Lagom. The Swedish term lagom doesn’t really have an English equivalent. It is not just a word, it is a concept that means “just right” or “adequate” and it can be used for just about anything and every situation, and it also sums up the Swedish cultural and social ideals of equality and fairness. Sweden is renowned for its progressive society, beautiful people, safe cars, practicality, IKEA, and its neutrality in the international conflicts. Its home to many important Viking settlements such as Birka and Upsalla, and the Swedish Vikings were the ones who led expeditions into Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey. Yet, despite being a military power in the 17th century and one of the world’s largest producers of weapons, Sweden has not participated in any war for almost two centuries, including both world wars.
Sweden is can be divided into three major regions: Götaland in the south, Svealand in the middle and Norrland in the north. Stockholm, the capital, has been called the “Venice of the North” because it is a city built around water with 12 islands and 42 bridges. Less than three percent of Sweden’s land area is built up and forests cover 69 per cent of the country. Swedes hold nature in high esteem, which is one reason why only one per cent of solid waste goes to landfill in Sweden – with the rest recycled or used to produce heat, electricity or vehicle fuel in the form of biogas. With a tax rate of 51.4% of GDP, Swedes are one of the most highly taxed populations in the world. Ironically, they are generally happy to pay a high tax rate, and the Swedish word for tax is skatt, or “treasure.”
Life is pretty good in Sweden, (although from the 1850s to the 1930s, 1.5 million of Sweden’s population of 3.5 million immigrated to North America!) It is a country whose population is not only concerned with improving life for people in Sweden, but also for improving and saving the lives of tens of millions of people around the world for decades. In 1959 the three-point seatbelt was developed by Swedish inventor and safety engineer Nils Bohlin for Volvo. In 1958, Rune Elmqvist developed a battery-run artificial pacemaker, which was used for the very first pacemaker operation done by surgeon Åke Senning at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. I’m sure many of us can be directly thankful for those inventions, as well as that of IKEA!
Swedish authors, actors, and athletes have influenced the world’s cultural experience as well from August Strindberg who wrote Master Olof, and Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, and actors Max von Sydow; the knight who plays chess with death in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, and the iconic unforgettable face of Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. Sweden is also a culture of singers with roughly 600,000 Swedes singing in at least 500 choirs which gives Sweden the highest number of choirs per capita in the world. So, it’s no surprise that ABBA is the fourth-best selling music act in history, after Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson. Football, or soccer, is by far the biggest organized sport in Sweden as is innebandy, or a type of floor hockey played indoors, which attracts 200,000 individuals to gyms all over Sweden during winter. That could explain in part, besides their generally tall and large physiques and the cold climate, why Sweden's impact on the National Hockey League has been significant with Nicklas Lidstrom as arguably the best defenseman since Bobby Orr; and why Swedes are now stars at every level of the NHL.
Swedes work hard. They like to build things (IEKA now explained) from ice hotels to shelters for refugees. The world’s first ice hotel was built in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden in the 1980s by architect Yngve Bergqvist and Better Shelter is an emergency shelter solution in a flat pack that is weatherproof and safe 17.5-square metre home featuring door locks and solar panels used by the UNHCR. They study and work hard, but they also take their rest and relaxation seriously so they have fika – a coffee break that normally consists of coffee or tea, cookies or sweet buns, but can also include soft drinks, fruit and sandwiches – it’s a social institution and an important part of the national culture. You can fika (it’s a verb as well as a noun) with your family or on your first date.
Fun Facts about Sweden; The Swedish royal family is related to all the reigning royal courts of Europe. In 1766, Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce a constitutional law to abolish censorship. There is a golf course between Sweden and Finland with holes in both countries. Sweden was the first country in the world to ban the smacking of children in 1979. (Since then, 35 other countries have followed suit.) Only one of Sweden’s top 20 surnames doesn’t end in –son: Lindberg. 1972, it was the first country in the world to allow for a legal change of gender identity. The official Twitter account of @Sweden is given to a random citizen every week to manage, and you can't name your child "Ikea" or "Elvis". While nothing is perfect, Sweden is a pretty good place to live. They take care of their country and contribute to the well being of others. Life there can be perhaps be described as lagom.