Boasting nearly two centuries without a war, the self-reliant Swedes believe in equality, fairness and doing what's right. Their values tend toward liberal, cosmopolitan, secular and environmentalist views. Good listeners who prefer to avoid conflict, the people of Sweden may not draw attention to themselves but not because they have little to offer. Swedes are rigid and organized, from their orderly nature in standing in line to their affection for barometers, thermometers and rain gauges. Swedish people make time for hobbies, sports, the outdoors and home improvement -- not to mention their coffee breaks, or fika, which often pair up with a Swedish pastry.
Swedish is the national language of Sweden, but English is also widely spoken throughout the country, as is Finnish. Swedes do enjoy hearing any attempts at Swedish phrases or basic conversation and will likely light up at your efforts.
The majority of Swedes identify themselves as Christians, many belonging to the Church of Sweden, which has a Lutheran tradition. Even so, Swedes on the whole are much less religious than most other Europeans and church-going is sporadic at best. Other worldwide religions are also represented in smaller numbers.
"Fika," meaning the tradition of drinking coffee socially at home or in a café, is a Swedish ritual. Over coffee, Swedes will plan future activities, meet on a date, catch up and gossip or simply pass the time.
Drinking alcohol on social occasions is also a regular part of Swedish culture and celebrations. Some Swedes feel offended if someone decides to abstain in these settings.
Though Swedes appreciate fashion, they tend to shy away from glitzy attire that will make them stand out in a crowd. Jeans are a Swedish wardrobe staple to be sure.
In most Swedish homes, you'll be asked to remove your shoes and leave them at the door. Show up on time in Sweden -- neither early nor late -- which are both considered rude.
You may need to politely call the attention of salespeople, waiters and other service employees who are quite respectful of their customers' privacy to let them know what you need. And never cut in line in Sweden -- they are quite serious about waiting your turn.
Did someone say meatballs? The iconic Swedish meatballs served with gravy, potatoes and lingonberry jam at IKEA's in-store restaurant truly does represent a taste of Swedish cuisine.
If you're happy to subsist on meat, fish, potatoes, a myriad of hearty bread varieties and plenty of dairy products, you'll feel at home in Sweden. Pea soup, Swedish pancakes and a fried hash of meat and potatoes are enjoyed in this country, along with fresh, pickled and smoked seafood (such as herring, crayfish, salmon and eel) and game meats including elk and reindeer. Many hotels offer the tasty tradition of a smörgåsbord-style breakfast buffet.
Fast food and pizza shops are part of the internationally influenced food culture in Sweden, where sushi, Thai, kebabs, hot dogs and sausages are also easy to find.
Swedes have a noted sweet tooth and are sure to offer an array of their special desserts. Sweden is also home to strong coffee, Absolut Vodka, a sweet cider and several beers and lagers. To boot, Swedish tap water is famously drinkable and delicious.