Five things you don’t know about Sweden

#1. They have run out of trash.

Sundsvall Waste to Energy Plant by night. Source: Torbjörn Bergkvist
Sundsvall Waste to Energy Plant by night. Source: Torbjörn Bergkvist

Sweden is so good at reusing their waste they’ve run out. Their world-class waste management system means less than 1% of garbage produced in Swedish homes ends up in landfill, with the other 99% being recycled or composted for energy.

The country’s 32 waste to energy (WTE) plants provide electricity for 250 000 homes and 20% of the nation’s district heating.

Recently though Sweden have become so efficient at reusing they have to import around 800 000 tonnes of trash from neighbouring countries, primarily Norway, to keep their WTE plants running.

The deal is the Norwegians sell their trash to Sweden. Sweden turns it into usable heat and electricity and then imports the toxic ash by-product back to Norway to stick in their landfills.

That is Sweden 2, Norway 0 for environmental ingenuity.

#2. The official twitter account @Sweden is given to a random citizen every week to manage.

Sweden tweets. Source:
Sweden tweets. Source:

The group behind the project, the Curators of Sweden, say “Every week, someone in Sweden is @Sweden, sole ruler of the world’s most democratic Twitter account.”

For seven days, the nominated person tweets about life in Sweden, love or work and shares ideas and opinions along the way. Then someone else does it, the same but differently.

It was partly created to disprove the stereotype of Swedes as stiff upper lip IKEA types, partly to boost tourism and partly as a social experiment.

@Sweden have just marked their third anniversary with 80 000 followers who tune in to the random, unexpected and sometimes offensively controversial tweets Swedes have to say.

#3. Swedish wasn’t the official language until 2009.

Swenglish anybody?
Swenglish anybody?

Before 2009, Swedish was the unofficial, official language, much like English in the USA (which isn’t the ‘official language’ at a federal level). In response to rapid globalisation and diversification of Swedish society, the government in 2009 enacted legislation to make Swedish the official language and formally recognise five minority languages; Finnish, all Sami dialects, Torne Valley Finnish (Meänkieli), Romani, and Yiddish.

It is estimated that around 200 languages are spoken in the country and with the growing use of English, many Swedish words were beginning to be usurped with English forms. The law was enacted to ensure languages used by public bodies are protected, simple and comprehensible. In other words, not bastardised forms of Swenglish.

#4. They have a naming law.


Parents of all new babies must submit their proposed name to a government agency for approval three months after birth. The law was enacted in 1982 to prevent non-noble families giving their children noble names (unthinkable) but some changes have been made since then. The law states “First names shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name” (34 §)

Protest names that have arisen from this law include Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced Albin), Metallica, Elvis, Ikea, Veranda and Allah all of which were rejected. However, Google managed to make it through as a middle name and Lego as a first.

#5. Luxury ferries run nightly between Helsinki and Stockholm so locals can drink and shop duty free.

Inside the Silja cruise ship. Source: Wikimedia.
Inside the Silja cruise ship. Source: Wikimedia.

Two ferry services stacked with saunas, smörgåsbords and duty free goodies sail nightly between the two Scandinavian capitals. They are generally filled with mostly Finns or Swedes who for reasonable prices can get luxury accommodation, archipelago scenery and endless shopping and drinking, on the cheap. The cruise is a lucrative operation with two companies, Viking Line and Tallink Silja both running nightly operations all year round. In both directions the boats leave between 16.30 and 17.30 and arrive at 10am the next morning. It’s budget travel meets hedonism meets thriftiness, Scandinavian style.



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