Swedish Utopia – myths and realities of the Scandinavian experiment
The typical Swedish greeting is “Hej!”
Delivered at high volume, with great cheer and enthusiasm, “Hej!” Is directed at whichever stranger you have in front of you.
The guy with the Trotsky beard at the Gothenburg Museum of Art says it with such great enthusiasm that I briefly suspect he’s a couple meatballs short of a full plate. HEJ!
“Hey! You’re very enthusiastic”, I say.
“You are, too! Welcome to the museum!”.
I pay for two tickets for Morena and me – 65 kronor each. Cashless like everything else. I’ve been here for several days, and haven’t even seen a single, physical Swedish krona.
“Now I hope you like Nordic Art from the late 1800s”, he says, “because we have the world’s best collection here. And I’m not exaggerating.”
I’d always thought of Sweden as a country of pickled herrings, cheap furniture and loose women – though not necessarily in that order.
But apparently, according to the more high-brow among us, Sweden is also part of the modern Scandinavian utopia – an experiment in egalitarian societies and massive welfare states the likes of which the world has never before seen.
So I arrive with a big question burning within me, tingling right down to my meatballs: is the hype true? Or is it just some clever marketing mixed with the wishful thinking of some “grass is always greener” socialists in the US and the rest of Europe?
The Guardian once ran an article calling Sweden “the most successful society the world has ever known”. Then again, The Guardian says a lot of things.
Just how great is this modern Swedish utopia?
Perhaps I should clarify my “loose women” comment from earlier.
In the 90s, Americans seemed to be having a moment of infatuation with Swedish culture. There was Swedish massage, which sounded sort of sexy. IKEA furniture was beginning to give the vacuous consumer types minimalist tan-and-grey orgasms. And sitcoms and TV commercials were full of references to tall, busty Swedish women, who – like all good “Europeans” – were comfortable with nudity and otherwise uninhibited.
I don’t remember if anyone was talking about Swedish men at all in those years – maybe Bjorn Borg in his tennis shorts occasionally popped up – but as an impressionable and heterosexual teenager, I was certainly interested in one aspect of life across the pond – the promise of finding a large overseas population of busty, sex-positive women.
Didn’t the movie Dumb and Dumber end with the two characters being invited to oil up a team of Swedish bikini models on their tour bus? Dopey Germanic accents aside, I was conscious of the appeal.
However, life went by and I never made it up to Europe’s frozen north. Mostly because the weather seems to be awful for 11 months a year – plus it all seemed so expensive.
Decades went by in which I thought very little of Sweden – and except for a couple of boring dates with a girl named Kajsa, back in the 2010s, I never got to test the ol’ Swedish hypothesis.
Americans and their silly European stereotypes, again
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I grew up in the middle of the desert in Arizona, and liberal-minded people out there were just smitten with “Europe” back in the day.
They probably still are: this “Europe” that I’m putting in heavy scare quotes is allegedly a land of high culture, good government, total work-life balance and no-consequences promiscuity, and we in the US would be much better off if we modelled our society on theirs.
I’ve said repeatedly on here that I have my doubts about the US concept of Europe – for one thing, because we’re talking of a collection of about 30 separate countries, all with their own histories, lots of different kinds of people and languages, and considerable regional animosity.
Add to this the fact that most places in “Europe” are nothing at all like the impression you’d get by strolling down the Champs-Élysées in Paris or hanging out on the Berlin nightclub scene and, well, I think the glowing reputation that Europe has in the collective US imagination is something of a myth.
But what about Scandinavia? That might be better as far as modern, egalitarian societies go, right?
Well, let’s take a look at this Swedish utopia.
Gothenburg – home of the cold, sideways summer rain
It’s the first week of July and Gothenburg is wet and cold.
If this is summer, then winter must be a lot of fun. Our hotel is on top of an Italian restaurant, and when we get to the room we find that there’s barely enough space to squeeze around the bed, and a strange smell emanating from the bathroom. All this for the egalitarian price of 140€ a night.
Meanwhile, outside, it’s raining sideways. Then the clouds break and the sun comes out. Then, more rain. We wander around looking for a restaurant that’s open on a Sunday, and end up in a faux-Japanese place eating giant sushi rolls and fried chicken. I’m sure Swedish food is great, but it would appear that most of the local restauranteurs aren’t working today.
