2 weeks in Scandinavia has given me a glimpse into the lives and cultures of a population of people raised very differently from me. One of the tasks set before us as a group was to individually find a cultural artifact in one (or all) of the cities with which you identify. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, LGBT culture is something deeply important to me as a member of that community and something I tend to observe when I travel. Therefore, I decided to pick that as my cultural artifact.
Coincidentally, the few days we were in Stockholm overlapped with the city’s gay pride festival. This wasn’t something I was expecting at all, mostly because the majority of pride festivals are in June. When we stepped off the train from Copenhagen I noticed the rainbow decorations in the station and was curious as to why the city seemed to be decked out for something LGBT-related. Lo and behold, once we got to the hotel I was informed the city’s Pride was going on all that week and weekend.Now, I’ve been to a few Prides in America, but those pale in comparison to what I saw in Stockholm. I’ve never seen a city embrace LBGT culture so intensely the way this Swedish city did – everywhere you looked there were rainbow flags and posters and stickers. Every business seemed to have a flag posted outside its doors and there were even huge flags next to the Swedish flags located around the city. I’ve never seen anything like it.
America doesn’t have the same track record with LGBT rights as Scandinavian cultures. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Sweden in 2009, in Denmark in 2012 and in 2009 in Norway, while America didn’t get around to legalizing it until last summer. That speed is represented in the approval rankings in the countries. According to various polls, 79% of Danes, 71% of Swedes and 78% of Norwegians support the legalization of same-sex marriage, but in America that number sinks to only 63% of the population supporting gay marriage.
That difference in approval is evident when you compare the cultures of America and Scandinavia. Just seeing the sheer amount of rainbow decorations in the city from a huge range of people and businesses made me feel so appreciated and accepted in Stockholm, while I’ve personally never seen support to that extent in America.
Perhaps that difference is derived from the difference in religiosity in the 2 regions. Scandinavia is a much less religious area than America, and that may have a hand in the acceptance of same-sex marriage and LGBT individuals.
Regardless, it was a really special experience to be in Stockholm at the same time as its Pride Week. It was very interesting to see the increased support for the LGBT community, and it made me realize just how far America has to go in terms of human rights work. This aspect of Scandinavian life gave me an insight into the differing cultures between our country and this region, which was definitely a broadening experience.
More on Stockholm later! – Joce