by john on May 12, 2004


We arrived in Stockholm on Sunday, my family on vacation for one week and me on business for two. We don’t get to do much together other than dinner but still it’s such a good experience for the kids that it’s totally worth it.

Having been in Denmark a few weeks ago and Sweden now for a few days I have already made a few observations about how different the two cultures are. If I may be so bold, and being 50% Swedish and 25% Danish I think it is OK for me to make this observation, Swedes believe that people are basically evil and Danes believe that people are basically good. And from what I’ve seen they act that way too.

How do I mean? Consider the train systems. In Denmark they use the honor system. For the express trains from the airport you buy a ticket that is meant to be shown on the train but nobody ever checks your ticket. On the commuter trains it’s the same, no turnstiles to enter the platform, no checking on the train. In Denmark they trust you will buy the correct ticket and after it is used up you will buy another. Although nobody ever checks. I took a week’s worth of trains without ever having a ticket checked.

It’s a different story in Sweden. Within 4 minutes of being on the express train from the airport our tickets were checked. They have a turnstile system for the commuter trains and you can’t get in without illegally jumping over them. The Danes trust you pay and the Swedes don’t – simple as that.

Now what’s really interesting is the different behaviors I’ve seen in each country. I’ve already seen three people jumping the turnstiles in Sweden. One was wearing a business suit and the others looked like they could easily afford a ticket as well. Swedes think nothing of jaywalking, too. Why is that a big deal? Because after my week in Copenhagen I could count on one hand the number of jaywalkers I saw. There were more jaywalkers in the first Swedish crosswalk I saw than I saw all week in Denmark. Danish punk-rocker with facial studs and a bad attitude? No cars for hundreds of meters in either direction? Then you wait at that crosswalk. You pay attention to the rules. You are basically good, despite the rule-breaking exterior.

So Swedes are basically evil and Danes are basically good. And the people in charge of the trains know it.

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