China has become Sweden’s fastest growing tourism market

By Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/20 17:13:39

Speaking of Sweden, what comes into mind may be its icy and elegant beauty, the beautiful landscape of the midnight sun and the value of minimalism and functionality.

There is an old Swedish proverb, "Lagom är bäst," which translates into English as "just the right amount is enough," encapsulating the Swedish life philosophy that everyone should have enough, but not too much.

Indeed, you can always find Swedes wearing "lagom clothes," nice but not ostentatious; living in a "lagom house" lightly furnished with a "lagom garden" of neatly arranged plants and flowers.

"Lagom, according to my personal dictionary, means just right, sufficiently and like in moderation," Lisette Lindahl, Consul General of Sweden in Shanghai, told the Global Times. "Sweden was a very homogeneous society up until recently. We were all very alike, so just in the middle made us all feel the same and equal."

Speaking at an event organized by the Swedish National Tourism Board, VisitSweden, Lindahl said she believes the idea of lagom makes society "compassionate," with a great deal of solidarity between its people, who contribute to equality as a belief and value in Swedish society.

Zeng Yanbing is a best-selling Chinese author who has penned several books on aesthetics and lifestyles. She was recently invited to visit Sweden for a video project, spending 10 days touring from Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo, where she visited and spoke with local personalities from all walks of life.

She noted that the idea of lagom is deeply embodied in Swedish houses. But what impressed her most was the simple furnishings in their homes. Where a successful Chinese would boast about the size of their house and its luxurious decorations, his Swedish counterpart might comment on how he made the most of its limited space, Zeng said.

Cold crayfish

The Swedes do share a common interest with Chinese: their love of crayfish. "Kräftskiva" is a crayfish party held every August to bid farewell to the summer and prepare for the northern country's winter.

The Scandinavian way to process crayfish is different from the Chinese, who prefer steaming and serving them hot and spicy. Swedish crayfish, however, are boiled in salt water and seasoned with fresh dill (a "cool"-tasting herb) and served cold.

Where the Chinese eat crayfish casually at roadside stands, the Swedes prefer a large ceremony, with party accessories such as conical paper hats and balloons. When all guests are seated, a rowdy atmosphere prevails amid noisy eating and traditional drinking songs, a scene very ironic for the quiet, low-key reputation of Swedes.

"Swedes are shy; the opposite of Americans. Some Swedes are even afraid to say hello to their neighbors or share a lift with others. But it all changes after they consume alcohol," said Zeng.

"I think this is related to their natural environment and short summers. In their eyes, summer is so beautiful that they love it with all their heart. So when summer festival comes, they free themselves," she said.

Booming tourism

Many crayfish sold in Swedish supermarkets are reportedly imported from China. Some have even won first prize at crayfish competitions. Likewise, among the Chinese there has been a growing interest in all things Swedish.

Li Chunmei, country manager of China for VisitSweden, told the Global Times that Chinese tourism to Sweden has been booming in recent years. Last year, Sweden received over 300,000 overnight tourists from China, a 25 percent rise from 2015, making the Chinese market the fastest growing of Sweden's 12 target markets.

During 2017 Spring Festival, the number of overnight Chinese tourists in Stockholm increased by 80 percent. Events that allow Chinese tourists to experience an authentic Swedish lifestyle are popular. Cycling, fishing and Nordic cooking classes are all in high demand, Li said.

Guests at an event about the Swedish life philosoply lagom


Traditional Swedish pastry


Residential housing blocks stand near the waterside beyond a Swedish national flag in the Söder Mälarstrand area in Stockholm, Sweden.

Photos: CFP and Qi Xijia/GT

Newspaper headline: Lagom & Kräftskiva


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