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’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swedish foot fetish 


Sweden’s winters are long, dark and cold. To compensate for this many Swedes leave these icy shores and head off to warmer climes for a week or two. They top up their tan, get a boost of sunlight and fill up their vitamin D. Somebody once said to me that a week abroad in the winter is almost a human right for a Swede. Of course, that’s rather extreme, but some time away certainly does provide renewed energy as the seasons shift slowly from winter to early spring. 
And for many people, me included,  it’s not enough to just slip away discretely. Today’s public sphere of social media means that images of the sun fill our phones on a daily basis. It’s not enough to go away. We also need to let everybody know what a great time we’re having in the wonderful heat while friends at home are enduring the bitter winter weather. For some, seeing this is fun, for others irritating. 

This week alone, which is Swedish sport break for Stockholm schools, my feed has been full of sunny pictures. Of beaches. And golf courses. And long drinks. 

And also full of Swedish feet. Lots and lots of feet. Never mind the selfie, the footsie is all the rage. Never mind the beach, this is proof that I am here! The footsie is not a new concept, in fact it’s rather cliched and ironic nowadays. A quick look at Trip Advisor and you can see the massive amount of feet pictures uploaded there. And they seem to cause a bit of heated debate. One reviewer writes: 

I have to say .. 98% of the feet pictures are disgusting! There are very few truly attractive feet (men or women) People don’t take into account that we all don’t see your piggly wigglies with the same eye. Whether barefoot, or fabulously painted, tattooed or the shoe/sandal is to die for .. I simply don’t want to them. Leave the foot photography to professionals who know how to make a foot beautiful.’ 

And somebody else writes in defence:

‘I would never apologize for a foot pic. For me, none are meant to offend or tread on boundaries of good taste. For me it is almost like a bit of freedom. Living where I do, a person wears socks and shoes most all the time…summer is short… winter feels SUFFOCATING. When I have the chance to shed my socks and shoes…esp WINTER shoes… and feel the soles of my feet on warm earth…and my toes digging into warm sand… well… some of my fav pics in deep winter are memories from a beach where I was able to let my feet (and me) be free. To post such might just be a way of expressing how free and happy a person felt. It is a unique expression of what made them happy. Thank god the internet is fast now and you can click right on by. We are all unique. ‘ 

So it seems like Swedes are not the only ones with ‘foot fetishes’ on Facebook and other social media. And it seems like from the hot beach, the footsie has become a hot topic which leaves some people, well, hot under the collar! 

What do you think about the footsie trend? Let me know in the comments below. 

10 Swedish ways to describe this summer 

  
So far, this is one of the rainiest and coldest Swedish summers on record. Scanning Facebook and other media, I’ve come up with the top 10 Swedish ways to describe this usually happy season: 

1) Pissväder ( pissy weather)

2) Sommar-ångest (Summer anxiety)

3) Höstlikt (similar to autumn)

4) Sommar?? (Is this really summer??)

5) Trött på detta (sick of this)

6) Äntligen sol! (Finally – sun!)

7) Vafaan!? (What the hell!?)

8) Regn, regn, regn (rain, rain, rain)

9) Sjuktkallt (extremely cold)

10) Semesterbubbel (holiday bubbly)

Top 12 Swedish Summer Songs

  Yesterday I wrote about Thomas Ledin’s ‘Sommaren är kort’ and it got me thinking about other Swedish summer songs. So here’s my top twelve. And, as I hate Thomas Ledin’s song, it doesn’t even make the list. 

12: ‘Sommarnatt’ (Summer night) by Snowstorm. A song in which the singer ‘cruises along through the darkness in his giant machine.’ Classic uncomplicated Swedish lyrics. 

11: ‘Sommarsången’ (Summer song) by Siv Malmkvist. With lyrics like ‘and I want to sing that butterflies are good’, it just has to make the list. 

10: ‘Ta mig till havet’ (Take me to the sea) by Peter Lindblad. ‘The sand is moist, and the woman is young, crazy of longing am I’. Swedish summer sin at its best. 

9: ‘Sommar, sommar, sommar’ by Sten Carlberg is a little ditty that is synonymous with Sweden’s popular radio program ‘Summer on P1’. Summer is about ‘sun and blue skies’ but it slowly dissipates like a dream. 

8: ‘Midsommarnatt’ ( Midsummer’s Night) by Eddy Meduza. Dance band summer to which we ‘dance the whole night long’. 

7. ‘Sol, Vind och Vatten’ (Sun, wind and water) by Ted Gärdestad. An elementary song about tanned legs, high mountains and harbouring secret romantic longing. 

6: ‘Magaluf’ by Orup transports us to the tacky Spanish coast and sings of parties, alcohol and seagulls laughing until they are hoarse. 

5: ‘Our last summer’ by Abba. No list of Swedish music is complete without one of theirs. This one takes us to Paris and romantic walks along the Seine with boring banker Harry. 

4. ‘Så skimrande var aldrig havet’ by Evert Taube, sung by Lill Lindfors. (The sea was never this glistening). A fantastic romantic song by folk legend Taube about summer’s, and maybe life’s, first kiss. ‘The sea was never this glistening, nor the beach this liberating. The fields, the meadows and the trees were never this beautiful, nor did the flowers smell so sweet’. 

3: ‘Sommar’ by Kayo. A jazzy mellow song about the loss of summer with the loss of love – ‘there’ll never be a summer, there’ll never be sunshine, or jetties or mosquitoes – not without you.’ 

2: ‘Sommarkort’ (Summer picture) by Cornelis Vreejsvik. My favorite Cornelis song which captures summer in a melodious song – ‘let’s take a picture of children in the summertime as they dance – a moment on Earth’. 

1. ‘Summer sun’ by Koop. Rhythmic and cool, this song transports you to beach parties drinking rose wine and feeling the light breeze of summer – ‘Midsummer sun your love’s divine, never before have I met your kind.’

The Short Swedish Summer

  
In Sweden there’s a series of classic songs that are strongly related to the summer. One of these songs, I have always hated. It’s by an aging pop star called Thomas Ledin. I fear his summer song may be coming true this year. 

This year, we’ve had the rainiest May and June in human memory. We had a heat wave of 5 days at the beginning of July. And today? It’s 14 degrees and raining again. So much for summer. Maybe that was it last week, flashing by in the blink of an eye. 

So what is Thomas Ledin’s song? In Swedish it goes ‘sommaren är kort, det mesta regnar bort’ which translates as ‘summer is short, most of it just rains away.’

Art meets life in an annoying, but this year truthful, summer melody.