Difference between revisions of "Sweden"
Revision as of 11:44, 23 July 2013
Sweden (Sverige) is the largest of the Nordic countries, with a population of about 9.5 million. It borders Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark via the bridge of Öresund (Öresundsbron). The Baltic Sea lies to the east of Sweden, as well as the Gulf of Bothnia, which separates Sweden from most of Finland. The northernmost part of Sweden belongs to the Arctic.
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 hundred years. 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 Swedish people were Pagans until around the year 1000, then Christened and obedient to the Roman Pope until the 16th century, when the church was reformed to Lutheran-Protestant. Today's Sweden is a secular state with very few church-goers.
Sweden is a developed post-industrial society with an advanced welfare state. The standard of living and life expectancy rank among the highest in the world. Sweden joined the European Union in 1995, but decided by a referendum in 2003 not to commit to the European Monetary Union and the euro currency. Leadership of Sweden has for the larger part of the 20th century been dominated by the Social Democratic Party, which started out at the end of the 19th century as a labor movement. Since the 2006 election, a coalition of centre-right liberal/conservative parties hold the power.
Sweden has a strong tradition of being an open, yet discreet country. There is a widespread rumor that Swedes 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. This may have been true in the 40's but is not anymore. This myth may have been produced by the large amount of Swedes living abroad where as a foreigner they more often would participate in social activities as they had no family in the new country. 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.
Sweden houses the Nobel Prize committee for all the prizes except the peace prize, which is hosted in Oslo, a memento of the Swedish-Norwegian union that was dissolved in 1905.
Sweden is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).
Please see the article Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information about how the scheme works and what entry requirements are.
Citizens of the above countries are permitted to work in Sweden without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay. However, this ability to work visa-free does not necessarily extend to other Schengen countries.
For arrival and departure times, as well as lots of other information about flights and airports in Sweden, visit Luftfartsverket - the Swedish Airports and Air Navigation Services website
You can reach Sweden by train from three countries at present:
Buses from and to the Western Balkans are also operated by Toptourist, . Call + 46 (0 ) 42 18 29 84 for more info
The ancient Right of Public Access (allemansrätten) grants everybody a right to move freely in nature on foot, swimming, by horse, by ski, by bicycle or by rowing boat (but not driving) even on others' private property (although not on private lawns or gardens). However, with this right comes an obligation to respect the integrity of nature and the privacy of others. You are not allowed to disturb any animals or do any kind of damage to plants or trees. It is therefore important to understand the limitations. If you are camping it is important that you find a site that is well away from people’s houses and not on farmland. Choose hardy ground to pitch your tent, and avoid land used for grazing or for growing crops. Large groups must obtain the landowner’s permission It is within the Right of Public Access to pitch two or three tents for a night or two. But a large group of people pitching large numbers of tents can cause problems with sanitation and damage to the ground. The landowner’s permission must be obtained in such cases.
Swedish train and local bus carriers use a coordinated ticket system named Resplus, allowing booking of door-to-door tickets at many places. (Air and long distance buses not included)  Booking can be done through SJ.
Resrobot is on-line tool for finding the best modes of transport between two locations, without booking features, though. The English flag button changes language.
Domestic flights are mainly for travellers with more money than time, and the vast distance in northern Sweden. There are also low-price tickets, but they must be bought well in advance.
The most important domestic airlines:
Sweden has an extensive railway network. Most major lines are run by the government-owned company SJ. To buy a railway ticket, or to obtain information, phone +46 771 75 75 75 or check their website . As of summer 2009, the cheapest SJ tickets are released exactly 90 days before departure, so time your online ticket purchases carefully if your itinerary is set and don't buy tickets earlier than 90 days before your trip. SJ recently started auctioning last minute tickets on the Swedish eBay site Tradera  (site only in Swedish), available from 48 until 6 hours before departure. Because point-to-point tickets are quite expensive, for more train journeys in Sweden InterRail  (for European citiziens) or Eurail  (for non-European citiziens) pass might be useful.
Regional public transport is usually operated by companies contracted by the counties. For instance, when travelling regionally in the province of Scania (Skåne in Swedish), one should refer to Skånetrafiken . For travelling in the region of [Mälardalen] (the "Lake Mälaren Valley"), you can check all train and bus operators on a mutual website, Trafik i Mälardalen . This regional traffic cooperation includes many of Sweden's major cities, such as Stockholm, Uppsala, Västerås, Linköping, Norrköping, Örebro and Eskilstuna, and reaches more than three million people. Connex  provides affordable railroad transportation up north. If you're on a tight schedule, be aware that trains, especially those bound for far destinations (i.e. the Connex and SJ Norrland trains), sometimes have quite significant delays (up to 1-2 hours).
