Tag archives for equality

Living the Swedish Lifestyle

The typical Swedish lifestyle encompasses many things; there is a great desire to be in nature, to be active and moving, to be healthy and happy, to have an open mind, to strive for equality and to experience old traditions to the fullest. To truly get the Swedish experience while you’re here you have to jump into the Swedish lifestyle.

Be Active

There is no doubt that Swedes love to be active. Whether it is outdoors or indoors, you can find Swedes working out hard all year long. Staying active through playing on sports teams, hiking outdoors, or going to the gym is an important part of Swedish society. Being active is supported through education and work; there are sport holidays at school and even financial contributions to the cost of working out from employers.

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Why can’t we all be born this way?

Shuffling through my iPod again, I am reminded that no entertainer in the history of music had as much flair, was as much of a divo, as the late Wladziu Valentino Liberace, better known throughout the world – or at least a fair part of the world – simply as Liberace.

Liberace was a singer and TV personality, of course, one whose sexuality was –and will probably forever be – more ambiguous than the exact recipe of Nutella.

True: Liberace may have hid his sexuality for fear of a backlash.

Also true: Unlike Liberace’s native United States, gay rights are universally accepted by the Swedish government and most of society, and are vigorously defended.

While people have the right to express their own views, human rights are taken very seriously in Sweden. Photo: Ben Mack

Such a subject can be very controversial in different parts of the world – from countries where the death penalty is mandatory for those who engage in homosexual behavior to those where gay marriage is legal – but in Sweden the controversy is largely a thing of the past.

Though some people may not agree with such equality, it’s a fact of life students should be aware about before coming to study.

That being said, many individuals have called gay rights the most important civil rights issue of our time. While there are many different ways to measure it, it’s clear that some countries are ahead of others on the issue. And here, people should focus their odium* on something else, though it’s best if they don’t have any.

*Odium (oh-dee-uh m): intense hatred or dislike, especially toward a person or thing regarded as contemptible, despicable, or repugnant.

I’m not saying don’t come to Sweden if you disagree with such equality. Just be aware that it’s the cultural norm, and that affronts to equality are taken VERY seriously. You have the right to express your views, but it’s not O.K. to infringe upon the rights of others.

And if you’re part of a group that’s been historically victimized, let me say this: welcome to paradise. I promise your beliefs and lifestyle choices will be protected, and you will be valued and respected as a human being no matter what.

Personally, I think such equality is beyond refreshing. Life is stressful enough as it is: no one should have to live in fear just because of who they are. I applaud the Swedish government and the Swedish people for being so committed to human rights, and as a student you’ll get to see the result of those rights exhibited first-hand in a dynamic, multicultural setting.

Though people may sometimes protest governmental policies, Sweden consistently ranks among the most tolerant societies on earth. Photo: Ben Mack

In sum: Swedes are among the most modern, tolerant people on earth, with minority rights seen as extremely important. LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) students are highly unlikely to encounter offensive behavior or other problems during their stay.

As Lady Gaga might say, why can’t we all be born this way?

Of men, women, and the fine art of the student barbecue

O.K., if everybody could just take a seat. Feel free to pour your own coffee. Milk and sugar’s just over there. I also have some buns if anyone wants some. No? O.K., let’s get started.

During the Swedish summer, barbecues become almost as common as fikas. Photo: Anne Balonier

Now, you know me – Ben Mack, broke college student studying in Sweden, just like all of you. I called y’all here today ‘cuz ever since that last barbecue on campus, my life has been about as much fun as shaving with No. 2 sandpaper.

People whistling at me as I walk by. Feminine hygiene products in my cupboard in the kitchen. That wise guy who wrote his number on the door to my flat. Yeah, I’m not gonna call you, buddy.

But it’s all just so damn amusing I could bust.

So what if I don’t know how to barbecue? I’m not ashamed! Stop laughing, you damn hyenas! You ever try barbecuing in Boise? You’d burn the whole city down! So don’t blame me if the weather here in Sweden’s cool enough so you can actually cook outdoors!

Barbecues are a great way to spend time with friends and meet new people. Photo: Anne Balonier

The point is, you guys gotta stop mocking me! I can’t live like this! And whichever of you jerks changed the name on my shelf in the refrigerator to BENJAMINA – I will hunt you down!

You do damn too know what I mean: you idiots askin’ if I’ve had my Midol today. This is the 21st century. Let’s grow up.

O.K., so I let a girl start the fire and barbecue the sausages. At least I was able to admit I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, unlike the rest of you who conveniently found other things to do.

Hell, the rest of you were taking pictures of the Swedish sunset, which looked exactly the same as every other sunset during the other 364 days of the year.  That’s pretty convenient! Or running off into the woods for a 15-minute “bathroom break.” If it really is taking you that long, maybe you should call a doctor.

Observing how to properly barbecue. Photo: Anne Balonier

You jokers have no idea how hard it is barbecuing. First you have to buy everything you need, including an overly large bag of charcoal that weighs half as much as you do. Then you have to fight the hordes of other people all over campus trying to get the same spot as you. Then you have to pour on the lighter fluid and ignite the charcoal without singing your eyebrows off. And lastly, you still have to make sure the meat is cooked all the way through and clean up after yourself.

Yeah, I grew up on a farm. And yeah, I come from the U.S. You think that automatically makes me the Grand Master of Grilling? Well, it doesn’t.

Barbecues are also fantastic ways to create lasting memories. Photo: Thomas Joly

I can admit I’ve never barbecued before. Why would I have? There’s no place to grill in Boise, and growing up in Oregon my Dad would’ve murdered me if I went anywhere near an open flame. Heck, he still barely trusts me enough to drive myself around town despite my perfect driving record.

Hey, it’s not that funny! I mean, students barbecue like every day during spring and summer here. If I don’t learn fast, this could be a real problem.

While usually not advised, playing with fire can sometimes be fun! Photo: Anne Balonier

At least I want to learn. Hey, if I figured out how to do a proper fika, I think I can make it through this.

I’m telling you, boys and girls, you know damn well how much Swedes like to barbecue. There’s a fire pit like every three meters on campus here. Seriously, the area around Lake Trummen is the most happenin’ place in all of Växjö. It’s like a zoo out there!  

And I’m not the first guy a gal has barbecued for. Why just yesterday half the people I saw barbecuing were girls. There’s your famous Swedish equality for you. You all have been here long enough to know that. This country was one of the first to have equal rights, and also one of the first to have men and women serve together in the military. And of course y’all know that, tell your date you’re going to pay for her, and you’re just asking for trouble.

So why do all of you keep holding doors open for me and saying “Ladies first?”

When learning to barbecue, you need to start small. Photo: Anne Balonier

Not only that, but I looked up the laws of barbecuing. Doesn’t say anything about having to have chest hair in order to be qualified. So you just keep laughing, you monkeys, but some day some filly’s gonna come along and do something you can’t do.

Well, shoot – if you guys are just going to keep rolling around on the floor laughin’ and peltin’ me with pink tees, this meeting is done. I’m spending the rest of the day swimming. Yeah, it’s not very social, but at least no one will be asking if it’s that time of the month every time I miss a shot if I were playin’ basketball. And no one is going to question my manliness when it’s less than 20 degrees outside.

What? You already saw some people out sunbathing? Well, it is Sweden.

Funny you’re not out there.

The beauty of the Swedish sunset is unmatched. Photo: Ben Mack