Guest Blog: Scandinavian Differences

Eric: Arriving home yesterday, back to my quintessentially British existence, I’m already noticing some big lifestyle differences.

Where I live is like stepping back in time… even by British standards. It’s the days of cricket on the lawn with ginger ale, perfectly cut triangles of sandwiches ready for high tea, national patriotism, chivalry and a ‘stiff upper lip.’ At least, that’s what I thought…

Suddenly my eyes are a little more open as I walk around my home town.

I start my homecoming at my parents. I need to pick up my house keys, and a little shopping that I left in their fridge. However, as I walk in the sunshine to their address the first thing I notice is the roads. They are awful.

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The tarmac is damaged, there are potholes every where. The pavement is a patchwork of different coloured concrete. Bushes from peoples gardens are hugely overgrown, pushing pedestrians from the safety of the sidewalk and out into the road. Has it always been like this? I guess it has. The cobbled streets of Sweden, and the pristinely finished edges of cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways is a long way from this.

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Maybe, I’m just being a little over eager to find problems. Perhaps everyone does this when they return from a holiday.

I’m still looking left when I cross the road! That could cause a problem… I really have to remind myself which side of the road the cars are approaching me… And pedestrian crossings….

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Pedestrian crossings in Sweden come in two versions.

Version A: Traffic light system. Red/Green man with no beeping sound. Very simple. Stop, wait, green man, cross. Easy.

Version B: Just walk out, the cars have to stop. It’s the law.

What?

Very similar to the pelican or zebra (I’m not sure which is which) except the cars are actually aware of them… and do stop. Unlike the UK, where you get a little wave of apology because the driver ‘didn’t see you.’

The process is the same, but the attitude is different. Along with so many other things, Sweden just seems to get it right. They understand the rules, and abide by them. I’m sure that this is not always the case, but for now it feels to me like the biggest difference.

Government says, “You are not allowed to do that.”

Sweden says, “Ok.”

And doesn’t.

Add to that the amusing “farthinder” signs… and you’ve got a system that works.

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