Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why A Pink LV Handbag Is Creating Political Turbulence In Sweden

Being Swedish, I try to keep up with what is going on at home by reading the leading national newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" on-line. I do this in the mornings, before it's time to head off to work. It's my quiet-cozy-relax-read and eat period of the day. I sit down with my cup of coffee and my two, open faced, cheese sandwiches (a typical Swedish breakfast!) and skim through the latest headlines.

This week, Dagens Nyheter has been busy covering the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. But the leading national story is centered around Mona Sahlin, the female leader of the (blue-collar) Social Democratic party, and her new, pink, and very expensive, Louis Vuitton handbag. There are several pictures of her with the pink LV bag dangling in her hand, walking alongside her political left-wing colleagues in the halls of the parliament.

As 2010 is an election year, the political parties are polishing their slogans and turning up the heat on their opponents. But what is the deal with this rather controversial handbag? First, Mona Sahlin is hoping to win this year's election and become the next Swedish Prime Minister. Second, Mona Sahlin has, by openly advertising her high income, stepped outside the cultural norm. But most importantly, is it possible to be a leader of a socialist-environmentalist (the "Green" party) coalition and also be a snob?

To understand this controversy, a brief description of the Swede is necessary. Swedes are suckers for luxury items just as much as Americans. But contrary to the the culture here, it's not socially acceptable for Swedes to "stick out". The mantra in Sweden is: "Don't show that you're poor. And for heaven's sake, don't show that you are rich." This is especially important if you're a public figure. Be "regular" and blend, is the golden rule. Moreover, Swedes are sticklers for following rules. From a world-perspective, Sweden passes environmental laws, always pays the right amount for its membership in the UN, and always takes the right number of refugees. Swedes are a bunch of goodie-two-shoes. They are people who always do what's right and (sometimes) not do what they're supposed to do!

Now, there is another side to this story. Mona Sahlin didn't buy the LV handbag with her own money. It was given to her when she turned 50. Also, the current Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, wears a Longines watch. But Reinfeld represents the conservative right, and he is a man, and his watch is discreetly hidden underneath his Hugo Boss suit cuff.

According to statistics from 2005, the average salary income in Sweden is roughly $2000 per month. I wonder how many Swedes have Googled "Louis Vitton handbags" and "Longines watches"?!

Previous posts: "Super snake" Fear In Florida.


  1. Do you listen to Garrison Keillor? His views of the Scandanavian people are just like yours, very, very funny. Do you think Mona and Fred may be wearing/carrying knock-offs? If I was going to buy a LV purse, it would most certainly not be pink.

  2. Never heard of Garrison Keillor, but he's picture of the Swede is like mine --he's right!

    No knock-offs, that would be American behavior --haha!

    Right about the color!

  3. Garrison Keillor is on PBS (90.7 FM) on Sunday, in the afternoon, I think. You really must try to catch him and then let me know if you enjoyed his humor or not. The movie, A Prarie Home Companion, is based on his show. There are many Americans of Scandanavian descent in the Minnesota, Wisconsin area, giving Mr. Keillor plenty of fodder for his show.

  4. Thanks! I will try to listen to him.