My helpful guide to how you can survive Midsummer in Sweden.

With Midsummer rapidly approaching tomorrow, it is worth planning for your survival.

Midsummer’s Eve is the craziest custom in the Swedish calender and the time of the year when Swedes go a little bonkers.

As a non-Swede, get ready to brace yourself. And follow this simple survival guide to make sure you make it to Midsummer’s Day in one piece.

Greet like a Swede. In Sweden it is considered polite to greet everybody individually, even if you plan to never speak to them again or remember their name. The appropriate way is as follows, shake hands and look direct in eyes, say ‘hej’ followed by your name. They will do the same. If you are feeling adventurous, follow it up with a ‘trevligt’ or even a ‘Glad Midsommar’. Job done. Now you can hit the booze.

Snaps is not the same as a shot. A lot of alcohol gets drunk on Midsummer’s Eve, especially beer and snaps  With the popularity of shots in recent years, it’s easy to make the mistake that Swedish snaps is the same thing. Believe me, it is not. Snaps can be up to 40% proof, considerably more than your normal shot. So, go easy and sip the snaps or see yourself slipping sideways off your chair before the dessert has even been put on the table.

Take tissue. Midsummer’s Eve is a looong day and you probably will need the loo at some point. The trouble is, so will everybody else – to the detriment of the supply of toilet paper. There’s a big chance you will be seeking relief in the woods so come equipped with the appropriate amounts of paper for your needs

If shy, bring swimwear. Bathing in the icy June waters is a common activity at Midsummer. Swedes generally are not afraid of showing a bit of genital when they do this. If you are, then come prepared with swimwear and a towel.

Shelve your maturity. Part of Midsummer is dancing around the maypole, playing silly games, pretending to be a frog, participating in competitions. To survive this, it helps to conjour up your inner child and forget you are an adult for a while.

Rubbers will save the day. Given the amount of alcohol consumed at Midsummer, it is no surprise that the most babies in Sweden are made on this day. If you don’t want to join the ranks of parents, remember to put it on before you put it in.

Throw in the thermals. Perhaps you think it’s going to be sunny and warm on Midsummer’s Eve? Well, think again. It is not unusual that temperatures fall into single figures and that pesky rain pours down onto the smorgasbord. So bring a jumper, a rain jacket and even thermals to enhance your experience.

Same, but different. Don’t expect culinary excesses on Midsummer’s Eve. The food is exactly the same as is eaten at Christmas and Easter, with a few small exceptions – strawberries and new potatoes.

Learn a drinking song. On Midsummer’s Eve, food and alcohol is accompanied by Swedish drinking songs.  Learn one in advance and shine at the table. Even better sing one in your own language and you are guaranteed to use those rubbers you packed just for the occasion. For me, ‘what shall we do with the drunken sailor’ works every time

Argue over the rules. At Midsummer a popular Swedish garden game is called kubb. Involving the throwing of sticks, everybody seems to have their own understanding of the way to play. If you want to feel really Swedish, make sure you start an argument about the rules.

Take pills. Of varying types. Allergy pills are good because there are flowers everywhere: on the table, in the maypole, on peoples’ heads. Pain killers are good as a lot of snaps is consumed. Indigestion pills are good as the food is oily, fatty, acidic, smoky and rich. The after day pill is good, well… because…

That’s it! Follow this guide and you are sure to have a wonderous Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden. Glad Midsommar!

Your helpful guide to surviving Midsummer in Sweden

With Midsummer rapidly approaching, it is worth planning for your survival.

Midsummer’s Eve is the craziest custom in the Swedish calender and the time of the year when Swedes go a little bonkers.

As a non-Swede, get ready to brace yourself. And follow this simple survival guide to make sure you make it to Midsummer’s Day in one piece.

