Written by Hayu Hamemayu
When you’re living in a foreign country, it feels like you’re living in two different worlds. As if you set your feet on two different places: your hometown and your current place. Consequently, you can’t stop wondering, comparing, and analysing, which one gives you the better fit. This makes you feel wobbly and restless sometimes, especially in the situation of a pandemic of Covid-19 like what we have lately.
The last couple of months have been a really hard time for everyone. We are forced to embrace the new normal and to redefine the concept of life as we know it. New vocabularies now become part of our daily life: COVID-19, social distancing, flatten the curve, flock immunity, lockdown, and so on. However, the situation had also brought a new revelation for me.
And this revelation revolves around one word: TRUST.
Can you trust the level of trust in Sweden?
I don’t have any trust issue, but when it comes to politics and government, I was raised and taught to be sceptical or at least questioning the system. But in Sweden, this has been constantly challenged.
In the context of COVID-19, Sweden has a different approach from my home country or any other country for that matter. Sweden employs quite loose regulations, even compared to neighbouring countries like Denmark and Norway.
The Swedish lockdown
Sweden doesn’t impose any kind of lockdown. Preschools, elementary schools, restaurant, shops and cafés remain open. People are not forbidden to gather or to exercise outside, unless it’s more than 50 people or if you have any symptoms. Travel is not recommended but the decision is very personal it’s just a piece of advice, not a strict rule.
In short, Sweden puts the decision on individuals and expects them to understand and consider their actions carefully and thoughtfully, which I found was a lot to process at first.
My mind was always full of cautions: What if people don’t listen to the government? What if the situation gets out of control? Why don’t we act more aggressively? And so on.
Surprisingly, Swedes do listen.
A study conducted in the last week of March 2020 shows that two-thirds of Swedes said they had stopped travelling, meeting people and using public transport – an indication that people follow the recommendations of government agencies (Sweden.se, 2020).
There are some exceptions, apparently (as some people are still sunbathing in the town square and my neighbours are still throwing a party on Saturday night), but the majority still trust the country’s approach and the responsibility of its people.
Yes, some of them agree that the response is slow. Some others admit that maybe different approach is needed. But at the end of the day, they still have some degree of trust in the government agencies.
A personal reflection
I don’t want to get into the debate about the effectiveness of the strategy or whether the Swedish government is doing enough to halt the spread. Honestly, I don’t know which stand to take. This post is purely a personal reflection. The only thing I know for sure is that there’s still so much I don’t know about Sweden.
I believed that after living here for more than three years, I had figured out most of the things in this country. But I was wrong.
Before the pandemic, I didn’t know that Sweden has no law to impose a curfew. In life before coronavirus, I never knew about the trust cycle: people trust the authority, government trust independent expert government agencies, and government trust people. Or other Swedish things I should have known better.
But maybe the essence of living in a foreign land is never-ending learning, because the more you learn, the more you realise how little you actually know.
About the author
Hayu Hamemayu is a Lund-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Jakarta Post, Media Indonesia, Kompas, Majalah Kartini, and Indonesia Travel Magazine among others. A traveller mommy by nature and random thinker by inclination, she keeps memories in her Instagram @hayuhamemayu and writes her everyday stories in her blog.