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OPINION & ANALYSIS

My first impression of Stockholmers: Who are all these well-dressed dads?

Learn Swedish. Get a personnummer. Go cashless. Moving to a new country means going through a series of 'firsts'. The Local's reader Alexander de Nerée writes about some of the challenges, quirks and adventures he has faced since moving to Sweden.

My first impression of Stockholmers: Who are all these well-dressed dads?
Stylish dads pushing their strollers in Rålambshovsparken, Stockholm. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

With working from home and travel restrictions firmly in place, the highlight of my day is the stroll through Stockholm. One of the benefits of moving to a new city is that you get to have that “long weekend city trip” feeling for a while. So, while walking the streets of Stockholm I try to savour the newness of it by observing it as a first-time visitor. 

Everyone will notice how pretty the city is. This mix between Amsterdam and Vienna while being surrounded by large bodies of water is incredibly appealing. What adds to its charm is the fact that different parts of the city all have a slightly different feel. This is nice especially when your radius is limited to where you can go by foot. Feel like hipster fika? Bröd & Salt in Söder! Feel like fancy fika? Bröd & Salt in Östermalm! The options are endless. 

And then of course there are the people of Stockholm. No better way to get an idea of the city than by observing its inhabitants as they roam their natural habitat. A few things stand out. 

In other cities I’ve lived in, you would find the occasional, slightly out-of-place looking father behind a stroller with a confused looking baby in it (on a Sunday, when there is no football on, during the summer holiday.) Not here: any day of the week, rain or shine, the streets are filled with men pushing black Bugaboos with abandon. Ok, they are also all on their phones, probably looking at football, but still, their babies get to see their father’s faces more than most. 

Speaking of faces: with the black parkas and the woollen hats coming off, the summer allowed me a first glance at what the people of Stockholm actually look like. In this regard, too, the city does not disappoint. Wherever you go, its broad pavements and parks are typically filled with well-dressed men and women in expensive sunglasses. 

The women are always elegant, often with longer flowing blond hair and a little dog. A look I’ve come to think of as “affluent Abba”: what the women of Abba would look like, had they dressed in accordance with their wealth today.

If women are known to dress up when going out in other places, the men in Stockholm stand out in that regard. You typically find them in tasteful business attire for any occasion, shiny Swiss watches on display, or with a look that suggests they are just about to board a wooden boat for a few days sailing around the archipelago. This is enhanced by the slightly hard-edged handsomeness mainly the young men display (think how Alexander Skarsgård gets cast and you get the idea).

Apart from the beauty of the city and its people, what makes walking around Stockholm such a pleasure, is that Stockholmers go out not just to go somewhere but often just for the sake of it. To enjoy the city they live in, just like a first-time visitor.

Alexander de Nerée moved to Stockholm with his husband in October 2020. He is Dutch, but moved from Zürich, Switzerland, after having lived in Hong Kong for 10 years. Signing up to move to a country they had never been to, in the middle of a global pandemic, was definitely a first for the couple. One of many more to come. Alexander writes for The Local about his “firsts” in Sweden.

Member comments

  1. Well dressed . What is your definition of well dressed , as Swedes are not well dressed compared to Parisians , Londoners and Berliners , so which rock have you been hiding under ?

    1. Agreed. Clean sweatpants and white tennis shoes does not make a man well-dressed. This author needs to see men in business suits at board meetings to understand what well-dressed really means.

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

‘Chemical crayfish’: Why does the Swedish media love killjoy festive news?

It's time for this year's "kräftskivor", Swedish crayfish-eating parties! A cause for celebration? Not if the Swedish media has its way.

'Chemical crayfish': Why does the Swedish media love killjoy festive news?

Sweden’s main newswire this week ran a story warning that an analysis of the eight brands of Swedish crayfish available in the country’s supermarkets contained elevated levels of PFAS, a persistent pollutant which can damage your liver and kidneys, disrupt your hormones, and even cause cancer. 

But don’t worry. If you weigh 70kg or more, you can still safely eat as many as six of the outsized prawn-like crustaceans a week without being in the risk zone. 

While I’m sure the news story, which was covered by pretty much every paper, is accurate, it is also part of a grand Swedish media tradition: running miserable, killjoy news stories whenever there’s a sign that people might be planning to have a bit of festive fun. 

The two public service broadcasters, Swedish Radio (SR) and Swedish Television (SVT) are by far the worst offenders, their reporters unusually skilled at finding a downbeat, depressing angle for every public celebration. 

To give readers a sense of the genre, we’ve spent half an hour or so searching through the archives. 

