Local traditions and culture in Sweden

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Sweden

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    Allemansrätten (The right of Common Access)

    by hopang Updated Jul 23, 2009

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    Everyone living in Sweden enjoys certain rights and privileges in the countryside which is known as allemansrätten or the right of common access. The countryside is accessible to everyone living in Sweden provided you do not litter, cause any damages, cut down trees or bushes or disturb other people.

    You may pick mushrooms, berries and flowers which are not protected. But you are not allowed to touch or pick cultivated fruits and vegetables or walk into the cultivated fields and gardens without permission.

    You are not allowed to hunt for wild animals and birds. You normally require to apply for a licence to fish in the lakes and rivers.

    You are not allowed to drive motor vehicles including motor cycles and mopeds off the road or to pitch a tent too close to a house or a private property. Permission can be obtained from the landowners if you wish to pitch a tent for several days.

    City Forest in Uppsala
    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Camping
    • Fishing

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    Swedish Festivals

    by hopang Updated Sep 17, 2009

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    1) Christmas Festival:-

    Lucia - celebrated on 13th December (not an official holiday).

    Christmas - celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ
    24th December (Christmas Eve) - public holiday
    25th and 26th December - public holidays.

    New Year - 31st December (New Year's Eve) is treated as a Saturday
    1st January - public holiday.

    Epiphany - celebrated to commemorate the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. It is the 13th day after Christmas (6th January) and is the last holiday of Swedish Christmas festival.

    2) Easter - celebrated to commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and is the second of the major Christian festivals. It usually falls in March or April. Good Friday is a public holiday. Sunday and Monday are public holidays.

    3) Walpurgis Night - celebrated to welcome the return of spring. Bonfires are lit all over the country on 30th April.

    4) Ascension Day - celebrated to commemorate the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven. It is a Church festival and is celebrated 40 days after Easter and is always on a Thursday.

    5) Whitsun - celebrated ten days after Ascension Day. This is the day the Holy Ghost descended on the Apostles and the Christian church was founded.

    6) Sweden's National Day - falls on 6th June.

    7) Midsummer - celebrated to welcome the arrival of summer and falls on a weekend closest to 23rd June. The eve of Midsummer is always a Friday.

    8) All Saints' Day - celebrated in memory of the dead and falls on a Saturday in the beginning of November.

    Lighting for Christmas Festival
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Festivals

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    The right of public access in general

    by sim1 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The right of public access (allemansrätten) is a unique right that we have in Sweden (there are similar systems in Norway and Finland). It is alike for Swedes and for from visitors from abroad. In short it means that everyone has the right to be out in the countryside. You can use and enjoy all natural spaces in Sweden, whether it is privately owned or by the government.

    But the right of public access is a freedom for all. The main rule is that you don't damage the landscape or animal life, and you must show consideration for both landowners and for everyone else that is out and about in the countryside.

    In short: Do not disturb, do not destroy.

    So this is the right of public access in general, but what does it mean for you? I'll try to explain a little bit more about it in my next few tips.

    You can read about the rules in more detail on this website: http://www.allemansratten.se/ (available in Swedish, English and German)

    Hiking around S��len

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    The right of public access: berries

    by sim1 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Let me give you another example of the right of public access (allemanrätten). You are allowed to pick berries or mushrooms in the countryside. But do remember that in areas protected by law, like national parks, nature reserves and historical sites, special rules apply.

    But in general this rule gives you a great opportunity to taste some of those delicious wild berries such as blue-, lingon- and cloudberries that you can see so much in the Swedish countryside.

    Picking berries
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism

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    The right of public access: camping

    by sim1 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The right of public access is great for backpackers and people travelling on a budget. The rules for camping are simple: It is allowed to camp in the countryside for one or two nights in the same place. But there are some restrictions. It is only allowed if you are not disturbing the landowner, or the local people. You are not allowed to put up your tent near homes, farm building or on farmland. These rules do not apply for groups; they need special permission. Other exceptions to the general rule are also national parks and nature reserves. Camping with a caravan also has extra restrictions to these general rules.

