The other day when I hung out with a very international bunch, we ended up comparing notes on life in different cities. Basel was like this (comfortable, affluent, slightly boring), Paris was like that (rough, atmospheric).

I’ve been living in lots of different places, but always kept coming back to Stockholm. I absolutely love it here, but when asked what’s so special with this city, I realised I hadn’t quite formulated it.

There are obvious external factors: The city is small enough to be coverable on bike; it’s built on islands so nature is always present; thanks to a perfect balance between conservation and new innovative architecture, the built environment is very enjoyable.

Then of course there are the socio-political realities: universal access to daycare; a minimum of visible poverty; public transportation for everyone…

All of that is nice, but it’s not what I’m referring to. These kinds of factors can just as easily make a city feel stagnant, and Stockholm feels anything but stagnant. It feels like a city that is swinging. Think Berlin in the 20’s, London in the 60’s or New York of the 80’s…

What does it mean for a city to be swinging, what is it that makes it so?

I think it somehow boils down to agency. The feeling that, however big and complex of a machine the city is, you play a part in making it what it is.

I feel that way very strongly about my adopted home town; that it wouldn’t be the same without me, that Stockholm is swinging in respect to me, and that I’m part of what makes it swing. It’s a pretty great feeling.