  1. Greet like a Swede. In Sweden it is considered polite to greet everybody individually, even if you plan to never speak to them again or remember their name. The appropriate way is as follows, shake hands and look direct in eyes, say ‘hej’ followed by your name. They will do the same. If you are feeling adventurous, follow it up with a ‘trevligt’ or even a ‘Glad Midsommar’. Job done. Now you can hit the booze.
  2. Snaps is not the same as a shot. A lot of alcohol gets drunk on Midsummer’s Eve, especially beer and snaps  With the popularity of shots in recent years, it’s easy to make the mistake that Swedish snaps is the same thing. Believe me, it is not. Snaps can be up to 40% proof, considerably more than your normal shot. So, go easy and sip the snaps or see yourself slipping sideways off your chair before the dessert has even been put on the table.
  3. Take tissue. Midsummer’s Eve is a looong day and you probably will need the loo at some point. The trouble is, so will everybody else – to the detriment of the supply of toilet paper. There’s a big chance you will be seeking relief in the woods so come equipped with the appropriate amounts of paper for your needs.
  4. If shy, bring swimwear. Bathing in the icy June waters is a common activity at Midsummer. Swedes generally are not afraid of showing a bit of genital when they do this. If you are, then come prepared with swimwear and a towel.
  5. Shelve your maturity. Part of Midsummer is dancing around the maypole, playing silly games, pretending to be a frog, participating in competitions. To survive this, it helps to conjour up your inner child and forget you are an adult for a while.
  6. Rubbers will save the day. Given the amount of alcohol consumed at Midsummer, it is no surprise that the most babies in Sweden are made on this day. If you don’t want to join the ranks of parents, remember to put it on before you put it in.
  7. Throw in the thermals. Perhaps you think it’s going to be sunny and warm on Midsummer’s Eve? Well, think again. It is not unusual that temperatures fall into single figures and that pesky rain pours down onto the smorgasbord. So bring a jumper, a rain jacket and even thermals to enhance your experience.
  8. Same, but different. Don’t expect culinary excesses on Midsummer’s Eve. The food is exactly the same as is eaten at Christmas and Easter, with a few small exceptions – strawberries and new potatoes.
  9. Learn a drinking song. On Midsummer’s Eve, food and alcohol is accompanied by Swedish drinking songs.  Learn one in advance and shine at the table. Even better sing one in your own language and you are guaranteed to use those rubbers you packed just for the occasion. For me, ‘what shall we do with the drunken sailor’ works every time.
  10. Argue over the rules. At Midsummer a popular Swedish garden game is called kubb. Involving the throwing of sticks, everybody seems to have their own understanding of the way to play. If you want to feel really Swedish, make sure you start an argument about the rules.

That’s it! Follow this guide and you are sure to have a wonderous Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden. Glad Midsommar!

Swedish ways to die #3 Death by cyclist

In this short series, I explore how death can also be cultural. Here is number 3.

The summer season is well and truly here. It brings with it wonderful things such as picnics, batheable water, barbecues, sun tans and crispy pink wine.

However, there is a downside. The summer also presents some horrors such as disease-spreading ticks, pollen explosions, forest fires and demons on two wheels. Yes, cyclists. Of all the plagues to tarnish the summer, the cyclists are probably the worst. They can be the harbingers of death.

In Stockholm, cyclists often move in swarms. Like a disturbed hive, they flourish over the horizon and zoom down the streets, mercilessly crushing everything in their path. God help the poor pedestrian who gets in the way. In the best case, you receive abuse, in the worst case a collision occurs which causes the pedestrian to literally and metaphorically, bite the dust.

Most accidents and deaths happen on crossings. Arrogant, egocentric Swedish cyclists don’t seem to think that traffic rules apply to them. So a red stop light only applies to cars. For the cyclist it means ‘no, not you, please keep cycling, and preferably really fast’.

The morbid scenario is easy to envisage. The pedestrian stands patiently and waits to cross the street. Finally, he or she receives the signal from the green man. He or she steps confidently onto the crossing and BAAM! Death by cyclist! A rather Swedish way to die.

Starving children in a Stockholm museum 

Stockholm’s Photography Museum is, in my opinion, one of the world’s best museums for seeing photographic art. If you haven’t been, I recommend one of the current exhibitions called ‘What’s on the Plate’ by Magnus Wennman and Erik Wiman. I saw it today and it is no easy exhibition to see. In fact it is very difficult to stomach. 

