Sweden: The melting pot

Sweden: The melting pot

As Sweden opens its borders to a new wave of labour migration, the country is becoming more diverse than ever before, writes Olle Wästberg, director-general of the Swedish Institute.

Saffron and dates have long been part of the Swedish Christmas food tradition. But nowadays many families in Sweden can be found mixing their dates and saffron with meze and bulgur, rather than the usual lutefisk, herring and ham.

In December, Sweden's major supermarkets and food stores stock plenty of Christmas alternatives for people rooted in food traditions other than the typically Swedish. This mirrors a new Sweden.

Formally, the Evangelical Lutheran Swedish Church is the biggest religion in Sweden, even though most of its members are religiously indifferent. This is probably not the case with most of the 250,000 Muslims or the 35,000 Syrian Orthodox.

The different religions sometimes meet and create new Christmas traditions. In the Stockholm suburb of Fisksätra, Lutherans and Muslims – who last year held joint ceremonies – now have a crib together.

To many Swedes, Christmas is more of a food and family gathering than a religious holiday. But Swedes really have different backgrounds. Every third newborn Swede has at least one parent or grandparent born in another country.

From the close of the Second World War to the end of the sixties, Sweden was open for labour immigration. The large Swedish industrial companies like Asea, Alfa Laval and Atlas Copco had recruitment offices in Italy and Yugoslavia. But in 1968, Sweden closed the borders for workers. Since then, the overwhelming majority of immigrants have been refugees.

Statistics show that the three dominant countries of origin for immigrants now living in Sweden are Finland (181,000), the former Yugoslavia (146,000), and Iraq (83,000). But there are also 37,000 immigrants from Turkey, 23,000 from Lebanon and 18,000 from Somalia. And the stream of refugees from Iraq is remarkable. Sweden has admitted more refugees from Iraq than either the US or Great Britain.


Source: The Local (English)

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