About 8.9 million people live in Sweden in an area about as large as California, Spain or
Thailand (450,000 km² = 174,000 sq.mi). Half the area is covered with forests and only about
10% is farmland. We have lots of lakes - about 100,000 of them!
The warm Gulf Stream in the Atlantic gives us a milder climate than you would expect this far
north. Stockholm, our capital, is at almost the same latitude as southern Greenland but has an
average temperature of about +18°C (64°F) in the summer. Northern Sweden has long and cold
winters though with lots of snow (how I envy them!) and bright summers; in June and July daylight
lasts around the clock: the famous midnight sun. On the other hand, in December they don't get
any daylight at all...
Like I mentioned, we are now about 8.9 million inhabitants. This includes about half a million
foreign citizens living here. Most of them are from Finland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Norway,
Iraq, Yugoslavia, Denmark, Iran and Turkey.
Since ancient times, the Sami (Lapps) have inhabited northern Europe. They still live here as a
minority group within our society, with their own language and culture. They used to live as
nomads, mainly on reindeer herding. Some still do, but many have merged with the majority
Life expectancy in Sweden is nowadays one of the highest in the world: about 76 years for men and
82 for women. The fertility level of 1.5 children per woman (1998) is the lowest ever in Sweden
but still above average in Europe.
Around 85% of us belong to the Church of Sweden, which is Lutheran since the 16th century, when
we adopted the teachings of Martin Luther and broke loose from the Roman Catholic Church.
Because of the immigrants, memberships in other churches are increasing. The Roman Catholic
Church is the largest, then there are Orthodox and Oriental churches, the Estonian
Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and mosques for the muslims are being built
in many parts of the country.
Sweden is a monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. Our King, Carl XVI Gustaf, has only
ceremonial functions nowadays. The parliament's members are directly elected by
proportional representation for four-year periods. We get to vote from the age of 18.