Wondering about Sweden in the middle of the night

It’s 4am and I can’t sleep. One of those nights with a million thoughts churning around in my mind. Outside, the city of Stockholm is quiet. Daylight is starting to slowly break. As I lie here, a question about Sweden pops into my head. Something I’ve never thought of before.

Where does the English name ‘Sweden’ come from?

I should be sleeping, but I decide to google for the answer and I am catapulted into the world of historical research, language theory and ethno-cultural writing. And now I have the explanation and hopefully I can sleep.

Would you like to know? Here’s what I found:

The English name for Sweden was loaned from Dutch in the 17th century to refer to Sweden as an emerging power. Before Sweden’s imperial expansion, Early Modern English used Swedeland.

The Old English name of Sweden was Sweoland or Sweorice, land or realm of the Sweonas – the Germanic tribes of the Sviar. The name of the Sviar itself is derived from a proto-Norse Swihoniz, presumably a self-designation containing the Germanic reflexive ‘swe’ – one’s own, self”.

The modern English name Sweden

was loaned from Dutch. It is based on Zweden, the Dutch name of Sweden, and in origin the dative plural of Zwede. It has been in use in English from about 1600, first recorded in Scottish Swethin, Swadne.

So there you go. Perhaps I can now zleep. Zzzzzzz.

Is Sweden functional but unfriendly?

Sweden is used to being at the top of most indexes relating to quality of life, equality, life experience. But not always, as the latest results from the Expat Insider 2017 survey might suggest. The survey looks at masses of elements related to the expat and relocation situation and views the world through expat eyes. The research surveys 65 countries and, in fairness, Sweden has improved from position 42 to 20 overall since 2016. Sweden scores well in travel and transport, safety and security, health and well-being.

So where does Sweden do badly? One of the elements that the survey looks at is ‘ease of settling in’. Here, Sweden doesn’t fare so well. For ‘feeling welcome’ Sweden ranks 51 out of 65 countries, for ‘friendliness’ 56, ‘language’ 15 and, wait for it, for ‘finding friends’ Sweden places 65! Last place. Interestingly Norway and Denmark are 63 and 64 respectively.

What could this tell us about Sweden? Or at least the expat’s experience of the country? Is Sweden seen as a healthy, systematic, safe but cold place? A functioning but unfriendly society?

I have to say that it is not my experience. I have found Swedes to be open and welcoming and I have a lot of great Swedish friends. Friends for life. So why does this survey suggest otherwise? What makes my experience so different from the people in this research? Does it depend on who you meet? Or on how open you are yourself? Is it different if you are single or in a couple? Are the big cities different from the smaller towns? I have no answer, but it is interesting to reflect over.

If you want to read the whole report, here it is:

Click to access Expat_Insider_2017_The_InterNations_Survey.pdf

How Swedes have sex


One of the major stereotypes of Swedes is that they are sexually liberated.

Twenty years ago, a large research project on 2800 people was carried out looking into how Swedes view sex. Participants were between 18-74 years old. In comparison to many other countries, Sweden was consequently seen as a place that has a liberal view on sex. Now this research is about to be carried out again, to see what, if anything, has changed in the last two decades. The suspicion is that a lot has changed in the last twenty years.

So what did the results look like 20 years ago?

Here’s a summary, courtesy of daily newspaper DN.

In 1996,

  • Sexual debut was on average 16 years old
  • The average woman had 4,6 sexual partners
  • The average man had had sex with 7,1 people on average
  • Swedes between 26-55 had the most sex
  • Sexual activity had increased since the previous study in 1967, except between the ages 31-50 were there was a decrease, probably due to work pressure
  • The top 10% were called ‘superactives’ and the men had slept with 29-560 people and the women had slept with 15-100 people
  • 38% of the Swedes had experience of sexual relations outside of their committed relationship
  • The average amount of penetrative sex was 65 times per year
  • 15-20% of women had same-sex fantasies, 3% of men.
  • Women more frequently reported a diminshing interest in sex. Difficulty to achieve orgasm was the most common reason. Amongst the men who claimed the same reduced desire, premature ejaculation was the most common reason.

