Hi everyone! Dearest Anders mentions in his band member profile that he got his own apartment in 1995. My question about the possibilities of how he achieved this lead me to first introduce the broader context of this topic below. I had been curious to find out more about the Scandinavian social support system-in particular the Swedish one-recently, and the reason is this: I am originally from the Ukraine but have been living in New York for most of my life, having arrived here with my parents as a young kid. My father, on one of his recent trips back to Ukraine, met a Swedish man who is married to a Ukrainian woman and living either permanently or temporarily in Ukraine. He told my father that in Sweden, generous social support is virtually guaranteed for the population and besides the free medical care, citizens who are poor or struggling financially are given an apartment and money for food by the state, either permanently or until they can get on their feet (this I don't remember exactly). He also said that the man told him that there is a flip side to this in that it is quite difficult for younger Swedes to find jobs and as a result the world tends to seem rather meaningless for quite a few of them and the suicide rate is high. This whole thing interests me quite a bit, in particular because of my own life and career. You see, I am a young, undiscovered artist (painter primarily) living in New York City. For those of you who don't know, the living situation here in the States, and in NY particularly is very different from Scandinavia/Europe. Government social support for the lower class of the population is very minimal. First off, the govt doesn't care about what you do in terms of your career; you can be the next Bach or Mozart or Picasso or Einstein, working yourself silly yet struggling financially, and they won't look at you any differently than if you were a vendor of used junk trying to sell it on the city streets. You will not get any better financial support; all procedures are standard, measured only by numbers. So people who are literally one hair away from being homeless, regardless of their resason, will probably get some foodstamp money and a little bit of cash for their other needs which comes nowhere close to covering even a "walk-in closet" apartment in any part of the city. The best the person could hope for is a small room, shared with someone else in a not very pleasant neighborhood. If you are able-bodied and can't find a decent job (something better than McDonalds), that's your problem. If the minimal financial assistance is not enough for you to keep from losing a roof over your head, that is also your problem. Competition for government jobs has always been very high and now I'd imagine it would be darn near impossible to find a job of this sort. One would unfortunately have to be very ill or dying to get further assistance like more money and much-reduced, usually specially-located housing. There are private organizations that help people who fill a certain criteria (elderly immigrants, political refugees, etc) but they can not help the vast majority of needy people. Many struggling workers here have to work two jobs or work day and night at menial-labor or other lower-end jobs just to feed themselves and their families and keep from getting thrown out on the street. You can choose to receive welfare but you then have to work it off, with your work would be valued at minimum or near-minimum wage. There is also a very basic gov't-sponsored health insurance for the poorest of the poor. Now, finally am getting to the main point of what I wanted to ask about/discuss: Did Anders have to pay for his apartment or did he get one this other way? In New York, like I mentioned above, it makes no difference to the state how creative people find housing; the general unwritten rule is that money really matters and everyone is on their own, only the most financially struggling and desperate people get a certain small amount of money plus free health insurance and case closed. They can elect welfare but they have to spend time working it off. What elevates the living problem for financially struggling people is that rents and housing prices in New York and several other major cities are ASTRONOMICALLY expensive; smaller towns and cities are an exception to this, but how many people would want to live in the middle of the cultural nowhere? There are many more artists in NY than there are commercial galleries to accommodate them, and even gallery artists have no guarantee of "success" (by this I mean being able to meet all your basic needs plus a little extra money), often having to work for the gallery for many years in return for minimal pay for their work. The social networking system here is quite rigid and I find it exceedingly difficult to find like minded people and make friends, particularly if no one knows about you. But I find that it is not just me; the vast majority of people here hide behind the cover of a dubious understanding of friends. I imagine that this phenomenon is on the increase in other parts of the world, sadly. When I say a dubious understanding of friends, I mean people here say they have friends, they get together with them, have an active social life, blah blah, but c'mon, for most people here in the states-particulalrly in the monstrous megalopolitan areas-friends are not friends in the way Mike Akerfeldt thinks of Jonas and vice versa. I know some Americans may deny this, but some of us know the monster of superficiality that lies just beneath the smiling facade. I may be generalizing a bit but in no way am I intending to describe all Americans this way, just giving a general characterization particularly stemming from my experience living in NY a long tme. People here tend to not be interested in other people and making close friendships; valuing other things like careers and comfortable living instead. But all of this isn't to say that I am complaining about living in the States or my life; I'm not. I tend to idealize, and as much as I love my home country of Ukraine , I shiver to imagine how ordinary people live there nowadays. Ukraine has become a modern Eastern European country with ads, anthems, slogans and many nationalistic people making one think that it's a great place to visit, live in, or just hold dear to one's heart. But besides the lovely scenery and surroundings, powerful history and the optimistic people the country is in a giant hole with desperation written all over it. There is practically no state support. Paradoxically, none of it is the fault of ordinary people and there is very little they can do about the mess that's out of their control. You see in photos all the latest import cars, many good streets, well-dressed, optimistic and hardworking people, the natural intriguing beauty of our city and the surrounding countryside and yet most people barely make enough in one month to feed themselves; I have no idea how they manage to pay for their other expenses like shelter, the quintessential fancy high-heeled boots, fancy coats and western clothing and makeup many of the young women cannot seem to walk the streets without; or the pricey modern Toyotas, VW's and BMW's that share the roads with the once highly-coveted but now obsolete Soviet-era cars of bare-bones simplicity. My father says that life there for most people is worse than in sub-saharan Africa, because in Africa they have clans of people who care about one another, and dance in a ritual ceremony when someone has died, while in Ukraine life has become the viciousness of animalistic survival where everyone is out pretty much only for themselves. I will always hold the country dear to my heart, but there's not much I can do for people but to pray for them. So, can some of you Scandies, as well as others, comment on what I wrote above? Feel free to tell your self & state stories, how you think the living situation in Sweden affects the band and their creativity, how your unique living situation in your living area affects your life, or anything else pertaining to this broad topic. I'm like to read your views and opinions and imagine some other people would as well. Thanks!