Unlike most European countries, however, bicycles are generally not allowed on SJ trains. The list of trains transporting bicycles is on SJ website . The bicycle surcharge is 149 SEK and you should buy it at least one day in advance. Skånetrafiken, Öresundståg, Krösatågen and some other local trains do permit bicycles on a surcharge.
Tickets for local trains generally are the same as for local buses. They can be bought onboard using credit cards, even if advance purchase in newspaper shops is preferred. It is also possible to buy tickets for local trains and many local buses on . Note that in Stockholm and Göteborg tickets are not sold onboard buses.
Swebus  and gobybus  runs a number of bus lines in the southern third of the country, Götaland and Svealand. They tend to be a little cheaper than going by train if you can't take advantage of SJ's youth discounts. Y-buss  and Härjedalingen  operate between Stockholm and Norrland.
Swebus also operates from Stockholm and Göteborg to Oslo. At the county or län level, buses are a good method for traveling short distances from town to town, as they are more frequent and cheaper than trains. It is best to check with the local transportation authority for routes and schedules. A newcomer on the bus market is Bus4You 
In Svealand and Götaland driving takes you quickly from one place to the other. In Norrland the distances tend to be larger. Unless you really like driving, it is often more convenient to take the train or fly to the sites, particularly in Northern Norrland. Traveling by night can be dangerous due to wild animals on the roads, and the cold nights during the winter. Collisions with moose, roe deer, or other animals are a not uncommon cause of car accidents.
Sweden has a reputation for being a pretty difficult country to hitch in, though it's still quite possible to hitchhike (but not assured to be risk-free). Ordinary people are often reluctant to pick up strangers. Truck drivers are probably most likely to pick up hitchhikers, so target them. Asking at gas stations works pretty well. Bus stops are common places to attract attention, position yourself before the actual bus stop so the vehicle can stop at the stop. This works best if the road is widened at the bus stop, allowing cars to pull off easily.
Most Swedish cities have excellent bicycle paths, and renting a bike can be a quick and healthy method of getting around locally. Some cities have bikes for borrowing. Inter-city cycling is a good option for the experienced cyclist.
Cars are by law required to stop at any unattended crosswalks (zebra stripes in the road without red-lights) to let pedestrians cross the road. But keep in mind that you are required to make eye contact with the driver so that they know that you are about to cross the street.
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. 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 peters out, will do much to ingratiate yourself to the locals.
Hej (hey) 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.
Some things get English names that do not correspond to the original English word. Some examples are light which is used for diet products, and freestyle which means "walkman". Sweden uses the metric system and in the context of distance, the common expression mil, "mile", is 10 kilometers, not an English statute mile. Because of the distances involved, mil is used in spoken language even though roadsigns all use kilometers.
Swedish people learn British English at school, but also watch films and TV programs in American English. Whether they use British or American standards in speech varies from person to person; as a rule of thumb, young people are more likely to speak American English while British English is more prevalent among the older generations.
You should also be able to get by if you speak either Danish or Norwegian.
Foreign television programmes (including news interviews featuring foreigners) and films are almost always shown in their original language with Swedish subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Swedish.
Sweden also has some Old Towns: Stockholm's Old Town, Uppsala, Visby, Karlskrona and others, as well as several Royal palaces and castles: Drottningholm in Ekerö just outside of Stockholm, Gripsholm in Mariefred, Solliden on Öland, etc.
Due to allemansrätten, berry- and mushroom-picking is largely unrestricted, except of course in gardens and plantations. Angling is allowed in seawater (including the Baltic Sea), as well as major lakes (Vänern, Vättern, Mälaren, Hjälmaren and Storsjön). Fishing in other bodies of water often requires a license.
Stockholm and Gothenburg have great nightlife and shopping opportunities.
The year in Sweden
Swedish weather is best during summer (late May to early September). If you like snow, go to Norrland or Dalarna in January to April.
Be aware that daylight varies greatly during the year. In Stockholm, the sun sets at 3 PM in December. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun and Arctic night. However, even at Stockholm's latitude, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight during June and July.
