I traveled to Stockholm in Sweden for a series of meetings, two conferences, and visiting with some colleagues. I tried to keep my life the same as much as possible. I rented a bike, rather than take the excellent T-Bana, or even more crazy would be to rent a car. I also used airbnb to stay in a flat, rather than yet another hotel. Now that I've been home for a few days, some differences stand out pretty clearly.
1. Bike lanes. They are everywhere in Stockholm. Well laid out, well marked, respected by drivers and pedestrians alike, and enable one to get from one end of the city to another safely and quickly. What the Swedes think of as "driving in traffic" seems quaint compared to riding in Boston and suburbs.
2. The roads. They are well maintained, smooth throughout, and a pleasure to ride on. Your kidneys will want to thank everyone involved.
3. The Internet is everywhere. I paid 150 kronor (about $21) for 3 GB of data, unlimited in-country calls and texts for a 30-days. This includes tethering and wifi sharing. I consistently received 5 to 10 mbps of bandwidth via the phone, just about everywhere, including in the T-bana on the move. The flat I stayed in was older, had a skeleton key for a lock (Assa of course) and had 100 mbps service (symmetric even). It was served up through Conhem. Just look at these packages and prices. SEK 349 (about $50) per month for service. I pay 3x that for Verizon Fios at 25 mbps downstream.
4. The people. Almost everyone speaks English, but they do really appreciate when you try to speak Swedish. Just the same, it generally feels like you are part of one big family. Most people have no issues with a polite discussion or requests for help when standing at a stop light, queuing in line, eating out, etc.
5. The Östermalms Saluhall. It's amazingly good food, affordable, and generally prepared right in front of you. Willy Ohlsson's has some great köttbullar. And Tysta Marie has some great desserts (from either the cafe or the separate stand).
6. Quality. I learned this trip that Swedes are taught multi-tasking is bad, and focusing on one thing at a time, to do very well is the best. It shows in their output in just about everything. Museum guides know their material well, with far more depth than just some average person. The average Swede on the street seems to be able to carry on a fairly detailed conversation in just about anything. It's impressive.
7. The women. Most Swedes do not match some ideal of blue-eyed with blonde hair, although plenty of them come close. The first thing I always notice about Swedish women is how they speak. They are confident. They do not inflect their voices up at the end of every sentence. They speak in full sentences. They do not play the dumb female roles so commonly seen in the USA. I'm not doing them justice here, but their education, confidence, and equality are clear and reinforced everywhere.
How I long to return.
Originally blogged at wiki.lewman.is