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Hälsingegård, Hälsingland
Photo: Håkan Vargas S/imagebank.sweden.se

Things to do

We Like Being Stereotyped

The journey to the summer home is an epic in itself. This is where the process of recharging begins. Travelling through waving cornfields and shady spruce forest puts the mind in a special state.

Imagine that you have been adopted by a typical Swedish family. You’re sitting in the car on the way to your summer home for the second or third time this year – perhaps it’s the month of May. Let’s say that you’re the kind of family that has to travel a bit and then stop on the way to eat at a fast food restaurant beside the road.

Now let’s rewind time back a few decades. The distance is the same, but the car journey takes twice as long and the food is a packed lunch, eaten in a glade of early summer greenery along a gravel track. This is a ritual which takes place only once a year. You go there when the children’s summer holidays begin and travel home again when school begins.

Everyone in the car knows what awaits – the idea of the summer holiday is so deeply ingrained in us that our roles are almost predetermined.

The details of our desires can vary. Some of us want to do a lot of fishing, some of us want to do carpentry projects on the patio, others simply want to rest. But the sulky teenager knows that he can’t sleep long in the mornings before the shout comes from the kitchen to cycle out and buy milk. His parents know that the teenager will avoid spending time with his little brother and will instead lie on the beach with his new friend. Or spend the summer flirting with the cute local girl who works in the kiosk.

And everyone will seek out some kind of solitude. This is how Swedes find the energy to endure life. The family meets over dinner – with a dessert of freshly picked berries – but for breakfast and lunch they have sandwiches and milk on their own, behind a book or out in the vegetable garden. Their tasks are a charade – everyone knows that their thoughts are elsewhere, in a sorrowful reflection on existence.

Paint It Red

The classic red - "Falu rödfärg" - is an earth paint, traditionally made from debris from a well-known copper mine in Falun, Dalarna.

Its widespread use started as a way to make facades of bland country churches resemble expensive brick. It soon caught on and became norm by mid 19th century. The white trimmings come from pine being colored pale yellow to resemble oak.

Swedish Cabin Fever

Us Swedes are a strange lot. We enjoy feeling a bit miserable. This isn’t necessarily painful; instead it’s often more a bittersweet sensation of homecoming.

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