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Arctic Circle


Uppsala Örebro

Stockholm Linköping











Swedish; English widely spoken


9.8 million

Land area:

407,000 km², the fifth largest country in Europe

Population density: 23.5/km² Form of government: Parliamentary democracy, constitutional monarchy Currency:

Swedish krona, SEK

GDP/capita (2013):

SEK 403,000

Life expectancy:

Men 80.1 years, women 83.7


The Church of Sweden is Evangelical Lutheran, but in practice the country is very secularised

Calling code:


Time zone:

GMT +1

USEFUL LINKS The official site of Sweden Statistics Sweden




The 349 members of the Swedish parliament are elected by and represent the people. Elections are held every four years, after which a new government may be formed. The speaker of the parliament proposes a new prime minister, who then appoints the other government ministers. The current prime minister is Stefan Lรถfven, leader of the Social Democratic Party. The Swedish head of state is a monarch, currently King Carl XVI Gustaf. He has no formal power, but a purely representative and ceremonial function. The Swedish Constitution is made up of four fundamental laws: 1. 2. 3. 4.

The Instrument of Government The Act of Succession The Freedom of the Press Act (including the principle of public access to official documents) The Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression


The Swedish government The Swedish parliament

Swedish taxes are relatively high in order to finance the welfare system, which offers subsidised access to healthcare, free education and generous parental insurance, for example.

The Sami people, who have lived partly in Sweden for thousands of years, are the northernmost indigenous people of Europe.




Some 100,000 years ago Sweden was covered in ice. When the ice receded, the first immigrants started arriving. Around 1000 AD, the Vikings helped put Sweden on the map through their expeditions and raids around Europe. Then, centuries of war-hungry kings and power struggles drained the Swedish economy. Only after the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) peace arrived. Enter industrialisation and a transformation from a poor nation of farmers to the innovative high-tech Sweden of today. A number of factors made this rapid development possible: peace, access to raw materials such as iron ore and timber, well-functioning infrastructure, compulsory schooling, a tax-financed welfare system and – more recently – widespread internet access, to mention but a few.

USEFUL LINKS The Swedish History Museum Ájtte, a museum about Sami and the Swedish mountains




Sweden aims for everyone to have the same rights; no one should be discriminated against on the basis of gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, political and/or religious conviction, or physical, mental or intellectual disabilities. The Equality Ombudsman is tasked with protecting and promoting these rights. In terms of gender equality, Swedish society is one of the world leaders according to international rankings.

A FEW EQUALITY MILESTONES 1845: Women are granted the same inheritance rights as men 1921: Women get the right to vote and run for office 1944: Homosexual relations are legalised 1974: Both parents get the right to parental leave 1994: A new law offers people with disabilities equal rights to an independent life 2009: Same-sex marriage is legalised; the Discrimination Act is introduced


The Equality Ombudsman The Swedish Agency for Participation

Fathers pushing prams are a common sight in Sweden.




Did you know that 97 per cent of Sweden’s land area is un­ inhabited? There are 29 national parks and nearly 4,000 nature reserves, and outside of protected areas allemansrätten applies. It’s a unique Swedish right of public access, which allows people to roam around freely in nature, to camp overnight and to pick berries, mushrooms and flowers – if they aren’t protected species. The guiding principle is ‘don’t disturb, don’t destroy’. Sweden has four distinct seasons that differ quite a lot from north to south. Record temperatures are −53°C in February in the far north and +38°C in June in the south, but the yearly average temperatures for the whole country vary modestly between −8°C and +10°C. North of the Arctic Circle, daylight conditions are extreme, with 32 days of pure darkness in midwinter and 32 days of daylight around the clock in June–July. Come rain, come shine, many Swedes like to spend time in nature. Maybe this has helped make Swedes very environmentally conscious. Children almost learn to recycle before they can walk, and Sweden is pulling its weight in the global efforts to find sustainable solutions for the future.

USEFUL LINKS The government weather agency Sweden’s national parks

In the north, the winter months offer the chance to see spectacular northern lights.

Swedes’ standard retirement age is 65. Different types of pension aim to ensure a decent old age.




Nearly everyone living or working in Sweden is covered by the Swedish social insurance. It includes benefits like parental leave pay, child allowances and sick pay for longer term illnesses, which are all administered by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan ). The parental insurance is generous, entitling parents to 480 paid days of parental leave. This makes it easier for both mothers and fathers to combine working with having a family. Swedish healthcare is heavily subsidised through taxes, making it affordable to go to the doctor, stay in a hospital and buy prescription medication. The Swedish labour market is characterised by a strong presence of trade and labour unions. Collective agree­ ments regulate wages and holiday entitlements (minimum 25 days). Job seekers in Sweden can turn to the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen ) for help and support. Most non-EU residents need a work permit and should apply for jobs via the European job mobility portal EURES before coming to Sweden, to qualify for a permit.

USEFUL LINKS The Swedish Social Insurance Agency The Swedish Public Employment Service




Free education for all from the age of six to nineteen is one of the pillars of the Swedish welfare state. In the school system, creativity and critical thinking are encouraged.

THE SWEDISH SCHOOL SYSTEM: Nursery school: ages 1–5 Preschool class: age 6 Compulsory school: ages 6/7–15/16 Upper secondary school/high school (non-compulsory): ages 15/16 –18/19

University studies are free for citizens of Sweden or other EU/EEA countries* or Switzerland; for others, application and tuition fees apply. Sweden also prioritises innovation and research – perhaps not so surprising considering that it is the country of the Nobel Prize. In 2012, 3.4 per cent of GDP was invested in R&D, a high figure compared with most other countries. *For a full list of these countries, see


The Swedish National Agency for Education The official Nobel Prize site

On 10 December, science is celebrated. In 2012, Professor Brian K Kobilka (left) received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Avicii’s hits (top) and Ida Sjöstedt’s ethereal creations (bottom) help spread the word about Sweden.




