for me as a Brit, I still don`t understand why I have to pay when I go to hospital.
11:31 May 10, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
I am an expat American living in Sweden and I must say this....PLEASE Local, stop using this "freelance" writer! She writes like a high school newspaper reporter and I couldn't care less about her juvenile feelings and sambo issues! So embarrassing that this is who you have representing the USA on your website!
11:41 May 10, 2012 by cogito
@ CJ (#13) How low an I.Q. is necessary to believe that healthcare is "free."

Can you grasp that paying for your parental leave is sucking up resources that could be more humanely used to treat the very ill or reverse the scandalous neglect of elderly Swedes.

Marc (#11) #1. Cringe-worthy drivel and banality of epic proportions.
11:42 May 10, 2012 by Opinionfool
@SecondGen #9

Someone had conveniently inserted "samboende" in one of the early paragraphs.

As to Google translate? Yeah yeah, Google doesnt own the world. it's as USian in view as these US ex-pat contributors.
12:58 May 10, 2012 by HelmiVainikka
@Spuds: Will not happen.

"So embarrassing that this is who you have representing the USA on your website!"

She switched her US Super-Ego to a Swedish "its YOUR fault!" Super-Ego. Surprised? You do not bite the hand that feeds you. Given she ever returns to the US and kicks her Svensson to the surströmming, expect something like "Oh its great to be home, now I know what I missed, USA USA!!" to pop out of her.

Its pathetic how predictable people are these days.
14:05 May 10, 2012 by soultraveler3
"I am an expat American living in Sweden and I must say this....PLEASE Local, stop using this "freelance" writer! She writes like a high school newspaper reporter and I couldn't care less about her juvenile feelings and sambo issues! So embarrassing that this is who you have representing the USA on your website!"

+1 for this in comment 14.

Why can't you find some decent writers that have some talent and that can actually write, an interesting article?

I don't understand her issue with the term / concept of sambo. It's just a couple that lives together and does all the normal stuff without getting married. That's super common in a vast majority of the states now.

Also, I'm not trying to be rude, but where does this woman and her family come from? It's not normal for people to think that all Europeans do it sit around smoking and getting chased by bulls. It's also not normal to need an explanation of what cohabitation is. She does not represent your "average American" and to have her writing here like she does is insulting.

Every American ex-pat isn't whiny, lazy about learning the language, close-minded and ignorant of the fact that there are different cultures and opinions around the world. Most of us (like most ex-pats) chose to move to Sweden because we were interested in a different lifestyle, different povs and new experiences.

Everyone has a rough time now and then in a new country, and it can be fun to read about those shared experiences from someone else's pov, but the writers you have on here are just ridiculous most of the time.
16:55 May 10, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
Whoa! censorship in action. Posts 14 and 18 were very expertly and succintly articulated earlier by an American writer in post 11, without any recourse to profanity, sexism, racism, threats or any other objectionable content according to TL's terms, and yet post 11 was yanked. If any TL staff (or any other posters) can clarify the reason for that particular deletion, I would be curious to learn the reason.
16:57 May 10, 2012 by Shawntooth
what a piece of..... is this a 16-year-old girl's private journal accidentally published here?
17:19 May 10, 2012 by calebian22
A tip regarding Swedes not helping you speak Swedish. Yes, Swedes love to practice their own English when they hear your accent. (Which doesn't help you one bit.) Continue talking Swedish even though they are talking English. Most will get the hint after a couple of sentences. If they don't, ask them if your Swedish is so horrible that is incomprehensible. The infernal politeness gene will kick in and guess what? Your conversation will be in Swedish.
17:24 May 10, 2012 by Carbarrister
I admit to being the only member of my family born in the USA. Other than my wife and son all our relatives are in Sweden. When we go back to Sweden to visit friends and family we have plenty of lively debates and open criticism of both the USA and Sweden. We challenge values and maybe even convince each other that we are not as smart as we thought. Maybe we drink and laugh too much but we are not afraid to let our guard down.

The bleak Sweden described in the article sounds like the USSR in 1975, and not my experience.
17:30 May 10, 2012 by Bob Jacobson
Comment: I'm a frequent expat in Sweden neither to marry Ericsson nor cohabit with a Swede. I had my chance to do both many, many years ago. Both were fun. But hardly the complete story of my relationship with Sweden, Swedish society, and Swedes.

