Here's a bit of a rant about a very beautiful country that I expected to fall in head over heels in love with, but I didn't, because...
transportation can be difficult
Trying to travel around the country on public transportation like buses, coaches and trains can be quite a task. For example, you can’t purchase most tickets on board the buses or coaches with either cash or card, and you can’t pre-purchase tickets online with an out of the country bank or credit card, or an out of the country billing address for any card.
If you're not fluent in the language, and you try to purchase tickets through their apps, they often have no options for English so you can't read what you’re doing. And if you can get past that, you have to enter a valid Swedish mobile phone number in order to get access to use the app. And if you get past that, you still can’t purchase the ticket with an out of the country credit card, or PayPal.
Needless to say, this makes getting around a bit rougher than usual. I was forced to track down local offices, and their respective opening days and times, in order to purchase advance physical paper tickets in person.
Also known as - what we had to do in the olden days.
booze can be inconvenient
There is one particularly obnoxious lack of freedom in Sweden - government controlled alcohol restrictions throughout the country. You can only buy alcohol above 3.5% at specifically state regulated stores called Systembolagets that are often rare, hard to find, and on top of that, not open 24 hours.
They close mid afternoon on Saturdays and don’t open at all on Sundays, so you are forced to plan your booze buying ahead of time like some kind of Stepford wife. So, you can't buy wine on a Sunday in Sweden. Which is just ludicrous.
And, what I imagine was - just like the olden days.
interactions can be awkward
I first noticed the staring. I thought something was wrong with me, that my fly was unzipped, or that I was doing something horribly alarming to society. But I wasn't. Everywhere you go, Swedes stare.
In many other Western cultures, if you catch someone staring at you, and you make eye contact, usually they are embarrassed for being a creeper and then politely look away. Not in Sweden. They just keep staring. It's unnerving.
I was scolded for not placing all my groceries in a barcode up orderly fashion on the conveyer belt. I didn't even know that was a thing. And after apologizing profusely for disobeying this secret custom, I was met with icy stares.
Then I stood in line for some takeout at a local restaurant and watched in disbelief as not one, but two, Swedish people walked right ahead of me and brazenly cut me off just so they could place their order before mine.
If you are standing somewhere waiting for transportation, or to cross a street, you really need to hold your ground, because people will bump into you, shove, shoulder and elbow you and sometimes just walk right into you like you're not there. I have never been so physically assaulted before.
And you have to be extra vigilant to board trains, because at stops, instead of allowing passengers to get off first, locals will instead push themselves onto the train amidst all the people in the way, causing a huge traffic congestion, and you have to hurry to get yourself onboard in time.
Talking to strangers in public is not done. If you dare to strike up a conversation or ask a question, you're likely to just be ignored. Locals have explained this to me by saying that there is a longstanding societal-accepted cultural taboo which frowns upon anyone needing help and also upon anyone offering help to those in need.
living off the land can be extreme
Sweden is a decent sized country and the majority of it is pure unspoilt nature. Well, almost unspoilt. Outside of the major cities, there is definitely a noticeable, rampant and pervasive land and animal exploitation. A sad sign of modern times. Everything from logging industries to diaries to farms to hunting enthusiasts.
It often seems like there's something about the large natural landscape and the cold, almost inhospitable, temperatures that I can't help but imagine makes the locals act like they're living in medieval times by hunting animals to eat for food and cutting down trees for firewood. Or maybe I've seen too many movies.
Because the theme of olden times just keeps popping up, I feel the need to state that it is in fact modern day, and even those living in rural communities do have access to all the services of the modern world, and therefore have no reason to kill animals who are peacefully living their lives in their own natural habitats.
Of course, being vegan, hunting upsets me, but I feel it's a notable observation here because Sweden was the only country I've visited yet where an act as barbaric as sport hunting is treated not just as marginal fraction, but instead as an acceptable lifestyle.
i will miss the extraordinary beauty and the kind people that i met
Sweden is a stunningly beautiful land that I truly loved exploring. It has amazing history, architecture, and nature. There is breath-taking natural scenery and lovely traditional old red copper houses speckled amongst dense lush green forests.
I was lucky enough to spend a few months living in and traveling around Sweden and I was also lucky enough to meet some amazingly kind people that helped me during my time there and I really don't know how well I would've survived without them.
my advice to travelers:
My suggestion to first time travelers would be - try to plan things out. Plan basic things like your food, alcohol, and transportation needs ahead of time and you will have an easier time.
Also, try not to get too offended if you get ignored, yelled at, or catch an elbow to the chest. I kept getting offended and maybe I should have just accepted it.
If you travel to be wowed by natural beauty, as I do, then you will surely not be disappointed. I was in awe by the magnificence of it every single day.