Monday, January 07, 2008

H&M, IKEA, and Divorce in Sweden

Well, my theory was wrong. I found the article about Swedish relationships and the sociological impacts that are so tied to the Swedish way of life. From The Local of course. And my theory was wrong. Apparently when you add in the dissolution of relationships such as sambo the rate including the divorce rate slaughters any other western country. Divorce rates alone in Sweden, according to the article are 55% as opposed to 46% in the US and just 10% in Italy.

While my idea about the sambos being helpful was wrong it does seem that there is a direct relationship between the religious fervor of a country and their divorce rate. I mean come on. The Pope hangs out in Rome. Of course there’s only a 10% divorce rate. And Swedes don’t go to church. 55%. It all fits.

Apparently, the Swedes have not found a way to avoid marriage but still stay committed. Goes to show the Swedes are fallible I suppose. Despite their worldwide reputation for design. And efficiency. Take the do it yourself, cheap, but designy IKEA, or the fashionable, inexpensive H&M. Their quest for modernity doesn’t always lead to favorable results though.

The article argues that the H&M and IKEA culture in Sweden is actually one of the reasons for the high divorce rate. The reason being that people are looking for a quick, easy, but half way fashionable fix. Some people might be reminded of Vegas. Of course, deep down Vegas is just a bunch of sad looking people trying to look fancy and make their fortune with the pull of a handle or the deal of a card. And maybe that’s what you see here in Sweden: A bunch of people trying to look fancy without ever really pulling it off, all the while hoping that they can rise above the classless social welfare state.

Along those same lines the article states that Swedes are incredibly individualistic. Makes sense. A lifetime of always being classed together, never being allowed to be better than anyone else, might leave you with some deep psychological yearnings to be an individual. And what better way to be an individual than to shop at the exact same store as all of Sweden and buy the exact same clothes as everyone else in Stockholm. But it’s individualistic because those clothes will be out of fashion in a week. And so each day brings a new individual who is on the cusp of fashion.

With this individualism though comes the need for constant improvement. Which can be good. Sometimes. There’s a lot to be said about self-improvement. Just today, I used a few big Swedish words when I was talking to the old man on the phone. Expanding my everyday Swedish vocabulary. Self-improvement right there. But there is a limit. And the need to be constantly seeking individualism in a relationship can lead to problems. Because improvements in an individualistic relationship sound like they just end up being the search for an upgrade. A girl who is just a little prettier. A guy who is just a bit more intelligent. A partner who is just a little bit… better.

At the same time though this constant search for improvement may be the catalyst behind the evolution of the sam- and särbo culture. So maybe this is just the first step towards the ultimate relationship. Or maybe this is just one of those little blips in evolution like Lucy. I’m not sure either way. But I’m still giving my vote of confidence to the idea.


  1. I have ideas on's a disaster waiting to happen!'s true.

  2. With all due respect, Sweden and Vegas? C'mon! A bird and a dog got more similarities... I'm a Swede and I came back a half year ago from a two years living in USA. I've actually been to Las Vegas and I got to say you'll never find a more tasteless and pathetic city.

    You're definitely right on the religiousness-divorce-thing, though. What astounded me most when I came to USA was how religious it was. It's crazy how many people over there go to church - every Sunday! So it strikes me that there's actually as much as 46% in the US. Got to be the "big apple" that's it's way into the divore-statistics...

    I can't say I agree on that jante-thing you're talking about though... I don't think you're not allowed to be better than anyone else, I think it's more in the lines of that everyone is equally much worth and therefore should be treated the same. That doesn't mean, however, that you aren't allowed to be better than anyone else. When I was at gymnasiet, I guess you know what it is, I was one of the best at swimming and I got medals in school-competitions for it but nobody hated me for it or froze me out but at the same time I was being treated the same as before. So maybe that's true at some places in Sweden, I have no idea, but I definitely don't think it's representative of Sweden as a whole.

    Oh, I wrote a long one here... Good blog by the way/andreas

  3. I would be interested in the ease of getting a divorce. I believe that how easy it is to get a divorce has more to do with the percentages then does religion. As your anonymous comment points out that the USA has a high number of people that goes to church but the rate of divorce is still high. And if I am not mistaken in Italy the laws are far more difficult to get a divorce.

    Just some of my thoughts. After 25 years of marriage divorce has never been an option. We will always work through anything that comes up.

  4. @ Mrs. CeCruz - Yeah upgrades don't seem like a good idea.

    @ anonymous - The Vegas comment was definitely tongue-in-cheek. I can't stand Vegas, it grosses me out, and as you said, is pathetic. And I quite like Sweden.

    The religious thing is interesting to me too. While I definitely agree the US is more religious than Sweden I still find that there are a whole lot of people in the US that say they are religious... but that really only comes up around Christmas and Easter when you are supposed to go to the big services.

    I appreciate the jante-comments. Seeing as how I never went to gymnasiet here I definitely can't speak towards that. But I'm glad to hear that there is room to excel! What I did notice though while I was studying at university here was kind of an underlying attitude of making sure everyone was if not the same at least closely grouped. This came out the most in the grading and testing process. The tests I was taking could be re-taken up to 6 times in order to give everyone a chance. And there were only two grades. And I guess I just feel like that groups people to closely. Some people are better than others at certain things. I can't sing worth a damn for instance. And personally if I was in a music class and I got the same grade as someone who really could sing, but it took me 5 tests to do it, I would be a little embarrassed. At the same time though, it seems like a lot of things regarding that attitude are starting to change a little. But regardless of the changes going on, it is still very different than what I grew used to in the US.

    And thanks for the long comment! The long ones usually give me some good stuff to think about. Feel free to leave another long comment whenever you like.

    @ Ogie – The difficulty of divorce is something I have never thought of. But you’re right. A barrier of exit, if you will, in the relationship. Any ideas as to how difficult it is to divorce in different countries?

    And good work on 25 years of marriage. That’s impressive.

  5. People can get a quickie marriage (in gross icky Vegas) and a quickie divorce (just about anywhere) in the USA.

    But many USA divorces are lengthy and costly to process legally...and such a sad waste of years (years)...even when no children are involved.

    I think choosing to be together forever is an automatic easy for any committed individual - without the need for legal involvement. The key is finding another who is just as committed.

  6. So marriage isn't the important part, just the committment? Fair enough.

  7. And I appreciate your equally long answer!

    You know, I find it interesting how many people talk about the jantelag and that the Swedes are so quiet towards strangers at the bus or at the train (as you did in your last post). Yet I haven't noticed many differences on those areas when I've lived in USA. Yes, I got some people nodding politely at me when I sat next to them and some people small talking to me. Maybe, it's because I've always lived in Gothenburg but that's pretty much how it is here too. As for jantelagen I haven't had much experience of it. Doesn't some people all over the world get a little bit jealous at someone when he's being successful? But that doesn't mean you're not allowed to be successful, right?

    I'm really surprised at your experiences of the Swedish university. I've never had any experiences like that, the only I've had was that when some people got an F (yeah, by some people I do mean me...) they got to do an omprov, in which they could only get one betyg higher than F (you follow?) or if they were sick or away when the test was held they they could of course get any betyg. And that I think is totally fair and doesn't "group people to closely" but maybe it was different when you went to the university, what do I know?

    keep the good blogging up/Andreas

  8. @anonymous/Andreas - I suppose it is different depending on every city you find yourself in. But it just seems where I have lived in the US there is always a bit more friendliness being given off. Maybe, as the previous point has spurred quite a few comments, it is just the big city! I've never lived in a big city in the US so my experiences there are lacking to say the least.

    And I think you're right about success. There will always be people who are jealous. But it seems that some countries, like my experience in Sweden, are more likely to avoid any outward signs of success. Which some might argue is excellent, and others might argue that it takes a bit away from the individuality that gives people their flavor.

    And in regards toyour schooling experience. I am really glad to hear that that happens because it seems a lot better to me. I was amazed by the number of omprovs that were available to people. COnstant re-testing until the 6th at which point you had to retake the class. DCP has noticed quite a few re-tests also in her studies. But I'm glad that isn't necessarily how it is everywhere.

  9. In my mind, most of the Swedish women look really good. They dress alike, and I just happen to like the combination they wear. I feel like a child in a candy-store, so I really can't complain...

    PS. Can you access to my or Mogli's site? There seems to be some kind of problem. I even made a joking post about it. I hope it'll get fixed soon.

    PPS. What about our Three sides of a coin -hockey extragavanza? Any good, televised matches in sight..?

  10. Really entertaining blog. As a self-proclaimed Swedephile I've been reading your blog, past entries and all!
    I'm an American who dated a Swedish girl for two years and spent about three months in Stockholm visiting so your blog brings back some nice memories!
    I do have to take issue with your critique on Swedish fashion from one of your older posts...come on man the Swedes are far more fashionable then your average american!!
    Anyways, your blog is a great read, keep it up!

  11. @ Smek This - Hey I'm not saying they don't look good. I just think it's amazing by the number of women, and men for that matter, who are walking around in the exact same clothes from H&M.

    @Travis - Glad you're enjoying it. Feel free to leave comments anytime! And see the fashion thing... you might be right. It's just I'm really not fashionable. So some of the things I see might be at that height of fashion. But I just have to laugh.

  12. i LOVE swedish fashion, like i said before, i got comments about what i wore when i went back home to the states, and they werent nice but at least i was fashionable! so i agree with travis

  13. fashion - it's just too much for me

  14. Personally I think it's just silly to say that the divorce rate sin Sweden has anything to do with IKEA and HM. The real reasons are that it is much easier in Sweden than in mnay other countries to get divorced, and that here it isn't looked upon as a "sin" unlike in catholic countries, for example.

  15. Maybe. But interesting to think about because of the deep seated cultural differences in Sweden as opposed to some other less religious countries.