Culture Smart! Sweden: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Sweden is, in many senses, an unspoiled paradise of achingly beautiful archipelagos, forests, mountains, lakes, and coastlines. The surprisingly varied terrain is full of contrasts and contradictions—as is its people.

Swedish society is based on the belief in equality, independence, self-expression, and respect. It is rights-driven, with a strong commitment to maintaining a safe and secure “home of the people.”

Although historically Lutheran, the Swedes today are largely secular and make their life decisions from a non-religious, rational standpoint. This does not mean, however, that they are not spiritual. It is in the natural environment that many Swedes find spiritual fulfillment—in the forests, on the lakes, and in the mountains. For many Swedes, reverence to nature is a kind of religion! And luckily for the Swedes, they are granted a lot of free time – a minimum five weeks’ paid vacation and several public holidays – in which they can enjoy their surroundings.

In the summer months, Swedes make as much of the outdoors as possible with picnics, sports events, or socializing al fresco at sidewalk cafés. Many Swedes are inseparable from nature, which brings them inner peace and harmony. In the winter they go for long walks in the crisp snow, ski along forest tracks, and skate on one of the many frozen lakes, while jogging, hiking, swimming, and picnicking are popular ways to enjoy Sweden’s long, beautiful summer days.

Swedes also make the most of their time outdoors by using locally maintained trails for cross-country skiing, jogging, walking, running, cycling, and horseback riding. In national parks there are trailside huts where hikers can stay for a nominal fee. By law, the “Right to Roam” allows the Swedes nearly unlimited access to any land or waterfront area, whether for mushrooming in the spring and fall, or for boating among the 25,000 islands in the Swedish archipelago. Sweden is also a fisherman’s paradise, with more than 96,000 lakes and a national border that is mainly coastline. As a way to get back to nature, around 1.8 million people own a summer cottage, “sommarstuga” which they will escape to during the long vacation.

So, don’t forget to pack a rucksack and some hiking boots when you visit Sweden – you will easily find somewhere to stop, relax and take in the breathtaking natural landscapes!

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787022881
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $14.99 / CAN $19.99

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Culture Smart! Uganda: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Aside from Uganda’s extraordinary wildlife and natural beauty it is the Ugandan people who make this country different. Drawn from more than twenty tribes, they represent a rich blend of traditions and culture. You can sample this in dance and song performances by groups such as the Ndere Troupe in Kampala, or you can wander through a village, and get to know the local people. You will find them sociable, warm, and hospitable. Kampala is famous as the social capital of East Africa, the city that never sleeps, where every kind of nightlife is on offer.

Of course it is impossible to generalize about the character of more than thirty million people, but the remark is often made that Ugandans are friendly, and it is the case that most Ugandans are happy to start up a conversation with a stranger. Riding on a bus in Uganda is a very different experience from riding on the London Underground: people are curious, and will want to know about you. Even though the official language is English, many of the local people are not fluent in it, which can make communication more difficult but by no means impossible. The level of spoken English is more widespread than in either Kenya or Tanzania, so it is not hard to find your way around, or communicate reasonably well, even if you are deep in the country. Many tourist also note that Ugandans are often very empathetic!

It is not the high quality of life that makes Ugandans happier than their neighbours, but their positive, optimistic outlook on life. Perhaps the years of adversity have made them appreciate what they have. This national characteristic, where Ugandans have traditionally shared what they have, makes them special. It is not possible to call in at a mealtime and leave without partaking in the family meal, and probably also being given something to take home.

The Uganda of today is a unique blend of beauty, tradition, and modernity. The visitor will generally need to reach out to Ugandans first, as they have seen many foreigners come and go who are not really interested in their lives, and if you don’t bother with them, they will not bother with you. However, once you demonstrate your interest, they will accept you with open arms.

In order to avoid the inevitable cultural pitfalls for the unwary traveler – differences in expectations, customs and ways of behaving. This book provides key insights into Ugandan life and offers practical tips on how best to meet the Ugandan people on their own terms and other vital information for tourists and businesspeople alike.

 

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787028562
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $14.99 / CAN $19.99

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Culture Smart! India: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

All descriptions of “India” or “Indians” can only be offered as a simplification to aid understanding, rather than as a complete representation. That’s both the beauty and the challenge of visiting India – there is little that can be labeled generically as “Indian culture”. And there is little that compares with our own life “back home”, at least beyond the superficial trappings acquired during the British Raj or under the influence of reality tv.

The family is one of the most important and evident of all Indian values. Family in India means the extended family. Whether living under the same roof in the family home or scattered around the globe, family is the entire network of people who are related to each other by blood or marriage.

“If everybody tries together even a mountain can be moved.” – Malayalam proverb.

The extended family maintains and defines social boundaries, ensuring that individuals and single family units stay within the culturally prescribed norms. It is the family that forms identity, where values are passed on and lived out, on whom you depend for life and well-being.

Individuality, autonomy, and independence, highly esteemed values in the West, are antithetical to all that Indians traditionally hold dear. There is no such thing as “my property”, “my space,” or “my decision.” Individuals who act independently are viewed as selfish. Typically those rebels will be corralled through public ridicule or third-party communication.

