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In search of the Swedish soul

What most defines Sweden—its welfare state, Lutheranism, sex or Pippi Longstocking? Having lived there for 8 years, I've discovered it's much more complicated than we think

By Jonathan Power   July 2009

An examination of the Swedish soul must begin, I’m afraid, with sex. Not Volvo, not IKEA, not Alfa Laval nor H&M. Not Strindberg nor Dagerman nor even Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking. Not the welfare state, not income equality nor criminal justice. Not the Lutheran Church nor collective bargaining. Not the Vikings nor 200 years without war. It’s that three letter word—and the half-myth about Swedish promiscuity—that is our starting point.

The town I live in, Lund, across the bridge from Copenhagen, hosts not only Scandinavia’s oldest university and cathedral, it is full of high-tech companies including some of the…

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