in India but raised in Sweden since she was 4 months old by her
family. Sandra grew up and lived in Sweden
until she left for an exchange program in America when she was 17. Sweden is a land of beauty, with countryside stretching
as far as the eye can see. We return to Sweden most every year
at least once, and have traveled together throughout most if it.
Two winters ago we visited the arctic north of Lapland, where the world's
largest igloo, the
Ice Hotel is built each year. All in all, Sweden is a
wonderful country surrounded by majestic scenery. With a
rich history, Sweden offers a culture and a people that are in
many ways traditional yet cutting-edge at the same time. If
you get a chance, we definitely recommend you to visit Sweden, so
you can experience it first-hand. The Swedes are definitely
a fun and "crazy" people to get to know.
with an area of 173,732 square
miles (approximately the size of the state of California),
occupies the greater part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, which it shares
with Norway. The land slo
pes gently from the high mountains along the
Norwegian frontier eastward to the Baltic Sea. Geologically, it is one
of the oldest and most stable parts of the Earth's crust. Its surface
formations and soils were altered by the receding glaciers of the Pleistocene
Epoch (i.e., the last 1.6 million years). Lakes dot the fairly
flat landscape, and thousands of islands form archipelagoes along more
than 1,300 miles of jagged, rocky coastline.
of northwestern Europe, Sweden has a generally favorable
climate relative to its northerly latitude owing to moderate southwesterly
winds and the warm North Atlantic Current.
The nation has a 1,000-year-long continuous history as a sovereign state,
but its territorial expanse changed often until 1809. Today it is a constitutional
monarchy with a well-established parliamentary democracy that dates from
1917. Swedish society is ethnically and religiously very homogeneous,
although recent immigration has created some social diversity. Historically
Sweden rose from backwardness and poverty into a highly developed postindustrial
society and advanced welfare state with a standard of living and life
expectancy that rank among the highest in the world.
Sweden long ago disavowed
military aggressiveness that once involved its armies deeply in Europe's
centuries of dynastic warfare. It has chosen instead to play a balancing
role among the world's conflicting ideological and political systems.
It is for this reason that Swedish statesmen have often been sought out
to fill major positions in the United Nations. At peace since 1814, Sweden
has followed the doctrine, enunciated in every document on foreign policy
since World War II, of "nonalignment in peace aiming at neutrality in
Sweden has a population of 8,861,711, or roughly that of New York City.
It's population density of 55 people per square mile ranks as one of the
lowest in the world (nearly 70% of the country is forested), and over
83% of people cluster in the urban areas. Of these, Stockholm is
the largest, with a population of 736,113, followed by Göteborg (459,593),
Malmö (254,904), Uppsala (187,302) and Linköping (131,948). The
birth rate is approximately 40% of the world average (10.8%), and the
population growth rate is just 0.2%, compared with the world average of
15.7%. Sweden was ranked in 1999 as the 6th best country in the
world in which to live, trailing only Canada, Norway, United States,
Japan and Belgium.
In return for high taxes, citizens are provided with a broad spectrum
of public services and social welfare benefits that guarantee a minimum
living standard, provide aid in emergencies, redistribute income over
a person's lifetime, and narrow the gap between different income groups.
All residents are covered by national health insurance.
Health conditions in Sweden are good by comparison with other countries
in general. Infant mortality is low (3rd lowest in the world), and the
average life expectancy at birth is high (79 years, 6th highest in the
world). The ratio of doctors to population is also relatively high. Primary
care centers are available in every community. For
highly specialized health care, Sweden is divided into six medical care
regions, each with at least one large hospital that has many specialists
and is affiliated with a medical school for research and teaching.
Extremely liberal benefits are available to parents. They are entitled
to 12 months of paid leave from work, which can be shared between them
before the child is eight years old. They also receive tax-free child
allowances, equal for everyone, until the child's 16th birthday. Students
who continue their education are entitled to study allowances. At the
university level these consist chiefly of repayable loans. Municipalities
provide an increasing number of day-care and youth activities. Low-income
families and pensioners are eligible for housing allowances.
National accident insurance pays all health costs for on-the-job injuries.
Many working people in Sweden have unemployment insurance through their
trade unions, while the unemployed without such coverage can receive a
smaller cash benefit from the state. There are extensive government programs
of job retraining and sheltered employment as well as relocation grants
to help the unemployed find work. A basic old-age pension is available
to everyone starting at age 65. The state also pays an income-related
financed through a payroll plan.
As a result of the socialist government, family unity is strong, poverty
is virtually nonexistent, and crime is extremely low. The high tax
rates create very few overt displays of wealth, with almost all families
belonging to the middle class. Gasoline prices are high, limiting
use of cars, and an American will be surprised at the absence of trucks,
sports cars, vans, and sport-utility vehicles. Volvos abound, with
26% of all cars on the road being Volvos, and nearly three times as many
Volvos on the road as runner-ups Saab, Ford, and Volkswagen. Public
transportation, with subways, bullet trains, excellent bus systems and
towns designed for walking and bicycling,
is common, inexpensive and easy to use. Sweden is also world-renowned
for its liberated attitudes, with over 90% of Swedes engaging in premarital
sex (the highest rate in the world), and consuming (along with Finland)
more alcohol per capita than any other country on earth. Despite
this explicit activity, incidents of alcoholism and sexually-transmitted
diseases are very low, and drug use is scarce (lowest use and abuse rates
in Europe). Sandra had never even heard of drugs before coming to
the United States!
On this portion of our site, you can click on one of the links in the
table below to find out everything you ever wanted to know about Sweden.
For more information on Sweden, check out our pages on: