The Swedish WAY
Sweden doesn’t impose any kind of lockdown. Preschools, elementary schools, restaurant, shops and cafés remain open. People are not forbidden to gather or to exercise outside, unless it’s more than 50 people or if you have any symptoms. Travel is not recommended but the decision is very personal it’s just a piece of advice, not a strict rule.
In short, Sweden puts the decision on individuals and expects them to understand and consider their actions carefully and thoughtfully, which I found was a lot to process at first.
My mind was always full of cautions: What if people don’t listen to the government? What if the situation gets out of control? Why don’t we act more aggressively? And so on.
Surprisingly, Swedes do listen.
A study conducted in the last week of March 2020 shows that two-thirds of Swedes said they had stopped travelling, meeting people and using public transport – an indication that people follow the recommendations of government agencies (Sweden.se, 2020).
There are some exceptions, apparently (as some people are still sunbathing in the town square and my neighbours are still throwing a party on Saturday night), but the majority still trust the country’s approach and the responsibility of its people.
Yes, some of them agree that the response is slow. Some others admit that maybe different approach is needed. But at the end of the day, they still have some degree of trust in the government agencies.
A personal reflection
I don’t want to get into the debate about the effectiveness of the strategy or whether the Swedish government is doing enough to halt the spread. Honestly, I don’t know which stand to take. This post is purely a personal reflection. The only thing I know for sure is that there’s still so much I don’t know about Sweden.
I believed that after living here for more than three years, I had figured out most of the things in this country. But I was wrong.
Before the pandemic, I didn’t know that Sweden has no law to impose a curfew. In life before coronavirus, I never knew about the trust cycle: people trust the authority, government trust independent expert government agencies, and government trust people. Or other Swedish things I should have known better.
But maybe the essence of living in a foreign land is never-ending learning, because the more you learn, the more you realise how little you actually know.
*originally published for The Newbie Guide to Sweden on May 6, 2020