Whats the first thing I did when I arrived in Sweden? - well to be honest, nature called so as callus and unexciting as it seems, I "discovered" the facilities. After freshening up in what seemed like my own private hotel (again, more on that later) I departed towards customs inspection.
Of course no world traveler would be worth his salt without having done some research on their intended destination and I for one had been studying Sweden and the entire Scandinavian experience for several months before I got on that British Airways flight.
What I read about was how the Swedes had created what some might call a Utopia of sorts. Everything about the society maintained a balance that I personally envy. People in Sweden have the opinion that you WORK TO LIVE and not the other way around. A testimate of this fact is that Swedes work the least amount of hours in all the European Union. In fact a typical Canadian working year is based on a 2080 work hour year whereas in comparasion, a Swedish work year is approximately 1519 hours!
In actual fact, when I was working in Canada, my work hours typically consisted of getting to work at 6:30 and leaving at 6pm! I would even come in on the weekends during times where we were busy. It seems that they have figured out that delicate balance between work and personal time. This can be seen in all facets of society here:
- There are no 24 hour grocery stores and most typically close at 8 or 9 pm
- The liquor store is open till 5pm most days, 7 on fridays and closes at 3 on saturdays! (dont even think about Sunday, thats the day of rest)
- Many institutions close for lunch between 12 and 1
- My current accommodation has office hours between 8 and 9 am daily, and at no other times.
- The underground runs until 12:30 am during the week (at least in Stockholm!)
- Even 7-11 stores, which are very popular here, close at 11!
Kidding aside, I have to admit there is a certain understandability about the hours that Swedes keep. Family and friends are important, these things take nurturing to develop and ultimately all of this takes time. How many times have you heard of a story where one member of a household is working long hours and it ends up causing problems in the nuclear family unit. Closing shops early means that more time is spent with loved ones and ultimately these loved ones develop into well integrated members of society. The Cycle of life as it were.