Otherwise, Gothenburg is pretty relaxing.
While Morena chills back at the hotel after lunch, I walk out of town to a big lake. There are about a dozen people there swimming – all shockingly pale with slightly more pigmentation on their necks and forearms.
As a pale guy myself, I’ve never felt so represented on a “beach”… if you can really call it a beach. No public nudity, though. And nobody looks remotely like a bikini model.
Later that evening, after dinner at one of the many Italian restaurants on the main drag, we retire to a local old-man bar for some alcohol-free beer.
When we walk in, they’re playing Dancing Queen – a song by classic Swedish pop group ABBA – on the stereo. I’m fairly certain I’ve never listened to an ABBA song all the way through, and what I hear of Dancing Queen doesn’t make me want to start any time soon.
Apparently – get this – it’s a song about a young woman who enjoys dancing.
I’m more of a metal guy, myself. And Swedish pop isn’t known for its bone-crushing riffs or honest confrontation with the darker sides of the human condition.
The Swedes at the bar seem a bit morose, chatting quietly.
Sometimes, somebody will leave all their stuff at their table and walk off, putting a coaster over their drink before they go. It’s not exactly the famous “Danish babies sleeping unattended outside cafés” situation I’ve heard so much about, but I guess it’s something.
Nobody’s backpack gets stolen while I’m there.
Anyway, two alcohol-free beers later, I’m tired of local color and we decide to hit the hay early. We walk back to the hotel in the cold sideways rain, and go to bed an hour before dark. Reports about long Swedish summer nights don’t usually mention that it’s going to be 13 degrees and you’ll need a rain jacket and sweater to go outside.
I briefly miss real alcohol. Old Mr Chorizo was a bit more fun when he was tipsy. Then again, only a bit. And I’m guaranteed to wake up without a hangover tomorrow morning. All in all, the 0% beer is a positive change in my life.
The next day I google around to figure out what, exactly, Sweden is famous for. Besides the bikini team and a few people who test my gag reflex every time I hear about them – Greta Thurnberg and the aforementioned ABBA, for example – I really don’t know much about the country.
But it turns out there are plenty of brilliant historical Swedes: Gustaf Eric Pasch (the guy who invented safety matches), Anders Celsius (I bet you can guess what he did) and Johan Ericsson, the famous propellor designer spring to mind.
Not to mention Eric Adolf Ikea, whose passion for screwing together pieces of particle board managed to dupe generations of otherwise sophisticated… you know what? Never mind. We’ll get back to IKEA.
Has Sweden eliminated poverty?
Allegedly, poverty doesn’t exist in Sweden.
However, a percentage of the population is “at risk of poverty” which is generally defined as having an income that’s less than 60% of the median. That’s the same definition they use in Spain, incidentally.
So is it true? Have they (basically) eliminated poverty up in the Swedish Utopia?
It’s time to find out.
After a couple of uneventful days in Gothenburg, Morena and I catch the train to Stockholm.
Our hotel in Stockholm is right outside the central train station, which is next to a large shopping area, and I must say, what I’m assuming to be the busiest pedestrian areas in the whole country only have a couple of scraggly-looking druggies sitting on benches.
There are also a couple of Eastern Europeans out begging for spare change, or – in some cases – collecting empty bottles that they can return for the deposit. Central Stockholm doesn’t seem to be a hotbed of poverty, then.
And comparing it to Spanish cities like Madrid or Barcelona, the situation looks a lot better. (Just our little three-block area here in Barcelona has a thriving homeless scene – more than I saw in all of Stockholm.)
The Swedish utopia is also cleaner. Walking around Stockholm over the next few days, I don’t see any graffiti. There’s no dog-doo on the sidewalks. No piles of trash on streetcorners. It’s all immaculate.
(Allegedly, there are suburbs where immigrants are packed by the dozens into small flats, and things get a bit rough. But I’m guessing they’re no worse than the ones anywhere else. Probably better. Head out to La Mina here in Barcelona and then get back to me.)
On the other hand, some articles I’ve read claim that there’s plenty of poverty in Sweden – they’re just better at hiding it than most countries. Time for more research.
