Sweden and Vacation

Why Sweden shuts down in July!

You may have noticed an eerie quiet fall over the typically-busy city streets, seen stängt för semester signs on business windows, or just generally wondered, “Where is everyone?!”

Well, it is now mid-July and most Swedes are officially on vacation (semester)! For the typical Swede, that means packing up the car and driving out their family’s summer cabin (sommarstuga) for 3-5 blessed weeks of rest and relaxation.

Here is what you need to know about semester in Sweden!

Swedes Take Semester Seriously

In fact, Swedes take more vacation than any other country in the world! Everyone here takes a few weeks off during the summer – at least two, typically four, and sometimes even 5. It’s even seen as weird not to take a few weeks off. It is very much the tradition in Sweden and Swedes love to follow traditions!

Visit the Big Cities

Because so many Swedes leave larger cities like Stockholm and Malmö for vacation outside the city, summer (sommar) is actually the best time to go for a visit. While typically the cruise ships bring in tourists, during these covid-19 times the streets of Galma Stan have been pretty empty even during the peak season. If you are in Sweden this summer, take advantage!

Vacation Doesn’t Make You Lazy

One might assume that Swedes don’t get anything done because they are so busy taking vacation. But this hasn’t proven to be true.

The Swedish belief is that taking a long vacation (at least three weeks straight) leads to increased productivity. In their minds, when you have time to unwind, destress, and reconnect with all that life has to offer, you bring all of that energy back into work.

And why at least three weeks straight, you might ask? Well, as one Swede told me, it takes at least 14 days to fully relax and destress, and then you need to have your actual vacation!

And research definitely seems to be backing up this claim. In 2017, Forbes magazine named Sweden the best country for business (for reference, the US was 23rd the same year and hasn’t held the no. 1 position since 2007). And Sweden is also known for its startup scene – second in the world only to Silicon Valley in terms of investment per capita.

Fun Facts:

  • Swedes take more vacation than any other country in the world – 41 days annually!
  • There are more than 600,000 privately owned summer cabins (sommarstuggar) in Sweden.
  • Sweden is home to more than 90,000 lakes and 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) of coastline – so be ready for a summer dip!
  • According Unionen, with the Annual Leave Act, “you are entitled to 25 full days of vacation every year regardless of your age or type of employment…Under the Annual Leave Act, you are entitled to a continuous vacation of four weeks (main vacation) during the period of June – August.” That is right – those of us living in Sweden legally can take four straight weeks of vacation every summer! In fact, our companies expect us to and some even mandate it, but shutting down operations completely.

Tess’ Tips:

  • Never trust Google Maps to be up-to-date with when businesses are open in Sweden, especially during July. Always call ahead!
  • The only people working in Sweden during July will be 25 or younger (to cover for the usual staff out on vacation).
  • Not sure where to go on vacation this summer? Check my top five places in Sweden to visit, 5 outdoor day trips around Skåne, or learn about the island of Öland! Or perhaps this is your chance to head north and see the midnight sun!

Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!


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