Monday, June 20, 2011

A Midsummer Survival Guide

My favorite Swedish holiday is fast approaching – Midsummer! And like any good Swedish holiday, the lovely Swedish government has officially removed any meaning from the actual day and moved it to the closest convenient weekend. Which means that even if Solstice is ALWAYS June 21st Midsummer is always the following Friday. Longest night of the year be damned! We shall eat herring and drink schnapps when properly appointed by the state. But really, that is the only thing that annoys me about Swedish midsummer. The rest is great. Really great.

Here are a few things to think about before your first midsummer party.

  1. Swedes will try to tell you that you should down a shot of alcohol (schnapps) after every drinking song. 'No Problemo,' you might say. Let me tell you, there will be a LOT of drinking songs. And most Swedes do not down a full shot after each one. You will be under the table before the main course is served. Because alongside the shots you will also be drinking beer and wine. I usually manage one shot per 3 drinking songs, by taking a small sip after each one. This year, since I've got the toddler in tow, there will be no shots. But I will enjoy the show.

  2. Stay away from anything remotely 'home-brewed.' Yes, thanks to Systembolaget, well-to-do Swedes still make and on occasionly drink moonshine. It's crazy. One former collegue distilled vodka on her balcony. My Father-in-Law makes some weird form of absinthe. JUST SAY NO, kids. There are the scary stories that it will blind you, but really, it just makes you feel gross. Pay the $40 and buy some crappy schnapps like Gammal Dansk to simulate moonshine. You don't want a moonshine hangover, trust me.
  1. Pitch your tent before you drink. Remember how I wrote about how people don't drink and drive? Be prepared to camp if you are staying out in the country. And it is a good idea to get that tent up early. Yes, midnight sun and all, but after all those shots, that easy-to-put-together tent ain't so easy.
  1. If there is a maypole – dance, even if you are as bad a dancer as I am. There may or may not be a maypole. It doesn't really make or break the experience, but it can be fun. If there is a maypole and dancing, that song they are singing is about frogs. How they don't have ears or tails. And Swedish frogs say 'Cuakaka' instead of 'Ribbit.' Join in and shake your groove thing. It's fun and your friends and family can torment you with the photos for years to come (not speaking from personal experience here or anything).

    Ignore all of the other rules I may have posted on this blog before – well, except for the drinking and driving one, because it's midsummer and there is lots of liqour involved. Say goodbye to: all of those Swedish inhabitions, keeping quiet, not barfing in the flower bushes, 'I don't speak English', and oh yeah, get ready to dance to ABBA.


  1. XD That sounds like fun! So does that mean June 21st isn't a red day? That's a shame. Also, did you mean "longest _day_ of the year" ? :P

  2. Hi there,

    I hope this email finds you well.

    I run a Swedish expat site ( and am hoping you would like to share your thoughts and experiences as part of our Expat Interview series.

    The brief questionnaire (which I can send over to you) is designed to tap your wisdom in order to help new expats with planning their move and settling in once they arrive.

    If you like, I can load up your answers with a profile of you which can contain a link to your blog, website or business. If so, please also send your link details as well as a picture of yourself and a short personal bio when replying to the questionnaire. Here's an example of another page which gives an idea of what we're trying to achieve:

    In addition to this, should you know other expats who would be interested in participating in this then you are more than welcome to forward this on to them.

    Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it.

    Look forward to hearing back from you!


    David (

  3. @SCA Thanks

    @anon - haha, you are right, longest day of the year. Freudian slip - as I am really scared of staying up until 2-3 (or 4) with friends and then trying to take care of a toddler the next day. So for me I am looking at it like the longest night of my year :)