Share your culture

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uppladdat: 2008-02-11
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Hi [my friend in New York City],

I can’t believe you’re finally going to visit me. You asked me to provide a description of Sweden including climate and culture, and also what plans I’ve got for your stay (did I sense a trace of anxiety there..?), and what you''''ll need to bring. It took me a while to put it together, but till last, here you go!

As you can see on any map, Sweden is way up north; in quite the same latitude as Siberia where temperatures as low as -70C have been measured. But before you call the airline to annul your booking, let me assure you I''''ve never experienced such cold weather in Sweden; the most bitterly cold winters during my lifetime peaked at -35C, and that''''s extreme. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, crossing the Atlantic with its warm water, the climate here is milder than the latitude might tell you. But don’t listen too much to me at this point, as Swedes tend to consider their climate to be ‘normal’ while foreign tourist are suffering in what to them is extremely cold weather…

The northern location gives the country something else but cold winters, something often mentioned in our tourist brochures; the midnight sun. Annoyed tourists are often whining about how the hell they’re supposed to get any sleep when the actual ‘night’ with the sun below the horizon only lasts for an hour or so. However, this phenomenon only occurs during the summer, so it’s nothing you have to worry about. I just told you because it’s something you''''ll get to hear too much about all through your stay, not at least from my parents.

Another thing my parents will make sure to inform you properly about is the Swedish food, especially the ancient and most disgusting kinds which young people not commonly eat. Most known of these is perhaps the ‘Surströmming’, which could be translated as fermented herring, with its terrible stink. And believe me, when saying terrible; I’m not exaggerating! It removes my appetite in one blow. My parents, on the other hand, love the Swedish dishes and my mother, with her roots in Lapland, has brought our family the Sámi gastronomy which my father has come to adore. In case you didn’t know, the Sámi people are reindeer keepers and therefore, the Sámi dishes are simply different ways of making food of a reindeer. Last year I accommodated a French exchange student, Céline, and on the day of her departure my father proudly presented the reindeer sausages he wanted her to bring home to France. These sausages were flavoured with very hot spices, and to ensure Céline about this my father announced: "here we’ve got the very, very hot dogs!"

Other, a bit more tastier Swedish dishes are for example the family pizza; a huge pizza that offers a proper dinner for at least 4 persons and isn’t as far as I know available outside of Sweden; the meatballs; I’ve heard they aren''''t actually Swedish but are often said to be; and the pitepalt; sloppy lumps of grated potatoes and wheat bran which I am brainwashed to like. Pitepalt comes from my region and isn’t usual outside of it, but a food culture people all around the country of Sweden have in common is the alcohol culture. You should’ve heard about the Absolut Vodka as it seems to be what people abroad associate with Sweden, although vodka is far from the most frequently consumed drink in Sweden. No, Swedes drink many different kinds of alcohol for many different reasons, and in lack of reasons, we simply come up with a new tradition.

Just like in most Christian cultures we celebrate Christmas and Easter, but if you think most people in Sweden do this in the memory of Jesus’ birth or something you’re pretty wrong. The most of us view these traditions as something that gives us holidays, presents, foods, sweets and, of course, a reason to get drunk. This getting-drunk thing returns when talking about any of our traditions; the celebration of Walpurgis on the last day of April allows people to drink alcohol and light fires while the Celebration of Midsummer’s Eve forces make drunken grown-ups dance around a flower-decorated pole pretending to be frogs. Sounds totally weird? Sure, it is, that’s why the adolescences usually limit their celebrations to only getting drunk.

But if I’ve now given you the image of Swedes as a very drinking and partying people, I have to excuse myself for that (we’ll never beat our dear neighbour Denmark at that point anyway). No, quite on the contrary, Swedes are known for always acting with a lot of moderation; we’ve got this unique expression ‘lagom’ which means something like ‘not to much, not to less’. This moderation is often described as something negative, kind of a limit, but I don’t quite agree. If something isn’t awesome, why call it awesome; when something isn’t crappy, why call it crappy? People can’t know what really is awesome or crappy when everything is said to be that, can they? Another rumour about Swedes is saying we are introvert and rejecting against strangers. That might be true, but generally it has nothing to do with racism. We’re just a bit shy, that’s it; and honestly I don’t miss talking to strangers on the bus. Besides I can’t believe people in all other countries to be as extrovert and talkative as these rumours tend to give the impression of.

I hope I’ve included most of what you wanted to know about our culture, as I’m now going to skip to the topic of what we’re going to do during your stay. As you probably know you’ll arrive at Arlanda, the airport of the Swedish capital Stockholm. I’ll be there and pick you up so you’ll get the chance to see Stockholm before going to my home town. Two relatives of mine who live in Stockholm; two very old but all hale and hearty ladies; will accommodate us for two days and an express-sightseeing in the city with me as your guide.

The cheapest way of getting from Stockholm to my home town, Boden, is also the one I like the best as it is environmental friendly; the train. It takes about twelve hours, departs in the evening and arrives the following morning in the microscopic town of Boden. I haven’t really planned your stay any further as you perhaps have got any wishes yourself; however, I’m going to present some suggestions.

It might seem obvious; I’m telling you just to make sure you know; that you can’t simply go home after a winter trip to the north of Sweden without having experienced any snow-activities. Personally I like downhill skiing and if you’d like to give it a try, I’m sure my friends and I could bring you to the middle-sized slope of Storklinten and teach you the basics of either slalom or snowboard. You might also find fascination in the speed of a snowmobile; I am a coward when it comes to driving fast but my brothers are obsessed with it… The most common place to drive the snowmobile is frozen lakes, where no obstacles might come in one’s way and slow down the speed.

If you can put up with a couple of hours journey by car, we could go to Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel. That’s where tourists go to see (and live in) something as exotic as natural ice in huge amounts; ice sculptures, made by artists from all over the world, are made especially to decorate the luxury suites of the hotel. A night there is more expensive than most people can afford whereas the price of a one-day’s visit is quite reasonable. I went there last year with the French exchange student whom I mentioned earlier, and she was really impressed by it.

Although you live in a city where you can buy more or less anything, you might enjoy some shopping in either Stockholm or Luleå. Luleå is bigger, or shall I say less microscopic, than Boden and situated a half an hour away from here (in these sparsely populated parts of the world we don’t actually speak of distances...

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Inactive member [2008-02-11]   Share your culture
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=9227 [2019-10-16]

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