Late last night a group of young women emerged from a Darling Harbour bar. All were blondes. For five minutes they chatted happily on the footpath, seemingly in no hurry to go home. Eventually one woman separated from the group and boarded my cab.
In a European accent she requested a Bondi hotel. I was surprised to see she was not young but middle-aged, and blessed with the Scandinavian genetics of beauty and fair skin. I asked what her accent was. ‘I’m from Sweden’, she replied.
My passenger was in Australia for three weeks, primarily to visit her daughter. It was her daughter and girlfriends whom she’d spent the evening with in Darling Harbour.
‘So your daughter lives here ?’, I asked. ‘Yes, she’s studying for one year but wants to stay. She really loves Australia’. ‘I understand, Sydney is a hard place to leave’. ‘People are so friendly here’, she said. ‘They say, "hello, how are you". It’s not like in Sweden’.
Whilst flattering, I found this hard to believe. If anything, Aussies have been criticised lately for deteriorating manners. However my passenger's next comment really piqued my interest. ‘And Sydney is so safe’, she continued. ‘My daughter and her friends are now walking around to find a restaurant. Back home this would be very dangerous’.
Unfortunately, before I could pursue this a traffic distraction on William Street killed the subject. So later at home I Googled, "Swedish women fear walking at night". Confirmation comes from Norwegian blogger, Fjordman,
In an online readers' poll from the newspaper Aftonbladet, 82% of the women expressed fear to go outside after dark.