Robinowitz, Christina Johansson and Lisa Werner Carr, Modern-Day Vikings: A Practical Guide to Interacting with the Swedes
Reviewed by George Simons at diversophy.com
The Swedish delight of getting things in the right proportio.
Lagom bok. Writing a book is easy. Getting it "just right" is the hard part. Lagom, as the authors of Modern-Day Vikings tell us is the Swedish delight of getting things in the right proportion, including what is fitting and appropriate, no more, no less, and, in this case, writing a bok about one's people without being either overbearing or falsely modest.
Not too many of us, I suspect, have learned Swedish history other than as an appendix to what other great powers were about in times past. So the authors have been kind enough to sketch on the canvas of a single chapter the flow of events that take us from prehistory through Viking times to the unique, modern day Swedish model of society.
History helps us understand culture and behavior and even allows us to see what triggers the stereotypes we acquire about others. "Sex, suicide, socialism and spirits," as the authors point out, are the false headlines most of us have absorbed about Swedes because we had so little familiarity with the real article. A Swedish friend of mine in her 50's complains that living in France she is still looked on as a svenska flicka ("loose Swedish girl") by some-not by me, of course. Too many Bergman films in my youth have left me still surprised to find so many cheery Swedes.
We learn how Modern Day Vikings value themselves and their history. Swedes appreciate modesty and above all, equality to a fault. They have wholesome homegrown virtues to bring to the marketplace of cultures, and, like all peoples in the great modern global exchange, these are being weighed and measured by the world of competition and the challenge of sustainability. In particular the Swedish smörgasbord of values is being rearranged by a new generation who are leading their country and the world in world-class digital entrepreneurship.
As for the welfare state, that has brought so many to exclaim, "It would never work here," they are probably right. There is a time and place for everything and the time and place for this unique social triumph was Sweden in the middle 1900's. The challenges of immigration and multiculturalism are taxing this system and calling for a fresh wave of creativity in Swedish politics. There are no easy solutions, but one suspects that the Swedish combination of fairness and self-sufficiency will express themselves in fresh socially responsible solutions.
Readers who want to get to the do's and don't's of living and working with Swedes will be amply rewarded in the second half of the book, particularly if they are patient with the first half. They will look at Swedish communication styles manners and business behaviors with far more insight having delved into the authors' careful descriptions and illustrations of Swedish values in action, which like the nordic seasons have both bright and equally dark sides. Going to work or going to dinner, there is no shortage of solid prescription and attention to detail. Robinowitz and Carr are careful to simplify what can be simplified, identify rules where they exist, and to point out, that, as in any culture, taking a good look at what the other guests are doing can help you figure out whether to take your shoes off or not.
Finally, you don't have to be on your way to Sweden to have an excuse to read this book. Robinowitz and Carr, whose rich experience of Swedish culture comes from both living inside of it and seeing it at a distanc have made Modern Day Vikings a good book to curl up with in any season.