There’s a lot we don’t know about Sweden. Bet you didn’t know that moms and dads-to-be enjoy a parental leave of 16 months, which includes two months for the dad — all while taking home 77.6 per cent of the salary.
Here’s another one. It’s mandatory for companies to offer at least one massage a month as a perk. If you couldn’t believe your eyes, sample this: income tax rates are rather high but people pay up gladly as college education is free and healthcare is virtually free.
The Swedes are indeed full of surprises. Apart from gifting us the greatest pop band (ABBA) and the finest tennis player (Bjorn Borg), the Scandinavians were also the earliest in framing nam
ing laws. The Names Adoption Act of 1901 banished the established practice of affixing the father’s first name to newborns and replaced it with the concept of family names, thereby bringing relief to thousands of babies of unknown parentage.
From a nation of Ericssons and Anders sons, people were empowered to choose surnames that were more descriptive of the family—ranging from topographic names like Soderberg (meaning: ‘from the south mountain’), Edberg (‘from the isthmus mountain’) and Lindberg (from the ‘lime tree mountain’) to pedigreed noble names like Hammarksjold (from the folks with the ‘hammershield’ insignia).
But with time, a nosy bureaucracy took over and used an updat
ed version of the law to act as name inspectors who decide how children are named in Sweden. Consequently, a couple were denied the right to name their son ‘Q’ citing failure to satisfy ‘basic linguistic requirements’.
Diana Ring had a similar experience when she baptised her child ‘Token’. The Tax Authority (believe it or not, they decide names!) summarily rejected it on account of being ‘offensive’. Kasim Mats’ case is weirder. When his parents applied for a name change to Kasim Von, it was declared ‘inappropriate’ because ‘Von’ was seen as an aristocratic name not meant for commoners. But parents are not giving up. They are going to court to get the matter sorted. When Michael and Karolina Tomaro were prevented from calling their infant ‘Metallica’, they took to legal recourse to challenge the move and were successful in rocking the veto. ‘Lego’ has been taken off the banned list too, thanks to a colourful court intervention.
These gaffes apart, the Swedes have been liberal enough to clear ‘Google’ for a search engineer father. So, it might still be worth it to make babies in Stockholm.