Part of the reason my rather politically conservative dad is actually happy I am living in a socialist wonderland, is, bizarrely, because he thinks Sweden today is like 1950s America – at least the good stuff 1950s America – minus the fun design, giant cars, and sexism.
It is an interesting perspective, especially given a lot of the different cultural baggage. Do you agree?
Obviously the similarities do not include the role of women in families, but instead the attitude towards family – or in his mind the idea that:
Everyone gathers around the dinner table at night, over a home cooked meal. It doesn’t matter who cooked the meal, or that both parents work, but that everyone is home around 5 pm and can relax and enjoy family time together. Also, restaurants are for special occasions, or lunch, not for every single meal.
Children play outside. In our neighborhood you see kids of all ages jumping on bikes (OK, now with helmets) and riding to school by themselves. You see kids in groups stopping strangers and asking to pet their dogs. Kids are dirty and climbing and running without a parent in sight. There is a freedom to childhood that he remembers, that he tried to give us, although already then a bit limited, which has almost disappeared from American childhood today, that he sees kids here enjoy.
Middle management is AOK – Most Swedes my dad has met have a comfortable middle class existence. They have worked hard and they have a good job and are happy. They are not trying to ‘climb their way to the top’ – they have settled in the middle. They do not need to ‘earn their keep’ they are valued employees. The idea that you can have a rewarding career and life and ‘settle’ for middle management seems to have evaporated from the radar for many Americans… especially those in larger cities. As salaries and benefits for middle managers disappear, you have to climb higher and higher just to live a middle class lifestyle.
You can retire at 65 – Many of my Dad’s Swedish friends (yes he has a few, he’s been coming to visit for a long time) have all retired. My parents have not. They could not survive where they live on their pensioners income alone, so they continue to do a bit of work on the side in order to maintain their lifestyle. Yes it is a choice, mostly because they chose to be self-employed, but still, they don’t have the pension to fall back upon that their Swedish friends have.
Can Sweden maintain this 21st century meets 1950s vibe? I find chinks in the armor every day, but I certainly hope so. And I guess I kind of agree with him, and am glad he likes where I live and understands why we chose to live here.