By now I am guessing that all my non-scandinavian Facebook friends, those who have not un-followed me yet (and I hope this did not give you the idea to do so although I understand that my obsession with posting on Facebook could get quite annoying at times), definitely know what “Midsommar” is, or at least that there is some kind of celebration happening here up north at this time of the year which includes wearing colourful flower crowns and drinking Snaps.
For the record, I am fully aware that my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook posts of the last few days were excessively all about the celebrations here in Stockholm and all the traditions which surround this holiday but I really could not help it. The reason is that it is a really big thing here and for me, being new to this world, it is obviously even bigger.
Everyone’s plans for last Friday, called Midsommarafton (which literally means Midsummer’s eve and is followed by Midsommardagen (day) when the entire population of Sweden stays home recovering from the hangover), was the big talk of the week.
My plans, together with Giulia who was visiting from London for four unforgettable days, were to join a party at a cottage in an area outside the city of Stockholm called Värmdö (still actually part of the capital’s municipality but immersed in a forest like 99% of this country) hosted by a friend of my old manager from Starbucks I met in central Stockholm last week (tack för festen, Alexander!).
It was an amazing day and a completely new tradition for me to celebrate. The idea of an all-day party on the longest day of the year, when the sun technically sets a few minutes after 10pm but the sky stays bright till it rises again early the next day, is very new to me as in Italy there is no massive change between the amount of light we get in the winter and in the summer so this kind of tradition never really developed. However I did experience the darkness of the winter days here in Sweden last winter for a few days (and in England for the past 2 years where it is not that different) and I fully understand why the long summer days are widely celebrated across the north!
The party on Friday lasted all day and “night”. It all started with a tasteful BBQ with amazing salmon and home-made potato salad, followed by traditional Swedish Snap shots; “they’re absolutely disgusting but a tradition is a tradition, so skål (cheers)!” is what one of the guests told me. I was then introduced to a new game called Kubb, a tradition that comes all the way from the good old Vikings, which we all played in teams in a nearby golf course. I am not going to explain all the procedures of the game – you can Google it if you feel like you’re into it. I’m just going to underline that it was loads of fun (and – yes – my team did win). Eventually, we enjoyed the late sunset over the lake (or sea, I’m not quite sure) and had some final desserts. The heavy drinking was constant during the whole celebration, from the beginning to the end.
Celebrating Midsommar with Swedes was great for my whole nordic experience I have been going on about in the past posts. I am therefore fully satisfied.
But apart from this, I am also extremely proud of myself for the amount of times I have managed to communicate fully in Swedish in certain situations. I am now able to order coffee (very simple orders with no questions in the middle) or hold small (very small) talks. It could get classically awkward when I do not understand the answer of the person I am trying to make conversation with, and believe me it did happen; but Swedes, at least the ones I have talked to so far, are happy when you show the effort that you are trying to learn their language. And I can imagine why.
Throughout the year I have been asked many times the reason why I am studying Swedish. Yes, it rationally makes no sense at all; everyone speaks english here and there are way more relevant languages I could learn to enrich my knowledge together with my CV.
“What? Swedish?”, “Swedish is useless”, “Learn German!”, “Wtf?” are the recurring reactions.
But, despite the fact that I did think about how useful learning Swedish would turn out to be when I enrolled to the language course at King’s College last September, I thought “why not?”.
Life would be pretty boring if everything we do is necessarily for some practical end. It is important that we allow ourselves to dedicate some time to what we like to do most, although it may not be considered something that will automatically change our life or assure us our dream job (although it could – you never know). So I considered learning Swedish as an extra language as my weekly hobby, a personal passion; and now that I am starting to see the results, I do feel very proud of my little accomplishments.
So, my Stockholm experience is almost coming to an end as I will be heading to Norway on Friday! I am off to the land of the fjords before heading back to the Mediterranean for a few weeks. After that I will be experiencing the real true north with my planned road trip in Iceland – things are getting even more exciting here!
For now here’s a nice song by a Swedish duo called “First Aid Kit”! Hej då (bye) from Stockholm once again!