Month: October 2017

The first Gasque – By Rhianna Rees

The Swedish traditional ‘Gasque’ roughly translates as ‘Formal Student Party’ usually involving a three-course themed dinner. You can expect good food, formal attire, speeches and, most importantly, songs. Most Gaques are followed by a ‘Släpp’ an afterparty with a dancefloor with a DJ, occasionally until 0400. Alternatively, there is also a ‘Ball’ which is more formal and a ‘Sexa’ which is a less formal student dinner. Almost every student is affiliated with at least one nation and therefore has the right to attend all that nation’s Gasques. The themes vary from nation to nation, but the most common ones are: Crayfish Party, New Members dinner, Christmas, Spring Ball and Male / Female dinners.

The very first Gasque I attended was the International Gasque held at Vastmalands-Dala Nation in my first month. This was organised as an ‘intro to gasques’ for international students. The dress code was Kavaj (which means smart). Men were expected to wear dark suits and the women, at least knee-length dresses. This is the story of my first experience.

The pre-drink

Entering the main entrance, I put my coat into the dressing room and was welcomed with a glass of bubbly. Once I began mingling, I soon began recognising people from my course, nation and Swedish language classes. Everyone knew everyone somehow. It felt like a game of six degrees of separation. There was a list of names and table settings on the wall for us to find our places before we entered the main hall. Traditionally the table settings are man-woman with the man’s date to his right.

2 sets of cutlery, 4 different glasses and an already prepared starter were waiting at our table settings. We had a set menu on a sheet in front of us, song books and a set of instructions for the night. The waiters came around to make sure our shot glasses were filled with schnapps for toasting at the end of every song. We later found out these should last 3 songs – a third of the glass per song. After that you should purchase an ‘snaps’, an extra glass of schnapps. Or toast with beer or wine. Whatever you have, as long as you’re toasting it. Our hosts for the night welcomed us and went through the main rules: no talking or eating during speeches, no going to the toilet or smoking (unless you really have to!) until the official breaks and sing with the whole group (no random solo singing).

The songs were mostly Swedish, so a hall filled with International students, well you can guess how we did… singing in a language you can’t read to a tune you don’t know. Luckily the host table was loud enough for all to follow and I’ve since found that after the second or third time singing a song, you get the hang of it! There is also a certain way to toast at the end of each song. Tonight, we toasted (for women) left-right-opposite DRINK opposite-right-left DOWN. For men, it goes right-left. Confusing at first – I know, but we sang a lot, got a lot of practice and had great fun.

The head of the International Committee giving a welcome speech

The International committee graced us with fantastic entertainment for the evening from many different nations. A jazz band from Uplands performed during our starter, with an entertaining bubble / balloon artist at the forefront. A female choir from Göteborgs during our main course who sang beautifully in Swedish and then ended with ‘Africa’ by Toto. And for dessert, a ‘Spex’ (drama) group entertained us with a ‘How to Swede’ comedy set, calling on different members of the international committee to answer questions like ‘what is lagom?’ – ‘it’s a state of mind’.

The Jazz Band from Uplands

During the night my neighbours and I spoke about where to get the best Swedish Meatballs (IKEA obviously), how to make great Pytt-i-panna and what a cykelstyre is. Gasques are a fantastic way to meet new people and make great friends and songbooks help to remember the night (especially if you’ve had a few too many avecs!!). Traditionally, those around you will write a note in your book which you’re not allowed to read until the next morning. It can just be a short line about how nice it was, a long spiel about all the things you spoke about, or a surprise – like a number from someone who’s interested in seeing you again.

Our last song, O Gamla Klang, ends with everyone standing on their chair holding hands. (Fair warning: there’s also a section in the middle of the song where people bang on the table and drinks can spill everywhere… like mine did…). The tradition dictates that if you sit down again after the song finishes, you will never graduate. A nice way to get everyone out of the hall quickly and ready for the Släpp.

One final thing. During the breaks (we got two, it was a big night) some went out to enjoy a ‘Mellansup’. I won’t tell you what this is, but again it’s a tradition – one which I hope you’ll be able to find out for yourself!

Some students enjoying a Mellansup



WINTER IS HERE!! – By Oluwafisayomi Adesina

Leaves turning orange, falling off their branches in slow rhythmic sways, I imagine they are dancing to Beyoncé’s “I Was Here”. Landing on the gravelled ground with a sense of fulfilment. I spot a squirrel just in my path running off with a nut. My first encounter with one. Oh my, I think I just saw a rabbit…yikes, it’s a hare…long hind legs! This is so incredible! I feel like I am in a movie. My first autumn season!!!

“As I stroll past the Botanica garden to the city centre, I am drawn to other passers-by. Most of them in just T-shirts and jeans. Some have on light coats and scarfs. I am curious why? Aren’t they freezing? I ask myself. I look down at my outfit and I am wearing a very thick jacket, the thickest I could find with a thick wool scarf around my neck. Don’t even get me started on the layers of long sleeve tops and sweater I had underneath or the thermal tights underneath my trousers. My hands in gloves… Can you tell, I am freezing still!

From Stings second Album released in October 1987, “Nothing Like the Sun”, I begin to hum the chorus of “Englishman in New York” …

“Oh, oh…I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien I’m an Englishman in New York…  I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m a Nigerian woman in Uppsala, Sweden…”

Okay, my version of the lyrics won’t fit into the beat but you get the gist.

