'We possess in-depth knowledge about telecommunications, IT, radio and postal services. Let us tell you more.'
This is from the Swedish telecommunications regulator's website, on a blank page. No links, no directions to another site, nothing. They are doing this just to try me. I suspect English-language site sabotage. I am going visit the Swedish version of the site and translate everything with my Swedish-English Dictionary. Damn you, Swedish fiends! I shall overcome you!
It must be really boring being Swedish. Being, as I am, a naturally fair-minded person who likes to do her research before thoroughly lambasting a whole nation, I spent some time carefully backgrounding and arranging my notes on modern-day Sweden's history and policies. Or, I googled Sweden and clicked on the first thing that came up. Believe what you will!
I went to this project with one thought in my mind: What does Sweden DO? Besides shelter Estonia and Finland from the nippy breezes coming off the North Sea, I mean. Norway has fish, I knew this much from Leaving Cert geography. But Sweden? And so I ended up here, where I am pleased to discover that temperatures in Sweden today range from -3º to 10ºC, depending on where you are and how much alcohol you drank. (Oh no, wait, that's wrong) But there's more- here in the weather section you have your first clue as to the Swedes' wacky sense of humour:
'No, it isn't true that polar bears walk the streets of Sweden!'
Really? Just when Sweden was getting interesting. I trudged on through the site (like an outcast polar bear trudging through the woodland, as he has been banned from walking down streets by the cruel Swedes), ruthless in my search for a true symbol of Sweden. What do these beautiful (predominantly blonde) Scandanavians have to say for themselves, I wondered:
'The international cliché of Sweden portrays us as nation of capable, decent, well-groomed but also slightly phlegmatic and boring souls, who not only obsessively clean and polish our own idyllic little Nordic nest, but are also presumptuous enough to have opinions about how other, bigger, more important nations should run their affairs.This image certainly contains a grain of truth.'
Hey! Don't be so hard on yourselves, guys!
'Sweden is a small Nordic nation that, in the space of a century, has transformed itself from a poor, underdeveloped agrarian country into one of the world's most modern and prosperous welfare states and industrialized nations: truly a feat worthy of taking pride in. Indeed, we are proficient, hard-working, conscientious and well-groomed - well, perhaps a little boring and naïve too, for that matter.'
'To an outsider, the Swedes at first glance may also appear to be a shy, withdrawn, anonymous people. But don't let yourself be fooled by this surface appearance. Beneath it lurks madness, sensuality, sentimentality and - not least - a well-disguised national pride and self-confidence.'
As I progressed through the site, I noticed a pattern emerging in the Swede's bold depiction of themselves. See if you can spot it here:
'The impression is that Sweden came out of nowhere to a role today as the world's third-ranking major power in international product and interior design - after Italy and Great Britain.'
'It is widely reported, both inside and outside our borders, that little Sweden is the world's third largest music-exporting nation, "beaten" only by the two superpowers of modern music, the United States and Great Britain.'
Hmmm. Always third-place, never the bride, eh Sweden? Seriously though: Sweden, a World Power in the international music market? Think about it: when you hear the words 'Swedish music', what comes to mind? That's right, Abba. Hardly something to be crowing about, methinks.
'Garage rock is the latest musical genre to be hit by the "Swedish invasion", as the phenomenon is called in the American press. The biggest name is The Hives, sometimes labeled "the new Rolling Stones".'
The Hives? Originators of the infamous Shite-And-Overhyped phenomenon? Ah yes, now that is a proud addition to the international music scene.
So, have you guessed it yet? What Swedish people stand for? What they do? I hear someone yelling out 'blandness' at the back there. Close, but no cigar. 'High taxes'? 'Clean streets'? 'Humourlessness'?
All good answers, but unfortunately not the one I was looking for. Maybe this will give you a clue:
'In many respects, Sweden is generally considered one of the world's most modern and sophisticated civilizations. And this is true.'
Yes, that's right- it's overblown self-importantance and egotistical tendancies! Not convinced? Björn Borg, Sven-Göran Eriksson and Ulrika Jonsson. Need I continue?