The Culture of Sweden

Located on the Scandinavian Peninsula of Northern Europe, Sweden is a stable, sovereign nation that is modern and post-industrial with a strong agrarian history. The expansive forests that blanket half of Sweden's land mass, the numerous lakes, and a lengthy, rocky coastline on the Baltic Sea help make Sweden a nation of picturesque natural landscapes. The bustling, densely populated cities such as Stockholm (capital since 1953), Gothenburg and Malmo provide a striking contrast. Today, the people of Sweden, whether residing in rural or urban areas, seem to uphold the ideals put forth by former Swedish Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson, who declared that Sweden should be "the people's home." This ideal has taken shape in the form of a group of institutions that promote social equality through government-funded daycare centers, hospitals, senior living homes, communal music schools and municipal centers.

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Despite the imagery that the Vikings bring to mind and Sweden's distant history of warring against countries such as Russia, Denmark and Poland, Sweden has maintained a position of neutrality to war since the Napoleonic Wars. This stance has taken shape over the years and lead to their egalitarian society of today, and the Swedish parliamentary democratic government promotes peace internationally. Political parties in Sweden are stable with the largest group of parliamentarians being Social Democrats. On the domestic front, the Swedish government only imprisons citizens convicted of violent crimes, offers free post-secondary education, provides subsidized housing and more than a year of paid time-off from work after a woman gives birth. These measures keep class stratification from becoming as noticeable as in many other nations.

Although historically a nation with a highly homogenous population, beginning in the 1940s, a considerable number of laborers emigrated from Southern Europe. Additionally, over the next few decades a wave of immigration brought newcomers who escaped poverty or war-ravaged nations such as the former Yugoslavia, Hungary, Kurdistan, Chile and various nations of Africa and Asia. This fairly recent change in demographics has led to a rise of a Neo-Nazi movement amongst some of the poorer young people of Sweden.

In 1965, the Swedish government initiated a broad project geared toward the construction of one million new housing units in urban areas. With the need for housing urgent, buildings were erected with focus toward functionalism and practicality. Steel and other metals and glass were utilized heavily in the construction of home exteriors. Furnished housing units came equipped with furniture primarily made of steel or woods with simple, clean lines. This pragmatic approach to architecture became synonymous with Swedish designers.

In terms of home life, Swedes tend to live in nuclear family units. Both moose hunting and hockey are favored sports. Culinary delights are traditionally simple and center around cured fish, boiled potatoes and cheeses. However, a smorgasbord, or buffet of numerous appetizers, is enjoyed on special occasions; smoked eel, fish in sauce, jellied fish, other meats and vegetables are typical fare. The majority of the population are Lutheran Protestants although church attendance is quite low.

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