Sweden

Sweden

"The Kingdom of Sweden has Stockholm as its capital and is the third-largest country by size in the European Union, with more than 9 million inhabitants. Being a diverse country, Sweden has many opportunities, including skiing down a beautiful mountain, hiking to the top of the world, dog sledding through a white and magical scenery, rafting on a wild river or watching the midnight sun shining over one of its beautiful lakes… These are just some of the things Sweden has to offer. Go explore the immense diversity of this country!"

Did you know...

That @Sweden gives its official Twitter account to a random citizen to manage it every week?

That IKEA names their lights after months, days and Swedish villages; their coffee tables, sofas and bookshelves after places in Sweden; and their chairs and desks after Scandinavian boy’s names?

That it’s illegal in Sweden to name your child ‘IKEA’ or ‘Elvis’?  

host families

Most Swedish host families don’t live in big cities, but rather in suburbs, rural areas, small towns or communities. Since most Swedish parents work full time, children tend to help them after work by helping to cook, do the laundry, the dishes or clean. Once in a while, it can also be a fun idea to suggest cooking on your own for the whole family as a way of saying thank you.


In Sweden, it’s very common that every family member has lots of activities to do in their free time and just get together for dinner, usually around 6 or 7 pm. However, don’t expect them to drive you places but use public transportation instead. Swedish teenagers are considered to be independent and discuss issues with their parents like young adults. They have a certain amount of freedom, but this also brings responsibility with it. Talk about things with your host family and definitely don’t do anything behind their backs, because that’s regarded as a no-go in every family. Always be honest by sharing your experiences and activities with them. 

school

Individualistic education, in which each student can meet their specific needs, is encouraged by the Swedish School Plan. Students are also encouraged to participate in student councils to form the education they would like with their teachers.


After students finish compulsory school, people between the ages of 16 and 20 can choose voluntarily whether or not to attend upper secondary school. In total, there are 18 national upper secondary programs, each lasting three years. Arts, hotel and tourism, business management and economics, humanities, and the social science program are just some of the available programs. Every program consists of foundation subjects, orientations, specializations, specific subjects and a diploma project. English, physical education, science studies, history, mathematics, social studies, Swedish and religion are the upper secondary foundation subjects. However, science studies are replaced by biology, chemistry and physics in the natural science program, and replaced by just physics and chemistry in the technology program. 

"Studying abroad provided me with a second home and a new set of eyes to see the world with."

Free Time

What Swedes do in their free time, depends on the season. In the winter, when it’s cold and dark outside, people usually stay more at home than in summers, when they do go outside for fun activities. In fact, they love outdoor activities and sports. Some people spend their weekends or vacations at their cabin or summerhouse at the coast or in the countryside. Popular sports in Sweden are soccer, ice-hockey, handball, sailing, golf and tennis. The mountains are perfect for hiking or skiing in winters, and skiing is the most popular sports in winters. In the north of Sweden, people even ski to work. If you rather prefer other winter activities, such as snowmobile riding, dog sledding, ice fishing or spending a night in the world’s biggest igloo, then Kiruna is the place to be. Another fun thing to do in Sweden is hiking. Thanks to the Right of Public Access, everyone can walk across the country freely. There are more than 40 long-distance footpaths through Sweden and they each have overnight accommodations in cozy mountain huts and stations. Kungsleden, or King’s route, is the most popular hiking route and covers a path of 460 km, passing through fascinating landscapes with intriguing wildlife. 

Discover Sweden

Are you considering going on a cultural exchange year? Many students come back after such an experience saying it was the journey of a lifetime.

You get to learn a lot while also immersing yourself in a whole new culture and embracing a new language to help you become citizens of one world. After school and during the holidays, you will have the time to go explore the beautiful Sweden with friends, your host family and other excited exchange students. Take off to Sweden and discover its fascinating sceneries, the midnight sun, see the northern lights, or guide your own husky through the snow.

