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SWEDEN – GENERAL INFORMATION

   
                      Fig.1 – Sweden Flag

GEOGRAPHY

Situated in Northern Europe, Sweden lies west of the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Bothnia, providing a long coastline, and forms the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. To the west is the Scandinavian mountain chain (Skanderna), a range that separates Sweden from Norway. Finland is located to its north-east. It has maritime borders with Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and it is also linked to Denmark (south-west) by the Öresund Bridge. Its border with Norway (1,619 km long) is the longest uninterrupted border within Europe. Sweden lies between latitudes 55° and70° N, and mostly between longitudes 11° and 25° E

About 15% of Sweden lies north of the Arctic Circle. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, with increasing forest coverage northward. Around 65% of Sweden’s total land area is covered with forests. The highest population density is in the Öresund Region in southern Sweden, along the western coast up to central Bohuslän, and in the valley of Lake Mälaren and Stockholm. Gotland and Öland are Sweden’s largest islands; Vänern and Vättern are its largest lakes. Vänern is the third largest in Europe, after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia.

HISTORY

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

A military power during the 17th century, Sweden has not participated in any war for two centuries. Armed neutrality was preserved in both world wars. Sweden’s long-successful economic formula of a capitalist system intermixed with substantial welfare elements was challenged in the 1990s by high unemployment and in 2000-02 and 2009 by the global economic downturns, but fiscal discipline over the past several years has allowed the country to weather economic vagaries. Sweden joined the EU in 1995, but the public rejected the introduction of the euro in a 2003 referendum.

In recent decades Sweden has become a more culturally diverse nation due to significant immigration; in 2013 it was estimated that 15 percent of the population was foreign-born, and an additional 5 per cent of the population were born to two immigrant parents. The influx of immigrants has brought new social challenges. Violent incidents have periodically occurred including the 2013 Stockholm riots which broke out following the police shooting of an elderly Portuguese immigrant. In response to these violent events, the far-right opposition party, the Swedish Democrats, promoted their anti-immigration policies, while the left-wing opposition blamed growing inequality caused by the centre-right government’s socio-economic policies.

THE PEOPLE

Indigenous population: Swedes with Finnish and Sami minorities; foreign-born or first-generation immigrants: Finns, Yugoslavs, Danes, Norwegians, Greeks, Turks

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

One of the key characteristics of Swedish culture is that Swedes are egalitarian in nature, humble and find boasting absolutely unacceptable. In many ways, Swedes prefer to listen to others as opposed to ensuring that their own voice is heard. The family in Sweden is extremely important and as such, the rights of children are well protected. Although Sweden is a largely egalitarian and relaxed environment, hospitality and eating arrangements are often a formal affair.

LANGUAGES

Swedish (official), small Sami- and Finnish-speaking minorities

GOVERNMENT

Constitutional Monarchy

TIME ZONE

CET (UTC+1), CEST (UTC+2) in summer
ELECTRICITY

Powerplug adapters are essential if your equipment does not match European standard 230 Volt 50Hz and the Schuko plug or the Europlug. Many electronic shops offer, usually pricey, adapters and converters for most other standards.

CLIMATE

Most of Sweden has a temperate climate, despite its northern latitude, with four distinct seasons and mild temperatures throughout the year. The country can be divided into three types of climate; the southernmost part has an oceanic climate, the central part has a humid continental climate and the northernmost part has a subarctic climate. However, Sweden is much warmer and drier than other places at a similar latitude, and even somewhat farther south, mainly because of the Gulf Stream. For example, central and southern Sweden has much milder winters than many parts of Russia, Canada, and the northern United States. Because of its high latitude, the length of daylight varies greatly. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets for part of each summer, and it never rises for part of each winter. In the capital, Stockholm, daylight lasts for more than 18 hours in late June but only around 6 hours in late December. Sweden receives between 1,100 and 1,900 hours of sunshine annually.

Clothes to Wear:

During the winter, thick layers are needed, with wind chill proving particularly problematic. If you’re caught short during a winter visit, make the most of Swedish expertise in knitwear and pick up a decent Fair Isle knit to keep the cold at bay. In the summer, lighter clothing is needed along with a lightweight waterproof coat.

