Monday, 7 March 2016

Culture Shock: up close and personal with the Stockholm winter.

It's seven weeks since I came to Stockholm, and I'm starting to get to grips with my feelings about this place - so-called 'Capital of Scandinavia'. Coming from big, bustling, chaotic London, this serene and frozen city has unnerved me on more than one occasion. To us lefty, artsy Londoners, last year's tragic election results combined with long-running salary slumps in the creative sectors, hugely inflated cost of education, and seriously questionable healthcare service, Sweden has often seemed like some kind of Socialist utopia. But there are always tremors in paradise. For a long time, I couldn't put my finger on my feeling of unease. I longed to love the city, paced around with optimism despite sub-zero temperatures; looked with enthusiasm for anything I could get involved in. I wanted to feel happy; but something wasn't quite right. It took me a while to realise that I was suffering from culture shock.

The streets are wide, clean and functional. They aren't full of cracks or covered in litter. It snows, it freezes, and grit is applied liberally so no one slips. But where are all the people?

Caf├ęs are bustling. Coffee is strong, black, and comes with free refills. The buildings are insulated well; no shivering indoors, and the heating's always switched on. But my friendly smalltalks, to strangers and servers, are met with complete rebuff.

Everything works, but where is the sense of gratitude? Everyone is beautiful - the people are healthy - but why aren't they happy?

The winter is long, and it's cold, and I am assured by so many people that things will change when the sun comes out. The best thing about Sweden is the quiet, the calm. The city is special for its close relationship with, and access to nature. I live by a forest, with lakes and sea. This, then, is how I spend my winter: wandering. Quietly.

Photos are snapshots taken on a few walks in the woods by my flat here in Stockholm.

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