Month: June 2017

How to experience a classic Swedish Midsummer

Like Christmas, Easter and Valborg, Midsummer is one of the most significant days in the Swedish calendar. For many, it is the most loved holiday, and is celebrated enthusiastically all over the country by young and old alike. Like the other holidays I mentioned, Midsummer is recognised on the evening preceding Midsummer Day. Given Sweden’s long, cold and dark winters, it is no surprise that the beginning of summer is an occasion to be solemnised. There are countless traditions and festivities surrounding the day, and many of which are practiced as devotedly today as many years ago. Before I tell you how to experience a classic Swedish Midsummer, here is a little information about its origins.

Where did it all start?

Midsummer was initially celebrated in Northern Europe as a pagan festival that recognised the summer solstice, when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the North Pole. Through Midsummer festivities, the end of winter was rejoiced and the longest day of the year was welcomed. Many cultures acknowledged the event with various types of feasts and rituals, often with themes of fertility to ensure a bountiful summer season and a successful harvest. The holiday always falls around 24 June, which is also the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Apparently, the early Catholic Church decided to take possession of pagan festivals by associating them with important Christian dates. This is why Midsummer is also known as St John’s Day, and often also incorporate themes of religion and specifically, Christianity.

In 1952 a decision was made by the Swedish Parliament that Midsummer should always fall on a Saturday, and Midsummer Eve on a Friday. This means that in Sweden the observance of Midsummer now transpires on the Friday between 19 and 26 June.

So, here are my tips for a traditional Swedish Midsummer:

  1. Head for the country

In the days leading up to Midsummer more and more people will head out into the countryside or the archipelago. Midsummer is definitely an outdoor occasion, so it is important that you leave the city centre in order to celebrate. Hopefully you will be invited to a party at somebody’s summerhouse. If not, there are plenty of areas (such as Gamla Uppsala or Skansen in Stockholm) that host large Midsummer events for the public.

  1. Make a flower crown

To look the part, you need to wear a flower crown on Midsummer. Early in the morning, people go outdoors and find wild flowers and leaves to adorn their hair. This is most common for women and children, but often for men too. Many Swedes will also wear traditional folk costumes on Midsummer, with the details of each outfit representing the specific region in Sweden that the wearer comes from.

  1. Raise a maypole

One of the most iconic Midsummer symbols is the tall wooden maypole, or midsommarstång, decorated with flowers and ribbons. Some claim it represents an axis that connects the world of the living to both the heavens and the underworld, originating from Norse mythology. However, given that Midsummer is a celebration of reproduction and fertility, many others see the maypole as a phallic symbol, and I have to agree.

  1. Dance around the maypole like a frog

Once the maypole is up, the music starts and it is time to dance and sing. There are many different Midsummer songs, but arguably the most popular is a song called Little Frogs, or Små grodorna. During this song, both adults and children hop around the maypole pretending to be frogs, singing the deep and poetic lyrics “Little frogs are funny to look at, they don’t have ears or tails”. When this song starts playing we encourage you not to ask why, but to join in and enjoy. We understand that there’s versions of this song in a lot of countries. So if you recognize it, feel free to post it below!

  1. Eat a Midsummer meal

Like all of the main Swedish holidays, a big part of the Midsummer tradition is to eat, drink and be merry. Once you have been in Sweden for a while you will start to realise that similar food is eaten on each major occasion, and this includes pickled herring, boiled new potatoes served with sour cream and chives, smoked salmon and gravadlax, hard boiled eggs and strawberries. On Midsummer, this is all washed down with a spirit called schnapps, and partygoers sing a drinking song before each new glass.

  1. Pick more flowers

Midsummer is thought to be a magical time for lovers. At the end of the evening, girls and young women are supposed to pick seven different types of flowers, and place them under their pillows. Legend has it that their future spouses will come to them in their dreams.

If you want to see more of Midsummer in Sweden, we encourage you to watch some of our current international students take over our Instagram account, TaggedforUppsala on Friday 23 June.