Sweden’s struggles to achieve “perfect” equality
My contact in Stockholm is Molly, a friend from my early days teaching English in Madrid. She wasn’t Swedish back then, but she moved up here in the late aughts and now has Swedish nationality and everything.
We meet in a place called Slussen and head to a hilltop bar where people are hanging around at big picnic tables drinking beer. The sun has come out and it’s nice and warm. The subdued smileyness I’m seeing is probably what passes for summertime euphoria among Swedes.
Molly’s interested in how I got out of teaching, which, of course, is a long story. I’m wondering if it’s true that everyone in Sweden is equal.
She explains the basic salary structure and it sounds pretty egalitarian – the difference between entry level and established “adult” salaries isn’t a gaping chasm, and people expect to move up the “salary ladder” as they age. Elsewhere, I read about the high rates of unionization of the work force, and the fact that many jobs are basically yours “for life” – firing workers is close to impossible.
“But”, Molly adds, “it’s a lot harder for people who are children of immigrants – even if they were born in Sweden themselves.”
That’s a problem a lot of European countries have, or will be having soon. Here in Spain, with a national election coming up, it’s notable that the large immigrant population seems to be unrepresented in politics – or really in the higher echelons of anything other than football and basketball – lookin’ at you, Lorenzo Brown.
Here in Sweden, explains Molly, if a business has to choose between several CVs, it’s normal for a “local-sounding” name like Lars Larsson to float to the top of the pile.
What about the famous Swedish gender equality?
I ask Molly about another thing the Swedes are famous for – allegedly, men and women are more equal here than anywhere else.
“I went out with a guy at the beginning”, she says, “and for a long time I had no idea whether he even liked me. He wasn’t making any sort of move!”
That’s not what I was expecting to hear when I asked about gender equality, but I’ll take it.
(I was imagining she’d drop some data on me, like the fact that around 57% of the Swedish national government is composed of women. But it reminds me of my boring dates with Kajsa back in the day – I was never sure if she wasn’t really into me, or if she was just acting Swedish.)
Anyway, I agree that too much gender equality might complicate people’s dating lives. Specifically, if you train a whole generation of guys to think that “making the first move” in a dating situation is a toxically masculine violation of a woman’s personal autonomy, they might decide to wait around assuming that the girl will make the moves for them, just to be on the safe side.
Elsewhere, I’ve read that Scandinavian women tend to lament a lack of “chivalry” among the local men. Which is, of course, perfectly natural given the context.
Personally, I think that “chivalry” is a stupid thing to expect of men in an egalitarian society – based, as it is, on the assumption that women are the weaker sex.
Either women can do literally anything that men can do, or they’re delicate fragile beings in need of lots of special treatment – pick one, because both those statements can’t be true simultaneously.
Walking along one of the many rivers in the city center, I ask Molly about the Swedish elite. She says she’s given English classes to many elite kids – mentioning three basic categories of Swedish high society: the bankers and hedge fund people, royalty and the nobility, and the children of pop musicians. Apparently no matter where you go in Sweden, it’s hard to get away from ABBA and Ace of Base.
Then she says, “You should really write about the Kurdish Fox.”
The Kurdish Fox it is, then…
The next day I see an article from a UK “newspaper” that mentions Sweden’s rising crime rates, and even the Kurdish Fox himself.
That’s a pretty good coincidence. So it’s decided. Let’s talk about gang violence in the Swedish utopia.
From what I’ve gathered, the Swedish media is full of stories these days about the Kurdish Fox, a gentleman who’s (allegedly) running a drug ring that’s come into conflict with other drug rings in various Swedish cities.
Over the recent Christmas period Stockholm was shocked by shootings and explosions of various kinds, in both richer and relatively poorer neighborhoods. The interesting thing is that nobody was hurt.
The shootings and explosions apparently targeted family members and associates of two drug lords: the Kurdish Fox and another one, who (as far as I can tell) is known only as “the 24-year-old”. Both drug kingpins themselves have moved abroad, with Turkey refusing an extradition request to bring the Kurdish Fox back to Sweden for prosecution.
So it’s not exactly The Wire, but apparently there is a drug trade up in utopia – as well as the accompanying violence. Sweden’s murder rate, incidentally, is almost double that of Spain, but quite a bit lower than that of the perennial developed-world outlier, the United States.