Top 10 things to do in Sweden:

1. Stockholm’s Old Town

2. Northern lights in Lapland

3. ABBA museum in Stockholm

4. Kolmarden Wildlife Park

5. Ramoa Adventure Village offering activities such as kayaking, teambuilding, sauna and hot tubs in combination with a fresh cold dive in the lake and even sleeping in a tipi tent

6. Abisko National Park

7. Fish Church – a lovely fresh fish market in Gothenburg

8. Guide your own husky during a dog sledge ride

9. Oresund Bridge in Malmo

10. Enjoy Fika: afternoon tea time which can include coffee, juice, lemonade, tea and delicious Swedish pastries 

Food Facts

Overall, Swedish tend to have a breakfast early in the morning, a light lunch at noon and a heavy dinner to end the day with. Usually, people also consume snacks throughout the day or have a coffee break in the afternoon along with a delicious pastry. This sort of afternoon tea time is known as fika. During fika friends and family get together to have a coffee and this is often served together with cookies, pastries or pieces of cake. 

The Swedish cuisine is considered to be focused on soft and crisp breads, cultured dairy products, beef, chicken, pork, lamb and seafood. Boiled potatoes are frequently used as a side dish. Swedes also offer a huge amount and variety of different kinds of bread, both sweetened and spiced. Fruit is also very popular, since a lot of meat dishes are accompanied by lingonberry jam, and fruit soups like blueberry soup can also be served. 

Must try Cinnamon Buns when on exchange

Cinnamon buns or Kanelbullar are a classic dish during fika or afternoon tea. When people still used to bake a lot at home, they would hold Swedish coffee parties accompanied by yeast breads, pastries, cakes and cookies. Nowadays, the tradition still lives in Sweden and you can expect to always get a cinnamon bun, cookie or a piece of cake with your coffee when invited to a fika in someone’s home. 

Recipe: Swedish Meatballs

Since your host family will provide you with meals throughout your cultural exchange, it can be a nice idea to cook for them once in a while to show them that you appreciate everything they do for you. Why don’t you surprise them by cooking some traditional delicious Swedish meatballs?

ingredients

500 g (18 oz) ground (minced) beef/pork mixture

250 ml (1¼ cup) milk

75 g (¾ cup) white breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 onion

salt, white pepper

ground allspice

preparation

Finely dice the onion, and sauté gently in a little butter without browning. Soak the breadcrumbs in milk. Blend the ground meat, preferably in a food processor, with the onion, egg, milk/breadcrumb mixture and the spices to the proper consistency and taste. Add a little water if the mixture feels too firm. Check the taste by test-frying one meatball. Then shape small meatballs with the aid of two spoons and place on water-rinsed plates. Brown a generous pat of butter in a frying pan, and when it ‘goes quiet’ place the meatballs in the pan and let them brown on all sides. Shake the frying pan often. Serve with potato purée or boiled potatoes and raw stirred lingonberries. (source: https://sweden.se/collection/classic-swedish-food/article/classic-swedish-food-meatballs/)

Cooking crispy Swedish potato pancakes

Watch this video to learn how to cook this traditional Swedish dish:

Geography

Being the third largest country in the European Union, the Kingdom of Sweden has Norway to its west borders, Denmark to its southwest and borders to Finland in the east. Although it is one of the biggest countries in the EU, Sweden is only home to 9.9 million people. The majority of the inhabitants live in the urban areas and the most populous city in the country is Stockholm, Sweden’s capital. 

"Going abroad will change the way you see the world. You can't begin to imagine the diversity of life and culture that exists out there until you seek it out."

climate

The major part of Sweden knows a temperate climate, although the country has a northern latitude. The year is divided into four seasons and temperatures are mostly mild. Sweden, and even the South, has a warmer and drier climate than other countries at a similar latitude, thanks to the Gulf Stream. The northern United States, Canada and Russia have, for example, heavier winters than Sweden.


