Sweden forms part of Scandinavia in the North of Europe. It is full of snow in winter, incredible scenery all year round and IKEA furniture. But what else do you know about Sweden?
Sweden is officially called the Kingdom of Sweden and is the 3rd largest land area in Europe after Spain and France.
The main language is Swedish (Svenska), however the country also recognises 5 other official languages: Finnish, Yiddish, Sami, Meånkiele and Romani. They also teach English from a young age so many Swedes have a good grasp of English and love to practice with visitors.
Sweden has 95,700 lakes larger than 100m2. This is about 9% of Sweden’s total area – perfect for skating in winter and sailing in summer.
The capital, Stockholm, is often known as the ‘Venice of the North’ because it was built around 12 islands and comprises 42 bridges.
One of the most famous animals in Sweden is the reindeer, of which there are 260,000! They like to eat mushrooms and herbs, and provide reindeer milk and meat as well. (They are also busy in December helping Santa with his sleigh!)
Sweden also has a fair amount of famous food (not just IKEA meatballs – although they are delicious!). A ‘smörgåsbord’ is a term that refers to many different dishes, allowing people to choose what they want to eat. It used to be a peasant custom where villages gathered at the end of the summer to celebrate the harvest with roasted meats, turnips and potatoes (usually boiled), fish (fresh, pickled and smoked), meatballs, pancakes and soups. Today it is a popular dish with visitors (and it is just as delicious as it sounds).
Continuing with the food and drink theme – ‘glögg’ is a Swedish favourite at Christmas. It is similar to mulled wine but sweeter and with a higher alcohol content, as it is made by pouring mulled wine over aquavit (a clear, caraway-flavoured liquor) which is then set on fire.
The Swedish term ‘lagom’ cannot be easily translated into English. It is not just a word, but more of a concept suggesting ‘just right’ and can be used in almost every situation.
‘Fika’ is perhaps one of the top highlights of the wonderful country and friendly people in Sweden. Again, it is hard to translate but, essentially, it is a coffee break. However, don’t be fooled – it is much more than the average coffee break. It is a cultural institution and one that must be experienced to understand fully. If a Swedish friend asks if you want fika, the answer is always yes, as it will probably involve some of the world’s best coffee, a simply scrumptious cinnamon bun and lots of social interaction. The other best bit about fika is that you can take it anytime you want after breakfast, and as many times as you want during the day!
Sweden being covered in a lot of snow and ice for almost half the year, it is not surprising that the world’s first ice hotel was built in Sweden in the 1980’s. It was carved out of 4,000 tons of densely packed snow and ice. At the time, being open from December to April only, the standard issue thermal jumpsuits given on check in were essential to help survive the temperatures, reaching lows of -22 degrees celsius.
What else do you know about Sweden?
Written by Heidi Douglas