It may not have had a terror attack, but is the land of Ikea really the well‑adjusted country it seems?
At the weekend, while addressing a large rally, Donald Trump made a bold claim about Sweden. Specifically, he seemed to suggest that, the previous day, the country had suffered a tragic terror attack. This attack, he intimated, was a direct result of the large number of refugees who had been granted asylum there. “Sweden,” he said solemnly. “Who would believe this? Sweden.”
The short answer, it turned out, was nobody. Or at least, nobody in Sweden. Because there had been no terror attack. “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking?” wondered the former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt. Trump’s press team later clarified that he was actually referring to something he’d seen on telly the previous night that had been to do with Sweden and refugees. See? An honest mistake.
People were quick to pour scorn. But, well . . . what if Trump’s right? Not about the fictional atrocities, obviously. What if he’s right about Sweden more generally? Is it really the country it’s pretending to be — full of well-adjusted, open-minded, frustratingly good-looking sauna-loving citizens keen on tax, universal social welfare and vague one-word lifestyle trends — or is it, in fact, on the verge of becoming some kind of north European rogue state? A Scandi hermit kingdom working tirelessly to oppose our western values with state-run off-licences and fish that comes in toothpaste tubes?
These are questions already consuming the highest circles of US politics. Sweden, for too long, has avoided proper scrutiny. Yet to get to the bottom of exactly what they may or may not be up to, we must carefully examine the key facts about this most mysterious of nations. For example:
One in every five British children is said to have been conceived on an Ikea mattress
Bit of a weird thing to show off about, but I suppose it goes right to the heart of the twin Swedish obsessions with sex and flat-pack furniture. Anyway, this is only one sinister example of Sweden’s soft power. Does being conceived on an Ikea mattress mean you will definitely grow up to have deep pro-Swedish sympathies and, in the event of war with Sweden, run the risk of being brainwashed into becoming a fifth columnist when you hear the code words “Holmsta”, “Hultsvik”, “Heggedal” or anything relating to Ikea’s memory-foam range? It’s too early to tell, but that doesn’t mean we should not remain vigilant.
And yet, you cannot name your child Ikea in Sweden
Or Elvis. Dunno why you’d want to, but still, this kind of totalitarianism would make Stalin blush.
They have the highest number of McDonald’s per capita in Europe
I only just discovered this. The Swedes give out about how much they love gross things like fermented fish and liquorice and cracker bread, but all the while are discreetly gorging themselves on Big Macs, McFlurrys and Chicken Legends. Not that I blame them. Just be honest about it. It’s totally natural.
In Sweden 89 per cent of people speak English
Yet we have to watch The Bridge and Wallander (though not, admittedly, the Kenneth Branagh one) with subtitles. Which seems a bit pass-agg.
Swedish fashion brands are “cool”
Fake news! Fake news! I spent two hours in Cos at the weekend and everything I tried on made me look like a fat-thighed futuristic jazz nerd with a big head.
More than 100 million copies of Minecraft have been sold worldwide
Minecraft is a computer game for kids that’s basically like Lego. Parents love it because it’s Swedish and “educational”, but have you ever actually played it? No? Well I have. And it gives me no pleasure to reveal that, as part of the game, it is possible to punch a pig — to punch many pigs, in fact — to death. Absolute carnage. Also, you know Candy Crush? Well that’s Swedish too, and it’s so addictive that it should be considered nothing less than a direct assault on our GDP.
The official Twitter account of @sweden is given to a different citizen every week to manage
This just seems really irresponsible.
Stockholm is regularly cited as the best-looking city in the world
As in, everyone is really fit. But just like there’s no litter in Pyongyang, where are the munters in Sweden? It’s a question that nags at you the longer you’re there. Working in labour camps? Manning arctic research stations? Inventing Minecraft? It’s eerie. It’s unnatural.
Parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave
This is how the phenomenon of the “latte pappa” was born, which is to say, those rugged Swedish dads who take months off work to look after their young and spend the day smugly guzzling coffee with each other. Open your eyes, sheeple! Latte pappas are merely a propaganda device designed to make the dads of other nations look lazy, feckless and generally less attractive, sowing marital, and thus social, discord. It’s absolutely fiendish. I’m waiting for Assange to blow the lid off this thing once and for all.
Sweden has the highest number of choirs per capita in the world About 600,000 Swedes regularly take part in choral activities. Which I suppose is fair enough. Can’t hold that against them.
You can pay your tax by text
Speaking as someone who once accidentally arse-texted the “sexy tongue” emoji to his mother-in-law, I find this entire concept chilling.
Latte pappas make the dads of other nations look feckless and less attractive
They are big on lifestyle nouns
The two main ones, as far as I can make out, are fika and lagom. Fika means a coffee break with some cake, lagom means “good enough” or “just right”, and conveys Swedish social ideals of equality and fairness. Hard to find fault with either concept, right? Right? Wrong! For a start, there is something very self-satisfied about inventing a whole new word for “coffee break with some cake”. We have a word for “coffee break with some cake”. Well, technically we have five words for it (“coffee break with some cake”), it’s just that we don’t turn it into a suffocating societal pressure to enjoy everyday simple pleasures with friends, like some kind of wellbeing Taliban.
Secondly, the whole lagom thing doesn’t stand up at all. Do you think that Zlatan Ibrahimovic heard a little voice saying, “Zlatan! Remember! Lagom!” just as he was about to score a 30-yard bicycle kick against England? Do you think Björn from Abba was thinking about lagom when he chose to wear a pair of sparkly silver platform boots in the Waterloo video? No. They were thinking, “This will look cool and make me seem cooler than everybody else.” Having said that, I read that Abba only wore that kind of gear because Swedish law at the time meant you didn’t have to pay tax on stage costumes. But then . . . hang on? I thought Swedes loved paying tax? See what I mean? Scratch the surface and they’re a shifty bunch. All things considered, we should keep an eye on them.