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Life Lessons We Can Learn From The Swedes

The Swedish are famous for their high standard of living: and there's plenty of life lessons that we should adopt from our Scandi cousins. Think you're cut out for the Swedish way of life?

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1. They take meal times seriously / Via

While you're tucking into your ready meal at your desk, they're dining on such delights as smörgås (open sandwiches), yellow pea soup or oven pancakes.

Eating at your desk is considered a bit weird and employers encourage people to maintain a work / life balance.

2. They've banned stupid names / Via

When a baby is born the parents have to apply to the Tax Agency to register the baby's name. Yes - the Tax Agency. Which might sound weird to you, but the babies that would have otherwise been called Sickboy, Superman, Dotcom and Krank*, had the TA not stepped in, are probably extremely grateful.

*Actual names Swedish parents were banned from giving their kids last year…

3. They know how to take their coffee


Swedes are very fond of fika (a coffee break with fikabröd, small delicious pastries eaten with coffee) which is basically a metaphor for the Swedish way of life. They represent taking time out to enjoy what you actually have in front of you, instead of rushing about.

Though, they're still not a patch on a good cuppa.

4. They relish the weather / Via

Despite Swedish winters being dark and cold, Swedes love their weather. Why? Because the cold winters make the hot summer even more special. Plus, there's something kinda magical about snow.

6. They like paying tax


Swedes typically pay back 60-70% of their wages into taxes* but they're happy to do so because Sweden has some of the best health care, subsidised childcare, prisons and care for the elderly in the world.

What can we learn: instead of demanding low taxes, we should want quality of care.

*First as 'arbetsgivaravgift' from their salaries which is 30% then 25% VAT, plus there's even higher taxes on alcohol.

8. They always take their shoes off before they enter a house

View this video on YouTube

Walk into a Swedish house with your shoes on and they'll look at you like you've kicked a puppy. And if you think about it, it really makes sense - think about all the dirt you step in every day. And before you panic about the state of your feet, polite Swedish hosts have a basket of (clean) slippers by the door for guests.

Swedes take the 'shoes off' rule very seriously - they even made a song about it.

9. They respect their fathers / Via

Sweden has the most generous paternity law in the world, with fathers being encouraged to take two months paternity leave. It's also just as common to see a dad pushing a buggy as it is a mum.

10. They know how to party

Bo Valentin/Flickr/(CC BY-ND http://2.0) / Via Flickr: 81238501@N00

The Swedes love to party and will do so at any excuse. One of their biggest celebrations is Midsummer's Eve - the 'Holy Grail of Swedish holidays', with drinking, dancing, flower garlands, maypoles and general merriment. It's so popular that the government is considering making it an official holiday.

12. Their attitude to queuing / Via

While us Brits have made queuing an art form, Swedes have an altogether more sensible approach - you take a numbered ticket and pootle off until it's your time to be served. No standing too close, evil-eyeing queue jumpers, and far less stress.

13. Their politicians are hilarious

Finansdepartementet Sverige/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: 87193955@N03

Compared to our stuffy, uptight government. Their finance minister Anders Borg has made his ponytail and pirate earring his trademark, and the former party chairman of the Swedish Left Party, Lars Ohly, is a legend.

14. Their prisons are so effective they're having to close them


Swedish prisons have a reputation for being liberal and progressive and with a focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. The only problem with this is they're so good that they're doing themselves out of a business - the prison population dropped so much by December 2013 that several closures were announced.

There's a famous story about a Swedish jailbreak - guards forgot to lock up six inmates who then used their new-found freedom to bake a cake and watch some TV before going to bed.

15. They love being outdoors

Vincent/Flickr/(CC BY http://2.0) / Via Flickr: vonschnauzer

There's even a rule - Allemansrätten – the Right of Public Access – that gives Swedes the right to roam, explore, camp out and pick mushrooms and berries in outdoor areas. As a result, hiking, camping and fishing has become a way of life.

PS. Yes, this picture was taken in Sweden.

17. Their eco-friendly attitude / Via

They have a word 'lagom' which loosely translated means 'just enough'. They try not to take too much without giving back, be respectful of nature and are really into recycling. They have lots of green initiatives, such as paying people for recycling their empty bottles. Which after a heavy night out could see you with a very full purse indeed.

18. Their musical prowess

ABBA/Take A Chance On Me/ 1977 Polar Music International/ / Via

Sweden is the world's most successful exporter of chart music, think ABBA, Roxette, The Cardigans, Lykke Li, Swedish House Mafia, Robyn, Ace of Base and Basshunter.

This is because Swedes are brilliant at nurturing musical talent - from their musical schools, to choirs, to their Government music awards and grants.

Want to see another fine Swedish export?

View this video on YouTube

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