Monday, September 03, 2012

Moving to Sweden – Facts About Sweden

It’s been a while. I haven’t written one of these in years. Which is too bad because now I don’t even live in Sweden any longer. Luckily, with my brother moving there and several other people I know from colleagues and classmates to students, I have found myself answering a lot of moving to Sweden questions. Most regarding housing, which I have covered before and can be found (along with all the others) here:
Moving to Sweden – What to Bring 
Moving to Sweden – The Swedish Language
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Place to Live
Moving to Sweden – The Metric System and You
Moving to Sweden – Getting a Cell Phone
Moving to Sweden – Getting from the Airport to Stockholm City
Moving to Sweden - The Weather
Moving to Sweden - Swedish Citizenship Test
Moving to Sweden - Public Holidays
Moving to Sweden - Finding a Job
Moving to Sweden - Culture Shock: It's the Little Things
Moving to Sweden - Making Friends
Moving to Sweden - Cost of Living

Now it’s time for something much more basic. Facts about Sweden. If you’re going to live here, you might as well know a bit about the country. It’s not always exciting, but it can be helpful nonetheless. And if nothing else, you can impress some Swede with your knowledge about the number of islands in the country. If you want more information check out the CIA World Factbook or Statistiska Centralbyrån.

Government and Society
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy. The current king, King Carl XVI Gustaf and his heir apparent, the Crown Princess Victoria have absolutely no power. They are figureheads. Instead, the country is governed as a social democracy by the prime minister of the Riksdag (the Swedish parliament which has 349 seats), currently Fredrik Reinfeldt.

The military is now a completely voluntary force and Sweden maintains a politcy of neutrality (although they do take part in so-called “peace keeping missions”). This change was put into place on July 1, 2010 and replaced conscription. Of course, conscription did not include every single person. When I moved to Sweden they sent me not one, but two, letters telling me that they did not want me to join the Swedish military.

The official language of Sweden is Swedish, although there are several minority languages. These include (in alphabetical order): Finnish, Meänkieli, Romani, Sami, and Yiddish.

There are just over 9.5 million people living in Sweden and 99% of them can read (or at least those 15 and over. Come on now.). If you happen to be Swedish, you’ve got a good chance of living for quite some time. To start with, the infant mortality rate is less than .003% and the maternal mortality rate is even smaller at .00004%. If you manage to get through birth, the average life expectancy of men is about 79 years of age, whereas women live to be almost 84.

The country is a mixed-market economy meaning there are plenty of private enterprises as well as state controlled enterprises (the most (in)famous being Systembolaget, which is the only place in the country to legally buy strong alcohol). Sweden, while a member of the European Union, does not use the Euro. Instead, they continue to use the Swedish krona (SEK). In recent years they have done away with the 50 öre piece (essentially the 50 cent piece) and now the smallest coin available is the one krona.

Despite the country emerging in a much better position than many other European countries during the most recent economic crisis (2.3% growth in GDP in the last reported quarter for example), unemployment is a huge problem for people between the ages of 15 and 24. SCB reports that as of June of 2012 the youth unemployment rate was 28.3% and that the overall unemployment rate was 8.8%.

VAT in Sweden is at a standard 25% (although there are a couple of exceptions – food being the most notable). The average local income tax rate was right around 31%, but can be as high as about 57%. For more, Deloitte has a lovely little factsheet on this.

Geography (SCB has a great PDF on Swedish geography!)
Sweden is big. Not USA big, but California big, which actually makes it one of the largest countries in Europe. It’s about 174,000 square miles (or by European measurements, 450295 square kilometers). Sweden if flat. Not Kansas flat, but still flat. That being said, Sweden does boast Kebnekaise which is nearly 7,000 feet high (2,111 meters). There are a ridiculous number of lakes in Sweden (like 100,000ish) and the three largest are Vänern, Vättern, and Mälaren. There are even 221,800 islands in Sweden (which I just think is impressive).

Is there more to say? Absoutely. But this is starting to feel too much like an elementary school country report. So feel free to include anything I might have missed in the comments below.

Welcome to Sweden. And a conversation starter.


  1. For those looking to move to Sweden, or maybe just take a nice vacation. You should probably know that Sweden is fairly far north, and depending on when you come, you could experience some crazy (read: infuriating) lighting. In the winter, there could be only a few hours of sunlight per day, and the summer could be light basically all day. Plan accordingly (read: bring blinds).

  2. I live in Alaska - so your comment about bringing blinds made me giggle.

    I have to say that I love this blog and am glad that you are both writing it now.

    I would love to visit Sweden someday - but I'm almost positive that I would NEVER be able to get my mouth around some of those letters LOL

    So, thank you for blogging and I look forward to more of your adventures!

  3. I've never been to Alaska, but I imagine there are quite a few similarities, not just the need for blinds (although, I will say that over the years Ive become quite adept at sleeping with quite a bit of light streaming in).

  4. I've heard that there are quite a few similarities between Northern Sweden and Alaska.

    Won't know until I finally make it there ;)

  5. I've never been to Alaska, but have heard the same