Sweden is the home of lingonberries, the flat-box furniture giant Ikea, the band Abba, and the Saab automobile. An ardent defender of gender equality, gay rights, and immigration rights, Sweden is also where the world’s brightest are chosen and awarded the Nobel Prize each year. There is no greater honor. I am sure the 2014 Nobel Prize Winners would concur.
Although Swedes are often portrayed as dark, depressive individuals — like Steig Larsson’s characters in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo novel series and in Ingmar Bergman’s films — Swedes do have a sense of humor. They love sarcasm. They also enjoy stories with unconventional characters, like Pippi Longstocking, the quirky and opinionated little girl with the red braids in the books by Astrid Lindgren. Lindgren is considered a national treasure in Sweden. Like plucky Pippi, she remained involved and passionate about life well into her 90s.
Just ask any Swede. If they are from northern Sweden, their response may surprise you. Don’t expect a Ja, but rather an odd sound that means yes.
I met Ing-Marie through her American cousin, who owns our local auto body repair shop. Ing-Marie describes herself as a creative person who loves to sew. When she isn’t, she’s often out motorcycling with her husband through the Swedish countryside. She also likes to ride her bicycle, which she claims is the cruelest bike in the world.
(All images belong to Ing-Marie or are in the public domain)
My Conversation with Ing-Marie
Look out a window in your home and tell me what you see.
My husband and I live on the fourth floor in a small town. I look upon a lot of roofs, chimneys, and some trees.
Describe a perfect day in Sweden during your favorite time of year.
I love summer. It is perfect. Everything is green, flourishing, growing, and it’s hot. I hate cold.
What are you most proud of as a citizen of Sweden?
I am proud of many things. One thing that I think is quit unique is our Allemansträtt. What it means is that you can walk anywhere, camp for one night, pick berries and so forth. You can do a lot of things in nature, but never go into someone’s private garden. But that’s the only limitation.
What do you wish Sweden did better?
I wish we all could throw out the growing feeling in Sweden that immigrants are to blame for everything. Racism is growing.
What myths or stereotypes about Sweden would you like to dispel?
I don’t know what your picture is of Swedes nowadays. Before, I presume it was of long, blond girls, sleeping around. I don’t know if that picture exists anymore.
What would you serve me if I came to your house for dinner?
I would offer you a typical Swedish dish called Kroppkakor, served with cranberries and double cream. You would love it!
What are your fears for the future?
Russia’s expansion, nuclear weapons, Ebola. Ugly things – all of them.
What gives you hope?
I still want to believe that we humans can solve many issues. We just need to get things started. To get together and work hard.
What is your opinion of the U.S. and Chicago?
I have really none today. I am going to New York next summer, and Chicago. I prefer to keep my mind a bit blank so that I will be open to anything.
Please share a favorite quote.
It is always too early to give up!
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