I’d love to give more information, but there isn’t much available in English. Suffice it to say that both crime and inequality in Sweden seem to be trending upward in the last several years, and people are wondering if perhaps the glory days of the Scandinavian utopias are over.
Another big question is this…
Are people in Sweden really happier?
Michael Booth, in his book The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, talks quite a bit about the various happiness surveys and equality indexes that consistently place countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway at the top.
And in several chapters, he asks the question: Does a survey of happiness really tell us anything?
For various cultural reasons, happiness is hard to pin down. Is “asking people if they’re happy” a valid metric for anything at all? Maybe not.
People in Thailand, for example, are said to be pretty happy.
And I imagine that a group of Thai sociologists could explain that fact by creating a world happiness index, heavily weighting factors like access to coconut milk, lots of prostitution and an enlightened monarchy (much like theirs) with plenty of power to imprison its critics – leading them (the Thai sociologists) to devise a country ranking in which they’re on top, and the Scandinavians do very poorly.
I know it sounds ridiculous and blatantly propagandistic when I put it that way, but is it any more so than a few universities scattered about the frozen forests of the North Atlantic declaring – surprise! – that they’re living in the happiest and most advanced societies the world has ever seen?
Food for thought.
Now that I’ve been to Asia a couple of times, I’m willing to at least entertain the notion that our little democratic social experiment over here in Europe and North America is much less significant than we usually give it credit for.
Or are the Swedes secretly quite depressed?
Anyway, it’s also possible that Scandinavian happiness is just an advanced form of smugness – “Of course we’re happy! We’re better than all those other countries, so why wouldn’t we be?”
Or it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy: people in countries listed as being among the happiest know what’s expected of them, and even come to view themselves through the lens of the survey results.
And there’s the little issue of suicide as well: I’d always heard that Scandinavian countries were full of depressed, suicidal alcoholics. Many academics sort of wave this off: “oh, it’s probably the weather or something”.
Looking at actual data today, though, I’m not really convinced Scandinavia’s all that bad. Some people claim that the whole “alcohol-fuelled Scandinavian depression” thing is a sort of urban legend made up by right-wingers who don’t like welfare states.
(The Spanish drink a lot more than the Swedes, for instance, and nobody’s suggesting that it’s because people in Spain are sitting around feeling depressed about their giant, dehumanizing welfare state.)
So while I take happiness surveys with a grain of salt, it seems like the Swedes aren’t high on the objective measures of depression and misery either.
Maybe this Swedish utopia isn’t a myth. What if it really exists?
Let’s talk about a bit of Swedish history
Sweden is a country that originally got rich by pillaging its neighbors, and more recently did very well selling war material to Nazi Germany.
They also like to call themselves, more than a bit sanctimoniously, “the world’s conscience”.
During the Thirty Years War of 1618 to 1648, to quote Booth’s Almost Nearly Perfect People again:
Under the notoriously bloodthirsty Gustaf II Adolf, Sweden fielded what was at the time the largest army in the world – 90,000 soldiers – and commenced a three-decades-long campaign of slaughter and rape across Central Europe that is said to have resulted in a greater number of deaths, proportional to the population of the time, than the two World Wars combined, or the plague.
Stockholm’s Viking Museum has a few axe-heads and helmets, a couple of replica boats and a whole exhibit about fact vs fiction in the Vikings TV series. Morena and I go there on our last day in Sweden.
It mentions slavery briefly, explaining that not much is known about the slaves kept by the Vikings, but that they were called thralls. Apparently, thralls were one of the pillars of the Norse economy, and the Swedes participated in the slave trade in one way or another up until 1847.
The museum ends with a little ride called Rangfrid’s Saga, in which visitors are whisked through a video presentation about the hero’s journey of a Viking man who’s hounded into becoming a slave trader by his nagging wife. He goes off on his boat to sell some slaves, gets attacked by pirates, ends up pillaging some foreign towns, and finally returns, victorious, with plenty of silver to save the family farm and keep his daughter from being “married off”. The family holds a huge feast upon his return, and everyone’s happy, for a while… except, presumably, the slaves.
I’m absolutely the last person who’s going to demand that museums issue long apologies for all the terrible things done in history, but the whole thing seemed a bit pro-slavery to me. Weirdly so, considering Swedes’ reputation for being so fond of equality.
