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“For example, in Sweden you can’t buy sex”

As a temporary ex-pat living in the EU-bubble just for a short while, I have come to see some differences in understandings of the 27 countries. I guess there are prejudices about every single country in the EU, but as a Swede I of course pick up the ones of Sweden. I have for example understood that there is a perception of Sweden as quite stiff, it has a boring night life, it is very very cold and dark (somehow in a sense that doesn’t compare to Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, north of Germany and so on), there is a high suicide rate.

Also I have heard the opinion that Sweden has done (soon ending) a terrible Presidency in the EU (2009), and there is also the theory that Swedes has to eat meat because it is so cold in the country so they must build up their bodies with something, anything. Also they eat on really strange time, usually hours before the Latin countries. Plus they are often on time, which is funny.

Image over the mountains in Åre in the middle part of Sweden, where it actually is very very cold. @Nosplos on Flickr

Image over the mountains in Åre in the middle part of Sweden, where it actually is very very cold. @Nosplos on Flickr

On top of this I have read someone saying that since the Swedes didn’t experience the World War II their voice about the EP travelling to Strasbourg every month couldn’t really be taken seriously and so the Swedish signatures in the One Seat campaign were not to be accountable.

On the other hand I have heard that Sweden has done a wonderful Presidency in the EU (2009), the best ever, and that Sweden is very well organised, the language is funny and sounds friendly. Sometimes I also hear that Sweden is a role model in certain areas.

I am thinking; let me, before I leave Brussels for this time, share with you some of my favourite parts of my home country.

In Sweden you can’t buy someone for sex. Well you can but you would be a criminal. We have the so called Sexköpslagen (from 1999), which prevents buyers to buy sex but protects the prostitutes. This is a unique legislation for Sweden. Recently Norway and Iceland also adopted a similar legislation. The official governmental opinion is that prostitution is considered to cause serious harm both to individuals and to society as a whole.

Also, Sweden doesn’t have maternity leave. We have parental leave. In Sweden these days the aim is that men and women share the burden of having a house and a family and children.

The jewel though is Tryckfrihetsförordningen (Freedom of Press), which is written in the constitution. Sweden was the first country in the world to get Tryckfrihet (1766) and one part of it is Offentlighetsprincipen (The principal of public access to public documents). It says that all the documentation of the work of a government, parliament or department or government agency is a public document. And a public document is open for any public. It is possible for any citizen to call any government agency and ask for a specific documentation, and the civil servants are not allowed to ask who you are or why you want that piece of documentation. The openness of all documentation is the rule, but there are of course exceptions with secret information.

The cost for me? 20 euros. I paid it when entering. I picked 20 euros from my jeans pocket.

And what about health care? This spring I had a surgery in my knee. I was hospitalized for a day and there were lot of nurses involved and a surgeon. The cost for me? 20 euros. I paid it when entering. I picked 20 euros from my jeans pocket. This means that even if you are rich or poor you can get the same treatment.

Another thing I wouldn’t want to lose is the Allemansrätten. This means that you have access to the forests and the nature without asking anyone or paying, even on private land, you can put up a tent and sleep there or make a fire in order to grill your sausages. In the autumn Swedes hurry out in the forests, coming back home with berries and mushrooms, to be enjoyed the rest of the year.

So, this is little about Sweden. Come to think of it I don’t know what would be the five best things about Romania, Greece or Lithuania. Does one dare to ask for a blog post about it?

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