So as some might know I spent a long weekend in Stockholm for my first time on Scandinavian soil. The city, with its abundance of water, cleanliness and progressive vibe reminded me a lot of Vancouver, which, as some people might know, I liked a lot.
So here’s a list of impressions and observations, without any inherent order.
1) For someone who knows Ikea and H&M longer than Sweden or Stockholm, the whole city looks like an Ikea and H&M showroom where a lot of independent shops copy the big guys. Of course, it’s the other way round and Ikea and H&M took Swedish design, probably rounded some (symbolic) edges and therefore made it accessible for bigger flocks.
2) Everything seems to be a tad more in order and stricter in Stockholm than in Vienna.
3) Showing yellow to the king. A guide on a ship tour (yes, I did that) told us a story about a king, who a few centuries ago spent some time in Italy and France to get exposed to the world. The result: he thought Stockholm was ugly and forced people to paint their houses. Which people did, but – because it was expensive – apparently only on the sides facing the palace. Reminds me a lot of social media and brand management: CEO sees this thing out there that apparently everybody now has to have. Reaction: Ok, let’s put up some Facebook page and a boring corporate twitter account so it seems like there’s something going on. Check.
4) There are more hairdressers (‘Frisör’) in Stockholm than in every other city I’ve been to – they exist in all sizes and forms and all of them were well-visited while we were there.
5) Related to 1). Apparently people in Stockholm re-do their apartments every few weeks or so. How can all those furniture/interior design shops survive?
6) I was (pleasantly) surprised by the Swedish ‘Konditori‘ and ‘fika‘ culture. I was pretty ignorant before going there, not really reading a lot about it before, but this stuff is pretty amazing. Wondering if it has a substitute function for alcohol.
7) Which brings me to the next – slightly more serious point: I’m seriously wondering how and if alcoholics are living in Sweden. Even with higher wages, this has to be a bigger nightmare than in other countries.
8) “We’re waiting for the government to solve that problem” – same ship tour guide told us about the ridiculously high rents, flat prices and a supposedly 300.000 people long waiting list for (public?) apartments. He totally casually dropped that line, which tells you loads about the value system.
9) Södermalm is another example of the hipster gentrification that is also visible in other European cities. Chic student, arty, relatively inexpensive, alternative flair, but in all of that still a tiny bit posh, maybe slightly celebrating alternative chic for the sake of it.
10) There are a lot of men with strollers in Stockholm. As in “more than 2/3 of all strollers” a lot. Not sure if the laws are different with men and paternity leave (i.e. if they ‘have’ to), if public aids are that much higher in Stockholm, or if it’s simply in the culture but there are loads of men happily playing and strolling with their kids. It’s a great thing to watch to be honest.
11) Apparently this was the toughest winter since they measure temperature in Stockholm, so it was no surprise that people came out in their sunglasses and enjoyed their ice-cream outside when the sun came out on Saturday and Sunday. The ship guide mentioned the pagan tradition of worshipping the sun and I was wondering if it is always a scarce thing that we worship …
12) Stadsmission Stockholm – Now I have no idea how well this actually works but I think the concept and execution of it is just lovely. Stockholmers donating stuff for other Stockholmers to buy with the proceeds going to Stockholmers in need is pretty simple, but the shops are really well-designed. Nothing looks like this is some shabby second-hand shop or an unloved charity. This is proper boutique style shopping. Compare this to a similar Austrian concept like Humana and you know what I mean.
13) Overall, there seem to be a lot more concept stores in Stockholm than in Vienna, with brands such as Indiska, taking a (symbolic) concept and stretching it to its commercial boundaries – or at least further than they would here. Other notable commercial encounters: the Urban Outfitters flagship store, Beyond Retro, Granit (kind of a Swedish Muji), the record shop/bar/club combination of Pet Sounds and Pet Sounds bar and a bunch of small shops.
14) Moderna Museet has a very interesting, albeit a little chaotic photo exhibition.