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What do you know about Sweden? Posted by on Oct 6, 2010 in Culture, education

In your country do you ever talk about Sweden? How did you get to know what you know?  On the news? Might not be very often…

As a Swede living abroad the question “where do you come from” is very often asked. When the asker hears the answer you will most likely get a polite if not slightly troubled smile which says “I’m sorry  but I’m not quite sure where Sweden is, and I don’t even think I know anything famous from Sweden…” Sometimes, depending on the person they will ask straight out: “What comes from Sweden?” Or a couple of seconds later the  follow-up might be “Oh, wait a second, isn’t IKEA from Sweden?!” And if you’re talking to a slightly older person they might recognise Astrid Lindgren if mentioned.

If we were to make a list of the 10 most famous Swedish things to help everyone who is interested in Sweden, is a Swede, has Swedish ansestory or has lived in Sweden, what should we put on that list?

As of  today that list has been started to help all people talking, mentioning or educating people about Sweden! Lets try to get as many suggestions as possible, and at the end of October I will publish the Transparent Swedish blog’s 10 most famous things list!

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  1. Dia:

    I can’t believe that there are people who don’t know where Sweden is 🙂 So far I’ve only met people who mistake Sweden for Switzerland actually (in bulgarian, they sound a lot alike, more than in english), but once they clear the problem with the name of the country, they know where both countries are.
    anyway, most people, I think, associate Sweden with ABBA, so I guess that’d be my suggestion 🙂 also Nobel Prize. Most boys I know associate Sweden with beautiful women … 🙂 also with footballers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson, Freddie Ljungberg (I hope the last name is correct). Of course Ikea 🙂

  2. Brad:

    – Abba (always!)
    – IKEA
    – Pippi Longstockings (rather than Astrid Lindgren)
    – Vikings!

    Of course at the moment there’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and other books/films).

    And if you’re a metalhead, you probably know all about all the awesome Swedish metal bands!

  3. Nikki:

    Daim bars
    Lingonberry jam
    Swedish meatballs

  4. Madeline:

    – IKEA of course 😉
    – Pippi Longstocking
    – all the amazing Swedish rock bands (Mando Diao, Sugarplum Fairy, Johnossi, …)
    – Knäckebröd 🙂
    – Swedish sommarstuga
    – moose

    oh well.. and lots of other great things..
    Jag älskar Sverige!

  5. Heloisa:

    Oresund Bridge
    Evert Taube
    Cornelis Vreeswijk
    Pippi Lungstromp
    The vikings
    University of Lund
    Silvia is brazilian
    Victoria will be the queen
    gamla stan in Stockholm

  6. Heloisa:

    the more…
    art soup
    peppar kakar
    appelsin jam
    Lucia on december, 13th
    Absolut Vodka
    DQ Vodka
    the Christmas win liquor

  7. Luke (Sydney):

    Nobel Prizes
    Garbo (after whom I had a dog named)
    Borg (Björn Borg)
    SAAB 900 (OK, may be not for every one)

  8. Maria Clara Soares Correia:

    Stig Dagerman
    Selma Lagerlof
    Olof Palm
    Ingemar Bergman and Ingrid, of course
    all the other mentioned, of course….
    where have you made those enquiries??’

  9. Darlene:

    Here’s one thing you don’t hear about too often–Sweden’s American colony–New Sweden was a Swedish colony along the Delaware River on the Mid-Atlantic coast of North America from 1638 to 1655. (I know, I live in the heart of old New Sweden, Bridgeton N.J.)

  10. Randall Wensil:

    1. HÅROLOGI http://www.harologi.se This is the WORLDS greatest hair care system!!!

    2. IKEA

    3. Glögg — Mmmmm

    4. Svedka och Absolut!!!!

    5. Melodifestivalin

    6. Sonja Aldén

  11. Ian:

    Ikea, Volvo, Abba, Stieg Larsson, Saab, Swedish Backpackers, Bjorn Borg, Roxette, Absolut Vodka, H&M, Sony-Ericson, Blond Hair & Good Looks, Vikings, Yellow & Blue, Swedish Meatballs, Swedish Massage, Swedish Chef (from Sesame Street)

  12. birgitta borgstrom:

    Volvo, Saab, Abba, Ingmar Stenmark, Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Ingmarg Bergman, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, kockarna i Muppets, Knacke brod, sill, Glogg, Tiger’s X wife, IKEA, AnneMargret

  13. Judy:

    Everyone pretty much has said what I was thinking for all of the things Sweden is best known for in the US. But, don’t you just hate it when Americans confuse Sweden with Switzerland? Is it just geographical ignorance, or simply due to the similar initial sounds? I don’t know, but it drives me crazy!

