Sweden is seen in Europe and around the globe as a modern and safe country with a reputation for being competitive and innovative. It has one of the highest standards of living in the world and a respected system of democracy, equality, and individual rights. Most Swedes are able to speak English at a high level, being taught the language in school from an early age.
In Sweden, we have a particular focus on certain areas, like animal health and welfare, which goes far beyond European standards. We excel in organic farming, and environmental awareness is noticeable everywhere, from food production to garbage handling and public transportation.
There are a number of traits often promoted as typical of Swedish society.
Work-life balance is important
For most people in Sweden, a healthy balance between work and free time is as equally important as work itself. This is also seen as common sense among most employers and teachers; to perform effectively at work or at university, you need time for both rest and leisure.
Be informal with your boss or professor
Another distinct feature of Swedish society, including work, is the flat hierarchy. A student can speak in the same informal manner with one of her fellow students as she does with a professor at her department. Similarly, people use first names when addressing one another.
Time is of the essence
People in Sweden are often avid planners who treat their work and studies quite seriously, and carefully plan their daily and weekly schedule. Because of this, arriving on time for meetings both at work and in free time is regarded as a golden rule.
Weather and Climate
Sweden has a much warmer climate than many other countries this far north. This is due to the warm waters delivered to the North Atlantic by the Gulf Stream.
A common misconception is that Sweden in general has a very cold climate with lots of snow. While this might be true during winter in the northern and middle parts of the country, the southern parts have a much milder climate, especially in the coastal areas. Here temperatures in winter might vary a bit from year to year, but usually it’s a few degrees above 0°C, or sometimes when it’s a bit colder, a few degrees below 0°C.
Seasonal climate and shifting hours of daylight
Sweden has four seasons with very varied climates. Summer temperatures are quite similar to those in southern England but with a lot more hours of sunshine and daylight. Winter is the coldest season of the year in Sweden as well as in the Northern Hemisphere. The coldest months are usually December, January, and February. Due to the high latitude, we have very long nights in the winter and very many hours of daylight in the summer. At the winter solstice, around 21–23 December, the days are shortest and the nights are longest, with days lengthening as the season progresses after the solstice.
Safety and social security in Sweden
Sweden is regarded as a safe country by European and international standards. Swedish society is well known for its publicly funded social welfare system. It ranges from health care and pensions to parental allowances and insurance related to your job.
Misleading narratives about crime in Sweden
In recent years, a number of narratives have emerged that describe Sweden as a country where violent crime is spiking and overall safety for the common citizen is plummeting. This could not be more incorrect since research on in these areas clearly show otherwise. Overall crime in society is at an historic all-time low. While it is true that there has been an increase in certain types of crimes in some areas in recent years, overall safety in society is unchanged.
Safety in Sweden according to OECD
This fact is also reflected in studies measuring safety and making comparisons on a European and international level. One example is the OECD Regional Well-being Index where West Sweden (the region where Gothenburg is located) has a score of 9.6 out of 10 for overall safety in the regional society.
Sustainability and quality of life
In Sweden, sustainability and quality of life are very important. Sweden ranks among the highest in the world when it comes to living standards and democracy. Sustainability is regarded a way of life. Sweden ranks the highest in the European Union in consumption of organic food and has high degrees of recycling and use of renewable energy.
Four rankings on democracy and well-being
- The Economist Democracy Index. In the latest assessment of democracy by the Economist, Sweden ranks third in the world, after Norway and Iceland.
- OECD Better Life Index. In most of the measurements in the Better Life Index, Sweden ranks above or well above the average.
- OECD Regional Well-Being Index. West Sweden, where Gothenburg is located, scores 9.6 out of 10.0 when safety is measured.
- Environmental Performance Index (EPI). According to the EPI conducted by Yale University, Sweden ranks fifth in the world when a wide array of environmental aspects are measured.
Equality and LGBT
In Sweden, equality and LGBT rights are regarded as important cornerstones of a democratic society.
In the last decades, a good number of laws and regulations have been passed to ensure equal rights between the sexes and members of the LGBT community. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender (among other reasons) is prohibited by law.
In the Global Gender Gap Ranking, Sweden ranks third in the world in the global index on equality according to the World Economic Forum.
Freedom of religion
In Sweden, freedom of religion is regulated by constitutional law and Sweden has a high general tolerance for different faiths. Although a rather secular country, Sweden’s cultural and ritual practices are often based on religion.