Swedes love regulations. This is particularly true when it comes to workers’ rights, both real and assumed. Business opening hours are strict and sometimes unhelpful. In Sweden, when the computer says no, it really says no.

Recently, I had a stopover at the airport in Stockholm, lasting between midnight and 4am. Arriving, everything was exactly as I had dreaded it would be. The airport was deserted. Shops were closed, their shutters pulled down; desks stood empty, lights were switched off. Here and there, people were sleeping in dim corners, slumped miserably over their luggage, waiting for the country to reboot.

Anxiety churned in my stomach as I looked for a space – any space – that seemed less lonely, less dark, where I could spend the next four hours. And then I thought I heard music. Was the despair making me hallucinate? Following the sound, I rounded a corner and there it was, bathed in light and with its speakers blaring: one very much open café.

Its owner was frantically plating up refreshments to dazed Swedes, drawn to the light like thankful moths. ‘Yes?’ he shouted at me, then proceeded to recommend green tea instead of black, advising that ‘green tea is good for you’. He was right, it was good for me. It seemed to be good for all of us – for the man next to me ordering hourly rounds of lasagne, for the young couple quietly celebrating their trip with beers and buns, and for the lone rocker who looked both surprised and pleased to be awake, watching Netflix on his phone.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for regulations. But at two in the morning, when hungry and alone, I’ve never been more grateful to find a country I thought I knew to be open to change.

Maria Smedstad bio Scan Magazine Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine.

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