Stockholm is often called the most appealing city in Scandinavia, and it’s easy to see why. Built on 14 islands and connected by over 50 bridges, with a high concentration of natural spaces, crystal clear air, and an archipelago of some 24,000 islands and islets, it deserves it’s self proclaimed title of Capital of Scandinavia. But we were expecting that.
These are the surprises.
1) Not everyone is blonde
Okay, so maybe this is a bit silly, and we didn’t really expect absolutely everyone to be blonde, but we did expect a high proportion to be. But the reality was that only about 20% of the people we saw had blonde hair. At least in Stockholm. (We did see a lot of dyed blonde hair though) 😉
It turns out that compared to the rest of the world, the percentage of blondes in Scandinavia is only slightly higher, with Finland having the most. Who knew?
2) A lot of people seemed to smoke
Sweden has a well-founded reputation for being green, clean and natural. In 2010, Stockholm was the first European city designated as a Green Capital, with water so clean, you can fish within the city. It’s also the most pollution free, with some of the best air quality, and no wonder, with over 1,000 green spaces, constituting a full 30% of Stockholm’s total area.
The food we had in Stockholm was some of the freshest we’ve ever tasted. This is purely anecdotal, but I swear that a Swedish potato does not taste the same as the other potatoes of the world. It’s just that much more natural and enjoyable.
So, it was quite a surprise to see so many Swedes lighting up cigarettes on the streets. It was definitely enough to notice.
Strangely though, the reality, is that Sweden has the lowest smoking rates in all of Europe, with only 11% of adults reporting as smokers in 2011.
Maybe they stand out more, because there are less of them?
3) They don’t clean up after themselves
Since the Fika is a national past time, it’s no surprise that Stockholm is full of atmospheric cafes. There’s a lot of variety, from historical cafes to chain coffee houses. The one thing they have in common, is that the tables are not cleared very often (by staff or customers) resulting in unoccupied tables with dirty plates.
90% of the time, we couldn’t find a table (in our hotels or at a cafe), that was completely clean and cleared of plates. We would move them to the side to join the pile of other used dishes and garbage. It was really the only way to sit and drink a coffee at a table inside the cafe.
Things were cleared eventually, but definitely at a much slower pace than Seoul, where everything happens at hyper-speed, and dishes are removed before you blink.
The one thing that wasn’t at all surprising? It’s just as staggeringly expensive as you think it will be. More on that later this week…
Have you ever traveled to a country that didn’t meet your preconceived expectations? What surprised you?