The major holidays are Easter, Midsummer (celebrated from the eve of the Friday between June 19 - 25), Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are all considered holidays), and the "industrial vacation" throughout July. Expect closed establishments, heavy traffic (for the holidays) and crowded tourist resorts (for July).
Note that most Swedish holidays are celebrated on the day before (Midsummer's Eve, Christmas Eve etc), while Swedish people do hardly anything on the holiday proper.
The national currency is the Swedish krona (SEK, plural kronor), distinct from other currencies, such as the Norwegian or Danish krona. Automatic teller machines take major credit cards. Most stores, restaurants and bars accept all major credit cards. You usually need an ID card or a passport when shopping with a credit card, regardless of the amount involved, though usually not in supermarkets and such where PIN code is king.
It is not common to bargain in shops but it might work in some instances, especially when buying more expensive products. Bargaining is also okay at flea markets and in antique shops. Tipping is not mandatory when dining out. You can tip 5-10%, or round the bill up if you've had a nice experience.
Most shops, at least major chains in downtown areas, are open all week, even on Sundays. Closing times are rigid, most often on the minute.
Many Swedes translate the word krona, which means crown. For example, instead of saying 50 kronor they might say 50 crowns when speaking English.
You have three attempts to enter the correct PIN code. If you fail a third time, the machine retains the card and closing it. In order to facilitate the visually impaired have the keys on the machines equipped with Braille. You may have spoken guidance, press the TALK button. In some ATMs you can withdraw euros if you have a card issued by a Swedish bank. You may take up the maximum 1000 EUR per use. You can make multiple withdrawals after the other but a maximum 20 000 SEK per week.
Compared to other OCED countries, Sweden is one of the more expensive countries to inhabit, though you can find cheaper alternatives if you look around. For example: Sundries like a 33 cl bottle of Coca Cola costs 10 SEK ($1.70/€1,2), a beer in a bar will cost you around 45-70 SEK ($7-10/€5-8), the average price of hotel accommodation is around 1300 SEK ($215/€155), a room in a hostel varies between 150 and 350 SEK ($30-50/€25-35), a bus/subway ticket in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö will set you back around 25 SEK ($4.20/€3,1), one meal will cost you around 100 SEK ($16,5/€11,9), 1 litre of petrol fuel costs about 15 SEK ($2.50/€1,8) and a pack of 25 cigarettes will cost you 70 SEK ($11.60/€8,3). If you are a bit careful about your expenses, a daily budget of around 1000 SEK ($156/€112) will be enough. While house prices outside metropolitan areas are probably among the lowest in Western Europe. and recently opened discount stores such as "Lidl", "Netto" and "Willys" offer a wide range of items (why not buy a sewing machine while doing the weekend grocery shopping?), accommodation and dining out are cheaper in Stockholm than in most other west European capitals.
Swedish cuisine is mostly meat or fish with potatoes, derived from the days when men needed to chop wood all day long. Besides the ubiquitous potatoes, modern Swedish cuisine is to a great extent based on bread. Traditional everyday dishes are called husmanskost (pronounced whos-mans-cost). They include:
Other Swedish favourites:
As in most of Europe, inexpensive pizza and kebab restaurants are ubiquitous in Swedish cities, and are also to be found in almost every small village. Swedish pizza is significantly different from Italian or American pizza and American-style pizza is usually sold as "pan pizza". Sushi and Thai food are also quite popular. Burger chains are Max McDonald's and Burger King. In parts of Norrland it is customary to eat hamburgers with a knife and fork. Another type of fast food establishment is the gatukök (street kitchen), serving hamburgers, hot dogs, kebab and tunnbrödrulle (see above).
Highway diners, vägkrogar, have generous meals, but might be of poor quality, greasy and overpriced. If you have time, a town centre restaurant is preferable. Gas stations offer decent packed salads and sandwiches.
You can get a "cheap" lunch if you look for the signs with "Dagens rätt" (meal of the day). This normally costs about 50-120 SEK (€5,50-13,30) and almost everywhere includes a bottle of water; soft drink; or light beer, bread & butter, some salad and coffee afterwards. Dagens rätt is served Monday to Friday.
The world famous furniture retailer IKEA has stores at the outskirts of 15 Swedish cities. These have cheap diners, which offer basic Swedish meals for as little as 40 SEK, and the store exit usually has a café selling hot dogs for as little as 5 SEK. (They hope that you spend some money on shopping too.) Expect crowds in rainy weather.
