What comes to mind when I mention Sweden?
Perhaps a land of tall blonde blue-eyed individuals, reindeer, Vikings, meatballs, smörgåsbords, snow, pitch-black winters and political neutrality? As a consequence of the media with which we are constantly bombarded, these are the stereotypical ideas which we all too often use to essentialise Sweden.
‘Essentialising‘ Sweden places the country into a neat collection of components that can be categorised, compiled into a list and ticked off. It disregards true Swedish culture in favour of a more idealistic Sweden that will sell more tickets and occupy more hotel rooms.
- Consider Visit Sweden, a website by Sweden’s national tourism organisation, and its systematic layout and overstatements . It’s no wonder we have such misconceptions about the place when tourism literature contains phrases such as ‘Every breathing Swede [eats cinnamon buns]‘, and ‘Sweden is also home to 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, maybe you should tick off a few while you are here‘.
- Another example is the Google Images result for ‘Swedish people‘, where I struggle to find even a single picture of Swedish Saami person in amongst the sea of scantily clad women, and blue and yellow sports fans.
Sweden’s culture goes much deeper than the typical tourist might imagine, with the Saami culture being just one of many other fundamental characteristics that have moulded Sweden into the country that it is today.
To be a smart traveller and to really profit from travelling is to look beyond the pamphlets and guidebooks and find the hidden treasures Lonely Planet or Frommers neglect to mention. In doing so you can look past a picture-frame Sweden and discover its richness for yourself.