  14. Randall Wensil:

    When people confuse Sweden with Switzerland, I tell them that Yodeling comes from Switzerland and Abba is from Sweden!

  15. Diane R. Johnson:

    Bishop Hill, Illinois – A utopian/religious communal settlement located not too far from and about 20 years later than an early Mormon town called Nauvoo. Seems the 19th century prairie was teeming with cults and the Swedes were getting in on the action.


    Strindberg, Swedenborg & Nobel.

    Ingrid Bergman, Ingmar Bergman, & Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale.

  16. Daniel:

    1) Abba
    2) Pippy Longstockings (although most people don’t know it’s Swedish)
    3) Vikings
    4) Ingmar Bergman (!)
    5) Swedish Chef (Sesame Street)
    6) Melodic/Göteborg Death Metal
    7) [which leads to the most awesome band in the world…] DARK TRANQUILLITY [ 🙂 ].

    Yeah a lot of people confuse Sweden and Switzerland, basically because they sound so similar. Perhaps people should use Helvetia instead hehe.

  17. Swedish House:

    (From an English point of view
    And when I was growing up in the 70’s 80’s)

    H & M

  18. Debbie:

    Alexander Skarsgård!
    And Volvo, Saab, IKEA, H&M, Wallander, Pippi Långstrump, AbbA

  19. Phil Whittall:

    Tennis players – Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg, Robin Soderling….
    Football – Sven Goran Ericksson, Ibrahimovic, Mellberg…
    Furniture – IKEA
    Music – Abba, Roxette, Swedish house mafia,
    Cars – Volvo, Saab
    Nobel prizes
    Snow, lakes and trees
    Expensive beer

    Lots of things!

  20. Marsi:

    Hej, I’m from Albania.

    In my country Sweden is well-known for the forests and great natural resources.
    Children love reading or watching Pippi Longstocking and The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson.
    ABBA is indisputably the best known Swedish band.
    Lately, Stieg Larsson’s first book of the trilogy was translated into Albanian.
    Sweden is also known through the SIDA program and several brands, such as IKEA, Ericsson, and H&M and of course for the Nobel prizes.

  21. Anna:

    – Pippi Långstrump,
    – Blond girls
    – IKEA
    – ABBA
    – Volvo
    – Sauna

    But of course if you have been there you think about much more…

  22. zuzisue:

    Don’t tell me people have problem placing Sweden on world’s map. I’m from Poland and people sometimes haven’t heard the name of my country. 😉
    – Holland?
    – No! I’ from Poland!

    Kanelbulle, H&M, Stieg Larsson, Absolut vodka, vikings, meetbals, mooses, Annas pepparkakor, Swedish Royal wedding, skatt,

  23. Maria Clara Soares Correia:

    Dear all…..I am from Portugal…certainly unknown, except from football, I guess….and maybe Amália…. I’ve been in Poland and Sweden and in some other “strange” places… People are really ignorant, generally speaking…Many years ago, I met some girls from feroe islands. We met on a train. They were astonished because i knew exactly where and what it was….Those islands belong to Denmark, they are at the north of Scotland… We had some good laughs….

  24. Maria Clara Soares Correia:

    I love Poland, by the way…..and know some Polish… Don’t mess with “my” Poland!….
    Judy…I understand you…people always confuse Portugal with Spain. It is not a matter of initials…pure ignorance, I tell you! And I have nothing against Spain. I have some good friends there…

  25. Eugenia:

    I’m from Russia.. I know lots of things from Sweden.. Sorry, there’re so many dull ppl who doesn’t know where Sweden is..
    Roxette – Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle – my MOST FAVOURITE band!!!!!! I LOVE THEM!!!!!
    Then ABBA of course, then..
    Ingmar Bergman – the Master of all time cinematography, Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullman, Max von Sydow, Greta Garbo, Helena Bergström – such Great actors!.. I adore them and their playing..
    Then Carl Milles.. His sculptures make me tremble.. just one glance gives you shiver, I think.
    Volvo & Saab of course..
    The Nobel Prize
    The Swedish Match
    The Vikings (lots of times already mentioned)
    Emil i Lönneberga – love this funny boy!!
    Astrid Lindgren’s just more than GREAT!!!!!
    Seems to be enough for now.. If remember sth else, I’ll be here!! 😉

  26. Katy:

    As a Brit:

    Stellan Skarsgård
    Alexander Skarsgård
    Dolph Lungren
    Pippi Longstockings (my childhood nickname!)
    Ace Of Base
    Ingmar Mergman

    I have read about Sweden in books, online, through blogs such as this and reading Swedish newspapers. My godfather also lived in Sweden for seven years so I learn from him too.

