Sweden – a cold country with a warm culture

Sweden – a cold country with a warm culture
This week, Yaroslava Zahoruiko, a Visby Scholarship holder who graduated from Uppsala University in June 2019 (LLM in Investment Treaty Arbitration), shares her experiences of how Swedes keep their spirits up during the darker and coldest months of the year.

Before I came to Sweden, I heard people complaining about how dark and cold it was. To be honest, I did not expect this to be a big problem for me, but I was still preparing for it emotionally. However, after having lived in Sweden for a year, I should admit that I am yet to experience any really dark and cold days. For sure, there have been plenty of them, but being actively involved in student life and exploring Swedish culture, I just haven’t had the time to worry about it.

In my experience, both Swedish student life and culture has a lot to offer. I was lucky enough to study in Uppsala, which, in my opinion, is a perfect place for students. It was very easy to make friends at the so-called student nations (student organizations) and I have participated in their wide range of activities, including quidditch, salsa, and formal balls. However, the gasks (or gasques), a kind of of Swedish student party which involves a long formal dinner, which made the strongest impression on me. There were some “normal” ones and some really crazy ones, like the lamb skull gasque (during which everybody got a real lamb skull!) or the crayfish gasque. What is common to all of them, however, is that there is lots of singing. It seems like Swedes have found a good way to relax, socialize, and forget about any problems by way of singing.

I have found that the Swedes’ love of singing goes beyond occasional singing at events. Choir culture is very developed, too, and in addition to student and church choirs, many companies also have their own choirs. I definitely recommend experiencing this choir culture either by singing in them or by attending choir performances. I especially enjoyed the ones during Christmas time, including the amazing Lucia concert at Uppsala Cathedral and later a big Christmas concert at Uppsala Castle. During the last one, the choir even performed several Ukrainian songs! It was amazing to be immersed in the Christmas atmosphere by listening to some familiar and unfamiliar songs. Such passion for singing was a good way to remedy any winter depression.

However, it is not only through singing that Swedes bring happiness and comfort into their lives. For example, I really like that there are holidays devoted to Swedish cinnamon buns (“kanelbulle”) and traditional sweet rolls (“semla”). Why not to gather together and enjoy delicious pastries with a cup of coffee either during such holidays or simply everyday?