Happy Midsummer everyone!


(Ex)Change – By Gabrielle Ingenthron

Change can be scary. There’s no doubt about that.

But the thing is, sometimes change is exactly what you need. Starting over can be intimidating – but it brings you a healthy dose of fear, mixed with excitement and opportunity.

Uppsala was exactly the change I needed in my life. It worms its way into your heart so quickly that when it’s all over, it’s a shock to your system. I’ve already said a few goodbyes to friends I am not sure I will see again, at least not for a long time… I was warned before coming here that reverse-culture shock is a very real thing when exchange is over – and I think I am already feeling the effects.

As my time here draws to a close, I find myself reminiscing more and more on the memories I have made here and the lessons I have learned – and so I have compiled some of the most important ones in a list of tips for anyone heading to Uppsala in the future!

10 Things Exchange in Uppsala Has Taught Me:

  1. Forget playing it safe: say yes to adventure more often. Take advantage of every moment you can, because it will be over before you know it. Spur-of-the-moment decision to bike into the middle of a forest at night in search of one of the reputable Swedish forest raves? Why not! Be spontaneous – you’ll be surprised by the incredible adventures you’ll have.
  2. Talk to your Swedish floor mates, and don’t give up after any initial awkward encounters (Swedes can be a bit reserved with strangers)… because who knows, they might just become some of your closest friends.
  3. No matter the different social or cultural backgrounds of all the people you’ll meet, you will always find people who get you – people who’ve been through similar experiences and with whom you truly connect. It’s okay to be nervous, but don’t let it isolate you! You will make friends who love you for who you are – sometimes you just have to pluck up the courage to talk to a stranger. What you need to remember is that we’re all here for the same reason, and we’re all in the same boat – everyone is looking to make friends!
  4. Plan adventures with your exchange friends. If you’re a travel bug, do it with the friends you find here in Sweden: it’s an easy way to make memories you will always remember in new places, and an even better way to get to know each other.
  5. Visit Sweden. Get to know the country by traveling to places such as Stockholm, Sigtuna, Gotland, Abisko… Sweden has so much to offer – don’t forget to explore the country you’re living in while planning your trips!
  6. Don’t forget that Uppsala is only your temporary home. You shouldn’t feel like you have to be constantly planning trips just because others are. The best way to feel comfortable here and make the most of it is to make sure you spend time getting to know the people here and remain involved with activities going on in Uppsala. While I highly recommend traveling if it’s an opportunity you get, you will have a harder time making very close, permanent friends here if you are always gone. You should also absolutely not feel pressured to spend money on travels if you don’t want to or are concerned about costs: Uppsala is a lively, quaint place and you will love every second you are there whether or not you travel throughout the semester.
  7. You need so much less than you think you do when you move away – don’t over-pack. Moving away for six months is a great way to practice living efficiently. I arrived with a small carry-on suitcase, a backpack, and a box mailed to me with my shoes and clothes for warmer days – and I still felt like I had too much at times! Furthermore, you will almost definitely end up bringing back purchases you made while here in Sweden. Pack smart.
  8. The nations are a wonderful way to be involved in the campus environment and meet new people – you will undoubtedly hear this many times, but I can’t stress it enough. Go to the nations! Whether it’s for fika, dancing, studying, or working a shift, you will be so glad you did it.
  9. Budgeting – if you haven’t had a lot of experience doing this at home, you most certainly will have to learn to do it here. Sweden is not cheap, and your bank account will empty faster than you expect it to. Make sure to sit down every now and then and look at your activities and travels and plan everything efficiently. Being involved around Uppsala can have its expenses: it does sometimes mean opening your wallet for events like fika, entrance fees on club nights, gasques, gym membership, spin lessons… you name it. Plus, budgeting is a life skill – may as well learn it now!
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it be in terms of classes, sickness, mental health, logistical questions, Swedish culture, navigating the city… you can always find someone to help you out in Uppsala. I highly recommend signing up for the International Buddy Program – not only do you get an automatic friend, but they will patiently help you with all of your mishaps. Full-time Swedish students are also a great resource –if you want the best tips, they have them!

