A valid passport entitles EU and North American citizens to a three-month stay in Sweden. Citizens of other countries should check with a Swedish diplomatic representative in their home country. If you are planning a longer stay in Sweden for work or study, refer to the Swedish Migration Board, Migrationsverket, for specific details. For students considering studying abroad in Sweden, you must show that you have been enrolled for full-time study in an organized exchange or degree program as well as that you have the means to support yourself. Foreign students who are granted residence permits on the grounds of their education are allowed to work without applying for a separate work permit.
The de facto official language is Swedish, but don’t be surprised to meet Swedes who speak better English than some native speakers. Finnish, Sami, Romani, Yiddish and Meänkieli (a dialect of Finnish) are the five minority languages receiving special status as protected languages. Over 8.5 million of Sweden’s 9 million habitants are native Swedish speakers, and there are another 300,000 native Swedish speakers living across the Baltic Sea in Finland.
Swedes have a special relationship with English. Swedish kids start studying English in third grade (around age 9). In 2003, the Swedish public service broadcaster, Sveriges Television, broadcasted almost 10,000 hours of programs, of which about half were subtitled in English.
Measurements and numbers
Don’t be confused with written numbers, since commas and decimal points are swapped. Also be prepared to convert distances and temperatures, like most of the world, Sweden uses the Metric system for measurements (conversion tool here) and Celsius for temperature (conversion tool here). For a quick lesson: 1 US gallon = 3.8 liters, 1 mile = 1.6 km, and 1 pound = 2.2 kilos.
The Swedish currency is the “krona” (SEK) or the crown. Sweden is one of the few of the original 15 countries of the European Union, along with Denmark and the UK, not to adopt the Euro. The exchange rate between the USD and SEK has fallen sharply in the last several years and the krona has recently been extremely strong against the US dollar. In 2000, the exchange rate was almost SEK 10 to USD 1, but the current rate is closer to SEK 6.4 to USD 1. Check xe.com for up-to-date rates. You can exchange money at the airport and most banks. There are also plenty of Forex locations around the country. ATMs are also prevalent (check with your bank for withdrawal charges). Most banks are open 10 am to 4 pm, although this can vary. Svenska Kassaservice offers limited banking services on the weekends. There is a location at Stockholm Central Station open Monday-Friday 7 am – 10 pm and Saturday-Sunday 9 am – 6 pm.
Sweden is on Central European Time (CET). The time difference between Stockholm and London is 1 hour (GMT) , New York (EST) is 6 hours, Chicago (CST) 7 hours and Seattle (PST) 9 hours. When 8 am in New York it’s 2 pm in Stockholm. Swedes also use the 24-hour clock (military time), so 12:00 is noon and 00:00 is midnight.
In case of emergency, call 112 within Sweden. If you need to contact the police for non-urgent matters, ring 114 14.
For over-the-counter drugs and other related items, pay a visit to the nearest pharmacy, called “Apoteket.” Most doctors will be English-speaking. Cityakuten, which has offices in Stockholm, Göteborg, and Malmö, is the best bet if you come down with the sniffles while on vacation in Sweden (call 020-150 150 within Sweden). Head to the nearest hospital in case of serious accident or other emergency. The US embassy in Stockholm has a list of hospitals and clinics here.
You’ll recognize a post office by the yellow and blue logo. Many grocery stores, kiosks, and gas stations as well as proper post offices offer most mail services, and some post offices even offer a number of banking services. International letters and postcards of up to 20 grams cost SEK 5.50 for domestic post and SEK 10 for international post. Stamps are available for sale at post offices and most news stands, including 7/11. The blue mailboxes are for local deliveries only, and the yellow boxes are for national and international mail.