In picture and text, you see very recent depictions of starving children around the world and what they are forced to eat in order to survive. The exhibition asks for donations towards Save the Children. It is well worth a visit and runs until 13 August 2017. 

It is a sobering and humbling experience and a reminder of the overindulgence of our daily lives and the vast gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. 
For more information: http://www.fotografiska.eu

10 musts in Summer Stockholm 

Thinking of visiting Stockholm this summer? For me, Stockholm in the summer is very much about relaxing, sunbathing, swimming and enjoying good food and drinks. As a resident of over 20 years, here are my top ten musts. Enjoy!

1) The Southside of Söder. Take the underground to Skanstull and walk down to the water’s edge. Walk along the lakeside all the way to Hornstull. This is a favourite walk for Stockholmers, which takes you past boatyards, cosy cafes, cute allotments, beaches, bathing jetties and apartments.

2) Golfbaren. Take the underground to Kristineberg and go to the mini golf course called Golfbaren. Practice your putting while drinking wine.

3) Djurgården. Stockholm’s museum island is well worth a visit. Full of parks, interesting museums, restaurants, beaches, a zoo, grand houses, a fairground, amongst other things. Lovely to visit specific places or just go for a walk. One tip is to head left after crossing the bridge and go to Rosenlunds nurseries and garden cafe.

4) Mälarpaviljongen. On the water’s edge on the island of Kungsholmen, this is a floating bar lounge. It’s a Stockholm favourite with nice food, relaxing surroundings and cool house music. The pretty walk from Rålhomshovs park to the city hall goes past this venue. Reach by taking the underground to Rådhuset or Fridhemsplan.

5) Långholmen prison island. Once housing a prison, this island is now a perfect place for a stroll and a bite to eat. It is also a great place for bathing from one of its many beaches and water access points. Also a walk from here over the large bridge, Västerbron, gives commanding views of the city. Reach Långholmen by taking the underground to Hornstull.

6) Stockholm Archipelago. Take a boat ride out to the archipelago. Amongst the thousands of islands, there are opportunities to disembark and eat, drink, sunbathe, swim and relax. If you don’t want to get off the boat, book a table at the boat’s restaurant and enjoy a great meal as the islands slip gracefully past.

7) Champagne terrace. Take the underground to Slussen and walk up to Söder Theater. At the top of the theatre there is a champagne bar with an amazing terrace and a spectacular view over the whole of Stockholm. Stand here on a warm summer’s evening drinking in the sights.

8) Skeppsholmen. In the middle of Stockholm harbour lies the island of Skeppsholmen. Perfect for a walk by the water’s edge or bathing and eating. The island also houses various museums, including the Modern Museum. The terrace of Skeppsholmens hotel is very relaxing for a glass of rose wine.

9) Fjäderholmarna. Take a 20 minute boat ride from Slussen to the islands of Fjäderholmarna. Swim, sunbathe and enjoy something to eat and drink. A ‘day trip’ that doesn’t feel like it’s miles away.

10) Gamla Stan. If staying urban is your thing, then head for the Old Town. Full of shops, eateries, historic buildings, narrow alleyways, this part of town still has its fair share of sun traps and access to water. Restaurants on the harbour side have lovely views over the water and the city’s boat life.

10 musts in Summer Stockholm 

Thinking of visiting Stockholm this summer? For me, Stockholm in the summer is very much about relaxing, sunbathing, swimming and enjoying good food and drinks. As a resident of over 20 years, here are my top ten musts. Enjoy!

1) The Southside of Söder. Take the underground to Skanstull and walk down to the water’s edge. Walk along the lakeside all the way to Hornstull. This is a favourite walk for Stockholmers, which takes you past boatyards, cosy cafes, cute allotments, beaches, bathing jetties and apartments.

2) Golfbaren. Take the underground to Kristineberg and go to the mini golf course called Golfbaren. Practice your putting while drinking wine.

3) Djurgården. Stockholm’s museum island is well worth a visit. Full of parks, interesting museums, restaurants, beaches, a zoo, grand houses, a fairground, amongst other things. Lovely to visit specific places or just go for a walk. One tip is to head left after crossing the bridge and go to Rosenlunds nurseries and garden cafe.