I'm here in Malmö to do business because i like the quality of the people I work with and the opportunities here to break new ground in a region that is having about its fifth rebirth since the Industrial Revolution took hold. Now the issues are about sustainability, quality of life -- not a given, as the press reports every day record high levels of employment and failure of many social services as previously expected -- and the integrity of government (e.g., illegal arms deals, tax dodging, egoistic leaders, etc.). In many ways, the USA and Sweden are facing similar challenges, although their scale is quite different. Sweden is the size of California and only 1/3 as populous, so you might expect milder bumps. I would be dishonest if I told you that Swedes don't have it better than Americans, objectively: they do, but so do Mexicans these days. Our nation is hurting.

However, while I am adamantly opposed to many policies of my government (as are many Swedes are regarding some of theirs), I am anything but apologetic about my American culture and found the writer's falling to her knees and uttering apologia for everything American quite ridiculous and embarrassing. Unless they are lying to my face -- which happens, but less frequently here than in some other cultures -- my Swedish friends rather enjoy my creativity, straight-ahead manner (although I take pains to remain polite), and contempt for backbiting and private deals done behind a cloak of alleged transparency which happen in the North with regrettable frequency. My company, which is internationally staffed (Swedes, Americans, Australians, French, etc.) is based on doing novel things in the fields of virtual and physical built environments. Frequently, we are called upon to share new ideas how in these domains -- though I confess, we usually learn as much from our Swedish clients as they do from us. We are taken more seriously than we would be in many settings, often with good results all around. Even if they are enormously hard on themselves, living by explicit and rules that sometimes are nonsensical even to Swedes, Swedes tend to be open-minded and welcoming to new ideas. And polite.

I'm American, not Swedish. But I like Sweden and Swedes. I don't demand that Swedes be American or that in any case they should be subordinate to our cultural styles. That so many Swedes are is their own doing, some of which makes me proud that others see value in our way of life, some a little disturbed that our worst aspects are being emulated (especially consumption and obesity -- Swedes already best most Americans, who are getting poorer fast, in the former and many show a sad capacity to better us in the latter). C'est la vie.
17:31 May 10, 2012 by Opinionfool
Wow, nothing to do with the article but never before have I seen a comment deleted by the Local. Marc the Texan's #11 has gone. I don't remember it being any more sarcastic than others but maybe there was something in that offended someone.
17:31 May 10, 2012 by Bob Jacobson
PS I agree with the writer on one point: many Americans do not know much about Sweden or where it is located ("Is that where the Alps are?") but the same can be said about Americans' ignorance regarding most overseas locations -- and vice versa. Most Swedes (and Europeans generally) know NYC and SF, also Thailand and the Canaries, but few know Knoxville, Boise, Albuquerque, Missoula, or Grand Rapids; and most of us remain blissfully ignorant about China and India and Brazil despite their emerging superpower status. Despite having remarkable media at our command and the ability to connect, still most of us are more local than global.

My late Swedish friend and mentor Professor Jan Ekecrantz used to say, "Watch out for the Black Flashlight of dogma and accepted wisdom: wherever it shines it creates a false reality, the appearance of things as we wish them to be, not as they are." That goes for all of us in every culture whether or own or others'. Don't believe everything you see or hear. Keep it real.
20:48 May 10, 2012 by cogito
@opinionfool #24. You are correct. Marc the Texan's deleted (censored) comment said nothing more subversive than that the article was "cringe-worthy drivel."

Marc the Texan was right. The writer sounds like she is 12-years-old, in which case TL is using child labor.

The only explanation for censoring his comment on her drivel could be that the writer is the gf of someone at TL.
21:40 May 10, 2012 by ultra_materialist
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
23:52 May 10, 2012 by rfmann
A'fter her initial rejection of conformity, the author now sees the "value in consensus", How nice.

So all that's required of you is to go with the flow, become like everybody else, adopt group think, and stop pulling on those damn chains, and soon they won't chafe anymore. Who would have known that life can be so simple?
05:09 May 11, 2012 by Lunneia
Useless piece of work! Some people are just living in a chocked pipeline! After reading this, i feel like i have lost 20 minutes of my life!
06:18 May 11, 2012 by Marc the Texan
I see that I wasn't alone in my opinion. Since many of my comments are often contrary and unpopular, they are regularly removed by The Local. At least in this thread, there is some remnant that it actually existed. I think more than anything, it's my tone that rubs the local the wrong way.

My apologies to the writer, for my harsh criticism. After reading this article over again, I still think it deserves the panning it's getting in the comments. To the other commentators here, I generally enjoy your comments more than the articles.
08:38 May 11, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
@ Marc the Texan, post 30

As an American you have a right to raise your objections when another American misrepresents you, your values, your attitudes, your experiences, etc...

about life in Sweden and in Europe.

Even the title of this article is an embarassement, in that it attempts to convey a slighly positive message in a way that is actually insulting to Swedes, like to saying to the host of a dinner party: 'I thought that the food you would serve us was going to taste like absolute crap, but it didn't'.

