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Travel with Respect

Many Swedes think that they live in "the world's most modern country". Most Swedes have liberal, cosmopolitan, secular, egalitarian and environmentalist values by Anglo-Saxon standards. This spares Western tourists from cultural clashes which might be imminent in other countries. However, some strict rules of etiquette are almost unique to Swedish people.Swedish people are reputed to be rigid and organized. Almost everything has a number. Swedish people have a ten-digit personal identity number (starting by date of birth in the form YYMMDD) used in contact with all kinds of government authorities, usually mentioned before the name. Customers in Swedish shops or bank need to take a queue number note from a machine to be served in order. Each product at Systembolaget is known for its product number (which is often easier to keep track of than foreign-sounding names), and the most important feature in selection is the alcohol content (often divided by price to find the most cost-efficient product). If you order a drink in the bar, be prepared to tell how many centiliters of liquor you want. Most grocers provide milk in four or more fat content levels (plus an organic version of each, and low lactose milk, not counting all other milk products). Before going outdoors, Swedes check air temperature, and before bathing in open water, they check water temperature. Many Swedes also own barometers, hygrometers and rain gauges to support the eternal conversation about weather with statistics. In conversation about housing, Swedes usually ask each other about the area of each other's flats by square meter. They have week numbers running from 1 to 52. Though narcotics are not unheard of, most Swedes, old as young, are strongly opposed to them, and the criminal penalties are hard by Swedish standards. This also applies to cannabis and other "soft drugs". When it comes to alcohol, Swedes are as double-natured as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Before work or driving, one beer is one too many, and drunk driving is a crime genuinely despised in Sweden. However, drunkenness can be a regular part of many Swedish traditions (e.g. Midsommar, Valborg, etc.) - keep this in mind if you abstain from alcohol. Some Swedes frown on people being sober at a party and reject other excuses than driving or pregnancy - though no formal policy exists that would force one to drink against their own will. Swedish people value equal opportunities for women and sexual minorities, as well as foreign cultures, religions and races. Don't tell jokes or derogatory opinions about these groups. (Sweden is the only country in the world where hate speech against homosexuals is illegal). Any male visitor believing the myth that Swedish women are up for grabs will soon learn otherwise - quite possibly the hard way. Also, buying sex from prostitutes is illegal, and pornography is considered shameful. A man is usually not supposed to pay for a female companion's meals or drinks, or help her carrying baggage, (but if you do you still sometimes might be very appreciated by the ladies, who are not that used to it). Corporal punishment or violence against children is illegal under all circumstances, and condemned by most Swedes. Observe this if you bring your children to Sweden. It is a good idea to keep noise level down. Keeping your cool rather than losing your temper is the Swedish way of handling conflicts. You rarely hear people raising their voices in Sweden. Many Swedish people keep conversation to a minimum. With these people, long periods of silence are more probably a sign of courtesy than rudeness. In the same manner, salespeople, waiters and other service employees are usually less attentive than their colleagues in other countries, to respect customers' privacy, except a short "hej" to entering customers. Customers are supposed to call for attention. Swedish people try to abridge differences between social classes. Modesty is a virtue - bragging, or showing off wealth, is considered rude. Economic matters are private - don't ask Swedes questions like how much they earn, or what their car costs. As in Britain and the rest of the Nordic countries, weather is a good conversation topic. Be careful about talking to people spontaneously in public places. The Swedish society is very private, and many people might find it offensive when a stranger just sit down next to them and start talking. (But they usually won’t complain aloud.) Be nice, and never intrusive. Don't ask personal questions to people you don't know, and many Swedish women feel offended by men who stare, whistle, or come and speak to them intrusively in public. Always talk about non-personal things before you ask someone out etc. Show respect to elders, who can be quite formal. Swedes are Scandinavian, but they aren't Norwegians or Danes, so don't offend people by lumping them together or confusing them with these other nationalities. Do not confuse Sweden with Switzerland! Always remove your shoes when entering a Swedish home. Most Swedish homes have wood flooring - wall-to-wall carpets are uncommon. Should you be dressed up (or if you do not like to take off your shoes when indoors), bring a pair of clean indoor shoes. Your effort will be appreciated. The Swedes say "you" in the sence of one person. Not as in France, where you would say