Everything you always wanted to know about Sweden but were afraid to ask, told by one Swede and one Irelander, and a handful of guests. Starring Kattis Ahlström and Philip O’Connor. Brought to you by the Swedish Institute.
#7 Midsummer and the Swedish sin
The most common birthday in Sweden is 22 March. Rewind the tape nine months and you’ll realise that these birthday celebrators were conceived around the time of Midsummer’s Eve. Link or coincidence? Well, this celebration of sunlight and summer is famed for its amorous undertones and is often portrayed as a night of sin and debauchery. After all, what is a Midsummer celebration without flirtation, phallic symbols, a healthy helping of hard liquor and pickled herring?
Jonas Engman, ethnologist at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, provides his expert view on Swedish traditions.
Lena Lundkvist, population expert at Statistics Sweden. Knows everything there is to know about births, deaths and the life that goes on in between.
Klara Arnberg is a doctor in economic history who specialises in Swedish sex life and sexual politics.
#6 Is the Swedish start-up scene as hot as they say?
Sweden has a reputation as the start-up darling of Europe. The home of Spotify has proven to be a genuine incubator of tech and creative talent, and is now second only to Silicon Valley in its count of ‘unicorn’ startups – those valued at more than 1 billion dollars. Where does this creativity and innovation come from?
Maral Kalajian, start-up expert involved in tech incubator Sting and the independent start-up community Startup Grind Stockholm. She is also the director and founder of her own children’s app.
Rasmus Rahm, Acting Executive Director at the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, which works to connect and help educate the city’s entrepreneurial students and academics.
Jane Ruffino, US-born tech columnist based in Stockholm who provides a feminist and more critical perspective on the Swedish start-up scene.
#5 Do Swedes actually do any work?
Employees in Sweden get more paid holiday than nearly any other country in the world – a guaranteed minimum of 25 days a year. Add to that around a dozen public holidays. When the Swedes actually are at work, they’re bound to spend an average of 25 per cent of their time in meetings, aiming for consensus. And let's not forget, they’re legally entitled to coffee breaks. So, with all these things considered, when do Swedes actually get any work done?
Madeleine Lennartsson, HR manager at Nyköping Municipality and an expert on teambuilding, leadership and recruitment.
Julian Stubbs, Englishman-turned-Stockholmer, brand strategist and co-counder of Up There Everywhere, a company which takes work flexibility to a whole other level.
#4 The world's oldest free press. So what?
In 1766, Sweden became the first country in the world to write freedom of the press into its constitution. Freedom of the press remains a cornerstone of Sweden’s freedom of speech and goes hand in hand with a very liberal freedom of information that makes public records accessible to both the public and the press. These are laws that have been fundamental to Swedish democratic development. But what is being done to defend these freedoms in the information age?
Ola Larsmo, writer and critic who promotes freedom of expression in his role as president of Swedish PEN.
#3 Swedes – the happiest or loneliest people in the world?
A long history of social welfare, an abundance of green spaces, access to technology, short working hours, and relatively low unemployment are factors contributing to Sweden’s reputation as one of the world’s happiest countries. But some say the ‘Swedish model’ has made Swedes a little too independent. Has Sweden’s ‘cradle to the grave’ welfare system created a country of lone wolves?
Lars Trägårdh, historian and writer with a historical perspective on the Swedish model up until today.
Lisa Renander, founder of Tech Farm, a co-living space where entrepreneurs share living and work space. She thinks too many Swedes live alone.
#2 Will Sweden be first to be run by robots?
Some call Swedes early adopters, others call them technologically obsessed. Sweden just might make it as the first country to roll out 5G and is nearly cashless already. So far, so good. But is there a downside? When machines start doing the things we could do ourselves, what are the ethical, moral and political implications? Will in fact the rise of the machines happen in Sweden?
Amy Loutfi is a Canadian professor in AI and robotics who specialises in human-robot interaction at Örebro University.
Andreas Ekström is a journalist at Swedish daily Sydsvenskan, and an advocate for digital equality.