In a nation where the crosswalk signs can be taken down in Uppsala by government employees because the silhouette of the woman is slightly too attractive, it would not be unreasonable for you to be able to raise a formal objection for the deletion of your post and to get it reinstated.

It is your democratic right to express disapproval of the contents and writing style of any article, especially when you are a member of the ex-pat group that an article pretends to represent.
09:02 May 11, 2012 by cogito
Marc the Texan,

Your comments are contrarian, but not particularly harsh, and always worth reading--certainly more worth reading than "articles" like this one.

(And I am still cringing at her sixth-form opinions).

Why doesn't TL just indulge her need to talk about herself by letting her write the blog section?
09:25 May 11, 2012 by RosemarysBaby80
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
14:35 May 11, 2012 by JulieLou40
I never thought we would see a "writer" as bad as that dreadful Ahlfeldt woman. Yet here we are again...some silly American airhead, being surprised because the country wasn't how she decided it would be.

I wish to God that TL would kick both of these morons into touch and give one of us the job instead. I'd be willing!!
17:19 May 11, 2012 by cogito
Spare us the Brit Twits as well.
19:11 May 11, 2012 by larsinoz
She is complaining about the VAT - at least it is 'WYSIWYG', What You See Is What You Get. In US you never pay the price on price tag. You always get the additional surprise of the Sales Tax being added, if you ever get so far as to the checkout without having to pay tips to everybody and his dog.
19:35 May 11, 2012 by Opinionfool
And did no one at The Local think to use red-eye removal before putting that photo up?
19:49 May 11, 2012 by libertarianism
Re 36, Swedish tax is something like 12-25% though. US sales tax differs from state to state, but is under 10%, right? And some states don't tax food and/or produce. Agree with the tipping, and the dog!

Ms. Price, please remember regarding comments, in my opinion and myself included, your TL audience is a collection of Statlers and Waldorfs.
20:39 May 11, 2012 by Opinionfool

How could you forget the third member of the US trinity here; the one who does all those crap food/cafe/restaurant reviews when she claims to be unemployed. Gwen Ramsey. No doubt they'll trull her out when the weather improves so we can be eduracated in where and what to eat in Stockholm.


Would an equivalent US news web site put up articles like this rubbishing their country? Personally I doubt it. I doubt it very much. USians are very touchy about "foreigners" criticising their beloved country but they are quick to criticise everyone elses. They are very very quick to criticise Sweden because it offends their anti-socialist world view.
07:09 May 12, 2012 by thestudent

Typical American retard... in Sweden you pay VAT, which is a completely different than point of sales tax in the US. Get informed on how taxes work before making another ignorant assumption

VAT works differently and ultimately you get similar prices even though it appears you are paying 25% on the price of an item, when in fact you only paying 25% on the value added to that item from the last value added transaction.

Next time you go back to the land of the ignorant and home of the obese, go check the prices for a liter of milk, and you will find them to be of equivalent price.
11:12 May 12, 2012 by Opinionfool

If we're "Statlers and Waldords" that makes us funnier than either you or Ms Price. And honestly I'd rather have their out look on life than yours or the constant feed of US-is-best drivel that The Local seems to think that Sweden needs in order to promote itself.


Ditch these biased articles in favor of stuff that does Sweden a favor. Even the crime reports are preferable to this vaccuous rubbish.
14:42 May 12, 2012 by libertarianism
Re 41, I love Statler and Waldorf and included myself as a heckler. I don't like this piece either but felt that it might be nice, a bit humane, and something of a peace offering to cut the author a bit of slack at this point, so she doesn't feel like she's going to be strung up when she walks down the street.

Re 40, I'm not an economist, but I understand that the tax issue is far more complex than what you named and differs according to nations, states, and individual goods, as well as the buyer's social standing within these systems... Liter of milk? Hmph.
16:05 May 12, 2012 by cogito
"USians are very touchy about "foreigners" criticising their beloved country..." (#39)

Especially from know-nothings who have never set foot in the USA.

The negative comments about Sweden on TL are posted by people who live or have lived here, sometimes for many years. And regardless whether they came from North or South America, Asia or Africa, their opinions of Swedes and Sweden are much the same.

For the Sweden-Is-Fantastic club there are dozens of websites. All equally boring. Which is why you prefer reading TL despite your hypocritical moaning.

Back to the article, TL should place this wannabe-a-writer in the blog (amateurs) section with the other wannabes.
16:23 May 13, 2012 by Opinionfool

Your asinine comment simply proves my point; for the record I have been to the US many many time. I've also followed USian politics and (what passes for) culture for years --- indeed Obama's aides have more than once commented that Europeans (and Brits in particular) have a much better grasp of USian politics than do USians themselves.
15:14 May 14, 2012 by ldv2001

I went on a business trip to US and Canada 10 years ago. I can not describe the warm feeling when leaving the US and entering Canada. It felt just like home.

