Experiencing the Stockholm Film Festival: Volunteering and watching

The Stockholm International Film Festival, which ended this weekend, was an important event not only for filmmakers from around the world but also for international students here. NFGL member Diana Imamgaiazova shares her impressions and speaks with a student who volunteered at the festival.

Experiencing the Stockholm Film Festival: Volunteering and watching

"Window to the world"

This year the Stockholm Film Festival was celebrating its 25th anniversary –  which makes the event relatively young compared to the other major European film competitions. However, the festival's youth can be seen as a great advantage of the Stockholm festival. The event is dedicated not only to praise of the masters, but also to opening the door for young independent directors from all across the globe.

The last international film festival I visited was in Venice, where the festival competition featured 20 films, including 12 from European countries and four from the United States. Thus, there were only four films representing the "rest of the world" in the main programme, along with a half-dozen screenings in the additional categories.

In contrast, the Stockholm festival presented a more varied program focusing not mainly on Scandinavian films (as I expected it would be), but also highlighting creative works from other regions. There were entire sections for movies coming from Asia and Latin America ('Asian Images' and 'Latin visions') as well as films created in Somali (Fishing Without Nets) and Morocco/Qatar (The Narrow Frame of Midnight).

For my personal programme I chose movies only from Sweden, USA, Russia and South Korea, but I have an overall impression that the festival was a truly cosmopolitan event. The director of the festival, Git Scheynius, called it 'the window to the world' because the event encourages us to learn more about the other cultures. Stockholm Film Festival promotes international and non-commercial movies which otherwise can hardly be spotted among the flow of Hollywood's blockbusters.

"Behind the scenes"

IQko Muhammad has just come to Sweden from Indonesia for master studies at Stockholm University, and decided to try his hand at organization of the Stockholm film festival. I asked how it worked for him.

Diana: How did you learn about the volunteer's programme at the festival and get involved?

IQko: I just spotted the announcement in Kulturhuset in October. I had some experience in event management before, and I thought that I could really develop my skills by volunteering at this big international event in Stockholm.

I sent an email to the volunteers coordinator and was invited for an interview. I had some doubts about the required language skills, but it turned out that Swedish language was not necessary for all the departments there. Of course, you have to be able to speak Swedish if you want to get into the event department, for instance. But there are other positions open for international participants as well. Taking into account my university schedule and my interests and skills, I decided that the public department would be the best option for me.

Diana: What were your responsibilities during the festival? Was it hard to combine them with studies?

IQko:In the public department your main job is to meet the audience at the film venues, explain what the movies are about, answer the organizational questions in order to create a positive and smooth experience for the guest of the festival.

Talking about the schedule, I just could not apply for a position which would require a full-time workload. The coordinator helped me to find the best occupation in order to avoid clashes with my studies. Mainly I was working at the evening screenings and on the weekends. Of course, it's already not so easy to manage, sometimes I could not get enough sleep during the weekdays… But I enjoyed the experience a lot and I want to take more responsibilities at next year’s festival.

Diana: What opportunities does the festival provide for the volunteers?

The volunteers get some benefits including free entrance to the film screenings, and invitations to Gala Opening and the other parties during the festival.

However, the most valuable advantage for me was the practical experience of the event management. Within our department we had small group meetings and training events helping us to learn about our job, but it was just the beginning.

Participating in the event organization section, you cooperate with the others and can understand almost the whole managerial structure. I've learned about the other departments and their responsibilities, how they maintain the services at the different locations…

This film festival is a very complex organism since there are many events happening parallel at the different venues with hundreds of people involved. And I need to say that everything worked very smoothly thanks to the professional management. For instance, I've learned that the venues for all the events are arranged in advance of two years. It was definitely a great team to join!

"And the winner is…"

The winners of the Stockholm International Film Festival were announced on Friday evening at the award show in Södra Teatern. The prize for the best film was awarded to 'Gilrhood' by Céline Sciamma (France). 'A Girl At My Door' by July Jung (South Korea) was recognized as the best first film at the festival.

The event also proved to be important and inspirational for the international students in Stockholm, who were invited not only to witness it, but to become the part of the story.

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‘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/

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


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