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Sweden seen from abroad: Modern and progressive - or just extreme?

Published onsdag 16 december 2015 kl 16.22
"In many areas, we have extreme values"
(7:25 min)
Reporters Jörgen Huitfeldt and Magnus Thorén (and his son). Photo: Alexander Donka/Sveriges Radio
Reporters Jörgen Huitfeldt and Magnus Thorén (and his son). Photo: Alexander Donka/Sveriges Radio

A new radio documentary called Föregångslandet (the Frontrunner Country) explores Sweden's self-image - and how people abroad see it. The rhetorical question is "are people in other countries as impressed by us as we are?"

The reporters Jörgen Huitfeldt and Magnus Thorén travel to other countries to get an outside view of some Swedish core values. They have chosen to focus the series on child rearing, family life and openness in terms of generous migration policies.

"Swedes in general are very proud of their country and of how developed it is. You know: the welfare state, equality between men and women and how children are raised here, we consider ourselves progressive and modern," said Jörgen Huitfeldt.

In the series, they meet a house wife in Holland, who thinks the Swedish family life is a ticket to exhaustion and burn-out and a poet in Norway who puts Sweden's (up until recently) generous migration policies down to a sense of guilt for not standing up to Hitler during the second world war.

They also meet up with the Italian father who was sentenced by a Swedish court a few years ago after witnesses saw him smack his 12-year-old son on a street in Stockholm. To him, children in Sweden have too much power and responsibility, making them more insecure than their Italian peers.

The starting point for the series is the two reporters, who take their Swedish-ness with them on the journey, curiously investigating what other people think of the lives lived here. Magnus Thorén was particularly struck by the reaction from Sandra, the Dutch housewife. She was very unimpressed by the example set by many Swedish families, where both parents work full-time and profess to sharing the household work equally.

"It is not a question of whether the wife should stay at home and the husband should go to work and provide for the family. It is more about: do we have to work this much? Do we have to do all these things? A lot of Swedes are really stressed, you can see that in surveys, we are a very stressed people. Maybe that is more the question. Not to go back to how the society was in the 1950," says Magnus Thorén.

Do you want to share your thoughts and experiences on what sets Sweden apart from other countries? What do you think of the image that Swedes have of themselves and their country?

Join the debate by using the hash-tag #föregångslandet in social media or do an internet search for Föregångslandet i P1 to find out more.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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