While uprooting your life can seem frightening, it’s one of the best decisions you will ever make. Enjoy every second, because you will miss it when it’s suddenly over. Coming here is so worth it – don’t hold back!


How to: Pack for Sweden – By Erika Loggin

My room looks like a natural disaster has hit. Maybe a tornado, if tornados were made of winter clothes, English books, never-used rain boots, and postcards from half a dozen countries. And in the middle of it all sits my trusty blue suitcase, which seems to have mysteriously shrunk over the past semester.

I remember a similar scene five months ago, when I was packing to come to Uppsala. I googled “Swedish fashion” at least twice a day, trying to figure out which of my clothes were cool and European enough to bring (in my opinion: very few). I stuffed my suitcase full of running shoes, shampoo bottles, room decorations, and a bunch of other things I either didn’t need or could have easily bought in Uppsala. So, whether you are preparing for a semester abroad or starting your degree, here are a few dos and don’ts to help with your packing for Sweden.


  • Pack some fancy clothes (and a floor length dress or suit jacket if possible!). The nations love to hold gasques and other formal events, and you’ll save a lot of money if you don’t need to buy a new outfit
  • Bring a power bar if you’re from outside of Europe. You’ll need an adapter to plug in your electronics, but if you bring a power bar or cube, you can charge multiple things from one adapter (*I’m not sure this is the greatest idea from an electrician’s point of view, but it’s worked for me so far!)
  • Visit second hand shops when you arrive. If you’ve forgotten something, or want to buy some decorations for your room, these are probably the cheapest option (like, even cheaper than Ikea) and they have lots of cool stuff. Myrorna and Erikshjälpen are both great stores
  • Look around your room before you go shopping. The previous occupant might have left useful things behind that you won’t have to go and buy. My room came with blankets, a small heater, and coat hangers. Thank you to the former resident of room 511!


  • Pack extra makeup or shampoo. Sweden has all the brands you’re used to back home, and these things will eat up your precious 23 kg weight allowance. Bring travel sized bottles if you want to have a shower as soon as you arrive, but that’s all
  • Bring too many shoes. The eternal question: What kind of shoes do you pack when traveling? My answer, after packing way too many myself: Sturdy boots for fall/winter/spring, a pair of fancy shoes for formal occasions, running shoes, and one pair of everyday shoes. That’s all
  • Worry about looking good when it’s cold outside! And whether you’re coming for one semester or a couple years, it will get cold. Forget about your fashionable-but-useless light sweaters and instead pack thick, warm layers to make it through the colder months
  • Forget about warm weather, either! The tricky part about packing for Sweden is preparing for all four seasons at once. Bring your wool socks and sweaters (see above), but don’t forget your shorts and summer dresses, either. Try to pack a little bit of everything so you’re ready for the unpredictable weather

For a bit of international insight, I asked my friends about how they packed for Sweden:

Is there anything you wish you brought with you but didn’t?

“Vegemite! I wish I brought unique foods from Australia to share with people, because they always ask what certain things taste like… and it’s a fun way to entertain people I guess!” – Linda, Australia

“I wish I brought some cold medicine with me. At home you can buy it at a grocery store or whatever, but in Sweden you need to see a doctor and get a prescription for most medicine. You don’t need to pack a whole pharmacy but it never hurts to be prepared,” – Caleb, USA

Is there anything you packed that you’re glad you brought?

“Since I wasn’t sure if I could ever feel at home in my Flogsta room when I first entered it, I was really glad that I brought some decoration stuff from home like some colourful lanterns or a big, thick scarf which I put on my wall, and also so many pictures… And I brought a warm blanket which reminds me of home!” – Lea, Germany

“I’m happy I brought so many pictures of my friends and family with me. It made me feel more at home, and made my room look a lot cozier with something hanging on the wall,” – Michelle, Canada

It’s always hard to image squeezing all your favourite things into a suitcase, but don’t panic if you forget something – or bring so much stuff that you struggle to pull your suitcase through the airport (that was me). Happy packing!


