Someone asked me the other day how living in Sweden compared to living in London. Well, it doesn’t. Hence the title.
I guess my life here brought out a part of my personality that I thought might exist, but wasn’t entirely sure about. Tending to fruit trees and preserving pears has not really been on the spectrum of possibilities in Kensington, to be fair. The same goes for running a yoga studio: cost of childcare would have proved too much of an investment into a business which requires a lot of time and dedication, but doesn’t necessarily ever produce the revenue to bring those cost back in.
However, with Scandimania still being a big thing your side of the pond (google analytics tells me only one percent of my readers are based in Sweden, but 60% are based in the UK), I’ll give drawing comparisons a go.
Take driving, for example. The entire population of Sweden (9.903m) is about the same as the population of Greater London (8.788m). At the same time, Sweden is almost twice the size of the UK! You would think that with that much space on offer, driving must be plain sailing. Yet, Swedes are among the worst drivers I have ever come across: no apparent knowledge of ‘right of way’ rules, no idea where their indicators are and an amazingly profound hatred for traffic signs perched on traffic islands. I don’t know how, but the Swedes manage to run them over even though the single lanes surrounding them would easily pass as Heathrow’s third runway. Maybe this is a secret sport they all engage in, and I am just missing out? Someone enlighten me, please.
Next one up: national health care. Just like in the UK, my contribution to the national health care system is taken off my income. In the UK, this came up to 12% in national insurance contributions. Here in Sweden, the government keeps 31.2% of my income. At the same time, I need to contribute out of my own pocket if I visit a doctor, and prescription medication needs to be paid in full (unless your yearly medication cost amounts to more than SEK1,800). Which means that today, after I saw the local GP and went to the pharmacy to get my prescription medication, I came home about 50 quit lighter. Heja Sverige. Not.
Last one on the list for today: bathrooms. You know how they make fun about British bathrooms, their flowery wallpapers, their carpeted floors and their hot & cold taps? Despite the Swedes’ alleged great eye for design, bathrooms mostly range from functional-yet-a-little-clinical to pretty grim. Toilet seats are in 99% of all cases made from the cheapest plastic imaginable (word of warning: don’t try sitting on a closed one!), pipes are always on top of the walls instead of in the walls (and believe me, they were not aiming for an industrial look here), shower trays or doors are unheard of (think slightly slated linoleum floor with a massive drain in the middle) and tiles always go up to the ceiling. I mean, WHY?! Do you plan to slaughter someone in there? What do you expect to happen in your bathroom? An elephant taking a shower? Diarrhea explosions?