My most regular readers will think that birthday makes me overly nostalgic. But in fact, searching for some long-lost research notes, I discovered notebooks that I had long forgotten. One of these unexpected treasures is my very detailed notes from studies in Sweden. Below are my impressions from fall 2005.
Some prices are too much even for the Swedes. So they try to get tipsy before going out and only take one ‘symbolic’ drink at a cafe or club. Perhaps this is not even a question of money. When they drink something before going out, they feel more relaxed, because otherwise they feel quite tense. Some tend to overuse [alcohol]. One night foreign students were simply having fun chatting at Cafe Olof while Swedes outside were breaking chairs.
Some people like games (table or outdoor) that only they understand. When the weather is nice they go to parks with family and friends. They don’t shy away from getting a tan on the grass in front of the library or university. There are many passionate fans of the country’s soccer team. Cafes with TV are always full when there is a match. It’s fun to watch when they jump up from their chairs and shout when their team scores. I observed one couple walking past a cafe – the man stretching his neck trying to look at the screen and his partner pulling him away.
When asked about the places to go out to, almost all residents of Gothenburg mention Sticky Fingers, some – Nefertiti, others say they don’t go out much. Almost ever week there are parties at the Chalmers University. There are also student parties at Valand on Wednesdays, but, as expected, these are mostly frequented by foreigners. Swedes tend to party on weekends only. One friend was surprised that I was planning parties at the beginning of the week. He also emphasized that the lower age limit is quite high – only people over 25 can go to Valand on weekends. Perhaps this explains why so many young people party at home, because there’s not much they can choose from.
The state controls trade in alcohol, so it can be purchased only in specialized stores and is very expensive. These stores aren’t exactly located on every corner either. Swedes have told me that the church and some NGOs run a very active anti-alcohol campaign.
Regardless of all difficulties, alcohol is an inseparable part of Swedish leisure culture.