Same climate, same standards, really nice :)
07:33 May 15, 2012 by Investor612
I almost feel sorry for Europe, and especially Sweden, as its image inspires the worst of America to move there.

As for opinionfool's self-impressed Brit twit comment: What omnipotent entity declared Obama's aides the arbiter of anything?
10:26 May 15, 2012 by The Groke
Dear author,

You present a short-term, escapist solution to your problem (how very Swedish of you). For me, Sweden thinks it is doing well, but it is not. The people are self-congratulatory, but the country is slowly dying. Some examples:

1) The education system actively blocks recruits from other countries and which is full of nepotism. Why is this bad? It stifles innovation and locks out the talent pool. Who is teaching Swedes? Bad teachers. Who is doing research? Bad researchers with poor training. Who is getting jobs? Students who went through this system and who don't know up from down…

2) More on the education system. Students (undergrad and grad) can fail assignemnts/exams and keep taking them ad infinitum without any negative consequences. Lectures and lecturers… at least most of the ones I've seen, are a COMPLETE joke - I've never seen such academic slop in all of my years. And even the good ones I've met are tied up endlessly grading and regrading assignment submissions with no compensation. Incentive to learn? Sure, if you are self-motivated and can do it all on your own (take your trying to learn Swedish example). For those who might be smart but need a gently push… forget it… you'll be off to fika. So much for equal opportunity. It's "only the strong (or well connected) survive", but in disguise. One thing you will learn in Sweden is that an academic degree from this country (Masters in English Literature from Stockholm U. for example) is only a degree in name - not an indication that the student actually learned or accomplished anything (though they may have done so). Yes, I know some people are good… but with so many bad… how can you trust what the piece of paper says????

3) There is a good chance you'll die before you get medical treatment in this country. And if you somehoe manage to get it before you die, there is a good chance that your doctor (who maybe failed his/her/its exams - who knows how many times) will do a bad job and hurt you more (again, speaking from my experience). OK, I'm exaggerating/overgeneralizing. But I want smart doctors who STRUGGLED and WORKED their way through med school. I want doctors who took rexams umpteen times. I don't want doctors who get facts wrong and who I have to tell to google the symptom to find an answer. How many times have I explained to doctors (or incompetent nurses) what the ingredients are in the drug they just prescribed? That's just wacky… And please get that 14 year old student assistant out of the room! The health care system in the US is a mess, but at least you can get treatment (and expensive over-treatment). If I go into debt from it, so be it. At least I'll be alive. Here… forget it. You can't even pay to get treated. But this isn't really about comparing the two systems… my rant is about sitting back and accepting that something is wrong or bad…

I'm out of space. see my second post...
10:40 May 15, 2012 by Opinionfool

Clink clink, chink chink. We can hear your tea party cups rattling from here.
11:09 May 15, 2012 by The Groke
Continuing my first post….

Imgaine that you have just moved to Country X which is similar to your home country on many dimensions (not a complete mismatch, but is intolerant or problematic (relative to your US viewpoint) on some points - perhaps even in a way that contradicts the stated morals of that country. Perhaps they don't accept lesbian couples, but preach gender equality, for example. Suppose this works against your own belief system. Now imagine that there are also plenty of things that you admire about that country. Do you ignore the problem so as not to stir up trouble? Do you ignore the problem because, "hey nobody's perfect - my own country has problems too"? Do you move away (why should you impose your values on that country's belief system)? Do you fight to make the country better? The answer isn't so simple, is it? But what seems clear to me, is that you are advocating the sit back and take it approach. Don't you think that even this country full of mindless sheep once fought for important issues? Do you think people sat back and let gender equality just wash over? Wake up!

The US and Sweden are close on many points - the cultures aren't totally incompatible, so US citizens can get by when they move here. But even in the US, I would argue and fight for what I beleived was right and just - especially if I thought that those values were at the supposed heart of the cuture that I was embedded in. Are you suggesting that we just shut up when we see something wrong happening here in Sweden? Is that what you and your sambo would do in Country X? There is some alignment on moral and social grounds between the two countries, so I don't ever feel that I'm imposing a different beleif system on the people of this country. Rather, I feel that my arguments are working towards making them see that their image of their country is a sham and that they need to wake up and help save the ideals that the country is supposedly built on. A lot of Americans are disssatisfied with the US, but a lot of us keep fighting to make the problems clear back home… There is no reason to not do it here as well.
14:03 May 15, 2012 by Serge75
Really. Why publishing this kind of news?

