SI scholars reflect on Swedish Midsummer at Skansen

Bangladeshi couple Nishat Raihana and Rezaur Rahman, who both completed their Master’s at Dalarna University in the field of Microdata Analysis, remember how much celebrating Swedish Midsummer at Skansen taught them about Sweden.

SI scholars reflect on Swedish Midsummer at Skansen
Vilhelm Stokstad/

In our early teens, we both knew that we wanted to study abroad, and by the time we graduated from university, we were keen to find an opportunity. With a fair share of luck, we both ended up being offered generous scholarships from the Swedish Institute to pursue our masters in Sweden. We were skeptical at first, particularly about how we would integrate into the culture and society of Sweden, which seemed to be poles apart from our native country Bangladesh. At the same time, we were excited to learn new things and get to experience something different.

It turned out, however, that studying in Sweden was one of the best decisions we have made in life so far. Not only because of the high quality of the education we have benefitted from, but because our intercultural experience has been so rewarding. Living in the middle of Swedish nature and wilderness in the northern county of Dalarna, we have both embarked on a philosophical journey that probably will define us for the rest of our lives.

One example of an invaluable cultural encounter during our time in Sweden was celebrating Swedish Midsummer at Skansen. In our opinion, Swedish Midsummer is one of the best ways to experience Swedish culture head-on. Although Dalarna is, according to many, the proverbial place in Sweden to celebrate Midsummer, we decided to travel to Stockholm to partake in the lavish celebrations at Skansen, Sweden’s famous open-air museum and zoo on the island of Djurgården. To make this experience more surprising and fun, we decided to not read anything about how midsummer is celebrated in Sweden or Skansen. 

Having traveled from Norrtälje to Stockholm by bus, once we finally reached Djurgården by way of the tram, we were astonished by the level of enthusiasm abounding at Skansen. Hundreds of people were waiting outside of the main entrance. There were quite a few queues, and all of them were long (though straight in typical Swedish fashion!). Because of the special occasion, the entry fee was also higher than usual. The whole area was full of happy and smiling Swedes wearing head wreaths, and it was as though the whole city had come to celebrate midsummer.

Photo: Nishat Raihana

The thing we enjoyed most this beautiful summer day was dancing with people. While Swedish people are known to be somewhat taciturn, on Midsummer, there is almost no trace of this. We even found that on Midsummer, the Swedes have no problem with dancing with strangers, and many lovely Swedes did indeed dance with us on this day. Alongside people from other countries who had also come to get a taste of Swedish midsummer, we picked branches and wildflowers to make our head wreaths. Although Midsummer is, naturally, a very Swedish event, at Skansen, it was very international, secular, and gender-neutral, too. At the end of our day, it struck us that Midsummer is a festival and cultural ritual that subtly depicts Swedish society. It is is one of the few occasions where a person can experience the convergence of Sweden’s past and present in a short period of time. To us, that is what made Midsummer a unique opportunity to learn about Sweden.


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.