This country in the north of Europe is a heaven for responsible travellers. Swedes care much about the natural environment and are some of the most ecologically responsible people on the planet. Sweden is situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula between Norway and Finland. To the south it is connected to Denmark and mainland Europe via the ultra-modern Oresund Bridge.
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Sweden has a large landmass of nearly 450,000 square kilometres, making it the largest of the Scandinavian countries. Sweden is classified as a Nordic nation (which also includes Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland (& their autonomous regions including Greenland). Sweden, and greater Scandinavia, has a rich history famous for the Viking period, which refers to 750-1060AD. Whilst the Danish and Norwegian Viking expeditions sailed westwards towards Western Europe and England, the Swedish Vikings went mostly eastwards into modern-day Russia and further on to Byzantium and the Caliphate. As of 2015, Sweden is home to 9.6 million people.
In 2013 Sweden welcomed 5.2 million international tourists. When you are planning your trip to Sweden ensure you experience the rugged north, sophisticated Stockholm and historic south. In Sweden’s most northern town, Kiruna, located 250km beyond the Arctic Circle and a 16-hour train ride away from Stockholm, the Northern Lights can be observed and admired. The north of the country is populated by the Saami people, who at the beginning of the 21st century still manage to preserve their own language, centuries-old customs and their belief in pagan gods.
The diverse accommodation base ranges from residing in romantic castles, wild camping sites and inexpensive hostels through to sleeping in a tree-house, in an ice hotel or in a 19th-century converted prison. If you happen to visit Sweden in the month of August, definitely take part in the loud, jovial and silly crayfish parties. Finally, the Swedish north between December-March is a magically time; if you are lucky enough to be there during this period be sure to head for the arctic circle to catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Ethical Photography: Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of the friendly people of Sweden is a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Cultural Loss and Indigenous Tourism:
As we have extended the scope of our holidays into remote places, we now see ‘remote people’ as part of our holiday landscape. Our interest in other people’s cultures is not always sensitive. What are the implications, for example, of tourists viewing, filming & photographing tribal peoples who now demand payment in exchange for becoming models in their finery?
Performing for tourists has become an income earner for tribal groups all over the world. But the income comes with a price. To learn more, check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Indigenous people and tourism. Specifically the impact of the northern lights tourism and the indigenous people, the Sami, of northern Sweden.
Dolphinariums – Kolmarden Marine Park:
With more than 50,000 visitors per year Kolmarden Zoo, opened in 1965, is one of Sweden’s top tourist attractions. As part of the zoo, Kolmarden Marine Park was opened four years later and is the last remaining dolphinarium in Sweden. The attractions are included in Swedish National law, however there are no legally set standards for their captive care and no requirement to act for dolphin and whale conservation. In total 59 bottle-nosed dolphin have been kept here, with 8 currently resident and a reported 45 deaths at the facility since 1969.
Chlorine used in the water can affect dolphin’s heath causing skin issues and blindness, and as highly intelligent social animals a restrictive captive setting can lead to stress related suffering.
See more at Right Tourism; http://right-tourism.com/issues/animals-attractions/aquariums/#sthash.cV5LlOeH.dpbs
Sweden is a world leading country in regarding to environmental management & policy – tourism & its impact of the environment is no exception. Sweden has a large forestry sector, suppling numerous industries such as biofuels and pulp & paper. According to WWF, approximately 2000 forest-dwelling species have been listed as threatened. They range from birds such as the white-backed woodpecker to various species of lichen, moss and fungi.
Sweden, being a long stretch of land running from north to south, has a varied climate. In the far north, above the Arctic Circle, winter last for 8 months and are dark, freezing and severe (-20c degrees). Summers in the north last less than 3 months and are cool and hosts a midnight sun. In central and southern Sweden, winter is generally cold with an average of temperature above 0c degrees and summer temperatures are similar to those in southern England, averaging ~15c-20c degrees. The capital Stockholm averages -3°c in February and 18°c in July.
