“Could you live here?” B casually asks, as we’re sipping our glasses of wine where we’re sitting outside one of Stockholm’s exclusive Strandvägen’s plentiful bars.
He is asking, because he’s quite up for it. When he left his ex-wife, he was seriously looking into it. In fact, before he left, he’d toyed with the idea. So I knew it wasn’t just a random question, but a real one that I might have to seriously consider. If not right now, at some point not too far off.
I’m not too sure, to be honest. I enjoy coming here, to my native country, as a tourist and visitor, but I can’t deny there’s a sigh of relief any time I land on British soil again. I have lived in the UK for longer than I lived in Sweden, so perhaps that part of me is more dominant these days, perhaps I’m more British than Swedish, despite thinking I’m a fairly even blend. Every single time, I get back to my beloved London after a visit to Sweden and feel relief, no matter how much I miss my near and dear ones.
So I answered B honestly. I can absolutely see us living here for a year or two, even three. Certainly, in a country with such a brilliant social system I would probably love to retire. Ahead of old age though, I could possibly commit to a couple of years, but as I told B, I do think it’d do my head in.
I love my Sweden for many reasons. There are many reasons why my home turf deserves a standing ovation.
- We invented dynamite.
- We are the greenest nation on the planet, 99% of our waste is recycled.
- Every other MP is a woman, we have achieved equality in a way most other nations could only dream of.
- We have a law that ensures all land is everyone’s land. ‘Allemansrätten’ (i.e. roughly translated ‘every man’s right’) means you can pass through someone else’s land and set up camp for a night without permission.
- We welcome those in need. Sweden is a haven for refugees and we have a better welfare system than most to ensure we can look after those people who come here.
- It’s so bloody clean! It’s my fantasies all come true at once! Public toilets aren’t just clean, they’re gleaming! No more hovering, no more refusing to go! I sit my fat arse down and no part of me cringes.
- We know order. It’s all organised, it all works, it’s all perfectly designed. Whatever it is, it happens the way it should at the time it should.
- Sweden’s so bloody pretty! I go here, and every time I’m blown away at how beautiful this place is and the people who inhabit this country. I could stand and stare at the Royal Palace all day, this magnificent building that is easily three times the size of Buckingham Palace. Stunning.
- It’s safe. So, so safe. Not just that we have low crime rates, but beyond that – there are signs EVERYWHERE telling us to watch out, keep our kids away from whatever or that the escalator could mean our untimely demise if we don’t take care.
- All this nature! Gosh, here we are, in central Stockholm, yet we only walked for 20 minutes and suddenly we were on Djurgården and surrounded by nature and couldn’t hear or see any traffic. Water is everywhere you turn in Stockholm (it’s a collection of islands in the archipelago) and there’s plenty of parkland so it’s very un-city-like.
OK, enough with the love-in. There are also many reasons why I would stay seated and not applaud at ALL.
- Swedes are so bloody rude! No word for ‘please’ says it all really. Or doesn’t say it, as it were.
- They don’t say ‘sorry’ when they bump into you. They go ‘whoops’ then go about their merry way.
- As clean and posh as public toilets are, they’re UNISEX. No thanks.
- Having a drink out is EXPENSIVE. As in a tenner for a standard bottle of beer. Not even a pint, just a 33cl bottle. A fucking tenner!
- All this trendiness and stylishness sometimes come at the expense of character. It’s all so bloody gorgeous and modern, but sometimes I can’t help but feel it lacks… ….soul.
- They don’t know how to queue. It’s all about barging in, going ‘whoops’ if you happen to step on someone else’s toes. Plain rude and immensely annoying.
Either way, I’ll be happy to continue paying the occasional visit to my native country’s capital with B, but I’m not sure I could live here. Sure, a year or two, but I think after spending more than half my life in the UK, I am probably a little more British than I am Swedish and therefore I need to be around those who know how to form a queue, who say please and thank you, and those who can pull me a decent pint without me having to get a mortgage to pay for it.