Stockholm Sweden Blog

Stockholm Harbor

I have a long history of visiting Sweden.  I first visited Stockholm in 1970 and again in 1972 during my three years outside the US waiting for the Vietnam military draft to end.  My next visit was in 1984 which is when I met Christian Paulin, leader of the music group Mynta, the band with which I toured in Sweden for the first time in 1984. Susan and I visited Stockholm again in 1999, which is when I reconnected with Christian and Mynta.  At that time Mynta had an excellent Swedish flutist/saxophonist member named Anders Hagberg.  When Anders left Mynta in 2005, I received the invitation to join Mynta for their Swedish tour.  At this point, Mynta had evolved into an Indian-jazz fusion concept band.  I had previously met the Indian member, tabla player Fazal Qureshi, brother of noted table virtuoso Zakir Hussain, in India in 1982.  Those Mynta tours in Sweden and India 2005-2016 were high points of my music career.

Saxophonist Jonas Wall’s Quintet at Stockholm’s Fasching Club May 31, 2023
Thomas Frykberg, my friend for 53 years who first taught me to play the Blues

I have maintained contact with many Swedish friends over the years.  Notable among them is Thomas Frykberg, a wonderful composer, performer, and teacher.  Thomas taught me how to play the Blues in 1973.  I had been exclusively a classical clarinetist for the first ten years of my musical life.  Thomas said at that time, “This is very unusual for me, a Swede, teaching an American this traditional American music form.  It would be like you teaching me, a Swede, Swedish Spelmans Musik.” (Spelmans Musik is a traditional Swedish folk music style.)

Besides Sweden being at the center of my international music tours, I have had many opportunities to reflect on the similarities and differences between American and Swedish governance.  The main criticisms from American politicians leveled against Sweden are that Swedish taxes are extremely high and that the government is socialistic (a dirty word for some).  Some uninformed American politicians attempt to equate Swedish socialism with “communist socialism” as found in the name of the former USSR, the Union of Soviet “Socialist” Republics. (Quotation marks are mine.)  The differences between Swedish and Russian socialism are the same as when different countries call themselves “democratic.”  For example, North Korea (as well as other autocracies) call themselves “democratic” in an effort to present themselves as somehow democratically equivalent the US.

In the courtyard of the Swedish Parliament: Sweden serves as the European Union’s President January-June 2023

Historically, Sweden has taken the role in world politics proclaiming itself “neutral”, similar to Switzerland.  Both Sweden and Switzerland remained neutral during World War II.  The fact that Sweden was never bombed during WWII became the “Swedish miracle” in which Swedish manufacturing flourished while other European countries took years to rebuild their industries. 

Street in Stockholm’s “Old City” Gamla Stan

Sweden is traditionally receptive to political refugees of all kinds.  This issue has arisen currently as Turkey wants Sweden to expel opponents of Turkey’s leader Erdogan, who have been granted asylum in Sweden. Those Turkish refugees would face prison or perhaps execution were they to be forced to return to Turkey.  So, of course Sweden refuses to expel them.  Because of this, Turkey’s Erdogan refuses to allow Sweden to join NATO.  Joining NATO requires acceptance by all its members.  Turkey is the single opponent to Sweden, even though Putin has recently threatened Sweden with military action for their desire to join NATO.  Sweden has never threatened Russia.  Ukraine had also not threatened Russia, though Putin casts his “special military action” (invasion) as being a response to “threats” from Ukraine because of its desire to join NATO. 

Sweden has accepted the largest number of Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees per capita of any country in the world.  (Germany, whose population is eight times that of Sweden’s has accepted the largest overall number of Middle East refugees.)  Other refugees come from Africa, South America, and East Asia.  The result is that Stockholm is a rich blend of languages and cultures.  Ethnic restaurants are numerous.  One hears a variety of languages spoken on the crowded pedestrian streets. The Swedish government has gone to great lengths to provide immigrants with Swedish language instruction, housing, and jobs.  Indeed, there are no homeless people living on the streets of Stockholm. 

