Ordnign och reda, which I’ll translate as “order and synonym-for-order”, is an important concept in Sweden. And, indeed, I find the country remarkably orderly.
For example: I went and saw The Tallest Man on Earth perform in Stockholm last Friday. The show was at 7:00 pm–and to my continued astonishment, the opening act walked on stage at 7:00 pm. Yup. 7:00 pm.
The Tallest Man on Earth was on stage by 8:00 pm. (It’s lucky I had to be there by 7:00 pm to get my secondary-market ticket. If I’d shown up at 9:00 pm–conservatively early for a show in the ‘States–I’d have missed all but the last 45 minutes!)
Or, for another example: it’s the only place I’ve been where people routinely stand on the right-hand side of escalators so those who wish to walk may. It’s a delight.
Waiting (in a shop for service, for example) is controlled by ticket number. You enter the shop, take a ticket, and wait for your number. Example: I ducked into a tiny (no more than 10′ x 15′) electronics shop to search for an outlet adapter. I saw the red paper ticket dispenser but no tickets–so I assumed (wrongly) it was not in use (there were only a few people in the shop). The next person to enter–a local, took one look at the dispenser, opened it (as though this were routine), retrieved the next ticket which was stuck inside, handed it to me, and took one himself. (Given the pervasiveness of these ticket systems, I’m almost surprised you still have to stand in line to get a drink at the bar.)
(As an aside, the ticket system resolves the single-line (think: Wendy’s) versus multi-line (think: grocery store) debate. Single-line systems are more efficient, but are perceived by their participants–despite actually being faster–as being a longer wait than multiple lines. Using tickets avoids the psychological trauma inherent to multi-line queues when you “choose the wrong line.”)
It’s as though the country’s systems were designed by introverts, with the specific aim of minimizing any possibility of conflict or confrontation with another individual–and also a system where timid introverts (such as myself) are at no disadvantage to large, loud extroverts.