Earlier this week, the Swedish Tourist Association decided to honor the 250th anniversary of the Swedish abolishment of national censorship by creating a phone number for the whole of Sweden. If you call that number, you're connected to a random Swede, and you can have a chat.
So now we have the opportunity to really get to know Sweden, and finally, once and for all, figure out what exactly is wrong with it. Because you can be sure that a country that's so much like one big life insurance commercial is hiding something.
To get to the core of things and understand what Sweden is about, our different European VICE offices called the Swedish number to ask the Swedes their burning questions.
VICE: Hi! Why does everyone in Sweden love dill so much?
Torgny from Gothenburg: Oh yes, dill—very popular in Sweden. Well, it's tasty! We use it in salad, you can use it in fish in the oven—but not on meat. It doesn't go with meat. But it's excellent!
Is the aesthetic of dill as appealing to you as the flavor?
Yeah, but it depends what you do with it. If you cook it, it doesn't look appealing, but if it's fresh—for example, in a salad—it looks excellent.
In the UK, we consider Swedish food to be mostly dill, meatballs, and salmon. Is that correct?
No, no, no. A typical Swedish dish that we would have on midsummer, Christmas, Whitsun, and Easter would definitely be meatballs, different kinds of herring, boiled eggs, caviar, lots of salad, and lots of bread, of course—rye bread usually.
VICE: Hello Sweden, here's a question: There's this legend that in Communist times in Romania, blond and tall Swedish women came here to have fun and drink whiskey and take drugs and have affairs with Romanian men. Do you know if there's any truth to this legend?
Sam: No, that can't be true. Why would Swedish girls want to go to Romania? It's a poor country. It's not nice there.
No, it's nice here, and cheap. If you bring money, you can have fun.
Spend money on women?
Wait, how old are you?
OK, never mind. Thank you very much.
Have a good day lady.
VICE: Hi Sweden! You've been spending your holidays in Spain for the past fifty years, and there are around seventy thousand Swedish people living here. Why?
Andreas from Skåne: I don't really know much about Spain. I've never been there, but I think Swedish people go to Spain because it's warm and beautiful. There's good food and great culture. I've heard Mallorca will be the place where more Swedish people will go on holiday this summer. I'd completely understand if you're not a fan of us being there, though. We just go there to enjoy our holidays, so we don't get the see the whole picture. We don't have to deal with your politicians or their policies.
VICE: Hi Sweden! Who really killed Olof Palme in 1986?
Roger from Haninge, Stockholm: Well, this year, the media paid a lot of attention to the case. I personally don't have an opinion on the matter. I've been following the case, but it is confusing. There is this one guy who was accused of the murder. He was declared guilty, but that was in a lower court. So he appealed. The case went to a higher court, where they reversed the verdict, and he was declared not guilty. In the media, they said it was because of the lack of evidence. I trust the Swedish judiciary, but there are a lot of people who think there's some kind of conspiracy going on. I cannot speak for everyone here, but I think they know what they are doing here.
VICE: Which country is Sweden's mortal enemy?
Anonymous: I would say Norway. If we're talking about hockey, it's Finland. If we're talking about football, it's Denmark. But overall it's mainly Norway.
VICE: So, Sweden, are your prisons really as amazing as we think they are?
Marianne from Malmö: Yeah, I haven't ever been in one, but I can imagine that Swedish prisons can be a kind of heaven when compared to the ones in the US or other Western countries. Some people in Sweden say prisoners here are better off than pensioners, and that their conditions should be harder. But this country is built on social democracy, and it has been that way since the 1920s. The basic idea is that no person is a hopeless case, and that everybody can become a better person. It's been that way for the past fifty or sixty years.
VICE: With your stance on gender equality and refugee discourse, Sweden might just be the most politically correct nation on Earth. Is it hard for you to live up to that in your everyday life?
Martin Page from Sundsvall (a UK native): I'm aware of the fact that the Swedes are like that with their politics, but I don't think most people find it a problem in their daily life. It's just something they're used to here in Sweden. Everyone tries to do their best with helping refugees, and I think the Swedes are pretty high on the list in that respect. I don't think I differ from Swedes in terms of what I consider to be PC. In fact, most people think I'm Swedish.
VICE: Do you know why there are so many handsome Swedish guys studying in Paris?
Anonymous from Malmö: It's hard to say, but I really think it's because we consider Paris the "City of Love." I've been there numerous times, and it never bores. You know, more and more Swedish students are learning French at school, so it's easier for us. In fact, we love to go abroad to study and work, so it's not a big surprise to find plenty of people from Sweden in Paris.
VICE: Bars in Sweden are supposed to ban people from dancing unless they have a special license. It looks like that's now going to change, but do you think this law is typical for Sweden?
Peter from Umeå: I guess it's just one of the many bureaucratic rules we have. But this law says that you also require security if you want people to dance in your bar. That's necessary because when people want to dance they drink a lot, and when people drink a lot, there are also a lot of fights. When I'm in Stockholm, I see this sometimes. It's not like Amsterdam, where you also use other stuff that makes you more calm and peaceful—if you get what I mean.
VICE: Hi Sweden. Do all of you have an elk in your garden?
Anonymous: I live in an apartment in the city of Malmö, so I don't have a garden and no elk. But mythologically speaking, it's true that every Swede has an elk, at least in his attic. We have to put porridge for Santa Claus in the attic on Christmas night—that's a tale we tell our children. So I guess the answer is yes and no.