    As you can see we didn't have any buildings close to us, no people being disturbed, it wasn't any farmland, the perfect spot to put up our tent for the night :-)

    Åke is expertly demonstrating a totally different type of right: "the right of public laziness". The rules are simple, hahaha, the sun must be shining and the tent must be set up before you get this right. After that you can be lazy as much as you want :-))

    The right of public laziness ??
    Related to:
    • Camping

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    The right of public access: flowers

    by sim1 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    You are allowed to pick wildflowers under the right of public access, but only the ones that don't have a protected status. Now here is where things might get very complicated. Some flowers are protected in one area, but not in another. Like this flower for instance, the Gullviva. In the part of Sweden where I live (Södermanlands Län) the flower is not protected as it is so common in this area. But in huge parts of Sweden this flower is protected.

    One flower is easy though: the orchid. All species of orchid are protected throughout Sweden, so you are not allowed to pick those. It is also not permitted to gather mosses and lichens in large quantities.

    If you are not sure about whether a flower or plant is protected or not, you can ask at the local tourist information. They will be able to help you out with some more info.

    These tips have only been a few examples of what the 'allemansrätten' or 'right of public access' in practise means. On the website mentioned below, you can read much more about it, like rules for hiking, boating, fishing, making a fire, dogs, etc, etc.

    Gullviva
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism

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    The 'Tomte'

    by sim1 Updated Nov 20, 2005

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    Time to tell something about a mythical figure in Sweden that lives among us: the Tomte!

    In Sweden they don't know the American-type santa. They have their own santa-figure: the Jultomte (Christmas tomte). The Jultomte is a cheerful gnome who is the one that brings the Christmas presents. Here you can see some little ornaments of funny looking jultomtar.
    The Jultomte has its origin in the Hustomte (house gnome). In Sweden they believed in the tomte gnomes long before the Jultomte was invented as a tradition.
    The word tomt means lot or grounds, and the tomte is the gnome that takes care of the houses and the lot. He is a grumpy little figure, hardly ever seen, but always believed to be around. He made sure that the owner looked after his property; you didn't want to annoy him! So you made sure you took care of your house, your livestock and property. And if you did that, the tomte would be pleased and help you to take care of it as well.

    When the Santaclaus tradition came to Sweden, the name of tomte was used for the Jultomte (Christmas tomte). It's rather logical in a way to make the tomte the symbol of the Swedish Santa Claus. The tomte has a long beard and a red cap, so in a way looks like Santa. The red cap was a very common hat for farmers in Sweden in the old days, so of course tomte wore one as well. The good thing about the Jultomte is that he is a totally different in character than the tomte. He is not the grumpy old gnome like the tomte, but a cheerful character and a well seen guest during the Christmas time :-)

    Tomte Nisse

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    Hey, is anyone there?

    by evaanna Updated Nov 28, 2005

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    Travelling across Sweden, you may have to ask the way while there is no one around to ask. Even if you enter somebody's unfenced yard - there are hardly any fences in Sweden - don't expect people to react. In most cases, no one will look out of the window or bother to talk to you. Sometimes we could see a car with the door open parked in front of the house, indicating that someone had just come in but no one opened the door. Even if a house is signposted as having a room to let there may be no reaction when you arrive, and still you can hear noises inside. Don't they want to earn some money? And what if we were burglars, but the Swedes don't even seem to know the word. You can leave your car full of things in the street and you will find it as you left it. Sweden is a safe country, if a little cold.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip

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    24th December: Christmas time!

    by sim1 Updated Feb 24, 2010

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    Holidays & celebrations of Sweden
    24th December: Christmas time!


    God Jul! (Merry Christmas!)

    24th December : Christmas time! Not the 25th and 26th are the most important days for Swedes, but the 24th is the 'real' Christmas day!