If you're on a tight budget, self-catering is the safest way to save your money.
Vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are accepted in cities, less common in the countryside but you should be able to find a falafel in any medium-sized town.
Swedish consumption of coffee (kaffe) is among the highest in the world. Drinking coffee at home or in a café, an act called fika, is a common Swedish social ritual, used for planning activities, dating, exchanging gossip or simply spending time and money. Swedish coffee is usually stronger than American coffee - but still not the espresso of France or Italy. Italian varieties (espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte) are available at larger city cafés. One coffee will cost you around 25 SEK ($3,5/€2,8).
The most famous Swedish alcoholic beverage is Absolut Vodka, one of the world's most famous vodkas. There are several brands of distilled, and usually seasoned, liquor, called brännvin or akvavit. When served in a shot glass with a meal it is called snaps (not to confuse with the German "Schnapps"). It is part of custom to drink snaps at midsummers eve and at Christmas.
Sweden does produce some outstanding beers, and have in the recent years seen a rise in the numbers of microbreweries. If you are looking for great local beer keep an eye out for breweries like "Ocean", "Slottskällans", "Nils Oscar", "Närke kulturbryggeri", "Jämtlands ångbryggeri" and "Dugges Ale- & Porterbryggeri". You may have some trouble finding them, unless you go to a bar specialized in providing uncommon beer, or one of the well stocked "Systembolag", but you will find a few of them in every major city. Despite this the most common beer is the rather plain "international lager". The beer you get in normal food shops is called folköl and has 2.8 or 3.5% alcohol. You are able to find a variety of different brands of beers in food stores, Swedish, English and even Czech beer. Sweden has a seasonal beer for Christmas, julöl. It is sweeter than normal beer and usually seasoned with Christmas spices, mostly it is of the beer type ale. All Swedish breweries make at least one type of julöl. Wine is popular, but the Swedish production is very modest.
Drinking alcohol in parks is generally legal, if notifications don't state the opposite. Drinking on public transport vehicles is prohibited, with the exception of trains or boats serving alcohol in a bar.
Ordinary beer and lager is readily available in supermarkets at a reasonably low price. But access to strong alcoholic beverages is, as in Norway, Finland and Iceland, quite restricted and expensive. The only place to buy strong alcohol including starköl (beer which contains more than 3.5% ABV) over the counter is in one of the state-owned shops called Systembolaget  (also sometimes referred to as simply "Systemet" or "Bolaget"). They have limited hours of operation, usually 10-6 Mon-Wed, 10-7 Thurs-Fri, and 10-3 on Saturdays, with long queues on Fridays and Saturdays. Closing time at Systembolaget is more than rigid no matter how long the queue outside the store is, something the Swedes themselves joke about. They are always closed on Sundays. Most shops are of supermarket style. The assortment is very good, and the staff usually has great knowledge. Systembolaget does not serve customers under the age of 20 and will most likely ask for identification from younger looking customers. This also applies to any companions, regardless of who is making the actual purchase.
Beverages are heavily taxed by content of alcohol, some liquor is very expensive (vodka is around 300 SEK a liter at Systembolaget), but the monopoly has brought some perks - Systembolaget is one of the world's largest bulk-buyers of wine, and as such gets some fantastic deals which it passes on to consumers. Mid-to-high-quality wines, and exclusive spirits, are quite often cheaper in Sweden than in the country of origin; sometimes even cheaper than if you were to buy the wine directly from the vineyard. This does NOT apply to low-quality wines, however, due to the volume-based tax on alcohol.
All brands are treated equally and there is no large-pack discount. Therefore, microbrews cost largely the same as major brands, and might be a more interesting choice. Beverages are not refrigerated.
Bars and nightclubs
The minimum age requirement is 18 to get into bars and to buy regular (3.5% ABV or less) beer in shops (to prevent teenage drunkenness, some shops have decided to enforce a minimum age of 20 for 3.5% beer as well), and 20 in Systembolaget. Many bars have an age limit of 20, but some (especially in city centres on weekends) have age limits as high as 23 or 25, but this rule is arbitrarily enforced. Bring passport or other ID.
Some posh clubs mandate an arbitrarily enforced dress code; vårdad klädsel is casual dress. For male guests, proper shoes (not sneakers or sandals), long-legged trousers (not blue jeans) and a dress shirt is almost always good enough.
