Greg Poehler felt right at home when he moved to Stockholm. That’s because Sweden – a vast wilderness full of moose – is just about as North America gets…
Up in Östersund, I was reminded of the few months I spent living in Canada during my gap year. Sweden has a lot in common with Canada. Well, there both rather American. One, I suppose, is literally North American, joined to the United States down south… Canada shares a society with Britain and a culture with the USA. Anyway, I did a ‘vox pop’ on the streets of Stockholm last summer to ask how European the average Swede felt, and I was stuck by the response of one man in particular. “This country is very Americanised”, he said, “but the French and German speaking countries have caught up.” He’s right, backed up by one of the funniest series to come out of this country, which is the semi-autobiographical Welcome to Sweden, written and created by Greg Poehler (brother of Amy). It’s the Swedish version of Emily in Paris, and it began airing on TV4 in Europe and NBC in the USA back in 2014. Greg grew up on the east coast of America and says he certainly has more in common with the Swedes than Americans from, say, Alabama. He’s lived in Stockholm for many years, and says it felt very familiar on arrival, and certainly more so than rural America.
One of Greg’s characters is the brother-in-law Bengt, who’s obsessed with American movies. He’s not alone, though the most visible manifestation of America are the cars. There are, apparently, more restored American cars in Sweden than in the entire United States, and the ‘Power Big Meet’ in Lidköping is one of the largest classic car shows in the world: a product of Sweden’s commercial freedom after neutrality in the Second World War. These cars are driven by a group known as the reggare, often labelled as hipsters and gypsies for their bad behaviour. But it’s not only the die-hard, flag waving reggare (portrayed in the 1959 film Reggare! and the 1990s series Ronnie och Ragge amongst other depictions). In Sweden, many drive large cars for long distances, all have high school graduations (touring around town in LA style open topped cars) and everything looks and feels very North American… Södermalm in Stockholm gives me great Quebec City vibes. Indeed, this is, like Quebec City, a city plonked in the middle of a forest to serve a forest. So Sweden is Canadian, maybe, but it is also American. Sweden is perhaps what the United States could’ve been. It’s a vast country that turned to liberalism and an integrated economy to turn its backwaters into educated powerhouses of creative productivity.
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