Njut Lagom! # 6

“A cultural ticket” to more transparent behavior.

Another phenomenon is the strict borderline between private and public live. Swedes like to divide their time exclusively between work and leisure. They also like to separate work colleagues and private friendships. A commonly used expression is “Never mix work and pleasure”.

Swedes behave differently while together with family members, other relatives and close friends. They are relatively passive in conversing outside their private sphere. One important exception to this is professional talk: many Swedes like to speak about matters where they feel safe and competent. While spending time together with family relatives is not the same, because everyone knows each other so well that there are no feelings of insecurity.  There is no reason to pose questions like “What do they think about me?” and “How can I be sure what they think of me? ‘. The silence and the slightly rigid behavior that characterizes many Swedes while their communication with strangers, is turned into friendships with a louder and above all transparent and not so conservative behavior.

During their free time and relaxation Swedes gladly take some drinks. Drinking spirits also should count as a social and psychological function in Swedish culture that reduces the individual’s fear of making a fool of himself, such as fear of saying something inappropriate. It is like having a permission to get too sentimental, too loud or excited. Nelker say it is not so much about the physiological effects of alcohol, but a “cultural ticket” to a freer and looser responsibility to socializing patterns (Nelker 1985). However drink consumption is controlled by the rule “Lagom”  – one should not drink too much or too little.


Njut Lagom! # 5

Feelings are difficult and dangerous!

According to many observers social relationships are particularly problematic among Swedes. This may manifest itself as communication apprehension, reserve, desire for social autonomy, positive attitudes towards loneliness and strict boundaries between private and public life.

Nevertheless, the overall impression about Swedish people is that they lack real joie de vivre. Many describe Swedes as cold and that they display a certain stiffness of manner in their relations with others. They do not laugh and make jokes as much as, for example, Americans. This observation by many foreigners contrasts paradoxically with the common notion held by Swedes who perceive themselves as cheerful (“glad”).

However remarkable is the fact that Swedes do not show what they feel very openly, whether it be joy or sorrow. This may be explained by the fact that most Swedish people are afraid to show their feelings openly, because they are unsure what others are going to think about them. In a low-context culture the individual believes that he generally knows other people. By the same token, he is convinced that he himself can be judged. Consequently, Swedes seem to reflect a great deal on what they would like to say, how to say it and when, how other people may react, etc, before they actually say it – if they decide to do so at all (Åke Daun. Svensk Mentalitet.1994). In general Swedes are afraid to look “wrong”, inappropriate and “say the wrong thing”. In order to prevent their true inner self from being seen, they wear a mask. Most likely they try to look “cool”, “laid-back” and “as anybody else”. Typical of the Swede is to be very calm and rarely do something impulsively or spontaneously.

This phenomenon is probably part of a more general cultural complex: a tendency among Swedes to interpret all behavioral elements (what to do and say, how to look and dress, etc) as true signs of their social identity. Therefore, a Swede has to be careful about what he says, so that he (or she) will be judged as he would like to be. This is a sign of a low-context culture in which people tend to think that everything is interrelated and that most other people express their ideas and feelings in the same way as they do themselves (Åke Daun. Svensk Mentalitet.1994)

Herbert Hendin writes “Being quiet and calm is something of a Swedish ideal” (1964:67) The high degree of quietness in Sweden can be explained by a number of circumstances. The relatively high rate of introversion among Swedes. This would also account for the indifferent attitude of many Swedes. Swedes do not seem prone to ask questions in a conversation and tend to avoid deep and elaborate discussions outside their family and circle of close friends.

Swedish sociologist Christina Skogsberg says, “Feelings are difficult and dangerous. Emotions disrupt and threaten our rational life. Emotions should be isolated, channeled and hidden away.”

Njut Lagom! # 4

Research of professor Geert Hofstede shows that Lagom is enforced in society by “Jante Law” which should keep people “in place” at all times. It is a fictional law and a Scandinavian concept, which counsels people not to boast or try to lift themselves above others. A similar phenomenon is, however, in many places in the world. In English, the term Tall poppy syndrome which means that someone who accomplished something positive is not recognized because people do not think he is worth it.

