Sometimes the Swedish system surprises even the Swedes. Most often it’s negative, as the horribly long queues for getting that life-saving operation, but once in a while it’s something positive that takes you by surprise. Something trivial, yet refreshing. This is a story about such an occurrence.

Yesterday was a beautiful winters day in Stockholm. Clear skies, a few degrees minus (yes, Celsius, that is) and a few decimetres of snow can make even me leave my desk for a Sunday in the open fresh air.

So, I went to visit my brother who has a seemingly endless supply of energy, and who had prior to my arrival made lobster soup, hot chocolate and waffles ready for us to bring on our winter picnic. He’s also got, more importantly for this story, a two-year-old daughter, Tyra, and the mission of the day was to go out to small hill nearby (that’s got to be like the alps for someone who’s hardly more than three-apples-tall), in order to try out her new sledge, bought the day before and never yet used.

As we dragged her new, red sledge up and down the hill (trying desperately not to get run-over by the hoards of ten-year old hooligans in overalls), we noticed an abundance of sledges lying around the foot of the hill. It turned out that they were owned by the municipal kindergarten nearby, and that anyone could lend them for a ride downhill.

As strange as that is, what’s even more strange is that I, being a Swede and nurtured with this behaviour since I was a toddler, never really reflected on how extraordinary it really is to allow this. It was not until I got home I realized that somebody’s got to be there to take the sledges out in the morning, and to take them on the evening – and that the government pays that person to do it. And there I am – taking it for granted. And so did the kids I’m sure. Especially those who don’t have a sledge of their own, I suspect.

Well, here I am now, telling you that though I may have opinions on how this country is run from time to time, yesterday the welfare state helped to make my afternoon a pretty wonderful one. Thank you.