• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Pretend to be sober for granny' and other secrets

The Local · 28 May 2014, 09:50

Published: 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.

Story continues below…

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
Swedish police backtrack on 'gunfight' claims
The scene of the shooting on June 22nd. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Police have retracted a claim that a suspected gunman had fired shots at a patrol unit before officers shot him dead.

Crayfish poachers send Swedes' blood boiling
Has anyone seen this crayfish? Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Oh no, not just before crayfish season!

Police hunt suspected gunman, 22, in Malmö
Rosengård Centrum. Photo: Simon Paulin/SvD/TT

Malmö police are looking for a 22-year-old suspect in connection with a shooting at a shopping centre in Rosengård.

Really old stinky cheese found on royal Swedish shipwreck
A diamond ring, the stinky cheese and gold coins. Photo: Lars Einarsson/Kalmar County Museum

Swedish scientists have discovered what is believed to be 340-year-old cheese on board a 17th century shipwreck.

Man charged with groping girls at kids' football cup
The accused in court. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

A 36-year-old sports manager whose team was sent home from Sweden after he was accused of groping three teenage girls at an international children's football tournament now faces trial.

Concern over barrage of fake Russian news in Sweden
The Russian propaganda site Sputnik News

Sweden is being subjected to constant disinformation campaigns by Russia and Isis, according to authorities.

'Let refugees go to uni while they wait': demand
A student at Stockholm University. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Asylum seekers in Sweden should be allowed to start university studies while they are waiting for decisions on their cases, it has been proposed.

The Local List
Ten Swedish phrases you only hear in summer
Let's work on that tan. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Summer always leaves foreigners baffled by Swedes' unique seasonal habits. Here's The Local's guide to navigating small talk when the sun comes out.

So Sweden has high taxes? Not as high as you might think
A taxpayer hands in their tax declaration. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

So you think Swedes pay a lot in tax? Others pay much more, according to a new study.

Man injured in shooting at Malmö shopping mall
Rosengård Centrum in Malmö. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

Police cordoned off an area around a shopping centre in Malmö after a man was shot on Tuesday afternoon.

Sponsored Article
What can newcomers learn about Sweden at Almedalen?
Politics
Why Sweden's high taxes are not as high as you think
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
National
What's haggis in a condom doing on Swedish children's TV?
National
Meet the northern Swede who is the world's best mosquito killer
Blog updates

26 July

A summer of change; a summer of beauty (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"You would have had to try hard to miss the political upheavals in the UK after…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
National
Sweden's Hollywood star Alicia Vikander puts her pen in the bottle
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: Where Swedes go to work (and play)
Gallery
People-watching: July 22nd-24th
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
National
Watch this Swedish weather host leave his fly open... on live TV
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
The Local Voices
'I fled war in Syria. I never expected to be beaten in Sweden'
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
WATCH: Asylum seeker brutally beaten by Swedish bus driver
Technology
Why everyone is talking about Sweden's GTA pride parade
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
EU hits truck cartel with record price fixing fine
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
OPINION: Why Sweden is the most extreme country in the world
The Local Voices
'There is equality in accommodation in Sweden: Everyone is suffering'
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
Gallery
Property of the week: Gräsö, Östhammar
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th-17th
National
How to make sure you're not caught out by Sweden's old bank notes
Sponsored Article
Local guide: the best of Berlin
Business & Money
Why Sweden has been named the most innovative country in Europe
Sponsored Article
Why you need a EuroBonus American Express Card
National
Terror attack: what should you do?
National
French expat on the moment he was assaulted by a Stockholm bouncer
Technology
Gunman? Nah, smartphone Swede
The Local Voices
'If the war in Syria ended today, would you go back?'
The Local Voices
‘I feel like I’m living in a grave!’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Princess Victoria celebrates 39th birthday
Gallery
People-watching: July 13th
National
Swedes discover surprise mountain
Politics
What Sweden's home secretary thinks of Britain's new PM
Gallery
Property of the week: Smedjebacken, Dalarna
The Local Voices
'Even xenophobic Swedes can be polite’
Politics
WATCH: A very Swedish take on Brexit...
The Local Voices
'The best time to be smuggled to Europe is August 20th, 2015'
The Local Voices
Swedes: Stop obsessing over your material life and start talking to strangers
3,351
jobs available