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Relaxed reading
Reading is a great way to relax escape reality for a short time. Swedes actually read books more regularly than a few decades ago.
Photo credit: Helena Wahlman/

Time For Nothing

High on our list of ideal occupations are “rest”, “be alone”, “relax”, “read” and the somewhat vague “freedom”.

The original, 100-year-old idea – of being active on holiday – is now a thing of the past. When we have travelled the long miles to our summer home, we do… absolutely nothing, as the statistics make clear.

High on our list of ideal occupations are “rest”, “be alone”, “relax”, “read” and the somewhat vague “freedom”. 53% state that they want to “sleep”. 77% want to “take it easy”.

Among more active occupations we enjoy fishing, swimming, sunbathing, drinking coffee and having barbecues. The latter can take place every evening, providing a hobby that gives a great excuse for investing in complicated smoke barbecues and exclusive, locally produced barbecue sauces.

However, there is reason to doubt the truthfulness of all this alleged activity. If you spy on a randomly selected summer home, you realise that peeling potatoes on the front steps is often the day’s most exciting occupation. Or someone filling in the last letters in old crossword.

A search for calm is, of course, a reaction to the stress that characterises the existence of modern humans across the world. The unique thing about Swedes is the conscious search for a special type of calm in which all camouflage can be set aside. It is perhaps best described with another popular phrase: time for oneself.

So it’s somewhat surprising that “meeting relatives” is high on the list of activities. Of course we like our relations, but the summer home is often a complicated, jointly-owned affair. Time must be divided fairly, as must the work involved. Sooner or later there are always arguments about costs or, ultimately, about selling the property. Every Swede can tell you stories about families that were torn in two when irreconcilable desires collided.

It’s easy to picture Ingmar Bergman sitting and smiling thinly, gazing down from heaven at the tragic aftermath.

What Keeps Swedes going

It’s hard to see a future in which our love for our summer homes would wane. Our beautiful summer, with the tall grass along the verges and the dry crackle of gravel under our feet on the way to the kiosk, has a special attraction. And with a house of our own – whether castle or shack is irrelevant – we have everything we need. This is true for all ages and all temperaments. Only there can we be ourselves.