Age or dress rules are not rigid, and doormen have the right to accept or reject any patron for any reason other than gender, sexual orientation, creed, disability or race. Though illegal, a few nightclubs are infamous for rejecting "immigrants", which usually means anyone with hair and skin darker than the average Swede, on pretexts such as "members only," "too drunk," or "dress code"; men of Middle Eastern or African origin are most often subjected to this. You might avoid this problem by dressing properly and behaving well.
Sweden has enforced non-smoking in all bars, pubs and restaurants, save outdoor areas such as terraces, and designated smoking rooms (where drinks are not allowed).
The prices at clubs and bars are often expensive compared to other countries: a large beer (half a litre) usually costs 45-55 SEK (US$7), but many low-profile bars advertise stor stark (0.4 L of draft lager) for as little as 25 SEK. A long drink costs around 60-110 SEK. For that reason many Swedes have a small pre-loading party ("förfest") before they go out to get buzzed before they hit the town and go to nightclubs.
Large clubs can require a cover charge, usually about 100 SEK (or more at special performances). They usually offer a rubber stamp on your hand so you can re-enter as you like without having to pay again.
Be aware that you often have to stand in line to get into a bar or a club. Many places deliberately make their customers wait in line for a while, since a long queue indicates a popular club. At the very fanciest places in the major cities, the queue is often replaced by a disorganized crowd, and the doorman simply points to indicate who gets in and who does not.
Most bars that close at 01:00 or earlier, will have a free entry policy. Most bars and clubs that remain open until 03:00 will charge an entrance fee. Some clubs in the larger cities remain open until 05:00. Their entrance fee will usually be around 200 SEK (~US$28.00.
The club's wardrobe (or coat-checking) fee is often mandatory, usually around 20 SEK.
Authorised security guards carry a badge saying Ordningsvakt, see #Stay safe. The club's own doormen carry a badge saying Entrévärd. Though not allowed to use force, they should be taken seriously.
Moonshine (hembränt) is popular in the countryside, though illegal. Though some shipments can be as good as legal vodka, most are disgusting, so you should stick to the real thing.
In some Swedish cities (generally the larger ones), clubs are quite often arranged illegally and underground outside of the city centre. This is because of the notoriously strict liquor and nightlife laws. Alcohol taxes are high, clubs and bars are legally required to also have a kitchen in order to serve alcohol, clubs and bars must close at certain times and always employ a number of certified security guards in accordance with the closing time and guest capacity. These aspects contribute to the development of underground drinking cultures in several cities. These are, naturally, not listed and often known by word of mouth or on-line community basis. Generally, such clubs play techno, house and other electronic music, so ask locals for advice in legal clubs that play the same genre. The Swedish word for clubs arranged illegally is svartklubb (literally black club).
Driving through Sweden with a travel trailer or a RV is convenient and cost-efficient, as you can stay overnight nearly anywhere.
If you bring your own tent, accommodation in Sweden can be very cheap, even free! This is due to the Right to access (Every Man's Right) principle, allowing anyone to camp in uncultivated areas (including private property) free of charge. There are certain limitations, for instance you are only allowed to stay at a certain spot for one night before you have to move on. If you are travelling to Sweden in the summer, check out the local conditions when it comes to camp fires. Forests in Sweden can get extremely dry and temporary bans on lighting fires are not unusual.
If you prefer camping a bit more organized, most towns have campsites with showers and electric. Expect to pay around SEK 100-150 for a tent-site. More info on the official site for Swedish campsites: camping.se. The leading chain is called First Camp.
Svenska Turistföreningen or STF is by far the most important operator of hostels, vandrarhem, in Sweden, with a network of more than 300 hostels around the country. Membership for foreigners is SEK 175, and if you plan to stay four nights or more at hostels in Sweden you should join, since non-members pay an additional SEK 45 per night. STF is affiliated with Hostelling International or HI, and if you are a member of any HI organisation you are considered a member of STF.
Sveriges vandrarhem i förening, SVIF is another nation-wide hostel confederation. 
The price per night in a hostel is SEK 80-280 depending on where the hostel is located and how classy or tacky it is. Sheets are required (just a sleeping bag is not enough) and if you don't bring any you have to purchase at the hostel for around SEK 50. You are expected to clean out your room when leaving. Cooking equipment is normally available at all hostels for those who want to self-cater.