LOGISTICAL

Entry & Exit Requirements:

Sweden is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Sweden for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes with a valid U.S. passport, without obtaining a visa. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For additional details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.

Contact the Swedish Embassy at 901 30th Street NW, Washington, DC 20007, tel: (202) 467-2600 (mailing address: 2900 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20007), or the Swedish Consulate General in New York at (212) 583-2550 for the most current visa information. Sweden’s Migration Board (Migrationsverket) also provides visa information. For tourist information, visit Sweden’s Tourist Board website.

Embassy Locations:

Embassy in Sweden

U.S. Embassy in Stockholm

Dag Hammarskjoldsvag 31

SE-115 89 Stockholm

Telephone: (46) (8) 783-5300

Emergency after-hours telephone: (46) (8) 783-5300

Fax: (46) (8) 783-5480

Embassy of Canada to Sweden

Klarabergsgatan 23, 6th floor

103 23 Stockholm

Tel.: +46 8 453 3000

Fax: +46 8 453 3016

Health:

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/ infectious_diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

 Banks & Currency:

The monetary unit in Sweden is the krona (plural “kronor”) and equals 100 öre. Bank notes are printed in values of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 kronor, coins 1, 5 and 10 kronor. There is no limit on the amount of Swedish and foreign currency taken into Sweden.

Major credit cards (some restriction may apply to American Express) are widely accepted throughout Sweden at banks, hotels, stores, restaurants, taxis, car rental companies, and for air, ship and rail tickets.

Please note! In order to pay or withdraw cash with your credit card it requires that you have a card with chip and PIN (Personal Identification Number). The older magnetic-stripe cards won’t work. You can get cash with your Visa, MasterCard, Maestro or Cirrus card at any “Bankomat” or “Uttagsautomat” ATM.

Communication:

Sweden’s international calling code number is +46. Since 2015, all payphones have removed, due to the vast spread of mobile phones.

Prepaid USB 3G modems can be bought cheaply (around 150 SEK) in many shops. They are a good alternative to Wi-Fi in Sweden. They cost around 100 SEK/week and 300 SEK/month to use. Data limits are high (typically 20 GB/month).

Sweden is the world’s second most Internet connected country (second to Iceland). The Swedish postal system (Posten) is often considered efficient and reliable, with locations placed inside of supermarkets and convenience stores (look for the round yellow logo with the blue horn). Stamps (frimärken) for ordinary letters (to anywhere in the world) are 12 SEK and the letter usually needs 2 days within EU. Stamps can be purchased in most supermarkets, ask the cashier.

Cell Phone Usage:

Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food & Drink:

Swedish cuisine is mostly meat or fish with potatoes. Besides the ubiquitous potatoes, modern Swedish cuisine is to a great extent based on bread. Traditional everyday dishes are called husmanskost (pronounced whos-mans-cost). They include:

  • Meatballs (köttbullar), the internationally most famous Swedish dish. Served with potatoes, brown sauce or cream sauce and lingonberry jam.
  • Hash (pytt i panna) consisting of meat, onions and potatoes, all diced and fried. Sliced beetroot and fried or whole boiled eggs are mandatory accessories.
  • Pea soup (ärtsoppa) with diced pork, followed by thin pancakes afterwards. Traditionally eaten on Thursdays since medieval times when the servants had half the day off as it is an easy meal to prepare. All lunch restaurants in Sweden with any self-respect serve pea soup and pancakes every Thursday.
  • Pickled herring (sill), available in various types of sauces. Commonly eaten with bread or potatoes for summer lunch or as a starter. Virtually mandatory at midsummer and very common for Christmas.
  • Blodpudding, a black sausage made with pig’s blood and flour. Slice it, fry it and eat it with lingonberry jam.
  • Gravlax, a widely known and appreciated cold appetiser made from thin slices of salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill.
  • Falukorv, a big baloney sausage from Falun. Sliced, fried and eaten with ketchup and mashed potatoes.
  • Sweden has more varieties of bread than most other countries. Many of them are whole-grain or mixed grain, containing wheat, barley, oats; compact and rich in fibre. Some notable examples are tunnbröd (thin wrap bread), knäckebröd (hard or crispbread – might not be an interesting experience, but it is nearly always available), and different kinds of seasoned loaves. Bread is mostly eaten as simple sandwiches, with thin slices of cheese or cold cuts. Some more exotic spreads are messmör (whey butter) and leverpastej (liver paté).
  • Tunnbrödrulle, a fast food dish, consisting of bread wrap with mashed potatoes, a hot dog and some vegetables.
  • Kroppkakor Potato dumpling stuffed with diced pork.
  • Ost Hard cheese. Swedes eat a lot of hard cheese. In an ordinary food market you can often find 10 to 20 different types of cheese. The most famous Swedish hard cheese would be Västerbotten, named after a region in Sweden.
  • Julbord Christmas buffet, containing an assortment of hot and cold dishes. The exact contents of the buffet vary between different parts of the country, but common are ham with mustard, various types of herring and salmon, meatballs, hard cheese, sausages, liver pâté, spare ribs, boiled potatoes, rye bread, beetroot, cabbage, and more. Dark beer and shots of strong spirits are offered to drink, and Julmust might be the non-alcoholic alternative. For desserts, a rice pudding is common. Julbord is offered in December up until Christmas Day in many restaurants.