Back in 1933, Norwegian writer Aksel Sandemose wrote the 10 rules of the Law of Jante in his book, “A fugitive crosses his tracks”. The rules describe a code of behavior that was specific to all small Scandinavian towns at that time: You should not be different or think that you are better than anyone else in any way, nor try to stick up. The Law of Jante has become famous in Sweden. The Swedish society has changed a lot since those times. However, there is still a certain “push” towards appropriateness and humbleness that people sometimes rebel against.

Swedish people have grown up with it and because of that they live by it, this law helps to explain their behavior. Being moderate and discreet is, in a way, part of the Swedish culture, and the “proper” way to be. Everyone needs to be good at everything, without trying to be better than others, and do just like everyone else. Being different is nothing positive. For the convenience of this equality, most Swedes have the same or similar surnames, although with some variation – Svensson, Andersson, Nilsson or Persson. This also explains why all the cottages and country houses are colored the same color – dark red.

Njut Lagom! # 3

To understand the Swedes, one must understand “Lagom”.Lagom (pronounced [ˈlɑ̀ːɡɔm]) is a Swedish word with no direct English equivalent, meaning ” enough, sufficient, adequate, just the right amount”. Lagom is also widely translated as “in moderation”, “in balance”, “optimal” and “suitable”. “Lagom” carries the connotation of appropriateness, although not necessarily perfection.

The value of “just enough” can be compared to the idiom “less is more”, or contrasted to the value of “more is better”. It is viewed favorably as a sustainable alternative to the hoarding extremes of  consumerism: “Why do I need more than two? Det är [It is] lagom” (Atkisson, 2000). It can also be viewed as repressive: “You’re not supposed to be too good, or too rich” (Gustavsson, 1995). Lagom can be defined as normal or in moderate balance, but it also has an undertone of “not too much or too little” as well as “just right”, one is standardized to the central norms of a society.

In Sweden it is a commonly understood and often discussed topic that the citizens are striving to achieve a state of “lagom.” Lagom has worked well for Sweden in many ways and has allowed a balancing of society and a minimization of class difference because of high income tax and good social benefits correlated to the standard of life. This way of living is the essence of everyday Swedish life and one of the reasons behind the internationally recognized Swedish phenomenon known as “the Swedish model”.

Swedes generally consider their lagom ideology as a good thing, and are very proud of this term that has become so fundamentally integrated into the Swedish culture. The concept of lagom colors Swedish attitudes and beliefs and is used in all possible contexts.

It is said that the word “lagom” have been started by the Vikings. The example given is that if there was only enough beer available for one cup at the table, they would pass it around and each take “just enough, but not too much”, or lagom. Everyone at the table would get some. Now the word Lagom is applied to everything, from work to every day life style. For example, one should not laugh to loud, get too angry, and should be “lagom”

In a single word, lagom is said to describe the basis of the Swedish national psyche, one of consensus and equality. In recent times Sweden has developed greater tolerance for risk and failure as a result of severe recession in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, it is still widely considered ideal to be modest and avoid extremes. Lagom is neither being excessive nor sparse but looking/feeling/being at the perfect equilibrium right in between.

Behaviors in Sweden are strongly balanced towards ‘lagom’ or, ‘everything in moderation’. The archetypical Swedish proverb “Lagom är bäst“, literally “The right amount is best”, is translated as “Enough is as good as a feast” in the Lexin dictionary. Excess, flashiness and boasting are abhorred in Sweden and individuals strive towards the middle way. Lagom may be a little word, but its impact can be great. Whether you believe that it represents an ideal rule for living – that lagom is indeed best; to a Swede it means the ideal place, where everything is as it should be.