Vous (you as in many) instead of tu when you are being polite. In the "old" Sweden, Swedes said "you" (in the plural form) when talking to a person of lower class and therefore it was inpolite. However, if you stick to English there won't be a problem. Most Swedes usually call each other, and introduce themselves, by first name only, when meeting live. Full name is preferred on the phone and in written word. When Swedish people pay at a restaurant, they often split the bill by the penny, according to individual orders. Others prefer to split the bill evenly regardless of who had the most expensive meal. Be prepared for both alternatives; it depends on your dining company. Though rumors of the "Swedish sin", Swedish people have an ambigous, not always clear, relation to public nudity. Don't go skinny-dipping in public beaches, if you are more than four years old. Public toplessness is legal for both sexes, but uncommon except breastfeeding (for women), and on the beach and in the countryside (only for men). Female toplessness in public bathhouses used to be against house rules, but this is (as of 2008) highly debated and about to change. Bare arms and legs are usually tolerated when visiting Swedish churches as a tourist. However, when entering a place of worship, remove any headwear and switch off your mobile phone. Greetings between men and women who know each other (e.g. are good friends, relatives, etc.) is often in the form of a hug. It is rare to see a peck on the cheek as a form of greeting, and it might be taken as way too personal. When interacting with Swedes do not be offended if they do not use the word "please" very often. There is no exact Swedish correspondence to the word please and Swedes use the tone of their voice to express gratitude. The word tack (=thank you, pronounced taahck) may be used instead of "please". Do not jump queues. Queue jumpers are frowned upon and, depending on the situation, will be sent to the end of the line if caught. Many stores and service offices have a machine providing queue number notes - be sure to grab one as you enter. The only exception from this is in supermarkets, where a customer with very few items can pass before one with a full cart, if asking politely before. Show up on the minute for meetings and meals, preferrably five minutes before set time. There is no "fashionably late" in Sweden. Although at some of the universities (Linköping, Uppsala and Lund) there is a tradition called the academic quarter. If a lecture is to start at 10, it actually means it will start at 10:15. If you prefer not to eat or drink something, saying "no, thank you" is OK in Sweden, unlike in many other countries. Allergy is the most acceptable excuse to reject food. In contrast to other countries, there are no really sensitive topics in politics - Sweden has not been at war since 1814, had hardly any colonial history and there are no notorious traditions like Spanish bullfighting or Norwegian whaling.But in recent years discussions about immigration politics have become sensitive. In general the Swedes are not against immigration but that is because any criticism is regarded as racism by some, unless you have some arguments. That doesn't mean that the majority of the swedes are racists, they are still very friendly to foreigners. But be careful when raising that issue, the discussions are probably not going to end friendly. Unlike many other countries, the Swedes are not so patriotic against their own country, in fear of being accused of racism, but in sport events you won't see that problem. But comparing medical care and welfare to other countries is accepted. Honest compliments to famous Swedish people, brands and institutions like ABBA, IKEA, Volvo, Saab, Pippi Longstocking, and the Nobel Prize are much appreciated.

Information from wikitravel.org*

Travel Safe

Sweden enjoys a comparatively low crime rate and is, generally, a safe place to travel. Use common sense at night, particularly on Friday and Saturday when the youth of Sweden hit the streets to drink, get drunk and in some unfortunate cases look for trouble. Be careful with young people who are drunk, they tend to be very agressive when arguing with them. Mind that it is likely that your home country is less safe than Sweden, so heed whatever warnings you would do in your own country and you will have no worries.Pickpockets are rare, but not unheard of. They usually work in tourist-frequented areas, like airports, large rail stations, shopping areas and festivals. Most Swedes carry their wallets in their pockets or purses and feel quite safe while doing it. Almost all stores and restaurants accept most major credit cards, so there is no need to carry a lot of cash around. If you have a bike, do lock it or you may lose it.The E6 between Helsingborg and Gothenburg is haunted by "road pirates", robbers. If parking your vehicle during nighttime, prefer a guarded camping area.Counterfeit Swedish banknotes or other documents are very unusual. Newer 100 and 500 SEK notes have holograms.

Information from wikitravel.org*

 

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* ecotourdirectory.com is not responsible for the travel advice and travel with respect sections on this page. We would strongly advise that before traveling to Sweden you consult your countries embassy for the lastest guidance.

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