So I realized I don’t really like the whole “talk about things that I’m doing” blogging format, but I do enjoy making broad generalizations about Swedish culture and daily life. So at the risk of offending any coworkers or other Swedes who happened to stumble upon this blog (I’ll be looking for traffic from search terms like “american stereotypes of Sweden”), let’s go over a few things that’ve been on my mind recently:

Walking Poles

Stockholm is overrun with over-60 men and women who trek around the city with these walking pole things. They’re basically just ski poles with rubber feet, but I’ve seen some fancy ones that even have spring-loaded pogo-stick-type action. In my unsuccessful attempt find a photo of them for this post (I didn’t think to take one myself), I came across the Wikipedia article for Nordic walking. So I guess it’s some sort of fitness thing. Quoth Wikipedia:

Compared to regular walking, Nordic walking (also called pole walking) involves applying force to the poles with each stride. Nordic walkers use more of their entire body (with greater intensity) and receive fitness building stimulation not present in normal walking for the chest, lats, triceps, biceps, shoulder, abdominals, spinal and other core muscles that may result in significant increases in heart rate at a given pace.

What the article fails to mention is that Nordic walking looks ridiculous. Gearing up like Edmund Hilary to navigate the cobbled-but-almost-completely-flat streets of Stockholm is just unnecessary.

“But it’s for the exercise!,” you say. Sure, and pushups are good for you too. But you don’t see people dropping and doing 20 while waiting for the train.

Maybe Swedish citizens over a certain age are required use walking poles, to cut down on healthcare costs in the state-run system. If that’s the one key that makes socialized medicine work, I’ll take it. It definitely beats Death Panels.

Moving on…


People are pretty into the the environment here. There’s easily accessible recycling dropoffs scattered about the city, and many apartments have it in the building as well. And things that do get thrown away are still put to good use. There’s been a news item going around about how Sweden has been importing trash from other countries to fuel their waste-to-energy plants. Sweden is a particularly good place for this technology, because the heat produced by the incineration can be used for municipal heating pretty much year-round. I’m not totally sure about the emissions of these plants, but I’ll assume the Swedes have it figured out.

But my favorite environmental side-effect here is that it’s surprisingly common to see respectable-looking people digging through public trash cans. The loot? Discarded cans and bottles, which are good for a pant (deposit) of 1-2 kr (0.15-0.30 USD) when redeemed at any supermarket. I’ve never lived in a US state with a bottle deposit, but my guess is that it would be unusual to see someone in a tie removing the lid from a subway garbage bin and peering inside. I guess it’s just more proof that the Swedes are committed to making the world a better place.