Shopping the new religion Or maybe just a sect?

Before leaving to our cabin I went downtown Stockholm where all the brands are having their flagship stores. Well most of them don’t have one- they have 3 of them on the same street. Tall mausoleumish buildings filled with hope and dreams of how we want to look, feel and be. It was one of the first days of summer and people where filled with dreams of real summer. I just stood in one of those shops and looked for a while. Watched everyone including myself and thought what would an alien think of it all? There are so many things like the racks are bursting. Up to the ceiling stuffed with all our needs or more our wants. People around me where acting crazy. Grabbing stuff, shoving things on the ground, pulling things of the hangers like there was no tomorrow. Many of them with a hunters eye fixed on their prey. And it wasn’t even the sales – well the prices are so cheap I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. And I just thought about all these stuff. Where will it end up? What happens to the things that doesn’t get sold?  The things that have to make room for next trend and next season. Is this actually making us happy (-ier)?It all made me a bit dizzy. I also thought about walking in Gent – the town in Belgium where I lived for about 5 years. In middle of town there are at least 4 huge cathedrals (this image shows 3 of them). When I lived there I used to think about how it would feel to be really dirty, unschooled and very poor and then walk these streets between these huge cathedrals 700 years ago when the church had all the power. I think it would scare me shitless, pardon my French. And now these huge shopping institutions is starting to scare me cause where will it all end? What are we becoming? Are we turning into the people left on the spaceship like in the movie Wall -E?


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

July 1, 2013 at 09:44

I think and hope that more people are realizing this is not the way to happiness but so far this is the only one beside religion that is so clearly outlined for most of us. It makes happiness sound easy – just buy this and all will work out. Like prayers, if you’re into that. It scares me too but I have a new-found trust in the human race, I think we won’t accept the way things are anymore and that it will change. And every single one of us counts in doing that. I truly enjoy and appreciate your thoughts about this!

isabelle McAllister
July 2, 2013 at 10:24
– In reply to: Marie

Marie, i hope you are right! But it’s a kind of spinning wheel that is hard to get out of. I think it’s much easier to get used to more things than less. But lets cross our fingers for it!

Lena K.
July 2, 2013 at 00:18

This is a bit off topic but related to Stockholm. I’m an American reader visiting Stockholm and Göteborg for the first time this week — I thank you and Jenny for providing inspiration, ideas, and insight in this blog.

It’s my first day here and I haven’t really been shopping yet but have found downtown Stockholm to be so peaceful and calm, especially compared to many other big cities I’ve been to or lived in Europe and the US. (Small towns are different, for sure: I live in one now and enjoy the pace of life.) Additionally, while all the YouTube videos I saw about Swedes keeping to themselves seem to be true (I’m avoiding making eye contact or saying hello to strangers like I usually do where I live and it’s hard!) but people have also been SO incredibly nice and helpful when I ask for help (in English at that!) So, as a foreigner interacting on a superficial level (deeper is always more complicated), I’ve had a very different experience here today!

So, yes, I am extremely critical of modern consumer culture, especially in my home country of the US, where I think capitalism can be so very nasty, much nastier than in countries like Sweden with better social support systems. And I think you are right to make the connection between the role of materialism in today’s culture and the power of the church in the Middle Ages, how both are ways to control people and keep them from free-thought and happiness. However, I also agree with you that there’s a lot of hope and good stuff as well.

That said, I do enjoy getting stuff…. of course, I bought Alla Balla Kalas when I passed the supermarket selling it here in Södermalm — it’s such a great book! I like it because the ideas are good and pictures bright. I also like it because the ideas are creative but realistic, things kids really can do — and enjoy — without spending a lot of money. :-)

Jenny Brandt
July 2, 2013 at 09:11
– In reply to: Lena K.

Lena k!

Thank you so much for your comment.
I just got back from à trip to new york.

Even though I had heard people are quite rude there (compared to midwestern americans who i’m more used to) i found new yorkers in general super
friendly compared to swedes. It really hit me once i got back to Scandinavia. Like it always does. How rude we are.
in line waiting for My bagage. My huge suitecase came riding on the line. I Said excuse me several times without anyone moving. What the?!? I eventually almost sat it down on a man s (who refused to step aside for me )blue suede shoes (yes he had them shoes)

gave him a stern look and asked him “where’s your maners At!?”

It is so diffrent here with that. And i hate that we are so freaking “minding our own business ”
I love the American way of talking to strangers. Saying pardon as you pass someone. Holding the door.
Making smalltalk.