Some hostels are more spectacular than others; for instance Jumbostay at Arlanda Airport, located inside a decommissioned Boeing 747,  and Långholmen Hostel in Stockholm, that used to be a prison. 
Apartments and B&B:s are not the same thing, but Swedish online booking agencies tend to think so. Renting an apartment may be an interesting option if you plan to stay for a few nights in one of the major cities and want more privacy than a hostel offers.
While on the road you may want to keep an eye open for road signs with the word Rum. They don't show the way to the nearest drinking den for pirates - Rum in Swedish means room and that sign points to a B&B.
Most Swedish hotels tend to be clean, not-so-interesting and fairly expensive. A single room can easily set you back 1000 SEK. Most towns, even smaller ones, still have a traditional stadshotell (town hotel) somewhere in the city centre, which usually contains the town's largest restaurant and/or nightclub. On a more positive note, breakfast buffets at Swedish hotels are often impressive with plenty to choose from - try not to be in too much of a hurry in the morning! Major hotel chains include Scandic, Nordic Choice and First.
The Icehotel in the village of Jukkasjärvi in the far north, is a hotel built from snow and ice that melts in spring and is rebuilt every winter. Ice hotels are built in several other countries, but the one in Jukkasjärvi is the original. One night in a single room is 2850 SEK, book in advance.
All education in Sweden is free for residents. Although the government has subsidized schools and classes, there also exist many private alternatives where a tuition fee is required. Students' Union membership is optional since 2010, but the union fee of around 500 SEK/year can give several perks, such as mediation of dorm rooms or entrance to union parties and events.
As a foreigner wishing to study at a Swedish university or other school of higher education, you do not have to pay tuition fees. However, the current center-right government have introduced tuition fees for non-EU/EES citizens, starting in 2011.
Some important university cities:
If you are a student there is something known as an "academic quarter" where classes and school-related events will start 15 minutes past the hour. At some schools after 18:00 this becomes a "double quarter" where events commence 30 minutes past the hour. Students are expected to be punctual and show up at the appropriate time.
You can find more useful information about studying in Sweden on the Study in Sweden website. 
EU and EEA citizens are allowed to work in Sweden without a permit.
Citizens of some non-EU countries are permitted to work in Sweden without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay - see the 'Get in' section above for more information.
Working Holiday visas are available for Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and South Korean citizens aged between 18-30, permitting the holder to work for one year.
Citizens of other countries need a work permit, and getting one can be quite a hassle. Swedes, foreign citizens already living in Sweden, and EU/EEA citizens have preference over others in obtaining work in Sweden. Also, if the offer of work is for more than three months, you will also require a Swedish residency permit. More information about the paperwork required is found on the government website swedenabroad.com .
As for finding a job, you could try the public "Arbetsförmedlingen" ('Public Employment Service') and give it a try. However, you can also buy a lottery ticket, you will have roughly the same chance to get an income that way. Usually jobs are better provided by certain knowledges and luck. Sweden has an official unemployment rate of about 7.1% (Nov 2010). Salaries range from 15,000 to 70,000 SEK ($2200-$10300/€1600-€7700) per month (2008), but the average salary is around 30 000 SEK, April 2011 ($4500/€3100), and are typically paid only once per month.
Most of Sweden is below freezing point during winter, at least occasionally. See travelling in cold weather.
Sweden enjoys a comparatively low crime rate, and is generally a safe place to travel with violent crime being rare. Use common sense at night, particularly on weekend nights when people hit the streets to drink, get drunk, and in some unfortunate cases look for trouble. 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.
Although there is a significant police presence in the city centers, especially on weekend nights, the rest of Sweden is quite weakly policed. This especially applies to the rural areas of Norrland, where the nearest patrol car might be a hundred kilometers away.
If involved in an argument, try to leave before the person becomes aggressive. If you see a street fight, keep a safe distance and dial the European emergency number 112. There have been reports on people injured or even killed when they've tried to stop a street fight. Young people, drunk people, or people who have taken drugs can be dangerous so use common sense. Do not argue with security guards or bouncers; they might become upset, and they are legally allowed to use some force when needed.
Swedes generally tend to avoid eye contact, especially so in dangerous situations. Looking directly at someone behaving aggressively might provoke him.
