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Sweden

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Continent:Europe National flag
National flag: Sweden
Capital city:Stockholm
Area:449,964 km2 ( 55. )
Population:9,001,774 Person ( 83. )
People density:20 Person / km2
GDP per capita:22,700 $ / Person ( 10. )
GDP:204,340,269,800 $
Official language:swedish

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The mere mention of Sweden conjures up resonant images: snow-capped peaks, reindeer wandering in deep green forests and the 24-hour daylight of the midnight sun - not to mention notions of a standard of living that’s one of the highest in the world. But beyond the household names of ABBA, IKEA and Volvo, Sweden is relatively unknown. The largest of the Scandinavian countries, with an area twice that of Britain (and roughly that of California), but a population of barely nine million, Sweden is still one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Its cities are safe, carefree places where the cheap public transport runs on time and life is relaxed. Sweden’s countryside boasts pine and birch forest as far as the eye can see, crystal-clear lakes perfect for a summer afternoon dip, not to mention possibly the purest air you’ll ever breathe; the country’s south and west coasts feature some of the most exquisite beaches in Europe.

Forget anything you’ve heard about Sweden’s reputedly high prices - over recent years, the Swedish krona has depreciated significantly against most other Western currencies, putting Sweden within the scope of many visitors’ budgets. For accommodation, there’s a range of decent hotels, guesthouses and hostels to suit every pocket, and many hotels drop their prices in summer (and at weekends all year round). What’s more, Sweden is now one of the least expensive countries to reach from within Europe: air fares of just 99 from London to Stockholm have opened up the country as never before.

The other Nordic nations love to make fun of the Swedes. Witness the joke about the ten Nordic men stranded on a desert island. On day one, the two Finns have felled half the trees on the island for firewood. On day two, the two Norwegians have constructed a fishing boat from some of the wood to catch fish for supper. On day three, the Danes have set up a co-operative to organize all the work. On day four, the Icelanders decide to lift everyone’s spirits with tales of the brave men of the ancient sagas. And on day five, the two Swedes are still waiting to be introduced to each other.

It is certainly true that the Swedes aren’t the easiest of people to get to know, and are often thought of by foreigners as being distant and reserved. On the whole, Swedes are straight-talking, saying what they mean with a minimum of words and fuss. Many visitors interpret this as lack of interest in conversation or even downright rudeness, but both are unlikely to be the case; it’s worth noting the fact that the Finns think the Swedes are too talkative. In short, overt expressions of emotion and raucous conversations punctuated with wild gesticulations are not the name of the game in Sweden - at least until the weekend when, in many parts of the country, beer and aquavit help people throw off their inhibitions. Many tourists come to Sweden looking forward to wild sex and easy pick-ups. Most return home disappointed. Somehow over the years the open Swedish attitude to nudity and sexuality has become confused with sex. Contrary to popular belief though, Sweden isn’t populated solely with people waiting for any opportunity to tear their clothes off and make passionate love under the midnight sun. People may talk about sex openly, but when it comes down to it the Swedes can be rather puritanical. Nudity, though often seen, is not really looked at, and is quite unrelated to sex: go to a beach in Sweden on a hot summer’s day and you’ll doubtless see people sunbathing naked, but this state of affairs is certainly not an invitation for a love-in. However, the Swedes’ liberal and open attitude to virtually every aspect of life is certainly one of their most enviable qualities; people are generally left to do their own thing providing it doesn’t impinge on the rights and freedoms of others. In Sweden, rights go hand-in-hand with duties, and there’s a strong sense of civic obligation (count how few times you see people dropping litter, for example), which in turn makes for a well- rounded and stable society.

[ Buy on Amazon: The Rough Guide to Sweden ]

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Map of country Sweden

Map of country  Sweden

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