Here are some tit-bits I came to know/see about Sweden:
– Sweden is considered an advanced/developed nation. It ranked as the second most competitive country in the world after Switzerland by the World Economic forum. I would like to question this as I don’t see many Googles and Apples coming out of the country like much of EU when compared to the US.
– It total population is 9.4 million. The state of Pennsylvania had a population of about 12.6 million in July 2009. Sweden’s population has been on the decline and they are trying to beef this up with immigration. I saw a lot of people of Chinese, South Asian origin. My guess is about 10 percent of the population is immigrant.
– My friend did a job search for Sweden and he found about 500 jobs in total available. I haven’t verified this, but with a low population and a developed world, it isn’t surprising that unemployment rate is low
– Big names I know of from Sweden are – IKEA, Ericsson, ABB, Volvo, Saab
– A new employee starts with FIVE weeks of vacation and he or she can make advance use of it i.e., use it early in the year, than having to complete one year. Between parents, with the birth of a child, they can claim 18 months of paid vacation at 80% base pay. This is incredible. Compare that with six weeks of for an American working women.
– There are more women in Sweden than men- don’t have to look at statistics. Just take the train and you will see. No wonder (:) fashion is a big industry and people dress fashionably. Dressing well is the norm in Sweden. You can’t get away by dressing casual as in America.
– My guesstimate is there are 4-5 women’s clothing shops or space for every 1 for men.
– Prices are ridiculously high. That makes me wonder if Sweden is really competitive. You can get a dress shirt for $70; then same one you can get it in US for $30 or less. I saw three men’s boxers on sale for 200 kronor roughly about $30. Of course, there were more fashionable than the Fruit of the Loom stuff, but my point was there were no Fruit of the Loom or Hanes kind of clothing. Common, you have to have some limits on what you spend on underwear – that will be the start of good financial management!!
– The subway system is AWESOME. Getting across from one point to another within the Stockholm area is a cinch with the mix of subways, buses and trams. Public travel is cheap. I could get from Airport to Stockholm city with 99 kronor; a taxi would have cost me 600 kronor. You can get a 7-day pass that can be used on any public transport for 300 kronor – a little over $40.
– The trains and train stations are CLEAN – no graffiti. In fact, the underground is treated as a showcase for art with murals and advertisements have a bent towards art.
– The people are trusting. When my 7-day pass got demagnetized, I could walk up to the counter and the attendant would let me through telling me to go to the main train station to get it activated. I used the train more than three times without the card being active. The only time I was questioned more was at the central station as I hadn’t kept the receipt. A credit card transaction on my cell phone (pdf copy) was sufficient for the clerk behind the desk, but not for the one who was questioning me. Of course, the guy who questioned me wasn’t Swedish, you guessed it – he was an INDIAN! Trust never comes easy in a country such as India where you get conned more frequently.
– The trains are dog friendly. I saw quite a few people on the trains during the weekends or off-peak hours. The dogs must be used to the trains too. My colleague said that a lost dog was delivered to the wrong home, but when they let him ride the train, he got off at the right station on his own!! That’s incredible.
– Sweden is more car-friendly than you would expect of a country with great public transportation. I saw more expressways than say at London. The toll system works differently here. There are no transponders attached to the cars that are scanned. A photo is taken at the crossing and a bill (consolidated monthly) mailed to you.
– The patronage for arts and culture should be extremely high going by the number of museums. What is fascinating more is the architecture of the public buildings – a mix of Roman and Gothic architecture. You will see a lot of stone and glass work. Stockholm alone has over 6 palaces, both old and new. Preservation of these treasures set an example of caring for the rich history.
– Food is vegetarian friendly than say in France. I had no problems getting vegetarian food. There was always an Italian restaurant that offered some vegetarian dish or pizza or pasta. I recall one attendant making sure himself that the vegetarian dish had no fish or chicken as in some parts of the western world (why, even in India), chicken and fish especially is treated as vegetarian. Some Bengalis and Oriyans in India treat Fish as vegetarian and the ultra conservation Brahmins eat Fish in these regions.
– You don’t have to know Swedish to get along. English works as well and all public documentation has an English translation aside. Compare this with France, of course, and you will love Sweden for this reason alone. In France, I was holding a train ticket not knowing which platform to go to as I had no clue what the word was on the ticket – there wasn’t one single word of English in there. In some ways, France is stuck to the past and preserving the past than building a future.
– When you visit Sweden, you must find time to take a trip to the north and watch Aurora Borealis. This is one unique phenomenon that you don’t see in many places on the planet.
– Evening life prospers a lot here. Bars and restaurants are busy places after sunset. So is shopping – there is no dearth of places to shop, though you can take a trip to US and get the same for much less including the airfare. Unfortunately, Amazon.com doesn’t operate in Sweden – I think this is not good for the Swedish people on the whole.