In a globalised world, wherever you travel, and within Europe particularly, most elements of daily life seem at first glance very familiar.
But scratch beneath the surface and the subtle differences begin to reveal themselves, adding a new dimension to the adventure of travelling and reminding us that cultural differences are still alive and well after all.
One of these which strikes many first-time visitors to Sweden is The Great Double Duvet Mystery (and its counterpart, The Great Double Bed Mystery). Rent a cabin in Sweden, look closely at that beautiful bed in your lovely hotel room, or knock on the door of a friendly Swede’s house and ask politely if you can look in their bedroom, and you’ll soon discover something odd:
Where are all the double duvets? Where are all the double beds?
Is this some hangover from Sweden’s socialist roots resulting in a bizarre national bedding shortage? Is there some stratospheric luxury tax on double-sized anything that makes these commodities the preserve of the super-rich?
Or (unfathomable horror of horrors!), could it be that the Swedes actually like it this way?
If so, well…um…surely it’s not very romantic, is it? I mean, I thought the Swedes were supposed to be saucy and quite fond of a bit of…um…nighttime exercise.
Coming from the UK, where we have a proud and well-ingrained tradition of spending your nights scrapping furiously with your bed partner in a silent tug of duvet war and waking up at 3am with your unmentionables bared to the sub-zero atmosphere of your bedroom, this does seem strange indeed.
Look on any Brits-in-Sweden expat internet forum and you’ll find a post on this issue from someone who’s married a Swede without reading the small print (I’m one myself!) and got a bit of a shock when they came home to find a pair of single duvets lurking innocently side by side on the bed as if this were the most natural thing in the world. They panic and immediately seek reassurance from the cyberspace community that their new life partner hasn’t lost their mind.
Fear not – it is normal, and it works just fine. The Swedes would argue that it’s by far the most natural arrangement – for cabin and hotel owners, any room can be adapted for use as a twin or a double; for couples, not only do you avoid the midnight duvet fight but also the saggy-meet-in-the-middle-mattress problem (though in homes and hotels you will often find a double mattress placed on two single frames).
And when it’s time to inject a little romance, well, if you’re going to let a couple of inches of feather-filled fabric stand in your way, then shame on you…
So please don’t despair when you arrive at your idyllic log cabin in the Swedish countryside and see the beds. Shrug your shoulders, think “When in Rome…” (or Stockholm), and give it a go. Who knows, you may even be converted!
Bob from The Nature Travels Team