A couple of weeks ago now I embarked on my first trip to Sweden’s beautiful capital-Stockholm. I can’t believe I haven’t ventured to this beautiful city before now…and now I’m even more determined to get my NZ friends to go there… as the usual OE experience doesn’t often include Scandinavia.
To the Danes, the Swedes are like the cousin they’re a little jealous of.
When a Dane visits Sweden it’s like they’ve walked into a family reunion and once again stand face to face with that cousin that’s just slightly more pretty, slightly more educated and slightly cooler when it comes to music and culture.
It’s a little bit like New Zealand’s relationship with Australia….the only difference is that as Kiwi’s we know we NEED Australia- they keep our economy afloat, provide us with security when it comes to military matters and offer employment for the thousands of young Kiwi’s that immigrate every year.
We Kiwi’s talk about Australians behind their backs but to their faces we’ve always got a compliment “yes of course the crocodile hunter is one of my all-time favourite heroes…. And no I never thought he was crazy”. You see we have to do this if we want to keep the so called “good relationship” at least looking legitimate.
But to me it seems Denmark doesn’t NEED to be propped up by Sweden like we do Australia and hence they enter into a more competitive relationship.
Who’s language is better?
Ask any Swede what they think of Danes and the first thing they’ll tell you is the Danish language sounds like noises children make. Now a Dane can understand a Swede but a Swede cannot understand a Dane…which shows you how much more pronounced the musical Swedes are.
A Swedish man I met gave a great example of this.
The word for cake in Norwegian is Kake pronounced ‘Kae kar…..in Swedish it’s kaka said ‘Ko Kar’…..and in Danish it’s kage pronounced “kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”
And to think I’ll actually start learning this language in a couple of weeks.
The Swedes also feel they excel against their Danish cousins when it comes to music. Now I was listening to the radio there and I must say they do win hands down when it comes to music choices. Every song that plays is poppy, dancy, and with hardly any ad breaks. Oh and did I mention that swear words in the songs are not censored in any way nor will a different version of the song be put on. This comes down to the fact Swedes pride themselves on being super liberal and forward thinking.
But let’s have a look at the bands they’ve produced from this country of only 9 million. ABBA, Roxette, The Cardigans, Basshunter, Robyn (who by the way I stood next to the airport and was so starstruck that I couldn’t even say hi). Denmark on the other hand had Aqua, Alphabeat, and Thomas Helmig…fun but not exactly all time greats (well except for Alphabeat)
So here we are again at the family reunion and grandma (who in this case is Europe) is dishing out the compliments to Sweden while Denmark sits in the corner thinking surely Aqua’s ‘Dr Jones’ song with the jungle themed music video touched more lives than Roxette’s ‘Fading like a Flower’ that defined a generation of heartbroken people.
The great outdoors
When it comes to the great outdoors the Swedes feel they live in the outdoors enthusiasts’ paradise (they probably think that because they haven’t visited NZ).
Author Peter Berlin writes
“From a Swedish perspective the differences between the Nordic countries are stark. Denmark is horizontal, Norway is vertical, Iceland is melting, Finland is labyrinthian and Sweden is stunningly pastoral”.
When in Stockholm we stayed in a little summer house on a lake. This was very picturesque – you almost look at the forest with its assortment of edible berries and mushrooms and think it feels like a movie set.
Swedish nature isn’t rugged; it’s gentle and very accessible. We literally drove for 30 mins out of the city and we were next to the lake in a semi-isolated area. Now Denmark really can’t compete when it comes to the great outdoors…but as most Danes travel to Sweden to find their inner adventurer they don’t bag their cousin too much for this.
But Denmark IS making an attempt to become much like Sweden in terms of their wildlife. In this weekend’s paper it had a story on how moose were to be introduced to a small area in Denmark- well I guess if it doesn’t happen naturally you may as well do it artificially. And Sweden could do with a few less moose- there are now 250,000 moose in Sweden and an average of ten moose car collisions every day!
Berlin again tells a very interesting story of how the Swedes tried to confront this problem. ‘Moose don’t like wolves so the road safety people speculated that moose might be kept off the highways if the ditches were sprayed with wolf urine. Unfortunately there are few wolves left in Sweden so a synthetic substance was developed. The liquid was kept in viles which were suspended from trees along the roadside and a single charge was supposed to be enough to keep the moose at bay for nine months. The experiment didn’t work. Swedish moose aren’t stupid- they know that wolves are virtually extinct and those that are remaining don’t climb trees to relieve themselves.
The Swedes are also not so smart when it comes to food. It’s fairly common to find pickled herring next to the muesli at the breakfast table. We ate a lot of fish when we were there- the salmon I must say is to die for but all other types of fish should probably be steered clear of. Especially the “Surströmming” which is fermented herring. This stuff is so bad that it makes the cans it’s in expand and has to be opened with a can opener under water. I had the chance to smell this stuff at a festival last weekend…we were 30 meters away from it and we could barely keep our noses open. Danes 1- Sweden- 0.
And now to the people…to put it simply they are beautiful. Whilst walking around the old city in Stockholm I came across a man drinking his morning coffee in a coffee shop window.
At first I thought the shop had hired him to be put on display there as a poster boy for Sweden. Even the way his aviator sunglasses sat on the table was trendy. His blue scarf was positioned with one end just slightly off the shoulder as if to say ‘yes I just threw this on yet I look so put together’ and it matched his deep blue eyes (a common trait of many Scandinavians) perfectly.
He sat there tapping away on his latest edition mac book pro- that was so slim it looked like it weighed three grams.
Now I was so taken by this blonde beauty that I thought I would put myself in the “picture” next to him. So I went into the coffee shop, ordered coffee and sat next to him – wondering if I had just ruined the painting for all other tourists outside.
I soon realised this wasn’t so when an American pointed his camera at us from outside and took a photo of the two of us. I was going to walk out and tell him that yes we are a ‘young professional couple that work in the fashion industry’ but decided against that. But my mission to look like a ‘Swede’ was officially complete.
So while I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the land of Volvo’s and IKEA I’m happy to be back in Denmark. And while Grandma may be handing out the sweets to her favourite Sweden, Denmark can rest assured in the fact that a generation of pre-teens will forever remember the country that brought them the ‘barbie girl’ song. Denmark-1, Sweden -0.