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! France: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

Cinema is the youngest art form, just over a hundred years old, and France was its birthplace. France boasts the third-highest cinema attendance in the word after the USA and Japan, both in terms of admissions and revenues.

The success of French movies is partly due to state protection of the industry. A proportion of films must be in French and produced by French production companies (the same goes for music), and because programs cannot be released on DVD until six months after their theatrical release, France is still a nation of cinephiles and cinema-goers.

One of the most famous international film festivals is the annual Cannes Film Festival, and French films and actors also often receive awards internationally. An example was the 2019 historical drama Portrait of a Woman on Fire, which tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aristocrat and a painter commissioned to paint her portrait. Unlike the UK, foreign dramas on French TV tend to be dubbed rather than subtitled.

Delve deeper into what makes the French “different”. Charming, challenging, uncooperative, questioning, and doing things their own way and to their own advantage are all distinctly French traits. But what is it that makes the French so distinctive? And how do you get through to them?

Culture Smart! France will give you insights into the essence of the characteristically strong French national identity so you can make the most of your time in France and better understand the people who have had such historical and cultural influence over Western civilization.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787029088
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

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

Discover the last true Shangri-la – no longer hidden within the folds of the mighty Himalayas.

In Bhutan, mask dances, called “cham”, are performed during a “tshechu” (a religious Buddhist festival), depicting and describing, through movement and music, the teachings of Buddha and the dharma. They are broadly categorized into three distinct themes: dances with moral stories; dances that purify and protect from destructive spirits; and dances that celebrate the triumph of Buddhism and glorify Guru Rinpoche and his deeds.

The dances are a powerful way of bringing Buddhism closer to the people, who largely depend on the clergy for guidance on the spiritual path. The Bhutanese believe that the mere act of watching the “cham” allows the spectators to gain merit and receive a special blessing.

“Atsaras” (clowns) are an interesting feature of the festival ground, frolicking around and entertaining the crowd with their antics, and often brandish a large wooden phallus. Each dance is meaningful, but some, with their dramatic narratives and visual splendor, are particularly popular with the audience.

The “Raksha Marcham”, or the Dance of the Judgement of the Dead, is one of the most interesting mask dances performed at the “tshechus”. The drama unfolds with the dance of the Rakshas, the aides of the God of Death, “Shinje Choekyi Gyalpo”. It is Judgement Day, and the first to appear before the God of Death is a sinner, dressed all in black. His sins outweigh his good actions, and he is sent to hell. Then comes another person, dressed in white, and again, the God hears his deeds. He is found to be virtuous and led to the pure land.

Culture Smart! Bhutan gives you an insight into the country’s history, values, customs, and age-old traditions. It describes the historical circumstances that have shaped the Bhutanese people and their way of life. It debunks some myths and helps you to discover this fascinating country for yourself. It highlights changes in attitudes and behavior as the country modernizes, while offering guidance on how to develop a rapport with the Bhutanese and forge meaningful friendships.

Delve deeper … travel smarter.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787029088
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99

Buy:

Paperback

eBook