But what makes them (history of slavery aside) so attached to egalitarianism?
Are people in Scandinavia somehow different?
Michael Booth’s book goes through the historical arguments for why Scandinavians are somehow different than everybody else, and decides that they’re mostly bullshit.
“Well, if you leave aside the slavery, the pillaging, the rape, and the entire social structure, the Vikings were actually quite egalitarian – we probably inherited our trusting natures from them!” goes one such argument.
Others suggest that it’s a form of historical sadness or guilt which limits people’s ambitions or lifestyle expectations. But honestly, how guilty can you expect people to feel about something their ancestors did in the 1640s? Not very much, I’d say.
It is true, though, that Scandinavians have a lot of trust in each other – they trust their neighbors, and they trust the government to take their tax money and do the right thing for society. Why is this, exactly?
The most likely hypothesis, concludes Booth, is that the famous Scandinavian mentality is created by the welfare state, and not the other way around.
To quote Ove Kaj Pedersen, himself quoted in Booth’s book:
You trust your neighbour because you know your neighbour is paying tax just like you are, and when that neighbour gets sick, they get the same treatment as you, they go to the same school. That is trust: that you know that, regardless of age, sex, fortune, family background or religion, that you have the same opportunities and the same safety net.
He’s talking about Denmark there, but I guess the same probably holds for Sweden. Allegedly, people up in Scandinavia are happy to be part of the collective – they see themselves as all being on the same team, working for a common goal.
And it seems reasonable that 100 or so years of government meddling in everyone’s lives is more than enough to create that feeling in most people – or at least make it very taboo to express any sort of contrary opinion.
Which brings us to a couple of important philosophical issues.
What is equality, anyway?
I’ve thought quite a bit about equality in the last several years. Probably a lot of people have.
It’s been in the news quite a bit.
And although chivalry is a dumb example, it’s not that far removed from more serious public policy debates. Recently, for example, the US Supreme Court ordered universities to stop using “affirmative action” criteria in their admissions processes.
And whatever you think about that decision, it’s basically the same question as the one answered by male chivalry: does equality mean letting people fight it out in a true meritocracy? Or should we give some people special treatment in order to help equality along?
A much bigger question, in my mind, is this one: Just how equal will free people be if left alone, without government interference in the form massive redistribution?
The answer is: not very equal. That’s why Scandinavian countries have these massive bureaucracies, and (in Sweden’s case) 52% taxes, to enforce equality where it doesn’t occur naturally.
In fact, one of the biggest criticisms of the Scandinavian model is that it tends to crush people’s ambitions and create societies of total conformity.
Quoting Booth yet again:
As The Economist put it in their Nordic special edition, Scandinavia is a great place in which to be born… but only if you are average. If you are averagely talented, have average ambitions, average dreams, then you’ll do just fine, but if you are extraordinary, if you have big dreams, great visions, or are just a bit different, you will be crushed, if you do not emigrate first.
Australians call it “tall poppy syndrome” – the poppy that sticks its head up too high is the first to be cut down. And it doesn’t sound like a good basis for a society to people like myself, raised to believe in individualism.
Sweden’s “benign” totalitarianism
Booth’s book ends with a bit about Sweden’s benign totalitarianism.
He points out that for most of recent history, Sweden has effectively had a one-party system of government.
(They also have a monarchy. Nothing says “equality” like a hereditary ruler who lives a life of luxury on the taxpayer’s dime, eh?)
In any case, modern Sweden has a system in which much of the power is in the hands of some bureaucrats at the Social Democratic Party and some very powerful families.
One family, the Wallenbergs, are Europe’s most powerful business dynasty, and even today own around one third of the entire Swedish stock exchange.
The thing is, the people running things seem to do a pretty good job, most of the time, and Swedes appear to be mostly happy with the arrangement.
Of course, occasionally the Swedish government will go and do something silly like start a eugenics program which forcibly sterilizes tens of thousands of “useless” citizens, mostly young women, who were deemed to be rebellious or promiscuous. That’s a real thing, and it was happening until the mid-1970s.
So apart from a “racial purification” program second only to Hitler’s (and lasting much longer), and the monarchy, and the powerful family dynasties owning nearly everything, and the fact that they supported the Nazis, and are still one of the world’s largest arms producers, and the gang violence, and the difficulties experienced by immigrants and their children, and the one political party which just happens to win nearly every election intruding into every aspect of people’s lives…
Yes, if you just leave aside all those things, it looks like the Swedish utopia isn’t entirely made of bullshit.
