• 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Armed royal guards caught drunk on the job
Photo: Gunnar Lundmark/TT

Armed royal guards caught drunk on the job

Three Swedish soldiers risk prison after they were found to be drunk while guarding Stockholm's Royal Palace. The men, who were all armed at the time, were charged on Friday. READ  

Stockholm
What do the Swedes do when summer's over?
Photo: Isabela Vrba

What do the Swedes do when summer's over?

The heatwave is well and truly over, the days are getting shorter, and winter is coming. With this in mind, The Local's Isabela Vrba chatted to ten Stockholmers about how they plan to tackle the autumn. READ  

Swedes spend fortune on nail polish trend
Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Swedes spend fortune on nail polish trend

Swedes are spending more than ever on makeup - and a growing chunk is going directly to their fingernails, new figures showed on Friday. READ  

Sweden mulls stripping paracetamol from shops
The pharmacy section of a grocery store. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden mulls stripping paracetamol from shops

After a drastic increase in the number of paracetamol poisonings in Sweden, authorities have said the drug should only be available in pharmacies. READ  

Listeria fears prompt meat recall in Sweden
File photo: Andreas Hagerman/Flickr

Listeria fears prompt meat recall in Sweden

After finding traces of listeria in ham sold in Sweden, food companies decided on Friday to recall several Danish cold cuts. READ  

Sweden Floods
More rain expected as floods hit day four
Photo: Anders Kjellberg/TT

More rain expected as floods hit day four

UPDATED: Sweden's floods showed no signs of abating over Thursday night, with highways closed, emergency teams working overtime, and more rain on the way. READ  

Ikea opens first store in the Balkans
An Ikea city centre store in Hamburg. Photo: TT

Ikea opens first store in the Balkans

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has opened its first store in the former Yugoslavia, near Croatia's capital Zagreb. The move marks the company's first step in an expansion to the Balkans market. READ  

Elections 2014
'Sweden Democrats hold the key to elections'
Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

'Sweden Democrats hold the key to elections'

With national elections around the corner, political scientist Stig-Björn Ljunggren says there's a hive of activity behind the scenes, and that the right-wing nationalist party could end up being the key player. READ  

Swedish artist jailed for 'race hate' pictures
Police arrested Dan Park (pictured) and confiscated his art works at an exhibition opening on July 5th. Photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Swedish artist jailed for 'race hate' pictures

A Malmö court has sentenced Swedish street artist Dan Park to six months in jail for incitement to racial agitation and defamation. READ  

Elections 2014
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Casting a vote. Photo: Shutterstock

Sweden elections: How do they work?

National, regional, and local elections are taking place in Sweden on September 14th. Whether you're a first-time voter or a fresh armchair observer, The Local's beginners' guide will answer the key questions you were too afraid to ask. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching August 20th
Society
Did you know the Bronx in NYC was named after a Swede?
Politics
"Iraq reminds me of the Yugoslav wars. It's the same story."
Society
Swedes slam Danes for 'racist' art
National
Majority of Swedes favour more or just as many refugees
Blog updates

17 August

Sea Fever (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I’m going to keep this post short and sweet as its not something I take any pleasure in writing. After much deliberation I have made the heartbreaking decision to abandon my trip after 1200km due to reoccurring injury. It is not a decision I have made lightly and it is one that has been truly devastating..." READ »

 

17 August

St. Louis strong (Blogweiser) »

"It’s typically a bad sign when my hometown makes news in Sweden. St. Louis was in the headlines here a few years ago when a tornado struck the airport. The city also caught attention after a politician talked about ‘legitimate rape’. Now, shooting and riots this week in Ferguson, a part of St. Louis, are..." READ »

 
 
 
Society
Lock your bathrooms: Swedish toilet invader on the the loose
Politics
'Assange will not leave until safe'
Gallery
See more images from the southern Sweden floods
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Society
Serial chicken smuggler caught at Norway border. Again.
Society
This gold coin may be the key to solving a Swedish massacre
Shutterstock
Lifestyle
The Swedish mentor (and why you may need one)
National
Food agency warns girls: 'Don't eat stinky fish'
Politics
Reinfeldt calls for tolerance to refugees
Gallery
People-watching August 16-17
National
Sweden celebrates 200 years of peace
Society
Top ten literal Swedish words
Politics
'Terror training should be illegal': Liberal Party
Gallery
Swedes talk about 200 years of national peace
Politics
Islamic extremist shakes Sweden with TV threat
National
Teacher fined for 'Hitler salute' in German class
National
Swede asks for epidural and gets disinfectant
Features
Kiruna residents talk life in a town on the move
National
Swedish dad takes kids to Israel to learn about war
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
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

714
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