Relationships and social responsibilities are of prime importance, since no one accomplishes anything on their own. Everything, from mothering and naming your children, to passing exams, and choosing a spouse, is done with the help of family. It’s not uncommon for business people to take time off work to attend the several day-long wedding of what we might see as a distant relative or to participate in a religious event. These things are viewed as acceptable responsibilities, and people feel obligated, if not overjoyed, to participate in them. Active participation in life events help to reinforce family identity and belonging, and ensure that just as you are there for others, they will be there for you.

The intensity and diversity of India can create both shock and awe for visitors that are not likely to subside. India is an experience best appreciated by those who are open to learn, able to cope with ambiguity, and willing to redefine generosity and friendship. Falling in love with India “is much like developing a taste for spicy food. You look at the chilies and don’t know how you’ll cope. But the aroma is enticing, so you dive in. If you don’t give up, one day you’ll discover that you’ve developed a craving for it.”

Culture Smart! India will make you aware of the basic values and behavioural norms you will encounter in India. It will help you navigate cultural differences and connect with real people, and offer many insights into the endlessly fascinating place that is India. Sab kuch milega!

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787029002
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $14.99 / CAN $19.99

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Culture Smart! Iceland: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Iceland has erupted onto the travel scene in recent years. With striking views of bubbling turquoise geysers set among rugged snowy peaks, black sand beaches, crashing glacial waterfalls, and the ethereal majesty of the northern lights, one can only wonder what took it so long. But what of the people who call this remote North Atlantic island home? Behind a stoic veneer lies a proud, industrious, and egalitarian people, whose straightforwardness and ability to wing it have seen them thrive in this beautiful but unforgiving environment.

One common phrase you might hear in Iceland is  “verti∂arhugarfar” or “fishing-season mentality”. As any fisherman will tell you, when the season is right and the shoal appears, the time has come to cast your net. And, more than that, cast as many nets as you can, because tomorrow may already be too late. It encapsulates the almost gung-ho manner in which people will make the most of an opportunity that presents itself, to the extent that they may sometimes end up going too far and, in doing so, damage their own prospects of continued success.  Icelanders like to seize the day, and make the most of the present in spite of any perceived risk. We like that approach too!

This mentality is not surprising when you consider the Icelandic concept þetta reddast—pronounced “thetta reddast”—which is used to express the firmly held belief that everything will turn out all right in the end, that it will be so without the need for extensive planning or worry, and that one should be ready to adapt to the circumstances, whatever they require. Translated roughly, it means “everything will work out fine,” and goes some way to explain the Icelandic peoples’ willingness to forgo caution in order to seize opportunities as they arise.

While other cultures are more inclined toward meticulous organisation, the Icelander is more sensitive to the unpredictability of life, so flexibility and a basic optimism that things will turn out for the best are more highly valued. And how could it be otherwise? Iceland is not stable—it is perched on the convergence of two tectonic plates and has more than thirty volcanoes that could erupt at any time. The weather can change dramatically, and the country’s economic health is almost entirely determined by the price of aluminum, fish, and the number of tourists who decide to visit in the year—factors that are largely out of anyone’s control, as the recent pandemic has made abundantly clear.

It was only a couple of generations ago that the majority of Icelanders were farmers and fisherman who were at the mercy of nature and extreme weather conditions, and so, having become highly attuned to uncertainty and the necessity of adaptation, they have developed a more flexible and optimistic attitude toward life and its twists and turns.

Culture Smart! Iceland will equip you with a deeper understanding of your hosts and their complexities, as well as with vital insights to turn your visit into a more enriching experience.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787029040
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $14.99 / CAN $19.99

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Culture Smart! Ghana: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

“You cannot tie a knot without using your thumb” – Ghanaian proverb.

In Ghana, relationships are the most valued of possessions. The idea that you can live next to a neighbor for years without knowing their name, as can happen in the West, is entirely alien to Ghanaians.

Rather, mutual help, collective responsibility, and reciprocal obligations are all regarded as important, and observers of Ghanaian life often remark on the strong sense of community found there.

A babysitter is never needed; people work together on communal farming projects, wealth is shared, and the elderly are never left to become lonely or isolated. So valued are relationships that a man will forego half of his evening meal and even his wife’s place in his bed should he receive an unexpected guest.

These communal values are extended to all, locals and visitors alike, so on your trip be prepared to receive numerous invitations to meals, parties, and even distant hometowns. If you have time to accept the invitation, it is a great opportunity to become more acquainted with Ghanaian culture and, more than likely, will mark the start of a new friendship.

Ghana is highly recommended for those seeking a different kind of vacation; a visit to this country can be both eye-opening and life-changing.

Visitors are warmly welcomed, but Ghanaians require them to be sympathetic to their customs and beliefs, and will have no hesitation in saying, “We don’t do that here,” should a faux-pas be made or a taboo broken.

It’s important for Ghanaians that they, and their guests, observe certain cultural rules and codes of conduct. Culture Smart! Ghana describes these rules, explains where they come from, and offers the reader an opportunity to get under the skin of Ghanaians and enjoy all that this beautiful country has to offer.

Show Ghanaians and their culture respect and you will, without a doubt, be made to feel welcome. Akwaaba!

For more on the culture and customs of Ghana, read our guide.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787022720
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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