Open Curtain Policy

One of the things Sue is finding a little “confronting” about staying in “ordinary homes” in Europe is the “open curtain policy”. By that, I mean, the tendency for people to leave their curtains open at night, so pretty much everything in their houses is visible to you, and vice versa.

I noticed this first a couple of weeks ago staying in Stockholm. As I sat in my lounge-room at night and watched television, I could look across the street and see everyone else was doing pretty much the same. It was if we were in one big house together, separated by only a few metres. Memorably, one night I watched a bloke cook dinner wearing only his underwear. I tried not to let my eyes linger for too long.

I read somewhere it was common in The Netherlands, as a hang-over from the German occupation during the Second World War. They kept their blinds and curtains open so people could both see what was occuring outside and inside. I can imagine there might have been a similar reason in Denmark, though the rationale makes no sense for Sweden which remained neutral during WW2. Maybe there’s another reason? Maybe it’s just because they have a more “open” society than we do in Australia? Maybe it’s because people have lived together more closely for a longer period of time? Maybe we’re just not that accustomed to the intimacy of apartment living in Australia yet?

Backyard View - Stockholm
Backyard View – Stockholm

We noticed this “open curtain policy” again last night as we checked in to our apartment in Stockholm. This time we’re staying at an apartment in a suburb called Enskededalen, to the south of Stockholm. It’s a reasonably quiet neighbourhood (so far), perhaps due to our proximity to the beautiful woodland cemetery? As we arrived last night, I noticed the birds in the trees were having a wonderful time, keeping us entertained with their beautiful songs. It’s that kind of neighbourhood. Leafy. Green.

The apartment is in a largeish security block of maybe 60 apartments or so. We have a balcony which overlooks the backyards (and loungerooms) of nearby houses. Inside, each apartment has its own little internal balcony, and overlooks a large central area with plants and trees. In some ways, it feels like we’re staying in a large hotel, though much more intimate as it’s actually someone’s apartment.

Apartment Garden
Apartment Garden

The apartment is about ten minutes from T-Centralen on the Farsta line, and then only about a three or four minute walk from the T-bana. So it should provide a good central basis for the next couple of weeks. Sue is here until just after Easter, and I’m here for a few days longer, before heading off to Reykjavik.

Even though we’ve had a couple of days travelling by train now, the travel hasn’t been overly stressful. Sure, we almost missed our train yesterday, as we didn’t fully understand the signs at Copenhagen Central. But otherwise, Sue’s been reading books and I’ve been listening to podcasts.

I’ve woken early on this Tuesday morning (up at about 0500), and as I look out my window the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and I’m happy to be back in Stockholm.

3 Replies to “Open Curtain Policy”

  1. We came to Stockholm by overnight ferry from Helsinki (highly recommended, by the way) in early October. As the ferry made its way up the archipelago in the slowly lightening hours between 6 and 8 am, we noticed that all you could see was the lights on and in the houses at first, then slowly the outline of houses, trees and finally streets became visible. In the outer islands there were no street lights, just house lights. I have a theory that the lit windows are a kind of cultural memory of the centuries when lit windows were the only way for travellers to know where they were or where they were going, on the long dark winter days before electricity lit the streets. I noticed that most Swedes have a light of some kind in every window.

    That’s my theory, anyway!

    1. Nice observation. Just told my friend Sue and she agrees about the lights in window theory. We did a little ferry trip the other week from Germany to Denmark and enjoyed it very much. I’ve heard from other sources the overnight Scandinavian ferries are excellent. My trip is pretty much locked in, except for the last couple of weeks which I’ve deliberately kept “open” so will definitely keep this in mind.

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