Friday, February 6, 2009

Welfare pornography - Sweden

One of the more annoying things that you have to put up with as a Swede living here in Tokyo is the misconception of Sweden as the paradise on earth that most Japanese people seem to have.

Obviously the Japanese media is more than happy to help promote this image and I would go as far as to call it “welfare pornography” featuring Sweden . It is not unusual to see in tv shows here in Japan showing how wonderful and great Sweden is with happy elderly people smiling in the nice elderly homes, how great the schools are and how education, including university and healthcare is completely free. In some of the shows, they actually do mention that it’s not completely free since it is all paid for through taxes. However, they usually emphasize how happy everyone is to pay these high taxes since everything is free anyway.
Now, as you might understand, I don’t agree with this image and have to fight it on a regular basis trying to explain that most Swedish people are sick to death of paying huge taxes and then have to apply back to the government for grants for housing, children and most things you can imagine to make ends meet. Not to mention that Sweden has a fair share of horrible elderly homes (I particularly remember one case where some senile elderly were found to have maggots in their bedsores) and schools that provide less than ideal level of education.

For my recent birthday, I received a photo book from my brother with pictures of some of the most horrible and desolate places you can find in Sweden which I gladly showed to Ms. Sunshine who after spending a few minutes flipping through the book looked at me with a frown and said “You know, you’re not really selling in the concept of your home country in to me here”. That said, I actually do like Sweden , but it’s no more the paradise on earth than Japan is and I will continue my efforts to a fair and balanced view of Sweden here!


tippikyu said...

Oh please do post more about Sweden. I wonder how many of your readers already live in Japan or have at one point lived in Japan. Perhaps some straight talk about Sweden would be refreshing. I know I am definitely interested. I have looked into going to graduate school there (it's free! or wait, do I have to pay high taxes too??) and would really like to know more about Sweden. I really enjoyed this post and hope you post more.

William said...

It always amazes me how people everywhere think that somewhere else is some kind of paradise. Every place I've lived, I've heard people say 'I'm leaving this dump and going to X'... X isn't any better. It'll be different, but not better.

In fact, where they live isn't really bad at all. I think humans must have some kind of built-in wanderlust. It would definitely help keep the species alive, as it would spread DNA around.

There are always exceptions to this, of course. I've never felt the need to live anywhere else. The only reason I've ever moved were for job reasons. (ie: Got one somewhere else, lost one and moving back, etc.) I would consider moving to Japan to learn the language, though. And get a job there. Heh.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Hey there guys/gals! I'm happy that you appreciated the post, but I must say that I won't post that often about Sweden, but I'm sure Tippikyu can find better info on Sweden on other sites.

Generally I agree with you William, paradise is hard to find and if your expectations are set reasonable you are much less likely to get dissapointed!

Taarne said...

Accurate, and most certainly truthful, representation of how the Finnish view Sweden and it's people.

I better run now, I'm running late drinking up the pay, beating the wife and kids and burning the sauna. Everybody, Finland kicks ass!

Mr. Salaryman said...

Wow, if that video wasn't such an accurate portrayal of how Swedish people actually are I might be upset!

Taarne said...

Apologies if my humour was over the top, it wasn't meant to offend, but rather poke fun at the stereotypical finnish rivalry with the Swedes, which manifests itself in..well, videos like that. We seem to be both jealous of the perceived greener grass across border, and even more curiously, I think we as a nation are still bitter of being a part of Sweden for centuries. Even though it's now been exactly two hundred years since.

..Meanwhile, the last paragraph of the my post described quite accurately lyrics from an extremely popular Finnish popsong, which is quite rightly critical of our mentality as a nation. We're introvert to the extreme, drown our sorrows in booze every friday and seeminly every day in between, and act like complete asses while doing so. (Though apparently I've evolved, I can act like a complete ass without booze, just being on the internet! Wow!)

My point in all this? If Sweden isn't exactly paradise on Earth, I can personally attest to that neither is Finland. By a long shot.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Haha, Taarne, no, I'm not offended at all, no worries.

I was just amazed how close to reality that finnish video actually was! After spending almost 10 years away from der Heimat, I can now see clearly and it's just like in the video!

bathmate said...

This is wonderful posting. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

200 years?! That's almost as long as the USA has been around!

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