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CULTURE

Welcome to The Local Sweden’s Book Club

The Local Sweden's Book Club is a place to learn about Swedish culture through reading, and we want you to be involved.

Welcome to The Local Sweden's Book Club
In a country with libraries this beautiful, how could you not be inspired to read more? File photo: Jann Lipka/imagebank.sweden.se

If you love books, want to learn more about Sweden, or to connect with like-minded people, The Local Sweden's Book Club is for you. You don’t need to speak Swedish or even be located in Sweden to take part, and it's free to join.

So how does it work?

Each month we read a different book with a connection to Sweden (chosen by Book Club members) and chat about it in person and in our dedicated Facebook group, which you can join here.

We're doing this because understanding a country doesn't just mean following the news, but also discovering its culture and reading its literature. For 15 years we've been reporting the news in Sweden, and our community of readers includes long-term expats, new arrivals, Swedes living abroad, and people who have never visited the country. This is our chance to read and talk about Sweden together. 

We cover a range of genres, going beyond Nordic noir to read fiction and non-fiction by a diverse range of writers, and we began with the wartime diaries kept by one of Sweden's most famous authors, Pippi Longstocking creator Astrid Lindgren.

This variety allows us to explore different parts of the country, and even different periods in its history, from between the pages of its best books.

Reading might be something we usually do in solitude, but something special happens when people come together to read, as you'll know if you've ever read a child's favourite story out loud to them, or read a book on a recommendation from a friend and found it helped you understand them in a new way.

In June we'll be reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling.

Our previous books are:

2019
April: A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939-45
May: Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito
June: The Little Old Lady Who Broke all the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
July: Everything I Don't Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri
August: Never Stop Walking By Christina Rickardsson
September: Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck 
October: A Sister in my House by Linda Olsson 
November: Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
DecemberFishing in Utopia – Sweden and the Future That Disappeared by Andrew Brown

2020
January: 
The Serious Game by Hjalmar Söderberg
February: Beartown by Fredrik Backman
March: 
The Circle by Sara B Elfgren & Mats Strandberg
April: 
The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
May: 
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Click the links above to read what those books were about, and what Book Club members thought of them.

Throughout 2019, we held five events in Stockholm, and kicked off with a talk about Astrid Lindgren and discussion of her wartime diaries on World Book Day, April 23rd. 

We also send out two to three newsletters a month with reflection on the month's book, and you can sign up for that by entering your email address below. 

And each month we try to interview the author and translator of the book we read where possible, putting Book Club members' questions to them. You can find all the interviews we've done so far below:

Above all, this is a community, and we're keen to hear from readers about your preferred genres or any book or event suggestions. Let us know what you'd like to get out of the Book Club! We do our best to select books that are widely available in translation and as e-books and audiobooks so that as many people as possible can take part, and will announce each title in advance so that we all have time to track down the book. 

If you'd like a say in how the Book Club is run and what we read, fill out the short survey below. You can also get in touch with us directly through email or, if you're a Member of The Local, by logging in to comment. The Local's Book Club is run by Catherine Edwards, and in 2019 has been supported by the European Journalism Centre's Engaged Journalism Accelerator.

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CULTURE

‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/imagebank.sweden.se

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT

Footwear

Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden

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