‘This is how dangerous your Christmas tree is’ (and other yuletide cheer)

Source: Screenshot/SR

Christmas is a time for good food, drinking a little too much, and cheery decorations to ward away the winter darkness. But have you considered the risks?

SR has.

In “This is how dangerous your Christmas tree is”, a local reporter in Kronoberg looked into the possibility that your tree might have been sprayed with pesticide, or if not, might be covered in pests you will then bring into your house. 

By far the most common recurring Christmas story reflects Sweden’s guilt-loaded relationship with alcohol. 

You might enjoy a few drinks at Christmas, but what about the trauma you are inflicting on your children?

In this typically festive report from SVT in Uppsala, a doctor asks, ‘why wait for the New Year to give up alcohol? Why not start before Christmas?’, while the reporter notes that according to the children’s rights charity BRIS, one in five children in Sweden has a parent with an alcohol problem, with many finding drunk adults both “alarming and unpleasant”. 

God Jul! 

The Swedish media finds ways to make you feel guilty about the food you eat at Christmas too. You might enjoy a slap-up Christmas dinner, but what about those who suffer from an eating disorder? SVT asked in this important, but less than cheery, story published in the run-up to the big day. “This is the worst time of the year,” Johanna Ahlsten, who suffered from an eating disorder for ten years, told the reporter. 

Don’t you just love a cosy Christmas fire? Well, perhaps you shouldn’t. A seasonal favourite in Sweden’s media is to run warnings from the local fire services on the risk of Christmas house fires. Here’s some advice from SVT in Blekinge on how to avoid burning your house down. 
 
Those Christmas lights. So mysigt. But have you ever added up how much those decorations might be adding to your electricity bill? SVT has. Read about it all here
 
Finally, isn’t it wonderful that people in Sweden get the chance to go and visit their relatives and loved ones over Christmas.
 
Well, it’s wonderful if you’re a burglar! Here’s SVT Jämtland on the risk of house break-ins over the Christmas period. 
 
Eat cheese to protect your teeth! and other Easter advice 
 
 
“Eat cheese after soda”. Good advice from Swedish Radio. Photo: Screenshot/Richard Orange
 
For the Swedish media, Easter is a fantastic opportunity to roll out all the same stories about the risks of open fires and alcohol abuse, and that they do. But the Easter celebration has an additional thing to be worried about: excess consumption of chocolate and sweets. 
 
Here’s Swedish Radio, with a helpful piece of advice to protect your teeth from all that sugary ‘påskmust’, Sweden’s Easter soft drink. “Eat cheese!”. 
 
Yes, you and your children might enjoy eating all those pick-and-mix sweets packed into a decorated cardboard egg, but have you thought who else has had their grubby hands on them? SVT has. In this less than joyous Easter article  a reporter gives viewers the lowdown on “how hygienic are pick-and-mix sweets?” (According to the doctor they interview, sugar acts as an antibacterial agent, so they are in fact less dangerous than the newsroom probably hoped). 
 
Perhaps though, it’s better to avoid those unhealthy sweets altogether, and instead cram your mouth with healthy raw food alternatives, as SVT advises in this Easter report
 
Aren’t daffodils lovely? Well they’re not if you’re a dog. They’re deadly, according to this Easter report from Swedish Radio on all the “dangers lurking for pets over Easter“.
 
Glad Påsk!
 
Midsommar drowning  
 
Midsommar, again, has all the same possibilities for worried articles about excess drinking etc, but in the summer there’s the added risk of drowning. 
 
From Midsummer until the start of August, the temp reporters who take over Sweden’s newsrooms as everyone else goes on their summer holidays churn out a steady stream of drowning stories, all of them with a slightly censorious tone. After all, most of these accidents are really about excess drinking.
 
Here’s SVT Västmanland tallying up the Midsummer weekend’s death toll in a typical story of Midsommar misery. 
 
So, what is the reason for the Swedish media’s taste for removing as much mirth from festivities as possible?
 
It’s partly because Sweden’s media, unlike that of many other countries, sees its public information role as at least as important as entertaining or interesting readers, so an editor is likely to choose a potentially useful story over a heart-warming one. 
 
This is the aspect of the Swedish media beautifully captured by the singer Lou Reed when talking about how he’s more scared in Sweden than in New York in the film Blue in the Face
 
“You turn on the TV, there’s an ear operation. These things scare me. New York, no.” 
 
But it is also reflects the puritanical streak that runs straight through Swedish society, leading to a powerful temperance movement, which meant that by 1908, a staggering 85 percent of Socialist parliamentarians in Sweden were teetotallers.
Sweden is now a liberal country where you can get good food and drink, and enjoy a decent nightlife, but sometimes that old puritanism bubbles up.
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