Crossing over to Sweden
Hello from the South of Sweden! I am back in country number 6 of my trip, just making a quick excursion from Copenhagen. My previous stay in Sweden only included the part North of Stockholm, while about half the Swedish population lives South of the country`s capital. I am happy to use that as an excuse to pay a second visit to my favourite country in Europe. Question of the day: how are Northern and Southern Sweden different from each other. Answer: quite.
Before a few weeks ago, I had not realised that Sweden is the second biggest country of the EU, with only France being larger. Getting from the very Southern tip of Sweden to the Northern border with Norway and Finland could easily take 20 hours by car. Only very few Southerners ever make it that far North. Although the South cheers along during Mid Summer or Santa Lucia (feast of the light), only a handful of them have seen the mid-summer sun with their own eyes. The same for the Northern lights.
`I see the `Free Sk?ne` movement as a bit of a joke`
The South of Sweden is more populated and more cosmopolitan than the North of the country. It has closer connections to the rest of Europe, with the Danish capital Copenhagen only lying 30 minutes away from Sweden`s third biggest city Malm?. Many of Malm?`s inhabitants make daily border crossings to Denmark. Salaries in Copenhagen are similar to the ones in Sweden when expressed in Crowns, but the Danish crown is worth 25% more than its Swedish equivalent. In the opposite direction, immigrants who fail to qualify for residency permits in Denmark often end up in Malm?. Tomas (33) tells me that 51% of Malm?`s population has at least one parent who was not born in Sweden: `That used to be a source of irritation, but I guess the city is quite proud of it now. Malm? promotes itself as an international crossroad, which it effectively is. It has an open atmosphere and it`s well-connected. Even Sweden`s biggest and second biggest cities, Stockholm and Gothenburg are only a few hours away by high speed train.`
Travelling in the North is a bit more complicated. Distances are long and people may well opt for domestic flights to save themselves from taking night trains or spending long hours behind the steering wheel. Tobias (29) thinks that Northerners have different perception of time and space. He tells me how he once welcomed a group of friends from the North to his place in Stockholm. `We missed the train and had to wait for 15 minutes. I found that quite annoying, while they thought 15 minutes was nothing. In much the same way, travelling for one hour is nothing and anybody living 100 kilometers away is almost considered to be a neighbour.`
`Northerners are less rigid when it comes to time. I don`t think they are lazy, and I don`t think they work less. But they are more patient and more relaxed than we Southerners are. It`s quite common for people from the South to start suffering from Lappsjuket, Lapland disease, when they spend to much time in the North. They simply can`t get used to living in a place where their senses are not stimulated, where there is no stress, no noise and no need to hurry.`
Seen from the South
While the Northern regions are influenced mostly by Finland and Norway, Malm? and the surrounding region Sk?ne has more of a Danish touch to it. That can hardly be a surprise, knowing that the province used to belong to Denmark during different times in history. Anna (25, photo) tells me about some people who wish to `free` the province from the rest of Sweden. `I see the whole Free Sk?ne ideal more like a sort of joke`, she says. `I don`t think many people are very fanatic about it, it just gives them something to talk and joke about. I do think the North and South of Sweden are like two worlds apart. Accents are distinctly different, especially along the Northernmost borders with Norway and Finland. Sport preferences are different. People in the North play Bandi, a variant of hockey, which is not common in the South. The weather is also different, especially in winter. We rarely get snow in this corner of Sweden.
Anne thinks that few Swedes from the South feel urged to travel to the North. ` I was once in a place called `Bengtsfors` in the Norrland province. I guess it`s the furthest North in Sweden that I have ever been. It`s quite uncommon for people never to have travelled to Stockholm, but anything further than that requires a defined reason: family members, holidays or studies. The other way around is more common: for people to travel from North to South. The South has more universities, more industries, more jobs and altogether, a lot more going on.`
Daniel (25) thinks that university studies are a perfect excuse for Swedes to migrate across the country. `Many of them want to get away from the place where they grew up. They want to see something new and live on their own, away from their parents. Depending on your parents is not very well-perceived in Sweden. People move out at young age, they like to earn their own money and to make their own choices. During these migrations, many young people from the South at least temporarily settle down in Nothern cities even. It also depends simply on where they get admitted to university.`
Daniel thinks that the wonderful nature in the North should be another magnet to people from the South. `There is so much space there, so many beautiful landscapes. It`s good for skiing in winter or for relaxing in summer. The competition from Europe is big and many people seem to be more eager to explore other countries before getting to know their own. Apart from that, travelling from Malm? to Spain is oftentimes cheaper than simply getting to the other side of Sweden. In winter, there`s also the problem of the North of Sweden being quite dark, which has some practical disadvantages when you want to do downhill skiing.`
Johan (29), whose furthest North excursion led him to `?ver Kalix`, agrees that Swedish ski fanatics from the South will travel to the Alps or somewhere to the middle of Sweden. The popular Riksgr?nsen area is more suitable from people who already live in the North.`
Johannes (29) once got as far as Ume? when his father had to drive a truck full of ice creams to the North of Sweden.
Teo (28) once went skiing in `Idre`, located in Central Sweden at about 300 kilometers North of Stockholm. Per (28) has not been further north than Upssala, while Klas (28) only made it until Ludvika. Klas thinks that people from the North are usually more quiet, while he adds that `Notherners probably eat less salad and more reindeer. I also think that they are more likely to support the socialist party. Unlike Sk?ne, Malm? does that as well, because we are originally a labour-oriented town. The flashy image is only something from recent years.`
Cities vs. countryside
Contrary to other European countries, Sweden does not have substantial differences in education and welfare levels when comparing urban and rural areas, or when comparing North and South. Jobs are more readily available in the capital and the Southern cities. Many young professionals are eager to head South, where they simply find more opportunities to make their ambitions come true. Moving back to the countryside is part of another stage of life: such ideas usually emerge when young professionals turn into young parents.
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