Due to its latitude, there are also a lot variations in the length of the daylight. In the north, there’s no sunlight for some part of each winter and the sun never sets for part of each summer too. In late June, the sun can keep shining for about 18 hours in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, while daylight only lasts for 6 hours in late December. The highest temperature that was ever measured in Sweden was 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), and the coldest was -52.6 degrees Celsius (or -62.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

nature

The Swedes attach a lot of value to nature: 97% of the country is unhabituated, so a large amount of the area is covered by national parks and nature reserves. In the past, Linnæus made an important contribution to the Swedish ecology, developing a better and streamlined categorization system for all the plants and animals. He also made sure that Sweden’s wilderness remained unpaved. He was the founding father of Sweden as a nation that’s aware and conscious of nature. 


National park Abisko and the Northern lights were called the world’s most illuminating experiences by Lonely Planet. This national park is wide-known for its magnificent and natural beauty, its amazing wildlife and its adventurous activities, both in summer and winter. During the summer, popular things to do are hiking along waterfalls, canyons and fjords, caving and fly-fishing. In winters, on the other hand, it can be fun to go Nordic, Alpine or off-piste skiing, dog sledding, or even eating reindeer and drinking coffee around a campfire. 

Did you know...

That the sun rises at 3:30 AM in summer and sets at 3:30 PM in winter in Sweden?

That most companies in Sweden have two “mandatory” coffee breaks per day?

That Sweden has only 4% more men employed than women, making it the country with the smallest gender-employment rate in the developed world? 

Language

Skola, Vänner, Familj, Tull, Bror, Syster, Utbyta

Do you know what these words mean? Start learning some Swedish!


Swedish is the official language spoken in Sweden and Finland, and is one of the largest spoken North Germanic languages from around the world. The language descends from the Old Norse, the main language spoken by Germanic people in Scandinavia during the era of the Vikings. Learning Swedish is not mandatory in order to go on a cultural exchange to Sweden, although it is recommended. Keep in mind that the lesser you speak your native language less; the faster you’ll learn a new language like Swedish. Normally, students can already communicate basic sentences after 12 weeks of practicing another language. Go ahead and embrace this unique opportunity to completely immerse yourself in a new and different culture.

Language Learning Tools

Start learning some Swedish at this useful YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/SwedishPod101.

Another great way to try to understand and start speaking a new language is by watching movies spoken in Swedish with subtitles in your native language or by listening to some Swedish songs. 

Movies and Music

Music Styles

Sweden’s music is known for the tradition of Nordic folk music, also shared with its neighbors, such as schottische, polka, polska, waltz, and mazurka. The most common instruments to play this folk are fiddle, accordion, clarinet, and nyckelharpa. Even though the instrumental genre is the largest one in Swedish traditional music, their music is also influenced by pop and modern styles. The country is considered to be one of the world’s most successful popular music exporters. The most wide-known Swedish pop group would be ABBA, founded in Stockholm in 1972 and ranked the charts worldwide from 1974 to 1982. 

pop

Thanks to ABBA, who gained international prominence because they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, Sweden was able to enter into a new era. They turned out to be one of the most successful groups of the world ever, right after The Beatles. Nowadays, they still sell 2 to 3 million records every year. Other popular Swedish artists include Roxette, Agnes, Loreen, and Caesars. 

electronic music

In 2011, a Swedish DJ Avicii was voted the 6th best DJ in the world. Although a lot of techno producers are from Sweden, they are often more famous on an international and global level than in Sweden itself. 

Events and celebrations that evolve around music or movies

Do you love attending festivals? Then Sweden’s definitely the right place for you! Sweden’s biggest and most popular festival is called Bråvalla festival, an annually held three-day music festival in June. Some of the best bands and artists in the world already performed here, including Editors, Mumford & Sons, Macklemore, Robbie Williams, Rammstein, Green Day, Muse, Avicii, Kings of Leon and Kanye West. Go ahead and explore this awesome music festival with your new friends and other exchange students! 

Since 1990, the Stockholm International Film Festival has been held every year in the second half of November. Its goal is to support new talents by offering scholarships and competitions. That’s why the festival chooses to focus on debuting directors or directors that only created up to three movies yet. By doing this, they hope to broaden the selection of films in Sweden. The festival wants to show good quality films from everywhere around the world, that would otherwise not be able to get a spot in the mainstream film repertoire.

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