Land of the Vikings... and my Heart

my first trip to sweden was in october of 1997, and i stayed there for 3 weeks. this is how i looked and felt the entire time:

why do i love sweden? let me count the ways... first, the swedes have an amazing desire and capacity for wild and spontaneous fun. whether it's disco bowling or dancing or road-trips, it's never a dull moment in the land of the vikings. to the right is a photo of me and my swedish friend sofia, ready for a night on the town.

and who could say anything bad about a country where everyone knows all the words to every abba song? not me.

and communication is never a problem... since most television and movies are in english (without subtitles, mind you), swedish people are often fluent in english, and are more than happy to speak english with you. i would love to someday learn swedish (and i intend to), but until then, i feel absolutely spoiled in a country like sweden where people can speak my language so comfortably (and without accents, might i add). i swear these people are geniuses.

but sweden is cold, you say.
well, the swedes prefer to deal with that minor obstacle by pretending it's summer all year round and indulging in ice cream in sub-degree temperatures. it may sound crazy, but with enough haagen daaz and absolut vodka in you, you can convince yourself happily of almost anything. life is just one long warm fuzzy experience in sweden. and if the vodka won't get you tipsy, the sugar highs will. in sweden, people of all ages eat haribo candy ALL DAY LONG. it's mind-boggling. the swedes never outgrow their sweet-teeth, and have realized--long before any other developed country--that "life is uncertain; eat desert first."

and let's not forget sweden's remarkable political system, which surpassess that of any other developed nation on the planet. scandinavia's social democracy provides a tangible example that there are positive alternatives to american corporate domination. sweden is a thriving country that both participates is capitalism and maintains extenisive programs of welfare, free health-care, and free education. poverty rates and child-mortality rates in sweden are remarkably low, thanks to a government safety net, which ensures that the whole country (and not just a minority few) can reap the benefits of economic boom.

this summer, i found a lovely fellow named doug and hitch-hiked around sweden. in scandinavia, you can camp anywhere you want, as long as you are 50 meters from the nearest private building. we camped in parks, in front of churches, and on islands. we met lots of crazy swedes and had an all around bizarre experience. it reminded me that sweden IS in fact the greatest place on earth (as if there was ever any doubt).

all things considered, sweden is a surprisingly humble country. the swedes maintain a strong sense of culture and tradition without feeling the need to be patriotic. they love their country (who wouldn't?), but they also have an insatiable desire to learn about other countries and peoples. if you tell a sweden his or her country is particularly great, he or she will laugh and tell you that is silly. they have never known anything but the open, friendly, fun lifestyle of sweden, and they can't imagine it being any different anywhere else.

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