10 Reminders That I Live in Sweden…


I know I’ve been living in Sweden when:

  1. Someone I know plays golf and votes for the Left Party
  2. I’m wearing red pants and I don’t think twice about it (I also have a pair of bright green and light blue slacks.)
  3. I’m no longer uncomfortable with long periods of silence
  4. But I wrap up converations with a strange “ummm” that starts low and ends mid range, signalling to the other Swedes that this conversation is over
  5. I walk past a slide at a playground that’s shaped like a caviar tube
  6. I have an adjustable desk at work so I can stand up (Employers are required to provide stand-up desks.)
  7. I took five weeks off this summer — two weeks of vacation and three weeks of paternity leave
  8. There’s an election coming up, and I just passed a sign for a political party called: The Pirate Party
  9. I have opinions about Swedish meatballs and have gotten used to robotic lawnmowers
  10. I feel a bit emotional when I hear Öppna Landskap


Olives For Breakfast

It was pitch dark this morning when my son began screaming at his younger brother for stealing the olives off of his plate with such an intensity that you’d think the olives were the last memento from an old lover who’d just died.

Why was he eating olives for breakfast?

Funny that you ask. My 10-year-old daughter decided she was going to eat olives together with her omelet and knäckebröd. Where I come from, we called this type of crispbread Wasa bread, which is actually a brand.

Swedish language alert: Knäck means to snap or crack. So, knäckebröd is bröd, or bread, that cracks. (The son of a friend of mine used to call knäckebröd kick a bird:-)

At 7:25 this morning, my daughter was jamming her arm elbow deep inside of a black olive jar when her younger brothers looked over. This was interesting, they must have thought. We don’t usually see olives at this time of the day.

They wanted some olives too. With a cup of coffee in my hand trying to break out of my Nyquil-induced trance from the night before, I swayed on the other side of the bar and watched with fear to see what would happen.

My daughter reluctantly began to share the olives. But at some point, the middle child felt slighted by his share of olive handouts and began to protest, loudly.

At that point, I could have used an olive branch, but the juice had already spilled.

Photo: Alpha from Flickr

Sustainable Swedish Banking and Why You Shouldn’t Maximize Profit

Episode 2:

Raise your hand if you like your bank! Like I thought, you don’t, if you’re like most people. But they’re a necessary evil, right?

Well, maybe, but there are some “new” banks that have been gaining in popularity in recent years. “New” is in paranthesis because these banks are actually like old, traditional banks. You know the kind of bank that holds your money, gives you a loan, and cares about society.

Today, on From Sweden, we’re joined by Kristoffer Lüthi ,the deputy managing director of the sustainable Swedish bank Ekobanken.

Sustainable banks are also called ethical banks or green banks. Ekobanken has been growing since the day it opened, and I wanted to talk to Kristoffer about what a sustainable bank offers customers that the mainstreams bank don’t.  

“We need to make a profit, but not maximize it,” he said.

Listen to it on iTunes.
Listen on Stitcher.
Stream here.
Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and selecting “save as.”

Sweden Really Is One of the World’s Largest Exporters of Arms Per Capita

Episode 1:

When people think of Sweden, I think they think of the peace loving Swedes, generous welfare state, equality, neutrality. You know, all these progressive ideas.

But what they may not know is that Sweden is one of the world’s largest exporters of weapons per capita.

And the country has a long history of exporting weapons. So how can you be neutral while selling arms? To learn more about this dichotomy, we’re joined today by the president of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, Anna Ek.

Listen to it on iTunes.
Listen on Stitcher.
Stream here.
Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and selecting “save as.”

Background music: thanks to you! Nattbussen

Why You Should Be Jealous of Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave in Sweden

Episode 3:

Sweden is recognized around the world for having the best maternity leave and paternity leave. But is it true?

Does Sweden’s maternity leave and paternity leave policies work for everyone? Aren’t there any downsides to the system?

Often when I tell American friends and family about the amount of paternity leave I took with my kids they wonder how the system works. How do businesses afford having mothers away on maternity leave in Sweden for so long? Don’t they lose money? Who pays for it?

My wife and I have enjoyed Sweden’s generous maternity leave and paternity leave. I’m totally biased on this question. I believe the amount of money the society “loses” paying for maternity leave and paternity leave comes back tenfold later in life. While it’s hard to find evidence for it, I think Sweden’s generous parental leave policies bring parents and children closer together. I think in the long run it probably saves society all sorts of money.

I know the United States sticks out in the Western World for having the worst maternity leave and paternity leave. As far as I understand, it practically doesn’t even exist. I think that’s ridiculous. But it feels like things are beginning to change there.

In this episode 3, I sat down with Ann-Zofie Duvander. She is an Associate professor of Sociology and Demography at Stockholm University. Her research interests include family policy as well as the family and work-connection. She is an expert on maternity leave and paternity leave policies in Sweden, with a special focus on leave taken by fathers.


Listen to it on iTunes.
Listen on Stitcher.
Stream here.
Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and selecting “save as.”