The new wall

In the early 2000s I left Norway for Sweden. I didn’t like my job, I had a girlfriend who lived in Sweden, but most of all I didn’t like the norwegian mentality. Being part norwegian myself I was always included by my friends and co-workers as a norwegian. Most of my friends are all awesome but some of them, especially the newly rich (and there was a lot of them) made it a thing to crack jokes about people from other etnicities. It usually started out with someone making fun of swedes – calling them the new polacks. A lot of polish people has been coming to Scandinavia to work for much higher salaries than in Poland, but still being cheap labour for scandinavian employers. And when Norway started becoming really rich, a lot of young swedish people started coming over. First for summer jobs, then later for restaurant and pub jobs.

This was a big change for norway, who used to be the poorer of the nations. As a kid, when living in Sweden (yes, I move(d) a lot!), when we went to norway, we brought stuff they didn’t have (Sweden being much more modern) and on the way back we bought cheap stuff to bring back to Sweden. The norwegian krona was worth almost half of the swedish, and we got a lot of moneys worth. I can’t remember a lot of swedish making fun of norwegians for being poor. (However – I’m also part finnish, and a lot of Swedes did make a lot of fun of the Finns, but that’s a story for later).

There’s always been an sibling rivalry between the scandinavian countries. The classic thing is that people care more in the smaller countries than in the big ones. Norway tended to have the mentality of the younger brother who looked up to it’s big sister Sweden and all of a sudden got more successful and wanted to shove it into the face of big sis’. It’s not a very flattering thing to do however. I remember my mother flying in to Norway after a few years living in Spain and norway had introduced a new 200 krona bill (previously there was a 100 and a 500 krona bill only). She asked a taxi driver why they did that and the taxi driver said – more or less jokingly – that it’s because it’s getting too heavy to carry around 100 krona bills for norwegians since they’re all so rich. These jokes were everywhere.

Norway had massive issues of employment. Yes, not umemployment, there was too little people for all the jobs that needed to be done. So meanwhile, in Oslo (capital of Norway) I could basically go to any pub or restaurant and speak swedish with most of the staff. Almost every place had swedish staff, young and energetic, wanting to build up their financial future. Norway is easy to travel to, you have the right to work and live because of the nordic convention. And it was all high paying jobs, some places earnings were more than double of the swedish salary.

The salaries in norway, albeit high, also meant that costs of living is high in Norway. Among highest in the world. So young swedes started living in collective housing. Since Sweden is close by (two hours by car from Oslo and you’re across the border) a lot of swedes went home during weekends. They bought food in Sweden, much cheaper than in Norway. And still to this day, the food you can get in Norway is basically shit compared to the selection in Sweden. In 2001 a norwegian friend of mine took me to a new supermarket and asked me if I’ve ever seen such a good selection of fresh fruit and veggies. He was super impressed. He picked up a fruit and asked me if I’ve ever seen one of these before, proud as hell. And I told him I’ve seen avocados lots of times before. No wonder swedish people, that were in Norway temporary, kept to their own. They formed small “swedish ghettos” of highly educated people, making a lot of money working hard, saving that for their future and their families. And norwegians started making fun of them, comparing them to other working class immigrants.

Being norwegian that has ties to most of the nordic countries in some way, it started getting to me. I was sharing an apartment with a swedish friend of mine myself. We also went to Sweden a lot to shop, because it was half price, we were in Sweden anyhow and the selection was just so much better. Our freezer was full of good food instead of the awful norwegian food. We made dinner at home instead of going out to eat expensive shitty norwegian pizzas. Daniel, my friend I shared the apartment with, was (I hope he still is) an awesome cook. We had people over that loved his food. Some norwegian people that came over kind of joked about us being like swedish ghetto people – “but the good kind”. Maybe because of me being norwegian, or rather: because they actually knew us, they could look past the issue of us not being 100% norwegian (whatever that is).

When I went out to clubs with norwegians a lot of them dropped remarks about the swedish staff. Every time they did, I got a little pissed but didn’t say anything. I felt connected to the swedes, since I lived a lot of my life in Sweden. The swedish society was much more open and thus appealing to me than the close minded norwegian patriotic christian society. I started hanging out more and more with swedish people. They never made jokes about norwegians, except when being upset with norwegians mentality towards swedes. Totally fair reactions as well.

For the few years I was living in Oslo, I felt less norwegian by the minute. I didn’t like what Norway was becoming. I realised I didn’t change, the country did. The racist political party (FrP) was still considered lunatics and somewhat of a joke, but it was changing rapidly. Every day I felt that norway was becoming more and more a nationalist state full of rich people looking down at the working class. Rich people being mostly norwegians, working class being mostly not. It was becoming racist. This was just a few years before Breivik, a member of FrP during early 2000s, committed his terrorist acts.