Pickpockets are rare but not unheard of. They usually work in tourist-frequented areas, such as airports, rail stations, shopping areas and festivals. Most Swedes carry their wallets in their pockets or purses and feel quite safe while doing it. Still, 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.
Counterfeit Swedish banknotes or other documents are very uncommon. Newer 50, 100, 500 and 1000 SEK notes have holograms. Older 100 and 500 SEK banknotes without a hologram are invalid, but older 50 and 1000 SEK banknotes without a hologram are still valid.
Be sure to watch for cars in the road junctions. There is a law in Sweden called "The Zebra law" which means that cars must stop at zebra crossings. Many Swedes believe that all the drivers do that. By watching for cars you may save not only your life but also a friend's, since reported injuries have increased because of the law. If you do drive then follow the law, police cars may not be seen everywhere but you never know when they appear.
Driving in Sweden is among the safest in Europe. Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory for everyone in the car. Motorway driving is a lot less aggressive than in Denmark or mainland Europe, although this may not apply to drivers who are not Swedish. There are long distances. Take rests if you are tired; it is dangerous to fall asleep when driving.
Wild animals such as moose, deer and boar sometimes stray onto highways. The moose is a big and heavy animal (up to 700 kg and 2,1 m shoulder height) so a collision can be violent and endanger your life even if you wear a seatbelt. These are a fairly common sight outside of the southernmost part of Sweden (ie Skåne) - so care must be taken when driving at all times.
In Case of Emergency
112 is the emergency phone number to dial in case of fire, medical or criminal emergency. It does not require an area code, regardless of what kind of phone you're using. The number works on any mobile phone, with or without a SIM card, even if it's keylocked.
Police officers are rarely on patrol, and might be too busy to head out for minor crimes. To report a theft or getting in contact with the police in general, there is a national non-emergency phone number 114 14 that will bring you in contact with an operator at a police station (usually nearby, but not always).
Nightclubs and shopping centers usually have security officers with a chest badge saying ordningsvakt, authorized to use force, and infamous to do so. These should be respected. Officers with other labels ("Security" or "Entrévärd") have no special privileges, but are still notoriously violent (as they are usually recruited from the street, without background check). Don't argue with them.
Since November 2009, the pharmacy business has been deregulated. Certified pharmacies carry a green cross sign and the text Apotek. For small medical problems the pharmacy is sufficient. Major cities carry one pharmacy open at night. Many supermarkets carry non-prescription supplies such as band aid, antiseptics and painkillers.
Swedish health care is usually of a very high quality, but can be quite challenging for foreigners to receive. Most, but not all, medical clinics are state-owned, and their accessibility varies. Therefore, getting a time within a week at some medical centers could prove difficult. In case of a medical emergency, most provinces (and of course, the major cities) have a regional hospital with an around-the-clock emergency ward. However, if you are unlucky you can expect a long wait before getting medical attention.
Tap water in Sweden is of great quality, and contains close to zero bacteria. Water in mountain resorts might contain rust, and water on islands off the coast might be brackish, but it is still safe to drink. There is no real reason for buying bottled water in Sweden. Also, there is bottled water that doesn't meet the requirements to be used as tap water in Sweden.
There are few serious health risks in Sweden. Your primary concern especially in wintertime will be the cold, particularly if trekking or skiing in the northern parts. Northern Sweden is sparsely populated and, if heading out into the wilderness, it is imperative that you register your travel plans with a friend or the authorities so they can come looking for you if you fail to show up. Dress warmly in layers and bring along a good pair of sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, especially in the spring. In snowy mountains, avalanches might be a problem.
A serious nuisance in summer are mosquitoes (myggor), hordes of which inhabit Sweden (particularly the north) in summer, especially after rain. While they do not carry malaria or other diseases, Swedish mosquitoes make a distinctive (and highly irritating) whining sound, and their bites are very itchy. As usual, mosquitoes are most active around dawn and sunset — which, in the land of the Midnight Sun, may mean most of the night in summer. There are many types of mosquito repellents available which can be bought from almost any shop. Other summer nuisances are gadflies (bromsar), whose painful but non-poisonous bites can leave a mark lasting for days, and wasps (getingar) whose stings can be deadly if you're allergic. To minimize trouble from insects, use mosquito repellent, ensure your tent has good mosquito netting and bring proper medication if you know that you're allergic to wasp stings.
