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ALCOHOL

Six essential Swedish drinking songs for crayfish party season

It's almost August, meaning Swedes have only one thing on their minds - crayfish. Crayfish parties feature a large amount of alcohol (like most Swedish holidays), so here are the drinking songs you should learn if you want to fit in.

Six essential Swedish drinking songs for crayfish party season
No Swedish crayfish party is complete without crayfish-themed hats, decorations and bibs. Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

Yes, the month of August is a hotpot of opportunities to attend “crayfish parties” (better known in Sweden as kräftskivor).

And, besides crayfish, the most common thing you’ll stumble upon at these parties is a large amount of alcohol, drunk while singing drinking songs – snapsvisor in Swedish.

Few countries (if any) really have drinking songs to the same capacity as the Swedes do, so what better time to look into this unusual phenomenon from an outsider’s perspective.

But whether you’re new to Sweden or a crayfish veteran, you’ll probably be none the wiser as what on earth these songs are actually about. Some are pure nonsense, others are just plain confusing, but one thing we can say is that the lyrics are so odd they must have been written after consuming a large amount of snaps.

We’ve collected our six favourite snapsvisor and translated them to English.

Enjoy. Sjung hopp faderallallan lej!

1. Helan Går

Helan går literally translates as “the whole goes”. It’s about encouraging drinkers to drink helan (traditionally the first snaps of the evening), because if you don’t drink helan, you don’t get halvan (the second snaps of the evening).

Here it is in Swedish:

Helan går

Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej

Helan går

Sjung hopp faderallan lej

Och den som inte helan tar

Han heller inte halvan får

Helan går

(Drink)

Sjuuuuuung hopp faderallan lej

And here’s a loose English translation:

The whole goes down

Sing hop fadarallan lallan lej

The whole goes down

Sing hop fadarallan lej

And he who doesn’t take the whole

Doesn’t get the half either

The whole goes down

[drink]

Siiiiiiing hop fadarallan lallan lej

Make sure to brush up on your snapsvisor or Swedish drinking songs if you want to fit in at Swedish holiday celebrations. Photo: Janus Langhorn/imagebank.sweden.se

2. & 3. The short Finnish and the long Finnish

This one is very simple, and takes a dig at Sweden’s next-door neighbours the Finns. In Sweden, a common stereotype of Finns is that they enjoy drinking. The lyrics are very simple. Here they are:

“NU!”

In English:

“NOW!”.

Similarly to the short Finnish, here’s the long Finnish:

“Inte nu, men NU!”

“Not now, but NOW!”

4. Teach your mother-in-law to swim

This is a charming drinking song about a man teaching his mother-in-law to swim by holding her firmly in the water by the chin, getting distracted by a snaps and letting go, after which she was never seen again. Delightful.

Here it is in Swedish:

En kall ruskig höst 

Kom vinden från öst

Och medförde ström och dimma

Å då tyckte jag,

Att lämpligt va’

Att lära min svärmor simma.

I havet ja lade henne galant

Och höll’na i hakan ganska bestant,

När bränningarna kom ur handen hon slant,

Sen dess har jag inte sett’na.

And in English:

One cold awful autumn,

The wind came from the east,

Bringing with it currents and mist.

And then I thought,

It was a good time,

To teach my mother-in-law to swim.

I lay her down gently in the sea,

And held her by the chin quite steadily,

When the snaps came along she slipped out of my hand,

And I haven’t seen her since.

Photo: Carolina Romare/ imagebank.sweden.se

5. To the crayfish claw

Here’s a snapsvisa specifically for crayfish parties. It can be roughly translated as “With a claw that’s so good, and a pearl, yes, yes, all you gotta do, yes all you gotta do – is eat it. If you’ve had one, you want two, and if you’ve had two, you want – yes, you want – a lot more.”

It sounds better in Swedish, we promise:

“Med en klo som är så go och en pärla jo, jo, så är det bara, ja det är bara att konsumera. Har man fått en, vill man ha två, och får man två är det så att man vill gärna, ja man vill gärna ha många flera.”

6. Small frogs

Possibly the most well-known drinking song, små grodorna is also a popular children’s song and is sung at Midsommar when Swedes dance around the midsommarstång pretending to be – yep, you guessed it – small frogs.

Here’s how it goes:

Små grodorna, små grodorna är lustiga att se.

Små grodorna, små grodorna är lustiga att se.

Ej öron, ej öron, ej svansar hava de.

Ej öron, ej öron, ej svansar hava de.

Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,

kou ack ack ack ack kaa.

Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,

kou ack ack ack ack kaa.

And in English:

Little frogs, little frogs, are funny to look at.

Little frogs, little frogs, are funny to look at.

No ears, no ears, no tails have they.

No ears, no ears, no tails have they.

Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,

kou ack ack ack ack kaa.

Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,

kou ack ack ack ack kaa.

So, there you have it. We hope that clears things up next time you’re attending a crayfish party (or any other party, if we’re being honest), and the Swedes around you burst in to song. At least you’ll know what they’re singing about now.

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CULTURE

‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/imagebank.sweden.se

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT

Footwear

Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden

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