Sweden

Understand

Although having been a military power and spanning about three times its current size during the 17th century, Sweden has not participated in any war in almost two centuries. Having long remained outside military alliances (including both World Wars), the country has a high peace profile, with internationally renowned names such as Raoul Wallenberg, Dag Hammarskjöld, Olof Palme and Hans Blix. Sweden is a monarchy by constitution, but king Carl XVI Gustaf has no executive power. The country has a long tradition of Lutheran-Protestant Christianity, but today’s Sweden is a secular state with few church-goers.

Sweden has a strong tradition of being an open, yet discreet country. Citizens sometimes appear to be quite reserved at first, but once they get to know who they are dealing with, they’ll be as warm and friendly as you’d wish. Privacy is regarded as a key item and many visitors, for example mega-stars in various lines of trade, have many times realized that they mostly can walk the streets of the cities virtually undisturbed.

Talk

Swedish is the national language of Sweden, but you will find that people, especially those born since 1945, also speak English very well – an estimated 89% of Swedes can speak English, according to the Eurobarometer, making Sweden the second most English-proficient country on the planet where English is not official (only behind Norway). Finnish is the biggest minority language. Regardless of what your native tongue is, Swedes greatly appreciate any attempt to speak Swedish and beginning conversations in Swedish, no matter how quickly your understanding speaks out, will do much to ingratiate yourself to the locals.

Hej (hay) is the massively dominant greeting in Sweden, useful on kings and bums alike. You can even say it when you leave. The Swedes most often do not say “please” (snälla say snell-LA), instead they are generous with the word tack (tack), meaning “thanks”. If you need to get someone’s attention, whether it’s a waiter or you need to pass someone one in a crowded situation, a simple “ursäkta” (say “or-shek-ta”) (“excuse me”) will do the trick. You will find yourself pressed to overuse it, and you sometimes see people almost chanting it as a mantra when trying to exit a crowded place like a bus or train.

(source: Wikitravel)

 

 

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