    For me that is something to get used to, as I never considered the day of 'Christmas Eve' part of Christmas. That has never been a tradition for me. Hahaha, the 25th was the day to look out for! But I guess I am having Christmas a day early now :-)))
    This day, like a lot of other Swedes I visited the family in the morning, had a skinkmacka (ham sandwich) for lunch. Went home just in time to see the 3 o'clock Disney Cartoons, opened the presents and enjoyed the Julbord (Christmas dinner).

    The Swedish Christmas traditions are so unlike the typical Christmas that I expected: It's a day early, there is fish instead of turkey on the dinner table and a Jultomte (Christmas gnome) instead of a Santa (like in the Coca-Cola advertising saying HoHoHo) is bringing the presents. So as you can see this was quite a culture shock for me ;-))

    If you want to read more about the Swedish Christmas traditions, you can have a look at my Hedlandet page.

    24th December : Christmas time!

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    Holidays & celebrations of Sweden

    by sim1 Updated Nov 10, 2007

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    Holidays & celebrations of Sweden


    During the year we celebrate several usual and maybe to you a bit more unsual holidays:

    New Years Eve (31 December) and New Years Day (1st January)
    13 afton (6 January)
    20 Knut (13 January)
    Valborgsmässoafton/Walpurgis Night (30th April)
    1May
    långfredagen/Good Friday (The Friday before Easter)
    Easter (2 days: the Sunday and Monday closest after the full moon after the 21st of March)
    Kristi himmelfärdsdag/Ascension Day (The 6th Thursday after Easter)
    Pingst/Whitsuntide (The 7th Sunday after Easter)
    Nationaldagen/National Day (6th June)
    Midsommar (The Saturday between the 20th and 26th of June)
    Alla Helgons Dag (The Saturday between the 31st of October and 6th November)
    St.Lucia (13th December)
    Christmas Eve (24th December), Christmas day (25th December) and Boxing Day (26th December)

    In the next few tips you'll get a bit more info about the traditions surrounding these holidays.

    Fireworks o nthe 31st of December

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    To shoe or not to shoe, that's the question!

    by sim1 Updated Dec 29, 2003

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    I think it differs in every country, but in Sweden as a general rule it is the custom to take off your shoes when you enter a home. In The Netherlands it was just the opposite, you 'never' took off your shoes. I still find it confusing but I am getting used to it. Phew, in the winter a lot of work though to untie the shoes for maybe only a 1 minute visit. Hahaha, luckily it is much easier in the summer to take of those sandals :-)

    Of course there are some exceptions to the rule. A good tip is when you having a party or something at someone's home, you can check if there is a pile of shoes at the entrance. Than you know for sure you are supposed to take them off. Hahaha, this tip only works when you are not the first guest to arrive, lol. If that's the case a good tip is to also check if the host is wearing shoes or not.

    To shoe or not to shoe, that's the question!

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    When in Sweden...Do as in Japan...

    by Zandra Updated Apr 12, 2004

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    - take off your shoes!!!

    If you'd be visiting some Swedes, in Sweden or in any other country for that matter, be sure to take off your shoes in the hallway. In Sweden it is considered extremely rude to walk around with outdoor shoes in someone else's house or apartment.

    It gets trickier when a Swede is living together with a person of another nationality...The shoe issue became a real problem for me and my German fiancé when we lived in Germany...I wanted the people visiting us to take off their shoes and he didn't see the necessity of that at all. The compromise was that all Swedes or people knowing about this Swedish custom did take their shoes off, while the others got to keep theirs on. But now, when we're living in Sweden we have a shoe shelf...

    If you're uncertain about what to do - ask! It might confuse some Swedes, since most of us tend to think that taking off the shoes is the most natural thing in the world, but once you've explained the difference from your own country, the Swede (Swedes) will highly appreciate that you asked.

    Swedish Shoe Shelf

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    DAY OF LUCIA - 13th December

    by Pixiekatten Written Nov 23, 2006

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    All over the country there's election posters with pretty young girls smiling at the camera. They was put up weeks ago and soon the election is coming to an end. This is going on everywhere, in schools, at jobs, at the local gym, in churches, on TV... So what on earth is it we're voting on?
    We're choosing this year's Lucia. The one who will lead the procession on the 13th of December. A procession spreading light and joy all over the country!

