When you talk about Sweden a lot of things come to mind: vikings, elks, beautiful nature, blue-eyed people, one of the countries with the best living standards in the world, a model society. However, surprisingly enough, there has been a lot of buzz in the papers about the level of poverty that kids are living in nowadays. As my romance with Sweden is still in early stages and I am still admiring all the beauty around me, I find it hard to believe that this discussion is out in the media, and with this weight. So I started to follow the “Kids’ Poverty” blog on Aftonbladet.
I have been reading the blog for the last 2 weeks and I have shockingly found out that being a poor minor in Sweden really means that your parents can’t afford to:
1. Get you new clothes every season (!!), you have to do with second-hand (vintage, anyone?)
2. Take you to Egypt (or any destination abroad) in the summer holidays, and therefore you have to be happy with enjoying the amazing lakes, rivers and forests, and eating Swedish strawberries
3. Buy you an ice-cream every day in the summer
4. Go to the dentist – which is the ONLY healthcare service you actually have to pay for (there is a small feel to go to the doctor, etc. but the limit per year is about 2000kronor, or 200 GBP, regardless).
5. Get you a brand new dress for the last day in school
Of course, if you are poor, it also means that all the rest of the costs (rent, food, bills, and even the cheeky cigarette pack and box of wine), are financed with the “social bidrag” or social benefits. At this point I should mention that in Sweden, all kids, regardless of social conditions, go to school for free. All kids. All kids who go to school (that is ALL KIDS IN SWEDEN), get fantastic and super healthy FREE meals: breakfast, lunch and “mellis” or snack. So even if the conditions are home are not too great, ALL kids in Sweden get at least 2 meals every day. What an amazing thing the Swedes should be proud of! Imagine if that happened in every other country in the world!
Instead, it is not uncommon to hear moms complaining about the fruit in school not being organic (!!). I don’t understand anything any more. If this is poverty, what do you call going hungry for days because your mom and dad can’t afford a pack of cookies. And with no “social benefits” check arriving every month, you don’t even know how long you will be hungry for. And who cares about going to school when you are so weak with hunger that there is no use trying to learn anything. I’m out of words. This looks like the beginning of the end of my era of enamourament with Sweden. Sorry, darling Swedes.