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Stepping Up to the Challenge
We Swedes speak up and put our collective foot down much more than people give us credit for. We are unafraid to push the boundaries that challenge both ourselves and others. We lobby hard for international agreements about the environment. We trust children to handle difficult subjects and emotions; so we don’t protect them from topics like divorce or homosexuality. We have some of the strictest laws in the world against human trafficking, prostitution and drugs. We dare to be controversial.
We are used to seeing our country rank high on various global studies covering everything from broadband quality to responsible competitiveness. These studies confirm that Sweden is indeed a modern nation and part of the global community. Yet the journey from a poor agrarian society started less than a century ago, and in some ways part of the Swedish mentality holds on for dear life to its simple rural past. We are as fond of our traditions as we are of our modern lifestyle. Our relationship to the church is a point in case. Secular Swedes marry in church, and children are baptized there, more so for its traditional than religious meaning.
The change in Swedish society is ongoing. Swedes are some of the world’s fastest at adapting to new trends and ideas. A curious and creative people with the means to change, it’s no wonder we Swedes don’t always recognize ourselves in the labels the world has assigned us: blond, quiet and homogenous, among others.
We are no more collectively blond than we are all internet pirates. Over the past fifty years or so, it’s true that Sweden has seen a lot of change in its demographics, as almost a fifth of the population has roots in other countries. There is an ongoing migration of people in both directions.
The multicultural society brings a lot of good, but the short time-span in which Sweden has had to adjust has also presented some difficult challenges. The ugly face of cultural segregation is yet to be wiped out completely, but ethnic boundaries are increasingly crossed when it comes to anything from falling in love to working together or doing politics. At least the course is set for a Sweden without prejudice.
Rikard Lagerberg & Emma Randecker
Rikard Lagerberg is a writer and editor who has spent most of his adult life in the US and in Ireland. Returning to Sweden he discovered a new curiosity for his native country.
Editor and writer Emma Randecker has spent most of her life in Sweden, apart from a couple of longer excursions to France and the UK. It was, in particular, a longing for the changing Swedish seasons that made her go back home after a few years.
Both Rikard and Emma work at the Swedish Institute.
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