STOCKHOLM – When you think of Sweden, your mind likely conjures up images of snowy blizzards encircling IKEA buildings as reindeer trot by.
Indeed, you are partially in the right with your assumptions – those things are certainly ingrained in Swedish living. But more than that, Sweden is a place that has always struck me as a remarkable fusion of modern, contemporary living, while still maintaining the charm of the past and unpredictable, but breathtaking nature.
No other place seems more an embodiment of this than the country’s capital – and my very own home – Stockholm.
I’ve always struggled with my identity and where home truly lies, given that I lost many of my Swedish-speaking abilities when I went to a chiefly English-speaking school.
When the ties of language between me and my home country were severed, the thing that truly kept my appreciation for and connection to Stockholm and Sweden in general was the beauty of its scenery and above all, its lifestyle.
Stockholm is a dynamic and fluid city, assuming many identities that makes it a welcoming space. Whether you are a local or just visiting, there is something for everyone to relish.
The buzz of the inner city with its bustling train stations offers a feeling of urban productivity, while trees, flowers and local parks teeming with wildlife provide an escape from the mundane and often hurried work life.
Stockholm in many ways encompasses a crucial shift towards greater individual well-being, as it not only provides spaces for both leisure and work, but also brings with it a lifestyle with more consideration of one’s mental and physical health, as well as for the environment.
According to the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Stockholm – which is set to be a fossil-free city by 2040 – already boasts reduced carbon emissions of 25%, while economic growth has increased by 37% since 2005.
This is undoubtedly reflected in the city’s environmental and subsequently healthy lifestyle focus.
As I make my way around the busy streets on my way to school, I can’t help but make note of the stampede of bicyclists who peddle their way around, with some even wheeling their children along with them in small buggies attached to their bicycles. There is truly something to be admired in how so many Stockholmare, as residents are known, have such a grasp on the concept of balance, which many other societies outside of Sweden often brush over in the pursuit of greater success and productivity.
And though definitely not everyone in Stockholm lives by such a relaxed philosophy, it is undeniable that the environment of the big city (it’s not really very big) brings about a shift in perspective if one only takes a moment to observe and reflect over the urban atmosphere’s strange combination of chaos and tranquility.
As much as I have a lot of admiration for the city’s structure and lifestyle, there are also plenty of annoyances that come with daily life in Stockholm.
Commuting to and from the city, while an infinitely better experience than in other places, still offers many rage-inducing incidences. It can happen when the city’s transport app gives you the wrong information on when trains and buses will arrive, or when delays force you to be shoved into tiny crevices of an otherwise jam-packed train (not particularly enjoyable in general, but especially during pandemic times).
And once a construction project starts, expect it to be completed in 10 years or so. Some beautiful views were sacrificed in the name of building projects most people know nothing about.
But I have made a fair share of generalizations on how Stockholm reflects its inhabitants. If I do not fit all these generalizations, then how can I apply them to all others here?
The answer is plainly that I cannot, of course, make plain assumptions. Rather, I believe my hometown of Stockholm reflects the values and goals to which people strive both here and globally.
It would be absurd to call Stockholm perfect and to apply a generally healthy and tolerant mindset to all people, but the city’s fluidity shows that it is open to change and embraces both tradition and the new.
That’s what gives it that serene beauty and comfort to many who visit and live in it, irrespective of national identity. It is these qualities – remembrance of the past and hopefulness towards the future – that make my flawed but evolving city home.
Nargis Barbar is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.