But i try talking to people here aswell. I used to feel stupid about it when i got à wierd look back or even worse NO respons At all. But i really dont care
about eventually embarassing myself anymore.

Of course ,i have to ad, there are alot of friendly sweeds out there. And alot of rude americans. Like with all humans. There are all sorts.

But coming from one country to
Another the differens are striking.

I hope you enjoy your stay here.

Ps.I’ve noticed that some of these “rude” people are really just shy.
And i think that in America kids are thaught how to talk to people early. Not so much here.

Lena K.
July 2, 2013 at 09:34

Hi Jenny! Thank you for your reply. I really enjoyed reading about and seeing pictures of your trip to New York. I agree that New Yorkers are actually pretty friendly, despite their reputation for being rude. (I think about the ‘cultural differences’ that exist even within one country. Growing up a few hours south of NY, I was always embarrassed by how much my New Jersey father would honk the horn while driving. However, driving in the NY metropolitan area as an adult showed me that people there honk for all reasons: to say hello, to remind people to go… as well as when they’re annoyed. ;-)

I did notice the bit about luggage, too. As you know, in the US, if you appear to be having trouble or just look kind of lost, people tend to ask if you need any help. I hope you made it home OK with your suitcase! And, ha, to the blue suede shoes — sounds like he almost made up for his ‘rudeness’ with style! However, I do think many Americans could use a refresher in good manners because kids aren’t learning as much at home, not because they mean to rude but because parents have to work so much. (As a teacher, we work on manners in school sometimes.)

I really agree that so often ‘rudeness’ is just shyness or not being sure what to do. Women tend to jump in right away to help whereas a lot of younger men are afraid of seeming sexist. (I say everyone should help everyone!)

And hooray for small talk! I think it does take practice as well as being able to ‘read’ a situation, like to determine whether or not someone wishes to keep it light or go deeper into conversation. There are times, however, in the US when I’m like, “I have known this person for awhile but just now have figured that they are superficial. I miss how it’s often much clearer in Europe whether or not it’s friendship or merely acquaintanceship!”

Yes, thanks again for your blog and your well wishes! I hope you continue to have a pleasant readjustment to life back home, Jenny. I look forward to seeing more pictures of your garden — I’m loving the flowers and flower arrangements here… to say nothing of the candy. ;-)

Hej då!

Jenny Brandt
July 2, 2013 at 09:56
– In reply to: Lena K.

Lena k!

Love this.

Thank you.
Take care and bring alot of candy with you back home.

isabelle McAllister
July 2, 2013 at 10:29

oh lena and Jenny – we have to make a blogpost about this conversation. Such an interesting topic! I think you both summond it up well but I do want to favor again about speaking up. I chat with people I meet and on the streets all the time and it works fine where ever I am. I don’t think you should keep from making eye contact in Stockholm with people. It also depends on which area in town you are. And Stockholm in summers are REALLY quiet. In sweden it’s so common to have a summerhouse that everyone leaves town. It’s like I went to Milan once during industrial vacation and it was all closed. Empty on the streets. Thats what you are finding right now.
But go to my hood around Nytorget at Södermalm and you will fins some people left!

Enjoy your stay! I also have to say that I think Sweeds are more and more open minded but maybe also more and more rude ;-)

Lena K.
July 2, 2013 at 21:23
– In reply to: isabelle McAllister

Hi Isabelle, Thanks for the tip per making eye contact. I’ll try that out tomorrow as well as visit Nytorget… but I’ll save my cheesy pick-up lines for back home. ;-) I’m finding Stockholm to be pleasantly quiet but look forward to coming back one day when it’s busier. However, I’m not sure if I could deal with the extreme cold!

Lena K.
July 2, 2013 at 21:28
– In reply to: Lena K.

[P.S. I have appreciated this conversation but do understand if you want to delete in to refocus on the blog entry about shopping. :-)]

July 3, 2013 at 11:08

It’s funny that you wrote this, because I was just thinking this when I was in our shopping street recently.
I’m always wondering where all the stuff comes from and where it ends up. It’s overwhelming.
Have you read the book ‘ the story of stuff’ ? You might find it interesting.

I’m visiting stockholm for the first time in 3 weeks. I find it a bit scary because i’m going by myself, hopefully i will find some people who aren’t too shy to talk and/or hang out ;)

Karen White
August 12, 2013 at 13:00

Funny enough, I’m also visiting Stockholm for the very first and interested to read the above. It will be a business trip but friends who have been have told me what to expect and I have to say it sounds like my bag.