måndag 11 september 2006

After a week in Sweden

This country isn't paradise but there seems to be a lot more things they get right. The design of public spaces is literally streets ahead - high quality design and workmanship is the norm. And people generally treat them with respect.

There is is plenty of graffiti, just like anywhere else, but a lot less litter and vandalism; I was astonished to see a that a sample greenhouse could be left permanently on display in the town square at Halmstad - a town of about 70,000 people. It wouldn't survive a weekend anywhere in Britain. The British bloody-minded attitude seems to be lacking here.

This could be related to the prices of acoholic drinks - ferociously expensive. Instead of off-licences, there is the Systemboglaget, a nationalised outlet, and there aren't many of them, so the alcoholics hang around nearby where the police can keep an eye on the situation. This holds the lid down on consumption until the Swedes go abroad. Stockholm is nobody's stag-night destination.

There is pressure to liberalise alcohol, but it would be a mistake to go down the path we have in Britain, where excessive alcohol consumption is a major public health and social issue.

Perhaps there is something about the culture in Northern Europe which makes so many people unable to drink sensibly and stop when they have had enough, though it might be a genetic thing. Personally I can take booze or leave it, but I object to having to make my way through a trail of broken bottles and other alcohol-related debris every morning.

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