Strange & Delightful Impressions of Sweden

Morley Swedish student Rose O’Sullivan shares her impressions of the cultural traditions of Sweden. This article forms a part of our Swedish Language of the Month.

Most delightful…

Truly delightful was the experience of going to a nearby forest and cutting down our own fir tree the day before Jul or Christmas which for Swedes is celebrated on Christmas Eve, 24th December. The tradition is to put up the family tree on the 23rd, the very last day before festivities begin. Then the tree and other decorations can stay up until late in January without any fear of bringing bad luck on the house by going past the 6th January/Twelfth Day of Christmas.

Delightful…

I’ve had two summer visits and although it might seem a cliché I did find it delightful to be guided through forests to visit secret places where chanterelles (kantereller) and other delicious wild mushrooms could be found – collecting on the way various lovely berries: blueberries, cloudberries and wild strawberries or raspberries amongst many. Even better to be able to go by bike from house to forest. 

Most strange…

Most strange to British eyes is perhaps the Systembolaget – a system by which alcohol is only available for buying in a government-run shop with restricted opening hours: weekdays 9-18:00, Saturday 10-15:00hrs, closed Sundays and national holidays. Systembolaget’s mandate from the Swedish state is to help limit the medical and social harm caused by alcohol and thereby improve public health.

Quite strange…

Christmas decoration involves a strange uniformity and quietness in that everybody has to display the same Christmas lights (electric candles and stars) in their windows, and these have to be plain, not coloured lights. Curtains have to be drawn back as a gesture of openness and friendliness.

A bit strange…

There’s a certain unabashed repetition of menus. One thing that doesn’t suit me is having what I regard as lunch for breakfast – cheeses galore, salad, pickles – all brought out again for lunch, though often with additional dishes.

Strange but also sensible…

There are many ‘rules’ for social behaviour which make convivial occasions run on well-prepared lines. One that struck me was the rule about the serving pecking-order either at seated or buffet meals. Basically, as a mark of respect to guests, what I call ‘the most guest guest’ should be served, or serve themselves, first.

Morley Swedish student Rose O’Sullivan shares her impressions of the cultural traditions of Sweden. This article forms a part of our Swedish Language of the Month.


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