Minister of Trade Ewa Björling, policy advisor, author and researcher Simon Anholt and acting Director-General of the Swedish Institute Thomas Carlhed.
We (Per and Rikard) are writing from Gotland, the Swedish equivalent of Hawaii, or some such holiday retreat. Our journey began with a delayed flight at one of the smallest airports in the world, or at least Bromma felt like one of the smallest airports in the world after a couple of hours wait with nothing but a free cup of joe to entertain us. But things quickly turned to the better when we landed in Visby, took a cab to the hotel and set up the camera and microphones. Once the gear was in place we went out in the sun and had a bite to eat. Visby is buzzing right now, during Almedalen Week (in literal English translation: The Elm Valley Week).
Almedalen is a park in Visby, which serves as the hub of the Almedalen Week. It’s a bit crazy, to say the least, what with lobbyists and politicians, rights groups and unions all trying to make their voice heard. Visby is thick with speeches, seminars and other political activities. It’s a lobbyist wet dream. And why are we here? We’re recordning and observing a seminar and panel discussion on “The Image of Sweden Abroad”.
We’re learning that Sweden, like most countries, are trying to change the way people perceive their country, and that it is an uphill battle. We’re Sweden, no matter what we do. If you think that means gorgeous blondes and peace, well, that’s who we are. And if you confuse us with Switzerland, I guess in your mind we’re making watches and knives. Some might think we’re good at csr and the environment, while others believe we’re depressed and arrogant. Nothing doing…or is there? We feel at least we have to try, as we don’t see ourselves as homogenous and blond, suicidal or particularly arrogant.
We’re contemplating that question right now while we’re sitting in gorgeous Visby, working. We’re soon off to interview some people on the streets, to find out what they think about Swedish politics, about equality and the Swedish model. And by showing Sweden to those with an interest, perhaps we actually will manage to steer a few people away from the stereotypical views of Swedes. Time will tell.
/Per and Rikard