Rumanian street marrionette
Muslims’ nightmare art by Swedish sculptor Carl Milles

In Sweden and Germany there are relatively small political movements to curtail immigration.  They take inspiration from American anti-immigrant politicians.  Some are unabashedly neo-fascist and racist. But in Europe, the memories of Fascism in World War II are more present than in the US.  Germany outlaws any display of the swastika and other fascist symbols.  It is interesting that one hears much more vicious anti-refugee rhetoric in the US, even though Sweden and the US are proportionally similar with each being home to approximately 15% resident immigrants.

Sweden does not have any native petroleum resources.  (Neighboring Norway is oil-rich from its offshore North Sea drilling platforms.)  Thus, Sweden has been a world leader in instituting energy conservation in many small ways.  For example, many escalators only run when a person steps on them.  Lights in institutional restrooms automatically remain off until their motion sensors are activated when someone enters the room.  The excellent public transportation system reduces the need for owning an auto when one lives in the inner city. 

Swedes pay one of the highest tax rates in the world, from which they receive great services.  University education is free.  (There is no debt crisis among Swedish university graduates in contrast to the American student debt crisis.)  Healthcare is free (apart from very low “deductible” fees).  Every Swedish person visiting the US, also including long-term Swedish residents, return to Sweden as soon as possible if they need healthcare.  American healthcare is unfortunately profit-driven, leading to the “wallet biopsy” which can determine the extent of care to be delivered, depending on insurance and financial resources available from the patient.

Up to this point I’ve highlighted the contrasts between the US and Sweden.  Putting together all my visits to Sweden would add up to my having lived more than a year in Stockholm.  I don’t speak Swedish as well as I speak German.  But I can speak well enough that I was interviewed on live radio while promoting a Mynta concert during one of our annual tours.  I think that the typical Swedish lifestyle is very similar to the American one.  The American and Swedish standards of living are equally high.  Many Swedes and Americans consider their countries to be the best in the world.  I find Swedish people to be generally open and friendly, even when my speech identifies me as a foreigner.  Both countries have a free press.  The general education level is high in both countries. 

Both the Swedish and American economies are particularly favorable to the establishment of new small businesses.  I think America could learn from Sweden how to better take care of its immigrants.  Sweden could learn from America how to encourage the private companies to undertake projects that are too expensive when controlled by the government.   During my visits to Sweden, I tried to promote our CARE Channel ( to several hospitals that I was able to visit.  I succeeded in selling the CARE Channel to one clinic.  However, after one year the clinic cancelled their contract, saying that they preferred to engage with a Swedish company for a similar product.  Apart from this one short-lived success, I was told by several people that American hospitals have more freedom to innovate and experiment with products such as CARE.  I was told that because of Sweden’s government-managed healthcare system, that I would need to negotiate with someone in the government to obtain authorization for Swedish hospitals to spend money on an imported program such as the CARE Channel.

Some of the 20k Stockholm Marathon runners. The Kenyan race leaders had passed this spot fully an half hour earlier.

Personally, I was oblivious to the term “woke” until Florida Governor DeSantis declared war on gays, books, immigrants, teachers, and anybody that expressed a liberal opinion, dismissing them as “woke” enemies. Now he’ll have to add Sweden to his hate list. My Swedish friend explained that the dual figures holding hands with a heart in the pedestrian signal were installed as an official endorsement of support for gays. The red-halt signal also features two figures.

Why are there two people holding hands with a heart being invited to cross the street?
Two dear friends since 1970: American Christine (80 years young!) and Swede Anders Björner, a world-famous mathematician
Ove Hagelin, 83 years old, one of the world’s greatest experts on historic medical books
Weekly market featuring (L to R) mangoes, cherriiesm goosberries, blueberries, & strawberries
Street protest by Arab parents who say their son was stolen by the government…a custody dispute
Hare Krishna adherents singing and drumming on Stockholm sidewalks
My preferred religious expression
Jesus is coming soon

Hindu chant concert by American artist Krisha Das, produced by my friend Micky Karlholm
A warm moment at the Krishna Das concert between two women I don’t know
Blissful expression during the Krishna Das concert
The historic Royal Post Office building
Door made in 1662 in the Stockholm Old City
My favorite pissoir in the Stockholm Old City

Hi, I'm Dallas Smith

My blogs offer the vicarious pleasure for my readers to learn of my travels and musical adventures.
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