Thursday, June 17, 2010

Amusing facts about Sweden, Swedish Culture, and Swedish Governance, compiled by an American.

  • As of 2004 you can pay your Swedish taxes by sending an SMS message from your cell phone.
  • The government sends you a completely filled out tax form and if it looks good you just go online and click okay to pay your taxes.
  • Taxes are generally between 50 and 70% of your income. (Of course your employer already pays the full amount of your salary to the government in taxes before you even get anything.)
  • Companies must lay off employees in first-in-last-out order when they are downsizing.
  • You can take sick leave during your vacation if you are ill.
  • Parents get a total of 13 months of paid maternity leave and the father is required to take at least 1 month of it. (There has been a discussion about changing this to 15 months and requiring the father and mother to each take 5 and then split the last 5 as they feel appropriate.)
  • Parental leave can be used to take off time for parenting classes before your child is born.
  • Parents can save up their maternity leave for more than 5 years (i.e., use it for doctor's appointments, school visit days, etc.).
  • Daycare cost is based on your family income with a government imposed maximum. (Currently about 1/10th as much as in the U.S.!)
  • If you have a new child, your other children get a month of free daycare so you can concentrate on the new one.
  • All employees (including graduate students) get 5 weeks of paid vacation a year.
  • All employers (as of 2004) are required to provide free massage.
  • Yearly car inspections include comprehensive safety checks as well as pollution controls.
  • Car insurance is flat-rate depending on the deductibles (i.e., no "comprehensive" vs. "collision" vs. "uninsured" vs. "medical"), and liability insurance is not required.
  • The transportation department of the Swedish government works actively to reduce the number of traffic deaths each year to zero. (Mainly by reducing the speed limits.)
  • The government installs elk fences along the sides of large roads to prevent elk from wandering into traffic.
  • There is no right turn on red.
  • Multi-lane highways often merge in large roundabouts. (Although not as obnoxiously frequently as in England.)
  • Any product you purchase is guaranteed for 1 year, and the retailer must exchange it if it fails in that time. (This includes things like clothes and shoes.)
  • All non-military property that is not fenced in, or is not a farm or someone's personal garden is open to anyone for hiking through or camping for one night.
  • Ice cream comes in blueberry and rhubarb flavors, and is never florescent. (Although the licorice ice cream can be coal black.)
  • Roughly 20% of the country's police stations close during the summer since everyone is off on vacation.
  • The sun rises at 3.30am in the summer.
  • The sun sets at 3.30pm in the winter.
  • Christmas is celebrated on the evening of the 24th. The father always goes out to buy a newspaper and while he is gone Santa arrives (in person) to deliver presents.
  • Swedish university students are required to pay a membership fee in the student union, but no tuition.
  • American textbooks are cheaper in Sweden than in the U.S..
  • The government has made a political choice to shut down all nuclear power plants in the country for environmental reasons. This means Sweden is forced to import dirty coal-generated power from Poland to meet its needs.
  • In Sweden IKEA is a cheap store, not a trendy store. (And they are only open until 8pm on special days.)
  • Recycling is taken so seriously that one company (FTI) is trying to put up video cameras to make sure people sort their recyclables correctly. (June 2006)
  • Privacy is taken so seriously that putting up video cameras in laundry rooms to catch vandals is illegal.
  • Learning to speak Swedish is frustrating becaues everyone in Sweden already speaks better English than you will ever speak Swedish.
  • On Easter children dress up as witches and go trick-or-treating.
  • St. Lucia is a nationally celebrated saint (complete with baked goods and TV shows), and despite the fact that she is a saint because she tore out her own eyes to avoid being seduced by a man, little children dress up like her every winter.
  • The largest ice cream restaurant in the country is located in the quaint little village of Söderköping, and sells creations that use dry ice to create bubbling smoking concoctions. No one is concerned about being sued if some foolish kid eats the dry ice.

Can you guess which one of these Swedish road signs is real?
Swedish road signs -- ipod walking into water and car driving into water

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