Only American ostracism can think that Sweden is a socialist country.

Americans wake up!, the world is much bigger and independent than your close mind think. Stop thinking that only exist the "american way of life" or socialism.

Honestly, i adhere to the other readers who think that "the local" must stop publishing this kind of freelancer writers, the quality is terrible.
12:35 May 16, 2012 by Social Hypocrisy
Excellent report and so true!

But its easy to see why so many expats get disheartened:

(QUOTE Gronkh:"land of the free and home of the brave"

give me a break, more like

"Home of the ignorant and land of the obese" not to mention greedy, fanatic religious , racists.

When will americans wake up and see that the cold war propaganda era is over , and americans are the only one still buying into the idea that USA is great.)

The world is full of inbred idiots reguardless of which country they live in.

I was shocked to hear how a swedish friend of mind was treated when they visited my country. My response was "Im sorry, that would never of happened if you had been met by my friends"

You have to just ignore these type of people.

With reguards to friendships... this has always been hard. I think it require making a commitment to sweden. e.g you really intent on staying and are prepared to make friends the way swedes do. This takes a long time... many years.

There are no quick fixes here.
15:30 May 16, 2012 by libertarianism
Re 48, in what way does a cup with rattling coins represent a group that advocates fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets?
17:46 May 16, 2012 by Opinionfool
@libertarianism #52

Wow, finally the Tea Party has a policy! Not at all. There's a prescient and prophetic speech in the movie The American President (1995) that sums up everything the Tea Party stands for:

"We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious men to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, friend, I promise you, [The Tea Party] is not the least bit interested in solving it. [They are] interested in two things and two things only: Making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and personal character. And then you go national television and call [everyone else a liar]."

Those are the policies of the Tea Party. .
13:41 May 17, 2012 by libertarianism
Re 53, Finally? To my understanding, the Tea Party as a populist movement has since its inception advocated for fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets. I understand, however, it's been questioned as to what extent the group began purely as a grassroots movement. And I understand, the group (or parts of it at least) has taken on additional political characteristics, such as "traditional" social values.

In regard to fear mongering and blame by a group of middle-age/class/income "white" people however, I think that idea works (at least) two ways, so that non-middle-age/class/income, "non-white" people can also be guilty of singling out a group of people to blame. I'm tired of group think, whether it is designed/perpetuated by a corporation, state, religion, etc.
15:47 May 17, 2012 by Opinionfool
@libertarianism #54

I'm just tired of USian justifying themselves by accusing everyone else of living in a "socialist hellhole".
16:15 May 17, 2012 by towns
Well.... I don't mean to give this article anymore criticism than it's already gotten, but one thing's for sure, the comments are much more entertaining than the article itself! (But hey, that sort of is the case most of the time for the Local).
17:34 May 17, 2012 by libertarianism
Re 55, yes that's throwing the baby out with the bath...

Ms. Price, if you have not done so, please report the hospital that turned you away. I'm sure nothing will come of it now, but at least it will be on record. If such incidences are reported often enough, some positive change might eventually come about.

Beyond the Socialstyrelsen, I've been told that such issues should also be reported to the Patientnämnden, and though I haven't explored them in detail, there is also a Sjukvårdspartiet. There have been multiple cases of people being repeatedly turned away from the emergency room and consequently dying.

I would also consider reporting your experience to the US embassy. Again, I doubt they will truly care or do anything, but it will at least be on record. I believe the US issued a travel warning last year for Americans visiting Oslo because of the issues with rape there.

If people in Sweden are frequently denied emergency care, then perhaps a travel advisory should be issued for Sweden as well, especially since healthcare access becomes more problematic during the peak tourist season when healthcare workers are on vacation.
18:32 May 17, 2012 by CJ from Sunshine Desserts
I often liken living in Sweden to living in a giant prison, albeit a very pleasant prison. Still in general I´d say the biggest group of brainwashed people in the planet apart from N Korea & Scientologists are the folk from USA, now they really are brainwashed. Land of the free ? free to work in Wal Mart...you can keep it ! still there is a price to be paid for living here:-


Consumer prices

Escape from Sweden airport taxes

Low salaries for professionals & low salary development

Can`t buy a bottle of wine at the supermarket on Sunday....

"Do I have to put 2 condoms on"....why do Swedish women believe all foreigners have HIV ?
19:00 May 17, 2012 by Baldric
"Hen" is a muchmisunderstood and wrongly maligned word.

It is supposed to be used when the gender of the person is not known.