Ingefära: the Flogsta wonder kitty – By Lucie & Adrianna

Living in Flogsta equals many things. In the mornings you join the biking crowd in the run to the University. Midday, you search for free washing machines as the possibility of finding one is the highest. In the evening you carefully step outside and listen where the nearest party is happening. However, at any time, your eyes scroll the surroundings looking for white-orange fluff. Ingefära, local celebrity, took over Uppsala’s Facebook groups quite a time ago and stayed there for good. Despite having his own page, selfies with the ginger cat still pop up in notifications, and well, we just couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit his home. This is how we met two computer science students in one of Flogsta low houses.

When you first walk toward Ingefära´s home in the Flogsta low houses you will notice a kitty ladder leading toward the apartment from the outside. Clever way for him to get safely back home after roaming the neighbourhood for days. That is also one of the reasons that he got so famous around here. Ingefära is probably the most social cat you will ever meet. According to his owners he just likes to follow people everywhere. You can often see him inside the high houses just chilling in someone’s kitchen or popping in to check out the loudest parties. No wonder that people often think he is lost and post pictures on Flogsta Facebook groups to help him get back to the his owners. Even after most people has been informed that this behaviour is just part of his amazing personality and he is very much not lost they still kept on posting pictures. It became a source of pride to be blessed by Ingefära´s presence and one must document such honor! At one point the groups were so spammed with pictures of Ingefära that his owners simply had to make his own page.

You never know when Ingefära decides to check on your party!

When he does not explore everything that Flogsta has to offer he lives his calm life in Flogstavägen with Linn, Kristoffer and their roommates. His original owner Lukas is on adventure of his own in South America keeping an eye on Ingefäre over the ocean. Even Ingefära´s origin is tight to Flogsta. He was born one and a half years ago to a cat belonging to the previous owner of that flat he is currently occupying. Nobody expected him to be the most beloved and famous cat in Uppsala but now that he is Linn and Kristoffer are joking about making some merchandise with him. And to be honest, if someone was selling Ingefära t-shirts I would already own three.

Of course what is high houses residents little orange blessing can be a bit of a hustle for his owners. Ingefära´s adventures can take him to quite unexpected places once he took it trip in a bus once, somehow got all the way to the hospital, another time he got found Stenhagens pet store where he hang out in until someone could pick him up. Thanks to non-functional chip he also got himself into a shelter. Thankfully, the good people of Flogsta are always here to help and take good care for their favourite feline. Just few weeks ago Ingefära took the Valborg celebrations a bit too seriously and disappeared for almost two weeks. That was untypical even for him as he usually get back to eat every two our so days. He got his owners quite worried. However, shortly after them posting about this Flogsta residents were able to track him day by day for the whole lost period and get him safely home! What a way to get your faith in humanity restored.

Now you might be wondering: “What I am supposed to do when I meet this glorious cat? Are there any dos and don’ts?” Well yes and no. Ingefära´s owners are pretty chill about him meeting all of his fans. So letting him chill at your place, taking pictures or rubbing his belly is totally fine. However, even though it might be very tempting, you should not keep him for too long or feed him too much. The more people feed him around Flogsta the less likely he is to go and check what his bowl at home has in store. If you decide to give him a little snack, you might want to know that he does not really love vegetarian food!

Some stretching is an absolute must after spending a day in the high houses!

So next time when you cycle home in the middle of the night and you see a fast moving orange ball you can keep calm knowing that you are not hallucinating but you were merely very lucky to get a bit of precious Ingefära´s attention. Now you just need to hope that you have enough battery in your phone to take at least twenty selfies out of which at least one of them will have him not blurred in movement.

/Lucie & Adrianna