Swedish Culture


Primary Author
Chara Scroope,

The is the most common household unit. While the two-parent household with children is still typical, there is a high rate of single-parent households. There are also many one-person households that are usually young adults in urban areas or the elderly. Indeed, most families are now structured less traditionally because many parents have never married, have divorced or have remarried.

Most children are raised to view themselves as equal to those around them, and competition is often discouraged. As children grow, they develop a strong relationship with their closest family members. Support and solidarity are usually directed towards the closest (i.e. parents, children and siblings). Nonetheless, individuals value their extended family. Working adults typically spend time with their parents at Christmas, on birthdays, anniversaries and during vacations. For those who live in the same city as their parents, they may share some meals together.

Gender Roles

Sweden has the highest proportion of women in the labour force worldwide. This is attributed to both job opportunities in the public sector and the support the government provides to women in the private sector. Moreover, Sweden has the highest proportion of women as parliamentarians and cabinet ministers. According to the , 55.9% of the central government workforce is female.1

Over time, the family structure has declined as the traditional patterns of male authority and female economic dependency on their husbands have been replaced by a reliance on communal institutions. Within a household, the male and female often share the responsibilities of tending to the house and the children as well as earning money. It is quite uncommon to find a woman that stays in the home with the children and does not participate in the labour force.

Government assistance towards parents with young children has made a significant contribution to gender equality in the country. Sweden offers a large amount of maternity and paternity leave. Thus, it is common for the father to take paternity leave to allow for the mother to return to the workforce. Once the maternity/paternity leave is finished, public childcare institutions will step in at a low price. This allows for both the male and female to return to work.

Dating and Marriage

Dating practices in Sweden are similar to those throughout the English-speaking West. Although serious dating is usually reserved for older teens and young adults, Swedes date early on in their life. Typically, a couple will come to know each other through mutual connections. In more recent times, many couples get to know one another through online dating sites or social networking sites. Common dates include going to the cinema, dining out and attending parties. The selection of one's partner is usually a matter of individual choice. A prospective partner's character is often an important factor. Marrying for financial security or seeking family approval is not common.

The practice of ‘sambo’ (non-marital cohabitation or ‘de facto’ relationships) is a socially accepted practice. Since the late 1980s, sambo relationships have entailed nearly the same legal rights and responsibilities as marriage. Indeed, many people will choose to live together before or as an alternative to marriage. In some cases, a couple in a sambo relationship will marry if they have a child. + couples can have a sambo relationship or can establish a registered partnership that affords the same legal benefits and obligations as matrimony. Nonetheless, couples have an opportunity to marry regardless of their sexuality, in turn having the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Divorce is relatively common in Sweden, and there is no social stigma around separating from one's partner.


1 OECD, 2009

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