Swearing on prime time TV and radio
Have you turned on the radio in the morning and choked on your breakfast when someone drops an F-bomb? Rest assured that no one at the radio station will get fired as this is considered totally normal in Sweden. This is in stark contract to, for example the British watershed before which swearing is strictly verboten should a child still be awake and be emotionally scarred for life after hearing a foul word. Swedish swearing has traditionally been based on religion and, as SVT details in their policies, we are now quite a secular country. Therefore, swearing is not taboo in broadcasts. And this includes the fairly newly adopted F-word that is becoming more frequent in use. Our traditional swear words are often used as intensifiers such as ”jävligt gott” just meaning that something is really tasty. The same goes for ”skit” which can be prefixed to all sorts of words which then confusingly results in various things being described as shit big, shit little and even shit tasty.
This is not an exclusively Swedish phenomenon, but the Swedes have made a particular habit of arranging potluck events. Granted it is easier for the host than cooking food for a whole bunch of people, but it is often not well organised. The invitation just says ‘bring something’. And then you end up with ten noodle salads, a bottle of ketchup and one bag of crisps. If you get an invitation for knytkalas or knytis (Swedish for 'potluck'), be aware and ask for proper instructions.
Hungry children forced to wait in their friend’s bedroom
This phenomenon became a subject of global outrage last year when people found out that it is customary for Swedish children to wait in their friend’s room while said friend is having dinner with their family. How traumatised these children must be by sitting excluded and hungry on their own, said the rest of the world. Completely normal behaviour, said the Swedes. Young friends often live in the same neighbourhood, no more than a five-minute walk from each other and go home to their own house at dinner time. Swedish meals have traditionally consisted of a piece of meat and potatoes and if there are four members of the family the cook of the house has planned four portions. It’s quite rigid and the opposite of a big lovely stew in an Italian kitchen where everyone’s welcome. However, being left alone in the room gives you an opportunity to read through all of your friend’s comics and, anyway, generations have been subjected to this treatment and still ended up alright, haven't they? Haven't they?!
Because alcohol has long been so expensive in Sweden, young people have developed a strong tradition of having a förfest - a pre-party - at someone's house before the actual night out. A lot of factors come in to play for a successful förfest. A reasonable level of drunkenness must be achieved to set you up for the evening. Another is that the förfest must have a specified end time, so it does not just become the main party or just fizzle out. The intricate components of the förfest were the subject of scientific research, both in theory and practice, at Stockholm University in 2008 which found that the pre-party has five stages. Apparently this was interesting enough to present at a consumer behavior conference in San Francisco that same year.
If you have been to more than one Swedish holiday celebration you will have noticed that the food is strangely similar. The basic offering is a meat feast. If it’s Christmas you add ham, if it’s midsummer you add more pickled herring and if it’s Easter you add more eggs. Otherwise, it’s a buffet of excess which made sense 60 years ago when all you had to eat for the rest of the year was porridge, porridge and porridge.