As in "Nån av våra grannar lämnar ludd i torktumlaren. Hen borde skämmas,"

("One of our neighbours leaves lint in the tumble dryer. S/he should be ashamed.")

But for some reason, many people seem to believe that "hen" is supposed to be some kind of politically correct term to deprive them from their gender identity. This is not so.
13:05 May 18, 2012 by Malmoman
@ Thestudent

Disregarding your use of a term that is derogatory to many who have family member that suffer form mental illness I would like to point out your absolute misunderstanding of the VAT.

Indeed goods and services in the US are much cheaper than in Sweden for many items. A look at the purchasing parity index reveals this with Sweden at 135 where the US is mainline 100. Furthermore VAT is not paid on foods in most EU countries and it is only 12% in Sweden on food so your example is moot. Milk is a very bad example.

Having worked both in the US and lived the past 8 years here in Sweden I can say without hesitation that most Americans have much more dispoable income than their Swedish countrparts (I wish I could find it but a Stockholm University study came to a this conclusion very profoundly a few years ago). I am not necessarily saying that is a good thing though. It should be added that I hardly agree with @Libertarian.
00:04 June 20, 2012 by david anderson
I was sitting at the bar when a swede sat down and began a conversation, he noticed I was from the US and ask me what I thought of MOMS? I repelied " I've never been to a country where a citizen didn't pay taxes". It's a question of what that tax money go's for. In the US the bulk of the tax dollars go to building bombs, (things that are destructive to humans) Where as in Sweden their tax dollars go to social programs.
13:14 June 28, 2012 by olga118
@thestudent. A tax is a tax whatever way you want to put it. And you are incorrect that the prices are similiar, they are not even close. There are also a number of states in the USA that have no sales tax and no income tax. None of the states I have lived in have had any tax on food, and it is possible that none of them do. And they don't sell milk by the liter in the USA as they are not on the metric system, which I am sure that you, with your infinite knowledge of all things regarding the USA, are quite aware of.
10:23 August 29, 2012 by lensart
Most of the money in the US goes to building bombs?

Oh.. yes.. you obviously grew up in Sweden...

land of propaganda...

land of entitlement...

land of the arrogant elite, who criticize countries who take sides in wars while they stay neutral and sell radar, jets and other weapons to both sides...

I wonder how much of the Swedish GNP is related to military?

Can you say JAS 39 Gripen?

Can you say Authur Radar?

Can you say RBS 70?

How about GIRAFFE?

Maybe SLAR?

Need I go on?
01:42 November 4, 2012 by KossBoss
"Instead of complaining that Swedes don't like to argue, I started to see the value peaceful, non-confrontational approaches to discourse."

As much as certain Americans love to talk about themselves and impose their bland self-righteous-oozing values on other people and of course expect to them to be SO interested, Swedes and the rest of the world couldn't care less.

Grow up and try again.
18:34 November 4, 2012 by Bentham
"1) The education system actively blocks recruits from other countries and which is full of nepotism. Why is this bad? It stifles innovation and locks out the talent pool. Who is teaching Swedes? Bad teachers. Who is doing research? Bad researchers with poor training. Who is getting jobs? Students who went through this system and who don't know up from down…"

Oh please, do Sweden owe you something personally? .. Who are you to judge and impose your "correct" beliefs coming from a country with disastrous school results and where a bachelor degree takes 4 years to take while it in the rest of the world only takes 3? Sweden is a member of the EU which also affects it's legislation regarding work permission and education politics in favour for the EU countries. So yankee, learn the facts first before you use your big narcisstic mouth again, OK?
19:07 November 4, 2012 by KossBoss
"1) The education system actively blocks recruits from other countries and which is full of nepotism. Why is this bad? It stifles innovation and locks out the talent pool. Who is teaching Swedes? Bad teachers. Who is doing research? Bad researchers with poor training. Who is getting jobs? Students who went through this system and who don't know up from down…"


I don't see that innovation has been stiffled in Sweden or that it's having any problems coming up with new inventions and ideas. In fact it's one of

the most inventive countries in the world in relation to it's population! .. I can name loads of other nations who have 10 times the population and more

foreign graduates but despite that, has come up with far less inventions back in time. It has more to do with what the national education system encourages and aim for in relation to the nations interests, not how many foreign students who may get work permissions after graduation. Like every other country, Sweden welcomes those researchers and students who perform well, are needed in some special workforce area or can show how to contribute to the country's interest but is completely uninterested in the mediocre. No big deal here.
20:12 November 4, 2012 by Bentham

Reply on 2)

What a pile of bullshit. Another bitch moaning narcisstic cry-baby Yankee has spoken. Things didn't accomodate your "correct" definition on how things should be done which made you fail miserably and now want the whole Sweden to be your scapegoat to blame on. Nice try Yankee.