ABBA brought Swedish pop into living rooms around the globe in the 1970s. Since then, many Swedish music acts – and producers – have been internationally recognised, making Sweden the world’s number one exporter of music in relation to GDP. Just look at Swedish house dj and producer Avicii, whose ‘Wake Me Up’ from 2013 became an international megahit. As a film nation, Sweden has long been associated with Ingmar Bergman (1918–2007), the country’s film director and scriptwriter extraordinaire. But talents like Roy Andersson, Ruben Östlund and Anna Odell have also won international recognition. Sweden has an impres­sive track record in the documentary genre as well, with Malik Bendjelloul’s (1977–2014) Academy Award-winning Searching for Sugar Man (2012) as a brightly shining star. For some, Swedish fashion means H&M. But while the Swedish clothing chain spreads affordable style, the so-called Swedish fashion miracle started in the denim world. It was jeans that granted brands like Acne, Nudie and WeSC global success, opening doors for other inter­ esting designer names like Carin Wester, Ida Sjöstedt and Erïk Bjerkesjö, to name but a few.

Cross-country skier Charlotte Kalla might well make it onto the all-time sports star list eventually.

Another way to achieve success in the fashion industry is to first become a tennis superstar then retire early and move into fashion, like Björn Borg. He’s one of many sports icons from Sweden. In fact, the country seems to be a nation of sports lovers, with nearly two-thirds of 10- to 18-year-olds exercising at least once a week. Some of them might make it onto this list eventually:

10 ALL-TIME SWEDISH SPORTS STARS (according to Swedish daily DN) 1. Björn Borg, tennis 2. Zlatan ‘Ibra’ Ibrahimović, football 3. Jan-Ove Waldner, table tennis 4. Annika Sörenstam, golf 5. Ingemar Stenmark, alpine skiing 6. Carolina Klüft, heptathlon 7. Ingemar Johansson, boxing 8. Gunde Svan, cross-country skiing 9. Peter ‘Foppa’ Forsberg, ice hockey 10. Gert Fredriksson, canoe

USEFUL LINKS The Swedish Arts Council The Swedish Sports Confederation




Most Swedes’ everyday life is fairly secular, but many yearly traditions and celebrations have religious origins. Influences from different parts of the world also make traditions like Ramadan part of Swedish society today.


New Year



30 April

Valborg/Walpurgis: celebration of spring with bonfires and singing

Around 21 June

Midsummer: social gathering involving eating, singing and dancing around a pole


Crayfish party: feast focused on crayfish and – often – schnapps

13 December

Lucia: pre-Christmas tradition marked by candlelight and singing

24 December


USEFUL LINKS The official site of Sweden Nordiska museet

Lucia and Christmas are big in December, but Midsummer in June is probably the biggest – and most typically Swedish – celebration.




Mini-glossary Hej! [hay] Hello Tjena! [sheh-nah]

Hi (informal)

Talar du engelska?

Do you speak English?

Hur mår du?

How are you? (neutral)

Jag mår bra, tack. Och du?

I’m fine, thanks. And you?

Trevligt att träffas

Pleased to meet you

[tahl-ahr doo ehng-ehl-ska?] [hoor moor doo?] [yag moor brah tuck. ock doo?] [trehv-leet ut trai-fuss]

Hejdå! [hay-daw]


God morgon! [good morron]

Good morning

God natt! [good nut]

Good night

Tack! [tuck]

Thank you/Please



Here you go/Please/ You’re welcome

Ursäkta mig!

Excuse me

Var ligger toaletten?

Where is the toilet/restroom?

[ooshehk-tah mey] [vahr liggeh twa-lett-en?]

This brochure has been produced by the Swedish Institute (SI), a public agency that promotes interest and confidence in Sweden around the world. SI seeks to establish cooperation and lasting relations with other countries through strategic communication and exchange in the fields of culture, education, science and business. is the official site of Sweden, which is operated by SI. The site is publicly funded, with four organisations behind it: SI, Business Sweden, VisitSweden and the Swedish Government Offices, including the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation. For more information, visit and

© The Swedish Institute 2015 Graphic design: Kidler Writer/editor: Emma Randecker Printed by: Ineko, Stockholm, Sweden, 2015 Paper: 130 g Arctic silk+; 200 g Arctic silk+ Fonts: Sweden Sans, Zurich ISBN: 978-91-86995-52-2 Photos: cover: curious moose, Folio/; inside front cover: Johan Willner/; p. 3, 19: Lena Granefelt/; p. 4, 9: Lola Akinmade Åkerström/; p. 7: Susanne Walström/; p. 10: Helena Wahlman/; p. 13: Henrik Montgomery; p. 14: NY Times and Claudio Bresciani/TT; p. 16: Anders Wiklund/TT. Do you have any views on this SI publication? Feel free to contact us at

It’s difficult to fit a country into a brochure as small as this. This is an attempt to boil down Sweden to ten vital facts. Discover how large Sweden is in relation to its small population, that the Equality Ombudsman is sort of king and that Midsummer is a serious matter of fun and games.

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It’s difficult to fit a country into a brochure as small as this. This is an attempt to boil down Sweden to ten vital facts. Discover how la...