 The last time they had sex,

  • 95% had had vaginal sex
  • 59-72% had carressed eachother’s genitals
  • 25% had oral sex
  • 1% had anal sex
  • 71% of men orgasmed, 62% of women acheived orgasm
  • 80% had sex with their husband, wife, partner
  • 5-6% had sex with a friend or casual partner
  • 1% had met via a contact ad


In the last twenty years, a lot has happened in Sweden. Easy sexual contacts via aps such as Grindr and Tinder makes sex more accessible. Young people who experiment with their sexualities, and refuse to identify as hetero or homo, is more common than twenty years ago. On the other hand, Sweden is a more multi-cultural society than before and attitudes to sexuality may well be influenced by religion, culture and a new restrictive morality. It will be interesting to read what the results of the new survey reveal.

What do you think? How have things changed?

Let me know in the comments below.








Are ‘shy Swedes’ sociable?  

Do you subscribe to the belief that Swedes are shy, difficult to get to know, cold and unfriendly? This is not an uncommon perception, amongst foreigners and Swedes alike. 
Well it could be that your perception is nothing more than a stubborn stereotype. Or at least that’s what a new piece of research seems to suggest. 

In the UK’s Guardian newspaper this week, research into identifying the world’s most sociable city was recently published. And the winner? The number one most sociable city in the world? 

Gothenburg. Yes, Gothenburg. 

Sweden’s shimmering city on the west coast beat London, New York and Berlin to grasp the title. And the number two position? The second most sociable city in the world? 

Stockholm. Yes, the Swedish capital. 

I find it rather confusing, but very interesting. The research looked at amongst things propensity to party, openness, and use of social media. 

How does this research match your experience of living in Sweden? 

To see the research, here’s the link: 


Swedes – the healthiest in the EU?


The image of the healthy, well-trained Swede has found support in some research from the Europabarometer released recently.

 According to this research, ‘41% of Europeans exercise or play sport at least once a week, while an important proportion of EU citizens (59%) never or seldom do so.’

Generally speaking, ”citizens in the Northern part of the EU are the most physically active. The proportion that exercises or plays sport at least once a week is 70% in Sweden, 68% in Denmark, 66% in Finland, 58% in the Netherlands and 54% in Luxembourg. The lowest levels of participation are clustered in the Southern EU Member States. Most respondents who never exercise or play sport can be found in Bulgaria (78%), Malta (75%), Portugal (64%), Romania (60%) and Italy (60%).”

So, Sweden tops this research at 70% of interviewees saying the exercise at least once a week, closely followed by Denmark and Finland. Why might this be? Why could there be such a difference between Scandinavian countries and the Southern European countries?

  • One answer could be the climate – maybe the long, dark winters require some kind of exercise regime in order for us to survive?  
  • Another answer might be ‘peer pressure’ or ‘training hysteria’ as it’s sometimes called in Sweden. Does a tendency to Group Think mean that we follow what others are doing in order to be ‘in’?

I think a major contributing factor is values. We all know that values differ from group to group , and that those values often determine the desired behaviours of the people.

According to the respected ‘World Values Survey’, in Scandinavia, and in Sweden especially, a strong value is self-actualisation, or self-realisation. In other words, we as individuals have the right to be who we want to be, live how we want to live, think what we want to think and make the most of ourselves in the way we choose.

While other countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania, are focusing on how to survive the day, many Swedes are focusing on self-development, education, environmentalism and, not least, physical appearance and health.

So that Sweden comes out top in this research is not surprising. In Sweden, most of the serious ‘survival problems’ of life have already been solved, allowing many citizens to focus on other things.

Such as themselves.

If you’re interested in reading more about the research, find it here.

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