Lately, there's been a lot of negative attention to Sweden in the media. Apparently, we live in a country where things have gone badly wrong and people aren't safe in their beds at night. Where did these people get that idea? Through the Looking Glass?
Since I live in Sweden, I thought I'd give you my impressions.
I live in the countryside and it's true that the urban areas don't spend a lot of money on us out here. When I go into town, by bus, to do the shopping or whatever, I see abandoned buildings. It's getting a bit like what I've seen in photos from America - empty plains where a few major agricultural producers own all the land and grows crops there. People don't feel it's worth paying to renovate their buildings. Unfortunately, that also means that there are fewer buses going and it's getting harder to get by without a car. As for criminality, there are burglaries sometimes, about as many as I remember from before the refugee situation. Nothing more. I feel perfectly safe living out here with my children.
I've also been to the capital (Stockholm) and the two largest cities after Stockholm (namely Gothenburg and Malmö). Whenever I've been there it's felt safe and ordinary. That is, I've been to the city centers during the day. I have read in the newspapers that certain suburbs are less safe, during the evening and night, but to be honest, I've read that for a very long time, long before the refugees started coming.
There's a shopping mall in Gothenburg that we tend to pass through on your way from the railway station to any shops or other places you need to go, or at least we used to. My sister went there hoping to get us something to eat when we'd arrived very early after trip abroad. That place doesn't look safe, but really, it's never been safe, as far as I can remember. When I was a kid, you feared Swedish gangs, not foreigners. Nothing has changed. It's still creepy and we avoid it now, even during the day.
For far too many years my sister and I were stuck in a vile dump of a town. It's bigger than where we live now, and to be honest, there's more culture in the old place. But people were really horrible, and by people I mean Swedish people. That area has been known for its ugly, rude, unpleasant and unreliable inhabitants since medieval times. That's right. In ancient Icelandic documents you can read about the people living in that area and they've always been the same. Then in the last year or so before we finally, far too late, moved away from that dump, you began to notice more foreign people. And by notice, I mean in a positive way.
In the past, I've had people glaring at me and my family. Laughing rudely. Slandering us. Trying to get rid of us. The only reason for that I can imagine is that we're different. Anyway, when the newcomers arrived things started to get a lot nicer. They started talking to me and my family. Helping us with our shopping. Asking us about buses.
Even a few years before so many people arrived, there was this one incident I won't forget. We were on our way back from a shopping trip to the next town. In a roundabout, a little animal, weasel maybe, ran out. Our bus driver was an upper middle aged man looking like maybe he came from the Middle East. I prepared to close my eyes and ignore what was going to happen to that poor little animal. To my astonishment, this older man swerved and avoided it completely. Even a Swedish man would have been unlikely to avoid crushing a small animal, yet this man who didn't in any way look particularly sensitive did that.
Apart from this incident we've been treated very nicely by bus drivers, ticket sellers etc, most of them seemingly born somewhere other than Sweden.
Now that we live in the countryside and need to go by bus every time we go into town, we've had some trouble lifting the huge twin baby carriage (and now buggy) onto the bus, even though my sister is very strong. Fortunately, people have been so nice and kind, both the original locals and new arrivals. For instance, a barber from Syria jumped up along with a friend and helped lift the carriage onto the bus. Afterwards he sat chatting amiably with us, even when he realized I was single. Unlike in all the stories about sexual harassment etc, no one's tried to pick me up or stared or commented rudely about me with my babies. To be honest, everyone is a lot nicer here than in the old place.
So, to sum all this up: I've never met any new arrivals who have been aggressive or threatening. Most of them are very polite and nice. It's meant a lot to me to be treated just like anybody else, to have people listen to me and smile at me. That hardly ever happened before we moved and never before those immigrants started arriving.
Reading all this negativity about Sweden both surprises and upsets me. As far as I know, there's absolutely no truth in any of it. Of course, it's very clear that the people behind all this desinformation have a hidden or not so hidden agenda. They want to undermine our society so they can take over. It may mean that my family and I will have to move abroad, to somewhere safer, if there's anywhere like that. And that has absolutely nothing to do with all these newcomers.