‘We can’t spend a whole year waiting for summer’

'We can't spend a whole year waiting for summer'
What Swedish summer? Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
This year's rainy summer has dampened the spirit of many a Swede. But in this week's debate article Swedish-Iranian comedian Zinat Pirzadeh explains why her love for the Nordic summer remains solid.

The other summer my eldest son and I were outside enjoying the sunshine in northern Sweden while putting together our long-awaited hammock. Soon we were to be softly rocked to peace in this splendid piece of outdoor furniture during an endless series of mild summer evenings.

But long before we had even finished assembling the structure, we instead found ourselves soaked to our bare skin by an endless series of rain showers.

In less than an hour, the weather several times abruptly changed from sunshine to pouring rain and sunshine again. And as soon as the rain subsided, the mosquitoes grabbed the opportunity to feast on our blood. They seemed, by the way, not care in the slightest that our red drops were not Swedish by origin – tolerant to be sure, yet strangely annoying.

Longing for summer in Sweden often becomes like hunting for water in the desert. Tempted by the mirage, we buy outdoor furniture, paint our summer houses and eat Swedish strawberries even though they are so expensive it is out of this world.

Shivering in the rain, we skip around the maypole with our traditional Midsummer dance 'Små Grodorna' ('Little Frogs'). And if you go on a day-out excursion you had better bring swimwear, a dry change of clothes and a winter jacket – because you will probably end up needing it all and then some.

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A friend recently sent me a postcard saying “Swedish summer = the only warm day of the year”. It made me smile. The dream of summer is stronger than the actual season itself.

We spend huge sums of money on various barbecue facilities, airy summer outfits and a plethora of various leisure gadgets.

But our outdoor days are numbered, and most of the shiny new things remain unused.

I myself am born and raised by the Caspian Sea, where winters are mild and summers are warm and lovely. But you cannot compare summers in different parts of the world. At a superficial glance, Sweden's summer is comparable to democracy in Iran – almost non-existent.

But when you put on your glasses and take a closer look, you can still see the Swedish summer shyly flourish and blossom out there in nature. And if you turn down that music on your smartphone app you can hear the birds chirping in tribute to the short season, and the sound of the wind whistling through the trees' green leaves.

I would not miss the Swedish summer for anything in the world. I would not want to travel abroad to sit at a sun-baked beach in a distant land at the very moment when Sweden has dressed up in its most beautiful bloom and green garb.

Deep in my heart I feel a reverence for the Swedish summer which is difficult to explain. Seemingly fragile and weak, but oh, so sweet.

Comedian Zinat Pirzadeh. Photo: Jimmy Hansen

I suppose it is a bit like swearing in church, but to be completely honest I quite like that the Swedish summer is so short.

Because many in this normally shy country get so incredibly happy by the summer, so very social and overwhelmingly friendly that even if they otherwise barely say hello, suddenly they want to talk, hang out and hug at all costs.

On warm days, the holidaying Swede gets so excited that even us so-called immigrants almost feel a little burned-out from all the unusual attention. But, of course, there is so much pent-up expectation, longing and joie de vivre that must be let out if only for a few quivering hours of sun.

But I would like us to begin to learn to live a little during the rest of the year as well.

We cannot spend the whole year waiting for summer, life, joy and warmth. Life continues even after summer, when autumn and darkness arrive.

Because even though the sun may not shine in the sky in winter, surely you can afford to pay your fellow humans a couple of kind words and a smile. Then the sun will begin to shine not only in their hearts but also in your own, even though it is raining cats and dogs.

However short and cool the Swedish summer may be, and however many billions of mosquitoes that still rage in northern Sweden, we should remember that for better or worse this summer belongs to us – and it's the best one we've got.

Personally, I gratefully accept whatever summer we have. And nothing beats a slice of pie made from gooseberries – the Nordics' own kiwi – in my hammock, with the rain drumming down on the thin fabric roof.

Zinat Pirzadeh is a popular Swedish-Iranian comedian, writer and actress. This is a translated version of a debate article originally published by SVT Opinion.