  27. Antropologa:

    Most people from the US seem to confuse Sweden with Switzerland and talk about the Alps and chocolate with me, but you do hear Sweden mentioned a lot if you read news or keep up with various kinds of research. A lot seems to be compared to Sweden. Sometime mentioning Sweden seems like shorthand for Europe, or socialism, or something.

    But among regular people, if I talk about IKEA or hot blond girls or ABBA or Tiger Woods’s wife, then they know what I am talking about. Of course I still get asked what kind of shots I need to live there or whatever. Sigh.

  28. Dennis Anderson:

    My ancestors are from Sweden
    ABBA- the greatest music ever
    The Swedish people including beautiful blond girls
    One of the greenest countries in the world
    The beautiful Swedish language
    Carolus Linnaeus

    Jag älskar Sverige!

  29. J. Eric:

    Carl Linnaeus
    Carl Larsson
    Dalarna Horse
    Little Red Stugas
    NHL Hockey players
    Very Bright People!
    Remembered by millions of Swedish-Americans
    Birthplace of my Great Grandparents
    Residence of my Swedish cousins!

  30. Jack:

    First off, I am very pleased to see all the responses from well informed Swedes and Swedish-Americans proud of their heritage. I cannot imagine the lack of knowledge out there in the world around us, and especially those of my native land, the USA!

    I suggest reading a book entitled, “The Swedish Heritage In America,” certainly a book that is not altogether “timely” since it was written years ago, but nevertheless is a compendium of the contributions Swedish immigrants have made to the USA, together with their roots (for the most part) in Sweden.

    Unfortunately, in some respects, Sweden has sort of been in the background in the last several years, establishing a rather interesting form of government aimed at tolerance and justice for all. All this time, Americans have spent a lot of time establishing war factions throughout the world. We seem to gain the limelight.

    Sweden, too, is changing, and worldwide. People need to watch this Nordic country as it begins to struggle with some of our everlasting problems here in the USA.

    Remember, the world is smaller than we used to think. Remember, Sweden is an important place to learn about and know about and love.

    Remember, also, this is written by an American of 73 years whose ancestors emigrated here to find a better country when that was necessary due to the times, but when I visit the land of my grandparents, I am welcomed and comfortable. It’s a great land!


  31. Erik NorCal:

    The lists provided by the readers cover just about all the stereotypic things people refer to as Swedish. It’s embarassing that apparently many feel that Americans confuse Sweden with Switzerland. Gone are the days of a good education in the US.
    I would like to hear from the Swedes what they think of as truely Swedish and then post a comparison between Swedish perceptions of self vs those of non Swedes.

    Hej Hej

  32. Luke (Sydney):

    …and don’t forget Stiga table tennis equipments.

  33. CK:

    Evert Taube
    Cornelis Vreeswijk
    and Pitepalt!

  34. zuzisue:

    Movits! Of course! Together with Veronica Maggio 🙂

  35. Yaya:

    -running alot 😛
    -old town
    -SL blue line

  36. Stephen:

    Lutherans 😀

  37. Alison:

    Well I hope that most people in Britain know where Sweden is as you are really not too that far away from us geographically 🙂 In fact there are often stories about Sweden in the news here, and the media coverage of Sweden is very much focused on its socialist character. Whenever there is a news story here concerning Sweden, you can bet it will either directly or indirectly mention the fact that Sweden is very socialist. The left-wing press hail Sweden as a socialist paradise whilst the right-wing portray the high degree of government control as being almost communist – really!

  38. Lauren:


  39. Serkan:

    Ice Hotel
    Absolut Vodka
    Swedish Girls
    Zlatan Ibrahimovic


  40. Colt:

    I will agree with what has already been said! I am from the USA. But I will add that I have a Swedish dirt bike, which is a Husqvarna XC500cc 2 stroke. Its the most powerful size dirt bike in the world basically. I also have a Husqvarna .270 Winchester magnum rifle that was manufactered in Sweden too! Although Husqvarna isn’t based in sweden anymore, I felt proud to list some of my favorite Swedish machinery!

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