Dinner With a Swedish Family

Last night we had dinner in the home of a Swedish couple named Elin and Andreas. We took a taxi far out into the suburbs, (the driver didn’t know how to get there) and as the meter ticked and ticked, we finally popped out of the cab $44 lighter but ready to meet our hosts. When I go on press trips I usually request the tourism board set up visits and dinners with interesting people so we can interview them and get a real feel for the place.

Andreas works for an ad agency specializing in Internet. Bingo! And Elin is an architect, she designs schools and houses–they both work 3/4 time so they can raise their two young kids. It didn’t take us long to feel welcome at their home and over noodles and wine we began our questioning about what life is like here. They told us that it’s very diffucult to fire somone as an employer, you usually have to put up with them for two months after you fire them. And though the health insurance is free, some companies pay for private insurance policies since there are long waiting lists for all but the essential surgeries, so if you want your workers back, you have to get them into private hospitals.

Andreas showed us his 3G phone, and quickly brought up web pages that he likes to read on the tiny screen. It reflected what I’ve been thinking about for a while, that the phone is the place where more and more people will access the ‘Net. He scrolled down articles, viewed little photos, and could do just about everything we do on laptops. Note to self: begin formatting GoNOMAD articles to fit on mobile screens! (Our site comes up on the phone but is not easy to navigate)

In the couple’s cozy apartment, candles burned on the table, and they talked about how nice the summers are here, how beautiful it is in the countryside. Though our guidebook told us there would only be three hours of light in December, we saw that it got light at 9 am and dark about 3:45pm. Thanks for the lousy info Rough Guides! The couple is planning a trip to the Canary Islands in February to escape from the long winter. They each get five weeks of yearly vacation.

They talked about when Prime Minister Olaf Palme was assassinated in 1986 on the streets of Stockholm, how everything changed here–security was suddenly a big deal, and the casualness was gone. When foreign minister Anna Linde was shot, it got even tighter. They said the military service that was once compulsary is no longer, and that most of the nation’s military bases have been closed–there is no longer any threats to their country.