WHILE Scandinavian tourists Frida Lyso and Richard Blucher were enjoying Whakatane’s summer, their fellow countrymen were digging out from under a blizzard.
“My dad sent me a video yesterday of him shovelling the driveway with this much snow,” Richard says, holding his hands half a metre apart.
Whakatane’s 26-degree heat was a far cry from the minus 34-degree weather their hometown of Stockholm, Sweden was getting that same day.
With Scandinavian summers being short-lived, the pair were enjoying New Zealand’s warmth.
“We like to say that the Swedish summer is the hottest day of the year,” Richard says.
Half-way through their stay, the pair are travelling by van from north to south in a comprehensive tour of the country.
Richard says he notices the cultural differences between the two countries are surprising.
“In Sweden we are very much in a private bubble. We don’t typically begin conversations with people we don’t know. In the short time we have been here, we have seen such a difference,” he says.
The couple met a Kiwi family who decided to take the two under their wing.
“We were just talking a bit and then they invited us over for dinner. They served us tea with some homegrown tomatoes and told us about all the places we can visit,” Frida says.
This is in keeping with a recent study that determined New Zealanders are the friendliest people in the world.
Despite the cultural variations, Richard says lifestyles between the two countries are not so different. “Considering we are from opposite sides of the world, we’re very similar,” he says.
The one obvious difference is in how Sweden has easily available and affordable public transport. “We have a much more advanced public transportation system. Even if you live in rural areas there is nowhere you can’t take a bus to,” Frida says. “We also have a lot of trains.”
She says even remote rural towns can get as many as four buses daily. “For students we have summer passes that for a fixed price, they can travel anywhere over the whole holidays.”
Richard says though they have not kept track of food costs, expenses in the two countries are comparable.
“I think the economies are very similar. Gas prices now are close to ours. The same things that are expensive in Sweden are expensive here,” he says. “Your beer is cheaper though.”
Frida tells of a system that could be untenable for the average Kiwi. “In Sweden there is only one company allowed to sell alcohol. It’s very regulated, heavily taxed and never open. They have like banker’s hours and don’t even sell cold beer,” she says.
Sweden has made environmental protection a high priority and all politicians have adopted an environmental stance and everyone takes the rules very seriously, Richard says.
“We have a law that says we can go anywhere in the forest. Forests are not privately owned. You can camp anywhere for one day as long as you don’t break branches, leave rubbish, or take anything aside from stuff like wild berries or mushrooms.”