Here's a lecture, so time to wake up and pay some attention. No re-sit on this.!

Yep, in this country the students are expected to have chosen a field that motivates them to actually *learn* it (don't you in the US?) and are expected to

take much responsibility for their studies. It's an emphasize on training the analytic thinking by always having more or less unscheduled time devoted to get more indepth with the stuff - not just waiting to be fed by the teacher telling them exactly what to read or do all the time as what I've heard is the case

at many American colleges from friends of mine that have study experience from there. I find that kind of fragmental teaching problematic in the sense that

it doesn't really train the analytical skills and give any chance to get deeper comprehension in the same extent.

You need to grow up and realize the fact that nobody is going to feed your stars and striped "nice-and-easy" indoctrinated brain at the universities in this

country without some effort and will from yourself. What did you expect ? That the teacher would hold your hand? What happened to the independent and "tough" American?

Students in Sweden don't hold any different view than anybody else towards piling up exams in parallell with new courses and exams coming up with the double, triple or, if you're *really* want to save the fun to last, quadruple workload as the result. 99.999% of the students recieve loans in Sweden and are obliged to pass an annual 70% credits limit to continue to recieve loans. If you fail it, well then you got some

choices left; do all the huge pile of re-exams over summer or save them for a crammed fall semester with an abundance of fun extra workload but *without* the student loan financing as you will not have passed the annual credits limit. .To to be able to recieve loans again the student has to catch up a whole

semester of credits and at the same time try to figure out how to finance it.

Find a job? Sure.. if you can find one at all and if it's paid well enough and you got the time for it as there are expensive rents to pay, expensive textbooks to purchase and a need to eat somewhat nutrious to feel well. Many students have learned this hard lesson over the years. *That's* enough with

incentives to guard yourself from hitting the wall by making all the effort to take the exams on the first run.
20:31 November 4, 2012 by KossBoss
.. continuing from #67

And no, all the colleges in Sweden don't keep up to the exact same quality. If you ever thought that you're being very naive. The old universities, business

schools and technical colleges with the largest research resources and long experience are of course the best overall. The smaller colleges don't even

always have research departments which affect the teaching quality quite

badly, even if some of them have a few special areas where they may perform well. Sweden is no different regarding this than the rest of the world. Also, the humanities education generally don't get as much granting as for instance

technical education which has a higher priority and therefore much more resources.

As the student financial and higher education system in Sweden works differently compared to privately funded higher education systems, students don't rely on any wealthy parents' thick college fund savings, where a few failed exams probably won't lead to such immediate harsh consequences as mentioned above, as I'm sure the college fund has some margin. As much money that's pumped into the education system from taxes in the nation the students have all the right to the re-exams they've payed for. The student at the private college pays per course, the student at the government funded university have already paid his course fees for all the eventual re-exams to come. It's not a matter how and when you learned something, it's the actual knowledge itself. A rich student at a private college may have taken dozens of re-exams over the years and you can't tell that from the degree diploma.
20:52 November 4, 2012 by Bentham

Reply on 3)

I can inform you that doctor students are allowed to take a whopping of 4 re-exams (oh no!) annually per module during their medical licencing examination in the US -> http://www.usmleweb.com/usmle_step1.html

I suppose the doctors in the US must all be a bunch of Dr. Jekylls who have no clue what they are doing.. Scary. I better stay away from getting sick in the

US. The medical student who takes the exam for the 3:rd time may have actually struggled harder than the one who passed on the first, who may be smarter but less interested. So who do you find to be most adept to treat you in that case?.

I've always found the American view on measuring knowledge sorta strange. It seems like it's rather about *quantity* and not quality, for ex how fast it took

someone to take this or that exam. How does that relate to the actual knowledge? It may be an issue economically speaking, but again, what has to do with the knowledge learned? A passed exam is a passed exam and worth just as much no matter if it took 1 sit or 2 re-sits to pass. By that reasoning someone would get a higher grade the sooner the person would finish a test or give students with more pre-experience that would help them pass a course a lower grade or omit them completely as they may have had more time to pass. When has that ever happened? You need to think again.

