• Sweden edition
 
Graduation Week
'Pretend to be sober for granny' and other secrets
Swedish high-school students. File photo: Elodie Pradet/TL

'Pretend to be sober for granny' and other secrets

Published: 28 May 2014 09:50 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 May 2014 09:50 GMT+02:00

The sight of young Swedes throwing off their inhibitions with wild abandon and travelling around Sweden’s usually sedate towns in a most uncommon attention-seeking and rowdy manner, on the backs of cattle trucks and wearing sailor hats, means it is Graduation Week.

This drunken sailor-like debauchery is how the Swedish student celebrates surviving three years of high school. But after the public revelry comes the private family party. Having gone to five of these last year, I now feel huge sympathy for the graduates. But I also finally learned how to get a Swedish conversation going.

The “studentmottagningar” or student receptions start when the graduate comes home plastered from the afternoon’s cattle truck tomfoolery. And should they be too drunk to find their house they will see a large photo of themself taken when they were three-years-old, stuck on a stake in the driveway.

IN PICTURES: Swedish high-school students graduate

Awaiting the graduates’ return is a house full of aunts, uncles and grandparents who cheer as the poor wasted 19-year-old arrives. The students at this stage look likely to vomit and so, and I saw this happen five times, are rushed by mum or dad to the shower to clear away the stale beer covering them and in order to try and sober up a bit for granny.

Meanwhile the extended family, most of whom haven’t seen each other for a year, say hello to each other. And the enthusiasm with which the Swedes introduce themselves is impressive. It seems an essential part of a party that everyone will introduce themselves to everyone else there.

The Swedes are not, however, brilliant at small talk. And so this eager introduction, which usually only consists of a first name being offered up, leaves you still not really knowing who the person is. A firm handshake will be followed by a pregnant pause, turning into an awkward silence.

Once the graduate comes back from the bathroom with soaking wet hair and still looking pretty dazed, the songs and speeches begin, which I now know are a common feature at every type of Swedish party. These tend to annoyingly start just as I have surmounted the very difficult small talk stage with someone and am entering into a half decent conversation. But instant silence is now suddenly decreed and the conversation is killed dead.

The wobbly graduate must, like everyone else, listen in an extremely attentive manner to what are always very long and very formal speeches.

Next comes the public present opening ceremony. This, which is also a feature of Swedish birthday parties, is a ghastly period for everyone concerned as all the guests watch very quietly and politely as the receiver carefully opens each gift. Everyone therefore gets to see exactly what everyone else has bought, so you better get it right! And the receiver has no choice but to put on a big smile, express enthusiastic gratitude and seek out the buyer of the gift and give them a hug.

Not only does this go on forever, it is completely devoid of sincerity.

Next up is the buffet, where each person seems to stick close to who they came with, before finding a polite time to finally leave and free the graduate to go back out with his or her friends and get more drunk, which is well deserved after such a painful couple of hours.

Now the funny thing is, and I have since last year seen this played out time and time again, the Swedes who have barely spoken to you all night, at the point you say goodbye suddenly get all talkative, and it becomes quite impossible to leave. Especially as, like when you arrive and have to say hello to everyone, you also have to say goodbye to everyone, whether you have spoken to them or not.

I have had far longer and more interesting conversations with Swedes after saying goodbye to them than in the two hours of awkward silence that has taken place since I said hello.

We only have three graduation parties to go to this year. But at least now I am prepared and know what to expect. I am actually looking forward to them. I know what to do to get the conversation going. Say I can only stay ten minutes so I might as well say goodbye as I say hello. I still feel sorry for the graduate though.

Danny Chapman hails from London and works as a freelance writer and editor in Stockholm.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Stockholm 'Russian sub' alert
Search for foreign vessel continues off Stockholm
Minehunter HMS Koster takes part in the search in the Stockholm archipelago on Sunday. Photo: Marko Säävälä/TT

Search for foreign vessel continues off Stockholm

Sweden's armed forces were continuing to search for the cause of apparent "foreign underwater activity" in the Stockholm Archipelago on Monday. But the military denied news agency reports that they had imposed an exclusion zone. READ  

Ebola crisis
Sweden hit by two Ebola false alarms in two days
The Uppsala University Hospital. Photo: TT

Sweden hit by two Ebola false alarms in two days

UPDATED: A patient has been cleared of any Ebola suspicions at the Uppsala University Hospital. It marks the second suspected case in Sweden in two days. READ  

Perspective: ‘Russian sub’ alert
Why a foreign vessel lurks in Swedish waters
The HMS Stockholm patrols Jungfrufjärden in the Stockholm archipelago on Monday morning. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Why a foreign vessel lurks in Swedish waters

With Sweden engaged in its biggest domestic military operation since the Cold War, The Local spoke to Johan Wiktorin, a fellow at the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences, to get insight into what’s going on in the Stockholm archipelago. READ  

My Swedish Career
US woman starts up Swedish toy store online
Leigh Neil and a llama hand puppet. Photo: Private

US woman starts up Swedish toy store online

For this week's My Swedish Career we meet Leigh Neil, who one day came to realize that there was a gap in the Swedish market for children's toys and decided to do something about it. READ  

Stockholm 'Russian sub' alert
No truth to Russia's submarine claim: Dutch
A CB90-class fast assault craft at Kullbäling, a small island in Stockholm's archipelago. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

No truth to Russia's submarine claim: Dutch

The Netherlands on Monday denied a Russian claim that a mystery vessel the Swedish military has been looking for could be Dutch. READ  

Lufthansa Strike
Over 20 Swedish flights hit by Lufthansa strike
Grounded Lufthansa planes. Photo: TT

Over 20 Swedish flights hit by Lufthansa strike

A strike by pilots at German airline Lufthansa will affect over 20 flights in and out of Sweden over the next two days. READ  

National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Photo: Shutterstock

Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars

A dentist in western Sweden is offering free dental care to his town's Roma begging population. READ  

Business & Money
Electrolux profit soars after cost-cutting efforts
Photo: TT

Electrolux profit soars after cost-cutting efforts

Swedish electrical appliance maker Electrolux reported its third-quarter net profit soared 42 percent to 933 million kronor ($130 million) thanks to a cost-cutting programme started at the end of last year. READ  

National
School photographer fired for homophobic slur
Photo credit: Shutterstock

School photographer fired for homophobic slur

A photographer at a high school in southern Sweden was sacked after he called one of the students a "fag" during a shoot. READ  

Ebola crisis
Patient in isolation after airport Ebola alert

Patient in isolation after airport Ebola alert

A male passenger who landed at Stockholm's Arlanda airport has been transferred to an isolation unit amid fears he may be suffering from the Ebola virus. But a specialist was keen to play down concerns. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
National
Sweden deploys troops over underwater threat
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Blog updates

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 

17 October

Editor’s Blog, Oct 17th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Here’s the whole week of news in just 60 seconds. The most-read story was about a..." READ »

 
 
 
National
A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Lifestyle
Sweden's The Bridge to become 'more Danish'
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
National
What's on in Sweden
National
Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' protection
Society
Interview with Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Gallery
Stefan Löfven through the years
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

987
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN