Ten Reasons Why I Love Sweden - From Fika in the Snow to Falu Red Houses
1. The Nature in Sweden is Available to Everyone
Allemansrätten (the Right of Public Access) is a unique Swedish law that lets anyone roam, swim or travel by boat anywhere in the country side. As long as you don’t get too close to people’s homes and gardens, or trample across cultivated areas, you’re allowed to go pretty much anywhere you like. You are permitted to stay, or camp in any one spot for up to 24 hours. If you’d like to stay longer than that, you’ll need the land owners permission.
Swedes see nature as something that should be enjoyed by all, and not owned or possessed by those with the most most money. When you’re roaming the Swedish country side you’re free to pick flowers, berries and mushrooms and bring them home for delicious desserts and home made meals.
So there is little wonder that Swedes grow up to love their country side and learn everything there is to know about the vegetation and wild animals from an early age. Many of my fondest childhood memories are from family outings where we went fishing, looking for Chantarelles or just hiking across the country side.
Map of Sweden
2. The Swedish Landscape
Wherever you live in Sweden you’re never far away from nature. Even Sweden’s capital Stockholm is built on a number of islands, and a short car or boat drive away is the unspoilt nature waiting to be explored.
There’s plenty of variety in the scenery too - from the open landscape and famous apple orchards in Skane in the south of Sweden, to the dramatic hills and mountains of Lappland in the north, Swedish nature is as varied as it is vast.
You can walk for miles and not run into another living soul. You might spot the King of the Forest - the Moose, but you’re more likely to meet smaller wildlife such as deer, foxes and squirrels.
The west coast boast some of the most dramatic cliffs and beaches for swimming, windsurfing and other summer activities. The dark pine forests of Smaland provide wood for the paper mills and lingonberries and wild blueberries for passing hikers. It is heaven for hikers and nature lovers!
3. The Silence & The Fresh Air
As soon as you step of the plane and onto Swedish ground, you can inhale the fresh air and feel the big city stress slowly drain away.
In most Swedish towns you won’t hear the constant buzzing of overhead planes, trains and traffic that are so common in bigger cities.
Most Swedes are not overly keen on small talk, so you shouldn't be worried if you're faced with long silences. The Swedes like it that way! Does the thought of sitting in silence with another person make you uncomfortable?
Remember the old Swedish proverb:
“Talking is silver, silence is gold”
And just relax and let your ears enjoy their well deserved holiday!
4. Midsummer in Sweden
Most Swedes nowadays think that Midsummer is one of the most important family festivals of the year and celebrate it with their extended families and friends.
The children put flower garlands in their hair, and the whole family dances around the midsummer pole to the tunes of traditional songs such as 'sma grodorna' and 'vi aro musikanter'.
Legend suggests that the midsummer night is magic, and wonderful things can happen. If you pick seven different types of flowers (and jump seven fences whilst picking them), and place the flowers under your pillow - you will dream of your future spouse. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
Celebrating Swedish Midsummer
5. Swedish Fika - the Best Break in the World!
If you only learn one Swedish word, ‘fika’ is a good choice. It translates loosely as ‘coffee break’, but the word means so much more than that to the Swedes.
A fika break to a Swede is as important socially as going to the pub is to the Brits. Its where you get to know your new mother in law, colleagues or hang out with your friends in the weekends. You enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with a kanel bulle (cinnamon roll) or perhaps a sandwich or biscuits - gossip is always included in a proper fika break.
Swedes take a fika break at work in the morning and often in the afternoon too. In the weekends they like to take a fika break whilst shopping or meeting friends. In summer they enjoy fika in the sunshine, and in winter they don’t mind having fika in the snow!
What is Fika?
6. Falu Red Houses
Most traditional Swedish houses are made from wood, but there is nothing more Swedish to me than seeing a Falu Red Cottage in the country side. Falu red or Falun red (pronounced "FAH-loo", in Swedish Falu rödfärg is the name of a Swedish, deep red paint well known for its use on wooden cottages and barns.
The paint originated from the copper mine at Falun in Sweden but it is still incredibly popular because of its effectiveness in preserving wood.
7. Crayfish Parties
In August, the Swedes celebrate the premiere of the crayfish season with a traditional crayfish party. Accompanied by traditional songs, vodka shots, friends and family - the party goes on into the night and the following morning sees many sore heads.
8. Advent Brightens Up Sweden in December
December can be quite a dark, gloomy month in, so the arrival of Swedish Advent is usually eagerly anticipated. On the first Sunday of Advent, the Swedes will light the first candle in the Advent candlestick and bring out the home made ginger breads and Swedish glögg, which is a hot spiced mulled wine.
This is also the first day you can take out the Christmas decorations. Throughout December electric ‘Advent stars’ and ‘advent candles’ light up all the windows bringing some extra lights to the Swedish homes. And of course, every Sunday a new candle will be lit in the Advent candlestick until Christmas finally arrives!
9. The Snow
The days are much shorter in winter and it gets dark really early - so a bit of snow really helps brightening things up! It reflects the light during the day and dark afternoons extending daylight a couple of valuable minutes.
The snow also covers the landscape in a protective thick, white carpet making everything look just magical.
10. The Swedish Christmas
The Swedish Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, and it's a big family affair. Most children watch the same Christmas programmes on TV every year while they’re waiting for Santa to arrive with all the presents.
When Santa finally arrives, he brings a sack full of presents and hands them out to everyone in the family. Then its time for Christmas dinner - a smorgasbord filled with ham, meatballs, ribs, Janson’s Temptation, and many other delights!
What do you love about Sweden?