Lastly, from my experience with the public high school system in the US, I'm not very impressed. In fact, I consider my US high school exchange year as one of the easiest thing I've ever done. The academic level and low requirements to graduate was just laughable. I guess that's what comes around when the "nice-n-easy" attitude that seems to have a vice grip on US regarding education. I have yet not heard a single exchange student telling any different experience, no matter nationality or in which state he or she attended school.
22:16 November 4, 2012 by KossBoss

Added reply on 3)

You seem to have a very narrow-minded and naive view on things and not have very much life experience. Have you ever been out in the worklife at all? .. An exam result only tells how well you did on it, *nothing* else. In case you didn't know, worklife is much more complex and an exam won't reveal all the skills, type of personality and attitude that might be needed for a job. That's why you attend job interviews and sometimes write recruitment assessment tests you see. If the recruiters would stare blindly at how much time it took for a graduate to pass an exam they would soon end up in an absurd mess. A graduate who took all his exams very fast may be "smart" on the tests but may also be lazy and not very persistent when things gets tough and challenging in worklife later, even if it's not necessary the case of course. However, his study results alone don't reveal all the skills that's required for a certain job. Compare with another graduate who took longer time to pass but by that showed determination, interest and endurance. He worked hard and did everything he could to pass, including asking help from friends which shows he is a *co-operative* and *humble* person.

The two doctor graduates had equal grades on the exams, but the latter also revealed to have sides in his personality that are important to have in the doctor profession.

So.. which of the two persons would you prefer to treat you ?
23:10 November 4, 2012 by Bentham
"2) More on the education system. Students (undergrad and grad) can fail assignemnts/exams and keep taking them ad infinitum without any negative consequences. Lectures and lecturers… at least most of the ones I've seen, are a COMPLETE joke - I've never seen such academic slop in all of my years. And even the good ones I've met are tied up endlessly grading and regrading assignment submissions with no compensation. Incentive to learn? Sure, if you are self-motivated and can do it all on your own (take your trying to learn Swedish example). For those who might be smart but need a gently push… forget it… you'll be off to fika. So much for equal opportunity. It's "only the strong (or well connected) survive", but in disguise. One thing you will learn in Sweden is that an academic degree from this country (Masters in English Literature from Stockholm U. for example) is only a degree in name - not an indication that the student actually learned or accomplished anything (though they may have done so). Yes, I know some people are good… but with so many bad… how can you trust what the piece of paper says????"


As a final word regarding this I'd like to add that I know that you see things through your American glasses, but you should know that any nation's education system is adapted to the nation's philosophy, way of life, interests and needs in the first place. To compare two systems like you do without having any deeper understanding and knowledge about the Swedish culture, history, society, philosophy, ideals and goals is therefore pointless and can be seen as comparing apples with oranges. If you keep questioning things and try to impose your own convictions on Swedes without having all the things I previously stated in your backbone, people will find you offensive and arrogant and you will fail massively with your mission. The same thing would happen if I did the same in any foreign country, without having any solid knowledge or understanding about the history, society and culture there.

I know several foreign students, including Americans who are more than pleased with their choice to study in Sweden, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea of course. If you don't like it here, don't waste your time and try some place else instead.
01:15 November 5, 2012 by KossBoss

Dear Mr Groke.

I see you don't have much insight in the national issues and politics in Sweden.

The public image of a nation that the government try to impose on foreigners doesn't necessarily have much support among it's people.

It's ok to critizise a system in relation to it's goals and beliefs, but you should always learn as much as possible about the nation first by studying it from different angles, read some of the nations's history, immerse into the culture and mentality by simply living in the country for some time to really get a sense for it and be able to see things from it's people's eyes. When you feel less foreign and weird than earlier and can notice which issues that frequently are discussed you may have some credibility to get into the discussion yourself, but not before, because it 's very easy to fall in the trap to keep on your own culture glasses if you hurry too much.

Unfortunately, especially Americans tend to be very very quick on critizising other countries without knowing much about them and by that insinuating that US is simply the norm that every country should strive for. At the same time they're very sensitive and take it personal if other countries pick on them. You will fail over and over again to discuss things if you hold on to this approach. A little more humbleness wouldn't hurt here..

There are loads of debates going on regarding politics in Sweden, in ordinary news media as on the internet, at workplaces - everywhere!. People in Sweden certainly don't sit back and wait for better times to come. For instance, many Swedes are fed up with the failed immigration politics which has increased segregation and crime and the stupid self-content politicians that's just been sweeping the problem under the mat for centuries now. But this is something that's been taboo to discuss to people's frustration. But over time the issue has found space on various alternative media forums on the internet as lots of people distrust ordinary public media and accuse them for censorship regarding this issue. However, at the same time this is slowly getting more accepted to discuss and problematize without getting accused for being racist (which is ridiculous) since the Sweden democrats party got into the parliament.

Another hot issue is the relatively high unemployment among young people and immigrants which is closely connected with the immigration politcs in relation to the work legislation and is fiercely discussed in endless debated everywhere.

Everything is relative, and in an international perspective Sweden is still doing pretty well on many areas, while others can always improve from my Swedish point of view.
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