Nightlife:

The minimum age requirement is 18 to get into bars and to buy regular (3.5% ABV or less) beer in shops (to prevent teenage drunkenness, some shops have decided to enforce a minimum age of 20 for 3.5% beer as well), and 20 in Systembolaget. Many bars have an age limit of 20, but some (especially in city centers on weekends) have age limits as high as 23 or 25, but this rule is arbitrarily enforced. Bring passport or other ID. Some posh clubs mandate an arbitrarily enforced dress code; vårdad klädsel is casual dress. For male guests, proper shoes (not sneakers or sandals), long-legged trousers (not blue jeans) and a dress shirt is almost always good enough.

Age or dress rules are not rigid, and doormen have the right to accept or reject any patron for any reason other than gender, sexual orientation, creed, disability or race. Though illegal, a few nightclubs are infamous for rejecting “immigrants”, which usually means anyone with hair and skin darker than the average Swede, on pretexts such as “members only,” “too drunk,” or “dress code”; men of Middle Eastern or African origin are most often subjected to this. You might avoid this problem by dressing properly and behaving well.

Shopping:

  • An unofficial national symbol, the Dala Horse (Swedish: dalahäst) is the souvenir of souvenirs to bring from Sweden. Named after their origin, the province of Dalarna, these small wooden horses have been around since the 17th century. They are normally painted orange or blue with symmetrical decorations. They are fairly expensive: expect to pay around SEK 100 for a very small one or several hundred crowns for bigger versions. The horses can be bought in souvenir shops all over Sweden. If you want to know more about how the horses are made, visit Dalarna and the municipality of Mora where the horses are carved and painted in workshops open for tourists. And if driving towards Mora from Stockholm, keep your eyes open when you pass the town of Avesta where the world’s largest (13 meters high) Dala Horse overlooks the highway.

 

  • Swedish glass is world famous for its beauty. Several skilled glass artists have contributed to this reputation through innovative, complex (and expensive) art creations, but mass-produced Swedish table glass has also been an international success. Part of the province of Småland, between the towns of Växjö and Kalmar, is known as the Kingdom of Crystal. 15 glassworks are packed into this small area, the most famous being Orrefors, Kosta and Boda. Tourists are welcome to watch the glass blowers turn the glowing melt into glittering glass, and you can even give it a try yourself.

 

  • Exclusive wines from Systembolaget.

 

  • Swedish design, spanning from furniture to jewelry, is known for function, efficiency and minimalism. Designtorget is a chain of stores with a wide range of everyday products. Svenskt Tenn is another store with beautiful items by designers such as Josef Frank.

 

  • There are some items for the home, invented by the swedes that might be fun to bring back home, such as the adjustable spanners or adjustable wrenches, safety matches, paraffin cooking stove (Primuskök) or a good old Celsius thermometer.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

TIPPING

Traditionally, the etiquette in Sweden has been to not tip. However, tipping is being introduced by outside influence in certain areas. It is also important to note that while Sweden is part of the European Union, they do not use the Euro.  Instead, Sweden uses their local currency, the krona.

LAUNDRY

Laundry service is available at most hotels in the main centers. Generally you should allow about 24-hours before the item is returned to you, however, some have an emergency service available at an extra charge.

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES 

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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