Daylight Saving Time was a wartime effort to conserve fuel in the early 20th century. It started with Germany and Austria, spreading across the globe rather quickly. Sweden adopted it in 1916. But how many time zones are in Sweden and when do they observe Daylight Saving Time?
As it happens, Sweden adopted their time zone only 16 years prior to adopting Daylight Savings Time. Sweden has only one time zone and its Central European Time + 1. They begin observing Daylight Saving on the last Sunday in March each year.
Sweden has its own unique history when it comes to adopting times, as most countries do. Early on, they simply had no need for it, as the primary, east-to-west traveling took place on foot, via horse, or on a horse-drawn carriage.
History of Sweden’s Time Zone
Sweden embraces CET (Central European Time) as do most countries within Europe. They don’t differentiate themselves as far as that’s concerned. However, once upon a time, Sweden had multiple time zones.
The only problem was, every town in Sweden set its own clock. These individual time systems were based on the sun’s zenith in the sky. While that’s great for each individual town, it caused chaos for travelers and commuters by the time rail technology reached the country.
If the town destination was 2 hours by carriage, the fact that it was an hour or two ahead, based on the sun, was no big deal. When technology brought the railroad industry to Sweden, however, people could travel from town to town in minutes.
That 25-minute difference in times became quite the aggravation and Sweden had to do something to quell the confusion. Unfortunately, it took Sweden nearly half a century to come up with a solution.
That solution was not the eventual time zone adoption of CET + 1. Instead, Sweden embraced “railroad time,” which essentially placed every town and city within Sweden’s borders at the same time, 24 hours a day.
This created another problem. The fact that it worked was great. The fact that it was a completely unofficial time was not, especially for politicians. It took nearly 20 more years of arguing between them before they came up with the final result.
The hold-up was a difference in opinion amongst all of the major cities in Sweden, which wanted their own times to become the nationally recognized and utilized times. Not everyone could be right, however, so Sweden eventually adopted a single, national time.
Still, this wasn’t the eventual CET + 1. This was simply a nationalized time embedded in the very law of the land. When time zones eventually came around, Sweden was lucky enough that the time zone, rather than their own national time, adhered to the Swedish result and not the other way around.
Sweden’s time remained unchanged but became known as Central European Time + 1. Daylight Saving Time is not currently in use. However, on the last Sunday in March, Sweden will switch to CET + 2.
As the saying goes, “spring forward and fall back.”
Is Daylight Savings Time the Same Everywhere?
While Sweden does observe Daylight Saving Time, it is far from embraced everywhere. In fact, it could be said that Daylight Saving Time is going away. Daylight Saving owes its inception to the need to save fuel and therefore energy.
This is something that is no longer necessary in the vast majority of the world. It’s also a complicated mess because every country and every state seems to have its own way of adopting it. Someone that spends a lot of time traveling probably feels the chaos when Daylight Saving rolls around twice a year.
Several countries have gotten rid of it altogether, including Brazil, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Iceland, Pakistan, Peru, Egypt, Falkland Islands, Russia, Philippines, Hong Kong, India, Colombia, and Iraq.
Many more countries are making moves to get rid of it, including the United States with the aptly named, “Sunshine Protection Act.”
Why Does Sweden Only Have One Time Zone?
There are 24 time zones that wrap around the world in sections that are narrower at the top and bottom and much wider at the center. Each time zone essentially accounts for the movement of the sun in a single hour from its zenith in one time zone to its new zenith in the next.
The reason Sweden only has one time zone is the narrow distance from Sweden’s eastern border to its western border. It’s only 690 kilometers across, not quite long enough for either half of the country, (if you split it down the middle with a vertical line) to touch a new time zone.
Even though Sweden is well northward in the northern hemisphere, where the dividing lines between time zones are narrower, it’s still not wide enough to reach across into the next time zone coordinates.
Speaking of coordinates, Sweden encompasses 13° of longitude. When you’re talking about 360° to complete the sphere, that’s only .036 of the 360° distance around. That’s despite being located far enough north where the distance all the way around is shorter.
According to World Data Info, the timezone of Sweden remains singular because of Sweden’s longitude and how long it takes the sun to set on the western border after its already set on the eastern border.
If you were to stand on the very border of Sweden, as far west as you can go, the sun would set where you are standing only 52 minutes after it set for someone standing on the very eastern border. That’s a very, very tiny difference in the great scheme of things.
All Things Considered
Sweden only has one time zone and that’s probably a good thing. Living in countries like Russia, China, and the US, necessitates knowing when work hours have ended on the opposite coast because the differences are calculated in hours.
Sweden has one time zone because it only has a 52-minute difference in sunset times on the far western border to the far eastern border.