Back to IKEA, for some meatballs
Okay, I have to admit: I lied earlier, about the founder of IKEA.
His name wasn’t Eric Adolf Ikea – he was called Ingvar Kamprad, and he started out selling safety matches door to door on his bicycle, allegedly at age five.
After a while, he transitioned to selling Christmas decorations, then ballpoint pens, etc, eventually founding IKEA at his uncle Ernest’s kitchen table.
I once read an article about Kamprad in which he was portrayed as the adorably austere Swedish business mogul, who would stop by the nearest IKEA store for a lunch of discounted meatballs while out on his world travels.
Later I found out that IKEA is owned by a series of holding companies, which are owned by another series of holding companies, which in turn are owned by a couple of foundations which do little more than to act as a tax strategy to pay virtually all the company’s profits back to the Kamprad family.
Yes, nothing says “income equality” like funnelling your fortune to a foundation in Lichtenstein.
Cute bicycle story though.
Are other wealthy families like the Wallenbergs paying tons of taxes in solidarity with the average Swede? Or do they have tax exempt foundations set up to limit their liability? I can’t find much about it in English, but it appears to be the latter.
One final question, before we finish up here.
Why don’t we just do all of this in the US?
Back in the US, like I’ve said, we have a tendency to idealize European welfare states.
People on the American left seem to think it should be simple to do something similar to the Swedish model in the US – and they’re not talking about the eugenics program, I assume.
But I think it’s mostly impossible for a variety of reasons – and a big one is scale. Just because a country of 10 million people is able to do something doesn’t mean it’s immediately scalable to a country of 330 million.
Another reason, probably just as important, is the level of trust that Swedes apparently have for their government. Quick thought experiment: would you trust your government to take 50 or 60% of your income and put it to good use? Would you think it’s actually a benefit to pay so much in taxes?
Now imagine your country’s least appealing political parties “redistributing” more than half your money every year. Still feel good about it?
According to most accounts, the Swedes do feel good about it. But many Americans (myself included) aren’t quite emotionally ready to hand the government half our money and hope for the best.
Left-leaning media loves to publish articles with titles like Where tax goes up to 60 per cent, and everybody’s happy paying it – but I really don’t see that type of thing working in a politically and socially divided country like the US.
Okay, time for some lunch.
As you can perhaps tell, I’m no longer interested in writing “Top 6 Fermented Herring Restaurants in Central Stockholm” type list posts.
But the food was pretty good up there. And I’ve gotta end this somehow.
Morena and I had meatballs and herring at a modern Swedish bistro.
We bought moose, bear, and reindeer sausage at the Östermalm Saluhall market.
And we partook of the local Vietnamese food (official slogan: Try the seventh best Asian cuisine!).
It was all pretty good, for what it was.
And I don’t regret going to Sweden, or paying their exorbitantly egalitarian prices for a few days. The best meal I had up there, it must be said, was a reuben sandwich from a food truck. And the thing I liked most were the lakes and forests outside the cities.
The city of Stockholm was nice, but it’s not the type of place I’m going to be yearning to go back to.
And presumably, in winter, it’s a bit dark and chilly.
Final thoughts on the Swedish utopia: it’s not entirely a myth, but it does come with downsides – and there are important debates in Scandinavian politics about how sustainable the whole thing is going to be moving forward.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Leave me a comment down below if you’ve got anything to add.
Daniel AKA Mr Chorizo.
P.S. Perhaps some readers saw my long list of the failings of the Swedish utopian project above and thought, “Where does this guy get off, being from the US and criticizing our perfect European societies?” Of course, I am aware that the US has more than its fair share of social problems. Many others have written about them, and I don’t have anything to add.
P.P.S. In other news, at the time of writing this we’ve got a general election here in Spain in just over a week, on 23 July. I’m not really following it – none of the candidates seem even remotely interesting to me, I don’t want to research them for an article, and I’d rather gouge my own eyes out than watch a political debate. So hopefully nothing too dramatic will happen and I’ll be able to leave Spanish politics alone for a while. Thanks for reading!