Thursday, 29 July 2021 13:08

OPINION: Notes from Scandinavia

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I’m back from Sweden. It was a great trip. I learned quite a bit and look forward to going back to learn more. 

The first lesson I learned is that magnesium gel caps explode under pressure. They cover everything in a white pasty substance that’s hard to get out of fabrics. Also, an overdose of magnesium causes dogs to have horrific diarrhea. Don’t put magnesium gel caps in your checked bags, but if you do, don’t let dogs into your room. 

That country and culture is really old. The island on which my daughter’s family lives has a Viking grave circa 800 CE. In other words, the culture has evolved over millennia, which makes the United States seem really young. 

The country, or at least the archipelago, was more racially and ethnically diverse than I expected. While still dominated by fair-skinned people of Nordic descent, I saw a fair number of Africans and dark-skinned, dark-haired people who seemed to blend in fairly well. I suspect as the non-native population increases, they will have some struggles with assimilation in the future. 


Swedes are very bad socialists. Small businesses abound, as do multinational corporations. Judging from the houses on some of the islands in the archipelago, there are a lot of really rich people in that country. However, there are also very few poor ones. It’s a remarkably middle-class country, thanks to its generous social safety net. 

The country is also clean. There’s little debris in the streets, along roadsides, or on sidewalks. Public restrooms are even clean. My Swedish son-in-law says it’s because they pay for cleanliness. That whole adopt-a-highway program may be good PR, but it’s been an utter failure here. 

Swedes follow the rules. If the speed limit is 50 kilometers per hour, almost every Swede is traveling at 50 kilometers per hour, not slower, not faster. Getting a driver’s license is a big ordeal and if you don’t obey the traffic laws, they just take your license. Of course, I’m a testament that you can get around easily by bus, ferry, or train so public transportation makes that more feasible than here.  

No fishing license is required for fishing with a rod and reel. The perch there look just like the ones here. Much of the shoreline is public and the Nordic countries have laws that allow anyone to go anywhere, even camp on private property for 24 hours. The Right to Roam allows anyone to cross private property to access public property. There aren’t “No Trespassing” signs in Sweden. 

The Swedes have a pastry called a mazerine that Americans bakeries should adopt. They are oval-shaped almond tarts topped with a cream glazed frosting. I would eat one every day if I could. 

The most impressive example of historic preservation is a ship in Stockholm call the Vasa. The ship sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 due to a design flaw. She sat 90 feet down on the sea floor until 1961 when Swedish explorers raised her and floated her back into the harbor virtually intact. The whole story is truly amazing. 

The Weather Channel needs to work on its app. The whole time I was in Sweden, I got notices every time Carrboro got a shower. Now that I’m finally home, I woke up to an alert that it’s raining in Stockholm.

Finally, Rudolf is a myth. The only reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are female. There’s no way a male reindeer could lift of the ground with racks that size. Hell, they can barely raise their heads under the weight. They are impressive. 


So, leave the gel caps behind and keep the dog away from them. If you want to see something in Sweden, private property is certainly not going to stop you. Follow the rules in Sweden or you will get some really nasty looks. And if you go, check out the Vasa. 

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of Before beginning PoliticsNC, Mills spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant.