The Local Experience: Sweden

The the country of ABBA, IKEA, H&M, Pippi Longstocking, Lingonberries and so much more!

In this article I will let you in on some facts about Sweden that you might not know about, some of the reasons why I miss my country, and what to look for if you plan a trip there that might not be in the traditional tourist guides. First we have the fact that Swedes have a sweet tooth. As an example, the average Swede eats cakes and pastries equivalent to 316 cinnamon buns per year, plus the home-baked ones.

Our desire for cakes and pastry probably explains why we Swedes hold on so tightly to our beloved Fika, one of the Swedish traditions I really miss while working in Poland. If you have not heard about Fika before, it’s basically a coffee break that’s more about socializing than drinking coffee. It’s much more than having a coffee! It is a social phenomenon, a legitimate reason to set aside a moment for quality time. Fika can happen at any time, at home, at work or in a café. It can be with colleagues, family, friends, or someone you are trying to get to know. It is a tradition observed frequently, preferably several times a day and accompanying sweets are crucial. If you want to hang out with Swedes, invite them for a Fika and you are in! Continuing on the topic of sweets, the average Swedish family, with two adults and two children, eats 1.2 kilos of sweets per week. In order to prevent tooth decay the Medical Board suggested in the 50’s that we should only eat sweets once a week. This recommendation is still today an unwritten rule that many families stick to, especially if you have children, and therefore we have something called Lördagsgodis (Saturday sweets). It can be any kind of sweets but usually it is candy sold in pieces that you mix in big bags. Luckily for me you can find some of it in the Swedish shop in IKEA Kraków, but if you want the real deal I suggest a one hour flight up north!

Another fact about Sweden that you probably don’t know about (and to be honest I didn’t either until I moved abroad) is that we make delicious cheese. I’m mainly referring to cheese that you slice and have on sandwiches, but all other cheeses are yummy too! Swedish cheese is for sure number 1 on my list about things I miss. It ́s  THE item that everyone that comes visiting must bring me.

Another “must have” while visiting Sweden is the Räksmörgås (Shrimp toast). You can find it all over the country but if you are in Gothenburg you cannot miss out on it, the restaurants there take pride in making the biggest and most delicious ones and the competition is rock hard!

Despite of all talk above of sweets Sweden ranks first in the EU in consumption of organic foods. We also get the highest share of its energy from renewable sources and lead the way in recycling drinks cans and bottles and we are going towards zero waste. Swedes recycle nearly 100 per cent of their household waste. We even have to import waste to have something to burn, to turn waste into energy! So we do take our environment and sustainability serious and if you visit Sweden I’m pretty sure you will appreciate our beautiful country with fresh air, high mountains in the north, open landscapes in the south and a big part of the country covered in woods and access to beaches. Can you even imagine that 97% of Sweden is uninhabited? This means there’s a lot of nature to preserve, and national parks and nature reserves cover a tenth of the country’s land area. Below I give you a few tips on where to stay if you want to be close to the nature:

Hotel Utter Inn, an underwater hotel with panorama windows to the underwater world.

The Treehotel, six customized tree houses spread out in a forest.

The Mine Suite of Sala Silver Mine, the world’s the highest standing deepest hotel room

The Kullen Lighthouse, lighthouse in Sweden and a one-room hotel.

The Icehotel, great spot for experiencing the Northern Lights as well.

Kolarbyn Ecolodge, cabins covered in mud and grass, blueberries and mushrooms.

When you go to visit Sweden, try to do it when we celebrate some traditions that are typical for my country. If you are lucky you might get invited to celebrate with us.

Midsummer is celebrated in other countries too but I think it’s fair to say that Swedes make the best of this day and it is the most typically Swedish tradition of all. Midsummer is celebrated in June when the sun never sets (or almost never sets depending on where in the country you are) and it’s a party that starts in the day and lasts all night. You celebrate in the countryside and if you are unlucky to be stuck in the city this day you will likely feel as you are in a ghost town. In short Midsummer is all about spending time with family and and friends. Girls start the day by picking flowers to have on their head and under their pillow at night (it ́s believed it will make you dream of your husband to be) and some flower goes to the Maypole that you later will make more or less suspicious dances around (for example jumping like a frog!). You will probably also eat way too much food with different herrings in main focus and drink a few too many schnapps and sing a few too many drinking songs and play silly games. The party continues late and a common scene when it gets a bit darker is that you gather around a fire and someone picks out the guitar. And oh, this is also the night when most babies are conceived 😉

Crayfish Parties are very popular in August when the nights are warm. All you need is some friends, a heap of freshly boiled crayfish, some beer and schnapps and a selection of silly drinking songs. Basically the same ingredients we use when we celebrate Midsummer but we but we change the herrings for crayfish 😉

The annual candlelit Lucia procession on 13 December is perhaps one of the more exotic-looking Swedish customs, with girls and boys clad in white full-length gowns singing songs together. Be prepared to get up early in the morning when it’s still black dark if you want to see this live. Lucia procession takes place all around from the city center to kindergartens and this a very much
appreciated tradition among children. And of course, in the children’s Lucia procession at kindergartens
everyone gets to be the Lucia if they want 😉

If you want to take a weekend in Sweden Ryan Air just started flying twice a week to my home town Malmö from Balice Airport. Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden with around 300 000 habitants. My city is famous for our beautiful parks and the Copacabana of Sweden, Ribban, a 2.5 kilometer beach only a 5 minutes bike ride from the city center. And speaking of biking I totally recommend you to rent a bicycle, we probably have more bicycle lanes than car lanes so it’s very easy to get around on a bike. If you fancy fine dining Malmö can offer a few Michelin starred restaurants but on a bit lower scale you can find good food from all around the world due to the fact that Malmö is such a multicultural city. And last but not least, Copenhagen is just a 30 minute train ride away if you want to visit another Scandinavian country while you are on it!

By Linda Persson Fras

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