    The Swedish Lucia celebration is an annual festival of medieval origin, observed on the 13th of December. On this day, the darkness is brightened by Saint Lucia, a creature of goodness and light who opens the door to the Christmas season.

    Named after a Sicilian saint, the Swedish Lucia does not have much in common with her namesake. She is celebrated in a variety of ways, but the most common is the Lucia procession consisting of a group of young girls and boys singing traditional Lucia songs.

    On her head, the girl or woman playing the part of Lucia wears a wreath of lingonberry sprigs with holders for real candles (battery-powered ones are sometimes a safer option) to give the effect of a halo. She also has a white, full-length gown with a red ribbon around her waist. Her female attendants (tärnor) wear similar gowns and the "star boys" (stjärngossar) wear white pointed hats decorated with stars. Lucia processions are held in various places, ranging from kindergartens and schools to churches and the Swedish Parliament.

    Lucia can be perceived as a symbol of the good forces in life and a symbol of light in the dark winter. She usually appears early in the morning, bringing coffee and saffron-flavored buns (lussekatter) traditionally eaten around Christmas time in Sweden.

    Pictures taken from:
    1. http://www.nightfestival.se/Bilder/Lucia%20nightfest02.jpg
    2.http://www.alutrade.se/articles/a60/image1.jpg
    3.http://www.na.se/bilder/nabilder/stora/822420_3.jpg

    (Pic.3) A Lucia procession. (Pic2) A different Lucia procession. (pic3) Lucia procession An electionposter in Nybro.
    Related to:
    • Seniors
    • Festivals
    • Backpacking

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    Smokers...Meet the Kitchen Fan

    by Zandra Updated May 18, 2005

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    It was not until I had lived in Germany for quite some time that I realized that in many Swedish homes; a rather odd habit exists - smoking under the kitchen fan... Even if there are smokers in the house, it is common that they restrict themselves to only smoke under the fan. If you are a guest in a Swedish home, and want to smoke, it is likely that you'll be "invited" to smoke under the kitchen fan. After all, Sweden is a country with a cold climate and the Swedes, polite as we are, do not want to -literally- send our smoking guests out in the cold. Sometimes at parties, it can get quite hilarious when a big group of people crowds in front of the fan, all trying to blow their smoke in the right direction. This is also why so many Swedish parties take place in the kitchen!

    Smoking is already prohibited in most public buildings (schools, hospitals, train stations etc), and as from the 1st of June 2005, it will also be illegal to smoke in restaurants and bars.

    Smoker's Corner

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    Don't forget about the barcode!

    by sim1 Updated Jan 8, 2005

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    When you go shopping in Sweden and you go to the cash register, please don't forget to put the products with the barcode turned in the right direction! It's a kind of courtesy in Sweden, so it would be great if you would try to do it. Hahaha, hard to except such an advice from me though, as I think I am one of the worst customers they have; I keep forgetting it all the time, lol.

    I have never done this before in any country that I visited, hahaha, so no wonder that I keep forgetting to do so :-) Even after going shopping for over a dozen of times in Sweden, I fail to remember until the last minute, lol. There is often a little note close to the cashier saying that you should turn the products in the right direction, and even in what direction that should be. This makes the scanning of the products much easier for the cashier, so it's quite logical when you think about it. Hahaha, but I still fail to remember in doing so, lol. I often think of it just before the cashier starts scanning the products. So with great precision I start putting everything in a neatly order, barcode turned to the right direction, and of course with a BIG smile on my face. I always have so much fun in doing this :-))

    The most fun is the liqueur store (systembolaget). There are little circles drawn on the 'rolling band'... sorry, I don't know the English word for it..... on which you have to place your bottles and cans (see picture). Hahaha, I always have to laugh out load when I do this, I just can't help myself. It just looks so funny! You can imagine the surprised looks around me from the other customers when I start laughing like that, hahahaha.

    Cans, placed in a neat order :-))

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