Saturday, January 7, 2012

The state of Sweden....+ my New Years Resolution

If you follow me on Twitter or spend a lot of time reading comments on other perfume blogs you might have come across me talking about Sweden. It's a great contry in many ways. If we didn't have such generous benefits for parents, allowing most of us to stay home for 1,5 years after having a baby, this blog would never have come into existence. But, in other aspects when it comes to perfume, it's complete and utter wasteland. Niche perfume is not available outside any of the 3 biggest cities (in Stockholm, the capital, I can only name 2 stores that carry any). Most people are  afraid of smelling of anything but the most common, boring cleanish bleah you can possible imagine. When I started my latest job I had to sign a paper agreeing not to wear strong perfumes in the workplace, and I am a computer programmer working in an office landscape, it's not like I'm around sensitive bilogical compounds or anything like that.

So why is this? There are several theories going around. It might be due to our history of protestantism, saying that any luxuries and pleasures are a sin. It might be due to politics, our society was mostly built by our social democrat party. Traditionally they have been working for that everyone should have equal opportunities (which I think is a very good thing) but they also come with a view that anything bourgoise or "old money" (or, really, any type of money, because if you have it you're probably cheating on taxes) is bad.

Another possible culprit is the Scandinavian design, dictating that rooms should be airy and spacy, preferable with a minimal amount only white furniture bought at IKEA. When imagining those kind of settings there might be a faint pine scent from the wooden floors but nobody thinks much further than that.

There is also the horrible proverb "Law of Jante" that says "You should not think you're better than anyone else". What it does is justifying looking down on anyone who's trying to accomplish anything out of the ordinary, such as smelling better than the rest. It probably sounds utterly stupid to anyone who's able to think for him/herself, but the impact it has on people here should not be underestimated.

When all of these points are taken into account, you'll realise things are not working in favour of the perfume thing here. So I have made a very grand New Years resulotion for 2012. I'm going to put together a very nice, educational site, aimed at Swedes, written in the most inspiering way imaginable, explaining how come I (and so many others) love perfume so much. I will talk about how it transports me to other times and places. How it makes me connect to every aspect of myself (a nice bottle of perfume costs the same amounr of money as an hour of proffessional therapy, just do the maths there...). I'm going to cut the "fanatic" bit, it's not my intention to scare people, but I'm not planning to loose any edge. Yes, that's what I'm going to do. And you may now wish me luck ;)


  1. I think that's a great plan/New Year's resolution, Sigrun. This post really got my attention because what you wrote in paragraph 4, regarding the "Law of Jante" proverb, rings true with my own beliefs. I have a lot of liberal artist friends, and I've supported their creative endeavors in a number of ways, but it sort of blows my mind that they think life would be better if we adopted the Communist manifesto and tried to make life fair for everyone. I promise not to talk much on this subject, as I'm sure you didn't want to get too political here, but I really believe that life is better (economically, creatively and in most every regard) when there is healthy competition. People will create and do things out of the ordinary so long as there is an incentive to do so, and by this I primarily mean an economic incentive. My feeling is, give people lots of civil liberties and the ability to dream as big as they want to, because in the end, I think it creates products, services, works of art, and the kind of true philanthropy that benefits and inspires others. And I also believe that when we live our lives this way, we are more accountable human beings, because we take ownership of our lives and destinines.

    Okay, I'll shut up now. :-) This subject is one I always find difficult to resist commenting on, though probably it would be better for me if I did resist. :)

  2. Sigrun, I think your idea is a very good one, and I'm very interested in how perfume is viewed in Sweden. It also seems to be a poor socio-political climate for fragrance in Canada, and I think it's getting more difficult and more stringent here in the US and everywhere across Europe. I often think about what it would have been like if I'd been raised in another part of the world like Arabia, where scent is a very important thing. I'm grateful for all of the liberties I've been afforded my whole life, don't get me wrong, I just have a very curious spirit. :)

  3. Ha! That will be a good place for me to practice my Swedish (which is going into non-existant). :)
    I must say I find your Law of Jante a strange thing - why in the world would anyone interested in perfumes look down upon other people? I mean I understand what you're saying, but it's basically as you explained it, anyone who can think will not go for that explanation.
    It seems to me that appreciation of perfumes (smells in general) is what makes one a better person, one able to enjoy the beauty of life in its most ethereal form. That can never be a bad thing, can it?

  4. Suzanne, I love hearing your opinion on this matter :) I'm sort of in the middle here. I do think thigs like public health care is a good thing and that a country will benefit if everyone that's smart enough will be able to get a PhD, not only those whose parents can afford to pay for it. However I do realise that if you blanket people to hard they'll suffocate and you'll kill all incentive to grow and deveolp. It's hard to draw the line and I don't have any final answers here, I suppose we'll just have to keep on trying different strategies and learn what seems to work and what doesn't.

  5. Carrie, I also think it's very interesting how the subject of scent is vewed so differently in different countries. I spent a year in Thailand as an exchange student and that got to be the polar opposite of Sweden in this matter. Not that anyone where I lived could afford perfume, they couldn't, but people there were so much more AWARE of scents. You could see someone pick a single ylang flower walk around with it, sniffing and snffing for hours. The most expensive rice was the best smelling one. They would let their laudry dry in the sun because it made the clothes smell good (no fabric softener there...) or carry tiger balm in their purses, to smear on under their noses, if they'd encounter some really stinky during their day.

    I really miss Thailand when I'm writing this...

  6. Ines, I will be so happy to have you looking at my site :) But be prepared it will take a while until I manage to have anything presentable up.

    The "Law of Jante" is a sad thing indeed. Maybe I should clearify, it's not really about perfume in the first place but more a mindset or a general attitude that can be applied on most situations. It's about how jealous, small minded people try to suffocate everyone who's not. I think you might encounter it in other places as well, only difference is we got a name for it.

  7. I do wish you luck! I'm assuming you will be writing in Swedish? Otherwise, I hope you will share the blog with us when you begin.

  8. Thanks! Yes, it will be in Swedish, but I'll probably blab all about it on this blog as well, so no one will miss a thing.

    I'm thinking more of a permanent site in the end than a blog, but I'll start with a new blog anyway because it's a great way to work up the volume of texts I'll be needing as it allows people to give feedback and come with ideas and suggestions :)

  9. I think the more collectivist a culture is, the more the individual gets lost.

    It's too bad that this correlates with socialist politics, but sometimes it does. It isn't like Sweden is red though. I'm surprised.

  10. Joan, yes, I find it hard to draw the line when to go for a more collectivist solotion and a more individual one, I suppose it depends on what's best for the situation. I wouldn't call Sweden red but we do have a commie party that gets like 5 % of the votes (but sure not mine) every election so clearly there are a lot of people that are inclined in that direction.

  11. Good luck, Sigrun! I'm not sure how much impact you'll be able to accomplish but I hope you'll at least enjoy the process.

  12. Undina, Yes I don't know either but I do like the feeling of setting my goals a little bit higher than the normal standards. If nothing else, it's a big middle finnger in the face of the Law of Jante ;)