4) Mälarpaviljongen. On the water’s edge on the island of Kungsholmen, this is a floating bar lounge. It’s a Stockholm favourite with nice food, relaxing surroundings and cool house music. The pretty walk from Rålhomshovs park to the city hall goes past this venue. Reach by taking the underground to Rådhuset or Fridhemsplan.

5) Långholmen prison island. Once housing a prison, this island is now a perfect place for a stroll and a bite to eat. It is also a great place for bathing from one of its many beaches and water access points. Also a walk from here over the large bridge, Västerbron, gives commanding views of the city. Reach Långholmen by taking the underground to Hornstull.

6) Stockholm Archipelago. Take a boat ride out to the archipelago. Amongst the thousands of islands, there are opportunities to disembark and eat, drink, sunbathe, swim and relax. If you don’t want to get off the boat, book a table at the boat’s restaurant and enjoy a great meal as the islands slip gracefully past.

7) Champagne terrace. Take the underground to Slussen and walk up to Söder Theater. At the top of the theatre there is a champagne bar with an amazing terrace and a spectacular view over the whole of Stockholm. Stand here on a warm summer’s evening drinking in the sights.

8) Skeppsholmen. In the middle of Stockholm harbour lies the island of Skeppsholmen. Perfect for a walk by the water’s edge or bathing and eating. The island also houses various museums, including the Modern Museum. The terrace of Skeppsholmens hotel is very relaxing for a glass of rose wine.

9) Fjäderholmarna. Take a 20 minute boat ride from Slussen to the islands of Fjäderholmarna. Swim, sunbathe and enjoy something to eat and drink. A ‘day trip’ that doesn’t feel like it’s miles away.

10) Gamla Stan. If staying urban is your thing, then head for the Old Town. Full of shops, eateries, historic buildings, narrow alleyways, this part of town still has its fair share of sun traps and access to water. Restaurants on the harbour side have lovely views over the water and the city’s boat life.

Swedes! Where’s your barbecue?!

DST_Countries_Map

This weekend in Sweden, the clocks went forward one hour to Summer Time. Despite the occasional complainer who moans about losing an hour’s sleep, this is usually received very positively in the country. Suddenly,  the light at 6pm becomes the light at 7pm. People are happier, daylight is longer, people venture outside to enjoy the burgeoning spring.

So why do we do this? There are clear benefits, but where does it come from? The practice was first initiated during World War I to give more light for agriculture and other important societal functions. However it was abandoned shortly afterwards, only to come back during World War II.

It was never very popular and by the 1950’s it had again been cancelled. However come the 1960’s, it was reintroduced in many countries due to the energy crisis – the lighter evenings required less electricity.  In 1981, the EU legislated Summer Time in Europe requiring member states to decide particular start and end dates for Summer Time which varies in the different countries.

In Sweden, Summer Time was originally introduced on 15 May 1916 but then took it away. In 1980, Summer Time has been observed every summer in Sweden starting on the last Sunday in March and ending on the last Sunday in October.

In Europe, there are 4 countries that do not switch to and from summer time. They are Belarus, Russia, Iceland and, since 2016, Turkey.

Around the world, there are various countries observing the switch. In USA, they refer to this as ‘Daylight saving time’ but it is not used in all states. In the picture above, blue and orange represent the countries that switch to and from summer time (nothern hemisphere summer and southern hemisphere summer). Dark grey have never used daylight saving time and light grey have formally used daylight saving time.

Remembering when to turn the clocks back and forward is sometimes a challenge to remember. In English, the saying ‘Spring forward, Fall back’ was developed to help jog people’s memories. Even the expression ‘March forward’ is used as a reminder.

So what do they say in Swedish? Well, they refer to the popular summer activity of barbecuing. Many Swedes who live in houses, or have a summer house, own a barbecue. In the summer they use it, and in the winter it is safely kept in storage.

So the Summer Time saying?

‘In spring we put forward (English: out) the barbecue, in the autumn we put back the barbecue’.