When I moved to Sweden again I decided I wanted to move to Malmö. Malmö was the total reverse of Oslo in many ways. It was very open and people from almost every country in the world was represented in the city. The was a lot of buzz and creativity, people had fun, they didn’t care where you came from. In Oslo I felt that was the first thing anyone asked. People in Oslo dressed up to impress, bought fast cars for their hard earned money to impress. Newly rich all the way. The first day in Malmö I was smiling because of the people wearing sweat pants and having no make up on. It felt so much more alive, more natural, more international. And Malmö had Öresundsbron – the bridge! – to Copenhagen. Malmö was the perfect mix: a small-ish international city, close to a international big city, lots of things going on, and one of the best international airports in Europe. All being interconnected by the bridge. The jokes between swedes and danes, although similar between the rivalry between norway and sweden, was on a more loving way.

People in Scania (the southern part of Sweden where Scandinavia gets its name from and where Malmö is the capital) normally have lots of ties to Denmark. They’ve much more interconnected and international in that way than most of the Scandinavians. Scania has been a part of Denmark, the dialect resembles the tone of Danish (not always in a good way, danish being a weird language). But it’s all full of love.

The things that I took for granted growing up in Sweden as a kid, was that openess. The feeling of an “us”, without any excluding “them”. Everyone is part of the “us”. Pride in helping thy next, without being religious about it. The pride in doing good in society, rather than bragging about it and the money you make. The pride in being strong enough to tell the big bullies that they are in fact bullies. The understanding that ideals are more important than future trade. That people are more important than money. All of these things, are the things I’ve always loved about Sweden. It was the things I missed in Norway.

Just a few years after I left Norway, Breivik committed his extreme right wing terrorist attacks. And just two years after that, his racist party was elected into government for the first time ever. There’s been a shift. At the same time, the attitude in Norway is that people from outside (especially Sweden) doesn’t understand the norwegian situation. Many of my norwegian friends are afraid to use the word “racist” to describe a party that is exactly that. It’s not politically correct apparantly. And in Norway it’s very common to bash Sweden for being “fucking PC”, and say that you can’t talk about whatever you want, that immigration is a problem and so on. The norwegian press is self-censoring more and more about their wordings, because Norway is such an open country where you can talk about everything, as long as you don’t call racists racists and as long as you’re critical of immigration.

This norwegian trend is what I’m feeling happening all over again. Sweden has been going the exact same way. The unthinkability of the racist swedish party – The swedish “democrats” (SD) – being part of the government is not as unthinkable anymore. The right wing, who previously declared that they would never rule jointly with SD has opened up cooperations in some cities and regions more or less openly. It’s becoming common to almost brag about voting for SD since it’s a sign of not being “fucking PC”. And SD is now polling as the biggest party among men.

On top of that, today the swedish government just built a wall. To stop immigration. Or well, they made the danish people do it. If you need to enter Sweden you need to show an ID card. In order to get immigration down. People being asked in the media what they think about the wall and ID checks are now really upset – because it will prolong their commute back and forth to denmark. Less trains will leave, they will be shorter. Everything designed to keep some people out. Anyone can see where this is heading.

I’m fed up of it all. There’s no political ideologies being discussed. There’s no talk of inclusion. There talk about how to fix the situation is about the wrong situation. How do we stop the war to make sure there’s no refugees? That topic has not been discussed for as long as I can remember in the general press in Scandinavia. And to add insult to all of that, Scandinavian countries are among the top weapons and ammunition manufactorers in the world. They just want to profit from war, but not take the cost of peoples horrors.

I’m fed up with the view that people are “fucking PC”. Being politically correct is something that I value – it simply means that you’re showing respect when talking. A persons gender or heritage is not important to the ideological discussion you’re having. So what the fuck is wrong with being PC? The trend is to be more obnoxious, to be more egotistical. There’s an ideology winning here, that’s not even being described as one. We used to call it fascism, but today we just censor it because we’re so open and not fucking PC. So we can’t call facists fascists anymore.

Today is a day of shame. Today is the day where the most beautiful things I loved about Sweden was taken away from me. The possibility of turning the other way around and going towards an open, inclusive, loving, caring society looks bleek, at best. Today is a day where I hoped people would wake up and start protesting. Last time I crossed the border between Denmark and Sweden I refused to show my ID card. Not because I have something to hide, but because I wanted to show solidarity towards the people that can’t. The police treated me as shit. The people around me was upset that I stopped the line so they could get home for pop idol in time.

But a few people managed to get passed the police, who would not have done that otherwise. The small things do count, but there not a lot of people that do even the smallest of things anymore. We’re becoming a shameful society, living of our old reputation of being an open and beautiful society that is no longer true. We’re perceiving ourselves as we used while closing our eyes to what we are now, and closing to what we are becoming. It starts with the small jokes and attitude changes, it ends up with facism in the government. Sorry for being so fucking PC but: Fuck Scandinavia.