I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones. Who isn’t? I think David Benioff and D.B Weiss are awemazing (awesome and amazing at the same time). Remember that scene in Episode 10, Season 6, where Sansa Stark and Jon Snow were talking? A white raven came from the citadel and Sansa says…” Winter is here”. It so is for me.

I am from Lagos, Nigeria. The urban heats of that island range from 34 degrees to 39 degrees Celsius. Night live is saturated with tunes of afrobeat, hip-hop, neo-soul, Jazz, R& B, traditional songs and Spiritual hymns. The days are full of Sunshine and Sunshine… And when it rains, the thunder and lightning set the perfect stage for children to dance in it. memoirs from my childhood…

If you are used to the tropical climate in Africa or Asia and looking to stop by Sweden, heads up! End of summer, beginning of Autumn means Winter, Winter, Winter! Grab a few extra sweaters and thermal wears on your way to this Scandinavian beauty. Add some thick socks and solid boots in your luggage. Trust me it will be a few extra kilos in your suitcase but it would be worth it.

You can thank me later!!!

So, if you are new to Sweden and you can relate, drop your comments below and let me know I am not alone on this.


Top tips for bike owners

I’ll start with a story:

In my first week, I went to the house of someone who was selling me a guitar he had advertised on Uppsala Buy & Sell. Happy with my purchase I took the guitar and went on my way, but as I was leaving he asked, ‘do you need a bike as well?’. I did. I saw three lined up by his doorway. I asked how much. ‘800 each’ he replied. I thought about it, but something about it didn’t feel quite right, the bikes didn’t have locks, nor lights, and if he sold the guitar on Uppsala Buy & Sell why not the bikes too? I told him I’d think about it and went home. The next day I wrote to him again and asked if the bikes were still available. They were, of course they were. I told him I only had a budget of 500 and his price dropped to 600, an hour later I got a text saying 500 was fine. I asked for a picture and he said he would as soon as he returned home. I didn’t hear from him again.

Message of the story – the bikes were probably stolen, as so many are in Uppsala. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. In the case of a theft, or to avoid theft, there are a few things to remember:

  • Never EVER leave your bike unlocked, not even for a moment, thieves are opportunistic.
  • If your bike is stolen the large intimidating police station in the North of Uppsala is where you need to go to report it (call 11414 if you have tips for the police).
  • Having a picture of your bike helps efforts to retrieve it.
  • Use 2 locks if possible, there are instances where U-bend locks have been cut or broken and nothing is 100% secure.
  • Generic bikes are more likely to get stolen because they’re not easily identifiable, put something on your bike like a sticker to make it unique, it’s an easy way to make it less appealing to thieves.

If you’re still looking for a bike there are many options for you. The Uppsala University Buy & Sell Facebook site is a good start, you’re more likely to interact with students selling their own bikes at the end of their time here and it (hopefully) won’t be a stolen bike, that being said, nothing’s guaranteed. There’s Sweden’s answer to craigslist – Blocket. There are also many bike shops in and around Uppsala, some offer extra protection against theft by labelling your bike or putting a number on it connected to your receipt so that it’s more easily traceable. Occasionally you may see mobile numbers for bike sellers around town on noticeboards or lampposts. One of my friends even gave me a number in my first few days, but it came across a bit shady, like a strange drug deal ‘Do you have a number for a bike? Because I’ve got a guy…’. Many Germans I’ve met here transported their bikes from home using the train, bus or by car (I take it in Germany bikes are a worthwhile investment). The benefit of buying a bike inside Sweden though are the inclusive foot brakes which are very useful in the winter.

Whatever you do, make sure you take precautions:

  • Oil your brakes and chains before and after winter.
  • Get ‘winter tyres’ when it starts to get cold.
  • Keep your tyres pumped at any of the handy pump stations dotted around town.
  • Make sure your brakes are always working (you can get a 500kr fine if they’re not working properly).
  • You can also get a fine for not stopping at a red traffic light (1500kr), pedestrian crossing (1500kr), having an extra person on the bike (500kr), not using lights at night (500kr/light), absent reflectors on the wheels (500kr) and not having a working bell (500kr).
  • Beyond the age of 15 helmets are NOT a legal requirement, however, I’ve heard stories of students falling off their bikes in winter and suffering from brain damage – so it’s always better to be safe.
  • Know who has right of way, if you’re coming from a cycle path to a main road, the main road ALWAYS has right of way.
  • And just because someone let you have right of way in a certain spot before doesn’t mean that’s always the case, never assume.

I like to park my bike in a nice visible spot

During Uppsala’s infamous Spring celebrations, it is entirely possible that some (intoxicated) individuals like to throw bikes into the river. AVOID PARKING NEAR THE RIVER DURING THIS TIME. Or use 2 locks. I’ve heard speculations that up to 400 are thrown in each year, but could not find any exact figures. Either way, it’s a lot.

Finally, make sure you shop around. If you’re after bike accessories, LIDL, Clas Ohlson, Flying Tiger and IKEA offer the best prices for lights, locks, baskets and other bike related goodies. Some bike shops offer student discounts for sales and repairs too.

At the end of a cold and wet day cycling, there’s nothing like a classic Swedish Fika break


Here’s an infographic I made to sum up the tips mention above: