Stockholm vs. Helsinki… What a Difference!

Your correspondent, who lives in Helsinki, happened to spend a few days last week in Stockholm for business meetings, and the difference between the two cities was startling, breathtaking would be a better description! This was the first visit after almost three years, and the changes were quite palpable.

The restaurants and bars were full to the brim, noisy and expensive on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday! It was quite a performance. People were chatting about this and that, and nobody seemed to worry about gang wars on their doorstep.

Readers may have noticed that there have been 69 murders by shooting in Sweden during the last year. That is a big number. We are told that they are mainly related to gang fights, and have their roots in drugs, human trafficking, gambling, loan sharks, and money laundering.

A few years ago, when living in Stockholm, your correspondent recalls having seen brazen thieving of Apple computers 3 times during 2 consecutive nights from an architect office below my apartment. On the last occasion, I challenged the thieves from my upstairs window to stop breaking the office door open with an iron rod. They stopped and shouted back to me, “We have to make a living too…” in an Eastern European accent. They then wrenched opened the door and made off with several large Apple screens! The police came 15 minutes later, probably too scared to face up to a gang who may have been carrying guns.

The Swedes seem to be taking this disturbing news relatively calmly even though there have been bombs, murders, shocking robberies – nothing seems to slow down this lawless action.  The police appear to be hopelessly inefficient, and politicians toothless. Perhaps the general public does not seem to mind too much because most of them do not live in run own areas where most of the violence occurs late at night. Now things appear to be changing with bombs and shooting right in the middle of Stockholm.

The reasons for calm appear to have their roots in this new material consumerism where one does not need to worry about things like this – it is so nice to mirror yourself with your expensive Apple smart phone, fluff up your hair with wax, wear the latest H&M fashion, or sport a beard. Who needs to worry when you can spend your free time in lively bars and restaurants!

Helsinki is best characterized by quieter restaurants and bars except for Fridays and Saturdays when the young ones let their hair down before returning home to their books and jobs. Being earnest and serious is still regarded to be a virtue, even though it may appear to be a little dull.

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