Njut Lagom! # 2

Definition of the leisure

Leisure has traditionally been defined as free-time or non-work time. Leisure is equated to free time by Robinson (1977), who defined free time as the time left after paid work and all activities related to the maintenance of the family, the household and personal care. Another traditional definition of leisure is in terms of participation in particular types of activities (Neulinger 1974), or as activities that individuals choose to pursue in their free time.

Leisure takes place in the social world. Leisure time is a good indicator of cultural dichotomies between societies. The places where leisure activities are held characterize social orientation, collective identity and even nationality. It is a product of a particular time and culture, reflecting economic and social structures (Kelly 1982). Given the social nature of leisure experiences, it may be assumed that the meaning of such experiences will also be shaped by social and cultural contexts.

Depending on the country, the concept of leisure can be interpreted in various ways. Usually the same kinds of activities are considered as leisure activities (walking, biking, swimming, sunbathing), but social and cultural connotations may vary. In Scandinavian countries for example, leisure is closely related to outdoor living. A day trip during the weekend can be considered as leisure, and so is shopping or a little stroll in the daily environment. The importance of urban environments, urban fringes and rural areas for leisure is related to this wide definition of leisure.

In my opinion, the true definition of leisure is spending time, doing what you want to do by escaping your hectic life if only for a little while. I followed with my camera into the daily life of Swedes, focusing on how they spend their free time and what the trends are. I chiefly aimed to depict the Swedish behaviours during moments of recreation. I tried to explore how they experience the place, how they perceive action and how they relate to people surrounding them.



It was sunny day in winter when I was taking a walk nearby a frozen pond situated in central part of the town (Sweden). There were gatherings of families with kids enjoying skating. Round the pond I could see the smoke coming up. When I came closer, I saw this cosy scene  – parents were grilling sausages with bread, preparing for a lunch break, while kids were ice-skating.  I was amazed by the fact of grilling in a winter, which is very unusual behaviour in my country.  There I first came to the idea of doing a study of people´s perception of leisure places in Sweden.

When I started with this project, my intention was to show the actual leisure landscapes photographed on a big scale. But throughout the process of developing ideas for the piece I felt that I wanted to come closer, and focus on actual people – characters, and their relationship to the place and their surroundings. Mainly I was focusing on one person in the group. I was trying to understand how the subject perceived the situation and how other people affected the subject´s appearance, whether they were strangers or friends. In the end my intention with this project was to understand and depict the typical Swedish behavior in their free time.

Essentially this project is about cultural understanding. It shows ‘ordinary people doing ordinary things’, but the way that they are doing it is typical of Swedish culture. The study looks at eccentricity, national identity, and cultural clichés in Sweden, both from a street-level, intimate perspective and from a wider, more emphatically detached point of view. Furthermore this cultural study is done from an anthropological point of view, conducted by a person of a different cultural background.

Therefore this project has become a social anthropological study, which examines social patterns and behaviors of Swedish people. The starting point for this study is based on the research done using social anthropological books written mainly by Swedish authors. A few examples are :

Åke Daun “Svensk mentalitet” (Swedish mentality). 1994

Colette Van Luik “Vem är Svensson?” (Who is Svensson?). 2011

David Gaunt, Orvar Löfgren “Myter om Svensken” (Myths about Swede). 1984

Henrik Berggren, Lars Trägårdh “Är svensken människa? Gemenskap och oberoende I det moderna Sverige”  (Is Swede a man? Community and independence in modern Sweden). 2006

new year´s eve party

in a village for blind

Still 2011. Three days before its end I decided to visit a special new years eve party organized in a local culture club in a village for the blind. All this in order to continue with my documentary project – the story about this village and its people. This kind of party is an old tradition that last already from soviet times, when this happening was very well attended.

This year over sixty people have attended the party. More then half of participants are blind or partially sighted. Everyone has brought his own homemade refreshments and strong drinks. Party can start!

Chairman of House Administration of the village preparing before performing opening song.

Appeared that everyone here enjoying dancing.
Peteris is leading blindly his lady with an excellent sense of space.