Annual rainfall averages ~60cm (24 inches) and is heaviest in the southwest and along the boarder with Norway. The average rainfall for Lapland (in the north) is about 30 cm (12 in) per year.
Sweden is one of Europe’s largest and least populated countries. This Scandinavian nation is famous for its forests and national parks, its slow population growth and strong conservation movement have helped preserve the nation’s extensive forest resources. Nearly 10% of Sweden’s total land area is classified as protected areas, including more than 50 Ramsar wetland sites. Sweden has 29 national parks covering a huge ~730,000 hectares. The first national park, Sarek, was established in 1909, the first of its kind in Europe. Sarek is famous for its more than 100 glaciers.
Vegetation in Sweden ranges from Alpine sprawl in the north, to coniferous forests in the centre, and deciduous trees in the south. Common trees include birch, beech elm and oak. Native fauna includes a huge array of birds including woodcock, duck, golden eagle and crane, along with reindeer, elk, lynx, and Arctic fox. Marine life is also vast and seafood is popular in Sweden.
In regards to environmental policy and sustainability goals, Sweden has regularly been in the top ten of the globally respected Environmental Performance Index, with low emissions, clean air and clean water. Sweden is one of few countries that has managed to pair a growing economy with falling emission levels.
Nuclear energy still plays a major role in Sweden. As of 2005, there were 10 nuclear power reactors providing nearly half of the nation’s electricity. However, as of 2014 ambitious goals for sustainability have been implemented by the joint Social Democrat and Green government, such as the government’s target of a fossil-free vehicle fleet by 2030 and plans to make Sweden one of the world’s first ‘fossil-free welfare states’ (including 100% renewable energy).
Sweden has one of the most far-reaching social systems in the world. Swedes are very patriotic and are proud of their nation, nature and towns. Generally, Swedes are fairly reserved people and do not embrace or touch often in public.
When meeting a local, shake hands with everyone present; including all men, women, and children and introduce yourself. Eye contact is important for meeting and conversations. Women make up 48% of the work force and equal rights is very strong in Sweden; shaking hands with men and women alike is respectful.
In conversation, do not praise another city or region in Sweden over the one you are presently in, Swedes are very proud of their own area! It is always appreciated if you have a brief understanding of Swedish history, economy, high standard of living and sports (European handball, football and cross-country skiing are all popular.)
Traditional Swedish food is unique and definitely worth exploring! Local cuisine mirrors that Swedish lifestyle; many Swedes forage local woodlands for coveted chanterelles and berries, or go fishing for pike-perch, crab and crayfish. Coffee is also very popular (and taken very seriously) in Sweden!
Swedes love traditions and food is a central part of the festivities. Sweden has cinnamon bun day, waffle day and crayfish. The months of August and September mean Crayfish party time (kräftskiva) in Sweden – bring your singing voice – you’ll need it. Fermented herring (surströmming) is also a staple. In culinary terms surströmming is an extreme sport. Wild, wonderful and pure Swedish. Cinnamon buns (Kanelbulle) is celebrated on the 4th of October and Sweden will celebrate its most famous bun.
Swedish is the national language. In addition to the letters of the English alphabet Swedish has the additional; å, ä, and ö. Swedish is closely related to Norwegian and Danish. The indigenous people of the north, the Sami, speak their own language. Many Swedes speak English and German – most TV in Sweden is in English with Swedish subtitles – so you will easily get by with English in most Swedish cities and towns. Here are a couple of Swedish terms to try:
- Hi – Hej
- How are you? – hur mår du
- My name is… – jag heter…
- Where is the toilet? – vart finns toaletten?
- Four beers please – Fyra öl vänligen
The Church of Sweden is an Evangelical Lutheran church but many other religions are represented in Sweden. Churches in major cities (such as Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo) usually have services in English once a week.
There are also other Protestant groups in Sweden, Roman Catholics constitute less than 1% of the populace. Christian Orthodox churches including Greek, Serbian, Syrian, Romanian, and Macedonian are also available, along with Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. The constitution provides for freedom of religion.