Sweden is one of the largest countries in Europe, with great diversity in its nature and climate. Located in Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, Kattegat and Skagerrak, between Finland and Norway, it is a sparsely populated country, characterized by its long coastline, extensive forests and numerous lakes. It is one of the world’s northernmost countries. The indigenous population consists of the Swedes and Finnish and Sami minorities and the foreign-born or first-generation immigrants consists of the Finns, Yugoslavs, Danes, Norwegians, Greeks and Turks. The most widely practiced religions in Sweden are Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhism. The official language is Swedish. Five other minority languages are also recognized: Finnish, Meänkieli, Sami, Romani and Yiddish. In school the kids learns English, and later they can also choose German, Spanish or French.
Varied scenery with a rich wildlife
With its variety of landscapes from the mountain ranges in the west, its coniferous forests and innumerable rivers, Sweden is a paradise for flora and fauna. Sweden has everything from bears and wolves in the north to roe deer and wild boar in the south. The country also has a wealth of flora and aquatic life, which contribute to its biological diversity.
Its wildlife includes the large moose which is a great prize for hunters (and also a traffic hazard!) wolves, wild boars foxes and hares. Hunting is closely regulated and many species of animal are completely protected. Winter bird life in Sweden is dominated by a few species, but summer brings large numbers of migratory birds from the south.
With its long coasts and many lakes, Sweden also has a rich variety of aquatic life. Fish species vary from the cod and mackerel of the salty Atlantic to the salmon and pike found in the far less saline Gulf of Bothnia and in lakes and rivers. Herring and the smaller Baltic herring used to be an important staple food, but today are seen more as delicacies. Because of their limestone-rich bedrock and favorable climate, the islands of Gotland and Öland and parts of the Scandinavian mountain range have an interesting flora that includes numerous varieties of orchid.
Sweden has a much milder climate than most other regions of the world that lie as far north. Sweden’s climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream, a warm ocean stream that flows off Norway’s west coast. Sweden’s many lakes and the gulfs of Bothnia give Sweden generally a relatively mild climate. July temperatures in Sweden average 13 to 17°C. February is usually Sweden’s coldest month, with temperatures from – 22 to -3°C. In northern Sweden, winter temperatures often drop to -30°C, sometimes even lower. Snow covers the ground in southern Sweden from December to April, and in northern Sweden the first snowfall is often already in October. Most of the country is icebound in winter, but special ice-breaking boats keep the major ports open.
Sweden experiences extreme contrasts between its long summer days and equally long winter nights. In the summer, the sun stays in the sky around the clock in the parts of Sweden north of the Arctic Circle, but even as far south as Stockholm (59°N) the June nights have only a few hours of semi-darkness.
Swedes are generally held to be punctual, law abiding and respectful of rules and regulations. They generally like hobbies and activities and pursuing them together with others is probably the easiest way to meet and get to know new people. People usually find many things confusing or strange at first. This will probably be true of your first time in Sweden. Remember, however, that if there is anything you are unsure of the best thing to do is to ask someone. Swedes are informal and willing to help. This is especially true of young people and students, many of whom have traveled widely themselves.