Pure happiness is something we tend to experience rarely. We wake up every day and we strive, to do better, be better. In global capitals like New York and London especially, we are in constant forward motion, always going for the next big thing.
On Oland however, time stands still. When we arrive, my dad and his wife immediately set about lulling us into another type of existence. One where quality of life reigns. We drink the best wines in the house, cook seasonal, local produce and make use of a house catering for life's pleasures - a grand piano, a pool, a sun deck, games, and berries, fruit and vegetables growing in the garden. The Swedish word 'njuta’ captures it perfectly. It can be translated as 'to enjoy’ but it’s more a type of verb of ‘pleasure’. To njuta is really something you do and feel, wholeheartedly, in the moment, when you experience something great.
The other thing I love about coming here is the care people take to create a better life, and surrounding, for themselves.
The Swedes are industrious, creative people. With a history of relative poverty and strife, the Sweden have become and remained hard working. Now they’re probably one of the most comfortable in the world, when measured by the quality of life by the vast majority of people. Instead of sitting back now that comfort is theirs, they throw their energies into building houses, outhouses, extensions, sheds and houses from scratch, getting to the top of their game in so many industries, or producing great quality produce, arts and crafts. They organise festivals, events, parties and barbecues. They care for the land, and they tend to their gardens.
Maybe it’s jantelagen that make them work. The notion that no one should think they’re better than anyone else, conversely also means everyone wants to be as good as the other. We all strive to have great looking interiors to our homes, and trends sweep the country in cooking, growing vegetables, diets, sports and the latest apps. The Swedes are very comfortable, by international comparison, but work hard to increase that comfort all the time. Like no other place in the world, they develop and adopt new gadgets for anything you can imagine, weeding out inefficiency and discomfort wherever they find it.
At times I get tired of the constant journey to perfection. Other times I recognise the impact it’s had on the nation. We are one of the top exporters globally of music and engineering and technological innovation. We set global standards in social welfare and sustainability. We have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. On a smaller scale, we produce fantastic organic meat and produce, and we have a thriving arts and culture scene. Most things we do we carry through to the highest quality. And I’m glad that slowly we’re becoming known to be world for more than meat balls and Abba.
For a small country, it’s remarkable. Of course we have relatively limited impact internationally, and there is more excitement in cities like London and New York - I’ve chosen to live abroad for nine years now - but I’m so proud of it. I’m proud to hear that people in my extended family work at the forefront globally of innovation in eye tracking software. I’m proud of Spotify, of IKEA, of Scania, of Arla, of Volvo. Proud that the concept of tech for good and social innovation here is redundant; near all innovation is made for the greater good. I’m proud that the place I call home has a phenomenal harvest festival each year, involving the whole island and showing off the craftsmanship of local farmers. I am proud of the care we take to produce quality meat, dairy products and bread. I’m proud we take care to cook well and eat well. I’m proud of the glass art produced in my region, that rivals Murano any day.
And I’m proud of its people. They’re warm, they’re generous. They talk about the bigger questions in life, and wear their heart on their sleeves. Family is everything. Friends are kept close. Quality of life is valued and pursued every day, almost every hour.