Hej Hej (hi) is a common Swedish greeting used by both young and old. Swedish youth often use hejsan as well, which is slang for “What’s up.” Hej da, which means “Hey there” is a common phrase I have heard among many older Swedes. Hur ar det means “how are you” and it is pronounced “hu are deh.” To respond to this, it is polite to say bara bra, which means “just fine.” To say bye, I often hear the phrase senare, which means “later.” This is often an informal term that is used among students. Personally, I like to say bye by saying vi ses, which means “See you.” These phrases are some of the most common ones I have been using throughout my time in Sweden. The next common phrase I have used is tack, which means “thank you” in Swedish. Tack sa mycket is also a term I use, and it means “thank you very much.” Tack is one of the easiest phrases to pronounce because it is said exactly the way it sounds. Since I have never learned German, Swedish is quite difficult for me to pronounce. However, many exchange students from Germany and nearby countries to Sweden have not had as much trouble with learning the Swedish language.
A Swedish tradition I have taken part in is a sittning. Swedish sittnings are three course dinner parties held at student university campuses. Although it can be recognized as any kind of sit-down meal, sittnings often refer to student dinner parties. These events are not only held in Sweden, but also in Finland. At Lund University, sittnings are a typical part of student life, especially in the nations, or student club organizations. Sittnings are usually held at halls or pubs hosted by the nations. They often require semi-formal wear in which females will dress up in cocktail dresses, and males in suits and ties. Sometimes the sittnings are themed, for example, 90’s themed or Hollywood themed. So far, sittnings that have taken place this Spring semester include Japanese Harajuku themed sittnings, 90’s sittning, and an “Anything but Clothes” sittning in which students create costumes out of newspapers, plastic, etc. and wear anything but clothing type apparel. My sittning with Kalmar nation was not themed, so most students dressed up in nice semi-formal apparel. Females wore elegant cocktail dresses and shoes, while males wore the suit and ties. Meals are an important part of the sittnings, especially three course meals of an appetizer, main course, and dessert. Meals are served by students working for the nations as volunteers. These students are not paid in cash, but in ticket vouchers for free meals or club nights by the nation. Our meals consisted of light salads garnished with olive oil for the appetizer, boiled potatoes with salmon and sour cream for the main course, and a cake tart sweet treat for dessert. Boiled potatoes with salmon and sour cream are aspects of a traditional Swedish dish. Potatoes, seafood, and cream are especially typical dishes in Swedish cuisine. Tables are set up fancily with champagne glasses and nice white silverware. Fancy napkins tied with bow-ties were placed on each side of the plates next to the cutlery. Each seat was reserved with the name of each guest, and guests were required to sit randomly next to strangers. This randomization allowed new guests to be placed with Swedish guests, who would act as the sittning partner throughout the night. The sittning partner has the responsibility of explaining the Swedish traditions to the new guest, and to guide them in the singsong festivities throughout the night. An important aspect of sittnings are beverages served with meals, and singing. Singing takes place all throughout the three course meals, and is vital to a sittning. A song leader is designated to begin singing the songs throughout the night, and the guests follow along. Guests are given booklets with song lyrics that they follow along to once the song leader begins singing. The songs are usually in Swedish, but in international exchanges the songs are usually in English. Singing takes place spontaneously as guests follow the lead of the song leader. After each song, guests toast their glasses and say skål, which means “cheers” in Swedish. There is certain etiquette to toasting, as guests first toast to their table partners, neighbors, and then finally to the person sitting across from them. Each time a guest toasts, eye contact is made. Guests then drink, and then nod to the guests in an order reverse from before. Although this is typically Swedish tradition for toasting etiquette, our sittning was much more relaxed since it was a novischfest, or sittning party for exchange students who are new to the nation and Swedish traditions. Although I know little Swedish language, it was fun to sing along with the Swedish songs and pretend I knew what I was singing. At one point at the end of the song, everyone stood on the chairs, raised their glasses, and cheered skål! During dessert, the Kalmar nation choir sang a variety of Swedish songs, which were composed in a medley. Afterwards, the sittning ended with a nice dance. Prior to this dance, the tables were cleared away and the room turned into a dance floor with a disco ball and live music. The dance was the perfect way to end the night with fun music and good times. Swede music played, but American music was definitely a large aspect of the songs played that night. Popular hits by Rihanna, Michael Jackson, and 90s artists such as the Spice Girls were played throughout the night. This was in addition to Swedish artists Icona Pop and Swedish House Mafia. House and electronic music is a big scene in Sweden, and this style of music is often played throughout nations. Overall, my first experience at a sittning was both interesting and delightful. The tradition is very different from anything I have experienced in California, but I will definitely return with positive memories of my experience.