In southern Sweden and in northern coastal regions there are ticks (fästingar) which appear in summertime. They can transmit Lyme's disease (borreliosis) and more serious TBE (tick-borne encephalitis) through a bite. The risk areas for TBE are mainly the eastern parts of lake Mälaren and the Stockholm archipelago. A vaccination against TBE is available but the first two doses should be completed before a reliable protection can be expected. Borreliosis can be treated with antibiotics. Although incidents are relatively rare and not all ticks carry diseases, it's advisable to wear long trousers rather than shorts if you plan to walk through dense and/or tall grass areas (the usual habitat for ticks). You can buy special tick tweezers (fästingplockare) from the pharmacy that can be used to remove a tick safely if you happen to get bitten. You should remove the tick from your skin as quickly as possible and preferably with the tick tweezers to reduce the risks of getting an infection. If the tick bite starts to form red rings on the skin around it or if you experience other symptoms relating to the bite, you should go visit a doctor as soon as possible. Since ticks are black, they are more easily found if you wear bright clothes.
There's only one type of venomous snake in Sweden: the European adder (huggorm), which has a distinct zig-zag pattern on its back. The snake is not very common, but lives all over Sweden except for the mountains in the north and farmlands in the south. Although its bite hardly ever is life-threatening (except to small children and allergic people), one should be careful in summer, especially when walking in the forests or on open fields. If you are bitten by a snake, seek medical assistance. Killing, injuring or capturing a snake is illegal.
There are no really dangerous marine animals in Sweden, although the Greater weevers (Fjärsing) could be a nuisance; this is a small fish that hides in the sand near beaches, its back has several spikes that are poisonous and will hurt a lot if stepped on. Its poison could be as dangerous as that of the European adder and will likely cause more pain (this can be quite severe) than damage. There are also types of poisonous jellyfish that can be quite common near beaches. These are distinguished from normal non-poisonous types by their bright blue or red color. These types of jellyfish aren't really dangerous but their venom will hurt.
As for other dangerous wildlife, there's not much more than a few extremely rare encounters with brown bear (brunbjörn) and wolf (varg) in the wilderness. Both of these animals are listed as protected species. Contrary to popular belief abroad, there are no polar bears in Sweden, let alone polar bears walking city streets. If you encounter a brown bear in the woods, walk slowly away from it while talking loudly - the bear is most likely to feel threatened if you surprise it. In the unlikely event of a brown bear attacking you should play dead, protect your head and make yourself as small as possible. Or the opposite, there have been people surviving a brown bear encounter by screaming as loud as possible, jumping, and making oneself as big as possible. Bears are most likely to attack if they are injured, provoked by a dog, going to hibernate or protecting their cubs.
Bears in Sweden have killed no more than a handful of people since 1900. Wild Swedish wolves have not killed a human being since 1821. In general, one shouldn't worry about dangerous encounters with wild beasts in Sweden.
Most Swedes have liberal, cosmopolitan, secular 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.
Do not bring
Sweden's international calling code number is +46. Payphones are available, with older models only accepting cards (special smartchip phone cards as well as credit cards), and newer models that accept coins (Swedish as well as Euros). Collect calls are possible by dialing 2# on a pay phone.
Sweden has excellent wireless GSM and 3G/UMTS coverage, even in rural areas except in the central and northern interior parts of the country. The major networks are Telia, Tele2/Comviq, Telenor and 3 (Tre). Swedish GSM operates on the European 900/1800 MHz frequencies (Americans will need a triband phone), with 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz (currently with 7.2-14.4 Mbit HSDPA speeds). Only the Telia network supports EDGE. Some operators may ask for a Swedish personnummer (or samordningsnummer) to get a number, although with most operators you can get prepaid without any, "personnummer" or ID and these are sold and refillable at most supermarkets and tobacco stores
Prepaid USB 3G modems can be bought cheaply (around 150 SEK) in many shops. They are a good alternative to WiFi in Sweden. They cost around 100 SEK/week and 300 SEK/month to use. Data limits are high (typically 20 GB/month).
Sweden is the world's second most Internet connected country (second to Iceland). The Swedish postal system ("Posten AB") is often considered efficient and reliable, with locations placed inside of supermarkets and convenience stores (look for the yellow horn logo). Stamps for ordinary letters (to anywhere in the world) are 12 SEK and the letter usually needs 2 days within EU. Stamps can be purchased in most supermarkets, ask the cashier.