Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Consumerism in Sweden

JenniferToday, by special request, a quick post about Consumerism in Sweden.

Consumerism appears to be alive and well in Sweden. In town, it seems like everyone has a shopping bag full of something. I have not yet been to Ikea when it wasn't full of people, and most of them are actually buying stuff. (The man in the picture to the left, for instance, has just bought a couple of really bored sons.) Busses have extra bins for things so that you don't have to take up two seats with all your stuff (people do sometimes anyway).

For some reason the concept of the mid-life crisis came up at fika last week. I asked what a mid-life crisis looks like in Sweden, thinking the answer might be something like going on a year-long vacation in Thailand, but no: everyone agreed that most mid-life crises take the form of buying even more stuff. (Up until very recently, getting a motorcycle was very common among people of a certain age, men more than women. Then the government started making people get a motorcycle endorsement on their driving license, and going to safety classes and so forth, with the result that motorcycles are not nearly as popular as once they were.)

Mind you, younger people also seem to have plenty of things and stuff. Post-doc K. has recently bought a house. She is excited to have a place to call her own, and to be closer to work, but she also confessed that she and her man need more space for all their stuff, having filled three storage rooms in their apartment building in Stockholm.

The dollar has sunk so low against the Swedish crown that the idea of flying to the U.S. just to go shopping was proposed at fika. "Yes, but if you 're going to do that, you really need to buy a lot of stuff, to make it worthwhile," said someone, and he looked rather gleeful at the prospect.

So there's one stereotype debunked—that of the penny-pinching Scandinavian. My feeling is that it's true that they don't like like to waste money, but they appear to be perfectly willing to spend it on the things they really want.

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