The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The Christian Science Monitor's #1 Best Book of the Year
A witty, informative, and popular travelogue about the Scandinavian countries and how they may not be as happy or as perfect as we assume, “The Almost Nearly Perfect People offers up the ideal mixture of intriguing and revealing facts” (Laura Miller, Salon).
Journalist Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians for more than ten years, and he has grown increasingly frustrated with the rose-tinted view of this part of the world offered up by the Western media. In this timely book he leaves his adopted home of Denmark and embarks on a journey through all five of the Nordic countries to discover who these curious tribes are, the secrets of their success, and, most intriguing of all, what they think of one another.
Why are the Danes so happy, despite having the highest taxes? Do the Finns really have the best education system? Are the Icelanders as feral as they sometimes appear? How are the Norwegians spending their fantastic oil wealth? And why do all of them hate the Swedes? In The Almost Nearly Perfect People Michael Booth explains who the Scandinavians are, how they differ and why, and what their quirks and foibles are, and he explores why these societies have become so successful and models for the world. Along the way a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterized by suffocating parochialism, and populated by extremists of various shades. They may very well be almost nearly perfect, but it isn’t easy being Scandinavian.
experiment. Sure enough, the small group of people waiting on the platform began to steam on to the train before I managed to disembark. I spread my arms wide, to push some of them back in a Jesus-like gesture of compassionate instruction. ‘Hello! Shall we let people get off first?’ I said in a raised voice (not shouting), pushing two of them back off the train’s steps. Two others barged past regardless, but a couple of the crowd did seem genuinely embarrassed and backed off. My achievement here
that the chief reason this part of Malmö felt so soulless was not because of the clusters of tower blocks, which were surrounded by reasonably pleasant gardens and recreation areas, but due to the broad, busy ring roads that encircled them. Each group of apartment blocks was isolated by non-stop, four-lane traffic, the roads lined sometimes with wide pavements, sometimes with no pavement at all, and often entombed in steep embankments like medieval ramparts. This tended to make the distances
that separation from the mother at a young age lays the foundation for a whole host of neuroses and anxieties in later life, as well as exacerbating the inherent tendency of Swedes towards independence and isolation. Could this ‘abandonment’ be one of the explanations for all those single-person households, for instance? In his book Suicide and Scandinavia US psychiatrist Herbert Hendin observed that the Swedish approach tended to encourage independence in their children at a very early age.
and architecture, 6, 25, 153 asylum seekers, 331; see also immigration and multiculturalism Atlas Copco, 297 August, Bille, 93 Auvinen, Pekka-Eric, 279–80 bacon industry, 28, 118–19 ballet, 25 Bangstad, Sindre, 181–4 banks see financial services Baugur Group, 139–40, 141, 142 Bawer, Bruce, 179 The Beatles, 387 Bech, Rasmus, 113 Becirov, Bejzat, 327–8 Beecham, Thomas, 167 Belgium, 19 Beowulf, 50 Berggren, Henrik: on Palme, 348–9; on Swedish childcare, 369–70; on Swedish
the world. It is a thin line indeed between relaxed and smug. The Danes do have a remarkably relaxed approach to life which, I admit, I have sometimes interpreted as immense self-satisfaction, but they do have a great deal to teach us about not taking life too seriously. They are a remarkably chillaxed people. The Danish language is rich with phrases designed to encourage the reduction of stress: Slap af (‘Relax’), they will say, Rolig nu (‘Easy now’), Det er lige meget (‘It doesn’t really