Facts about Sweden
Discover facts about Sweden. This introduction comes from a variety of official sources and gives factual information about the country. Here are some quick facts about Sweden:
Area: 450,000 km² (third largest country in Western Europe)
Longest north-south distance: 1,574 km
Longest east-west distance: 499 km
Population: 9,6 million inhabitants
Currency: Swedish krona (SEK)
Main language: Swedish
Recognized minority languages: Sami (Lapp), Finnish, Meänkieli (Tornedalen Finnish), Yiddish, Romani Chib.
Electricity: Electricity is standard European 220 volts and 50 cycles (Hz). The standard type of electrical plug and socket in Sweden is a two pin round continental plug, also known as “Type F”, “Schuko” or “CEE 7/4”.
Time zone: Sweden has Central European Time (CET), GMT +1. Daylight saving time (GMT +2) applies from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October. Clock time is written according to the European system, e.g. 1 pm is written 13.00.
Form of government: Constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy.
Parliament: The Riksdag, with 349 members in one chamber.
Religion: In practice, Sweden is very secularized. The Church of Sweden is Evangelical Lutheran; co-exists with many other beliefs.
Life expectancy: Men 79 years, women 83 years.
Most important export goods: Machinery, electronics and telecommunication, paper, pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, iron and steel, and foodstuffs.
Most important imported goods: Electronics and telecommunication, machinery, foodstuffs, crude oil, textiles and footwear, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and petroleum products.
What are Swedes like?
Every country has its own distinctive characteristics. What you find most peculiar about Sweden will obviously depend on your own cultural background. Sweden has long been an open and accepting society and international influences have shaped and enriched Swedish culture.
As in all cultures, however, many old customs and usages remain; foreigners may at times find these unusual, puzzling or even amusing.
Swedes are generally held to be punctual, law abiding and respectful of rules and regulations. Smoking, for instance, is not permitted in public places such as restaurants, banks, post offices or in shops. These restrictions are respected. When Swedes wait for something they form queues.
Queuing systems have been installed in many larger shops and most banks and post offices. Customers take numbered tickets from a dispensing machine and wait until their number comes up on a display. Bank clerks will simply ignore you if you don’t have a queue ticket. If you’re in a large store and there is no queue, look for tickets and a number display. This may seem strange at first but it usually ensures quicker service.
The habit of forming queues may in part stem from the importance attached to egalitarianism in Swedish political thought and practice which, in turn, has permeated most aspects of Swedish society. This is reflected in the large number of women represented in parliament and government but is also apparent in everyday occupations.
For example, people are normally expected to pay for their share when eating out with colleagues or friends, and tend to calculate the exact amount they owe. As a foreign woman you may be surprised to find that your Swedish date does not offer to pay for you. By the same token, Swedish women may insist on paying for themselves. However, many Swedish women still respond positively to a bit of old-fashioned courtship. On the other hand, it is not unusual for men and women to form friendships without being romantically involved.
At first, you may find Swedes a bit difficult to get to know. They may seem distant and reserved. But they can also make loyal friends once you get to know them. Swedes generally like hobbies and activities and pursuing them together with others is probably the easiest way to meet and get to know new people. If invited to someone’s home it is customary to take off your shoes, especially in winter. This custom is upheld more strictly in smaller towns and rural areas. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, it may be a good idea to ask. It is also customary to be on time when invited to a dinner party. Eight o’clock means eight o’clock.
Most people moving to a new country usually find many things confusing or strange at first. This will probably be true of your first time in Sweden. Remember, however, that if there is anything you are unsure of the best thing to do is to ask someone. Swedes are informal and willing to help. This is especially true of young people and students, many of whom have traveled widely themselves.
Swedish Food Tradition
The climate and location of Sweden are a large part of the reason why the cuisine of the country became what it is today. Early people chose to put foods away in preparation for the beginning of the long, cold winter. They would preserve fish, fruit, meat and vegetables. The Vikings were the very first to come up with ways to preserve their foods, which were dehydrated, cured and salted.
Traditional Swedish home cooking (called husmanskost ) is simple in comparison with other European cuisines, but it is anything but ordinary. Husmanskost has come to represent savory stews, roasts, and various seafood. The ultimate in husmanskost is the Swedish smörgåsbord, which is a number of small hot and cold dishes served buffet-style. The term smörgåsbord has become world famous, representing a collection of various foods, presented all at once.
Surrounded by water on almost all sides, it is no surprise that Swedes love seafood, especially salmon, which is typically smoked, marinated, or cured with dill and salt. Herring, another popular catch, is prepared in just as many ways, and is often eaten alongside breads, cheese, and eggs. Crayfish and eel are also enjoyed. Fresh, home-grown ingredients, rich and creamy sauces (a French trait), and seasonal fresh fruits, such as the country’s native lingonberries, also contribute to Sweden’s growing culinary reputation around the world.
Natural phenomena in Sweden
In summer, the regions north of the Arctic Circle enjoy between one and two months of Midnight Sun – a very long period of constant daylight. The definition of Midnight Sun is that you can see the centre of the sun when it is located due north. The light of the Midnight Sun gives the landscape a magical dimension. The Midnight Sun is balanced by a winter phenomenon, in the regions north of the Arctic Circle, called Polar Night. This is when the sun never rises above the horizon, during a 24-hour period. At midday, if the sun is just below the horizon, there might be a few hours of very dim light.
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are the fluttering and bright lights that can be observed in the sky over the northernmost parts of the world. The best viewing areas in Sweden are above the Arctic Circle between September and March. The Northern Lights are formed when electrically charged particles are thrust into the earth´s magnetic field at great speed, propelled by solar winds. Thus, the Northern Lights are best seen near the magnetic poles. The phenomenon appears year round but can only be seen in the black winter skies.