A Passion For Sverige


I am no Swede, but sometime in the eighties,  I developed a passion for everything Swedish: ABBA; Alfa Laval, Roxette; Stockholm, Volvo, you name it.

Unfortunately, South Africa was a pariah state at the time and Swedish products were impossible to find here. We had no IKEA or H&M and our shops didn’t stock Salora TV’s anymore.

Nevertheless, I thought that Swedish engineering and industrial design were the greatest. I associated everything Swedish with clever innovation, cool design and solid high quality. 

Nothing would stand in my way to feed my craving for anything Swedish. Anything I read only made me want more.  

I devoured any book I could borrow, any article I could track down and any titbit I could glean from travellers.

I used to write to companies like SAAB and Volvo. In turn, they rewarded me with thick, handsome brochures.  I drooled over glossy pictures of cars I could not buy, industrial machinery I did not need and glassware I could not afford.  

I found a Swedish recipe book (written in Dutch) at a second hand bookshop and was inspired. I still love to entertain smorgasbord style even though most of the dishes are Greek and Afrikaner these days.   

Forget Lutfisk and surstroeming, those poor people had to eat something to survive those horrible winters. The Finns sometimes had to bake wood pulp to survive!  

Modern Swedes have fantastic supermarkets, high tech refrigeration (Electrolux) and tastes honed by frequent foreign travel.  

According to friends of mine, who have lived in Sweden, a Swede will mix you a crunchy Greek salad that will make your taste buds rejoice. Apparently, their fantastic bakeries will sell you Danish pastries that beat those in Denmark hands down.  

I subscribed to newsletters from the Swedish Information Service (SI). Their pamphlets lectured me on diverse subjects such as children’s playgrounds, welfare reform and environmental management.  I could not care what they were about. I read them all ravenously. I would read those pamphlets while shut up in an armoured personnel carrier, in the middle of a declared area, waiting for a petrol bomb or worse. 

Everybody else would be talking about the never-ending civil unrest. My head would be full of gleaming cities, soft green meadows and a humane government.

Things have changed over the years.   

Olof Palme was assassinated and a measure of my innocence died with him.  A magically safe country was suddenly no longer protected, by enchantment, from ugly violence.  

When Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh died, after suffering multiple stab wounds, while shopping in an upmarket Stockholm store, I simply shrugged and said: “That is Sweden for you.” My fervent belief in reason and civilization as a protector against barbarism was dead. South Africa is not an outcast state anymore.   

Volvos glide down our streets, Swedish tourists are now more common than Martians and we have Ombudsmen (a Swedish innovation) for almost everything.  

My first cell phone was manufactured by Ericcson. It was not that great and my last five handsets were all products of the Finnish company Nokia. I have met a few Swedes, but my enthusiasm for their culture seems to scare them rather than pique their interest.   

I even employed a Swede once. I did this illegally, an utter lapse of my usually iron-clad respect for the law. What could I do? She was Swedish and she only had a tourist visa.   

Bo was always telling me how much more beautiful South Africa was than Sweden. She believed that the famed welfare state was an insatiable vampire that had killed the economy.  

I love travel and read up a lot about a country before and after my visit. I have seen a few foreign countries over the years. Still, I always wonder whether I should ever visit Sweden. 

I am afraid of losing my beautiful dreams, to a harsh reality that I might not want to countenance.  

Will Stockholm float magically on her blue lake, will there be wild strawberries to pick near country lanes and will those supermarkets be as fantastic as their write-ups promise?    


w0lf w0lf
46-50, M
4 Responses Aug 12, 2007

Thank you Lola91. I hope I won't be dissapointed either. Still, the anticipation is wonderfull. I still read all I can about Scandinavia in general and Sweden in particular.

Sweden salutes you!<br />
Hope you won't be disappointed when you come ;)

You are very sweet to say that.<br />
<br />
There are people who say Olof Palme was assasinated on the orders of the old Apartheid government. I suppose we will never know.<br />
<br />
I have always wanted to see Sweden, but I have been afraid of losing the dream. <br />
<br />
My girlfriend and I am saving up for a big project to help illiterate people and people with AIDS at the moment. It is our present five year project, so Sweden will have to wait a while.<br />
<br />
I would love you to show me in writing what you think is important as a Swede. Then I will be able to be a "Spiritual Traveller" as Karen Blixen said! (Okay, so I like Denmark too!)

Abba and Roxette are both great. (And of course Marie and Per as solo too) I think that they should 'export' more good music!!!!