In my last post, I wrote a brief outline of how Midsummer usually goes down. The traditional Midsummer party is often a thoroughly-planned and well-orchestrated event, with each activity and food occupying a certain allotted space in the schedule.
Drinks! Games! Herring! Singles sneaking away to surreptitiously dive into the bushes!
This year, Midsummer was different. It was totally unscripted, for one. And it ended up with us serendipitously making new friends, rather than tucked away in a rural enclave of our nearest and dearest. Ask any Swede – that’s very strange.
First of all, we up and went to Stockholm at the spur of the moment. When the US Embassy summons, you don’t say no. So we bought last-minute train tickets (thank you, Veolia, for being affordable) and showed up two days later around 10 pm in at a still-sunny Stockholm.
Land of the midnight sun, YEAH!
Second of all, we chilled out. I have been working around the clock the last couple of weeks, blogging, translating, and trying to network like crazy before everyone takes off for summer vacation.
We stayed with Simon’s aunt, who took such good care of us. As an added bonus, she didn’t have wireless internet, which meant that I was forced to really unplug instead of being drawn to Facebook and the aimless surfing that normally occupies nearly all of my brain-free free time. It was heavenly.
Third of all, we kind of floated around on Midsummer Day. There were two events we had planned for the day – a picnic with Lola, Sweden.se’s Photo Blogger, and watching people raise the Midsummer pole – and we missed the second event because we were having such a good time at the first.
We got to the stång (Midsummer speak for big giant maypole-esque pole) just as the crowds were dispersing.
After we said goodbye to Lola, we spent Midsummer afternoon at Skansen, slowly wading through the throngs of people to peer down at the Nordic animals section of the zoo.
The Nordic animals were sweating their way through an unusually warm and sunny afternoon. Only the wolverine looked really happy, and that might have been thanks to the shade swathing his or her entire compound.
We did manage to do some traditional Midsummer things. Thanks to Lola’s fabulous picnic spread, we ate sill (pickled herring). Later, Simon and I did our best to make Midsummer head wreaths…
… or at least, I tried to make them, and Simon fixed them. No string was provided, so my entire head wreath-making strategy was thrown off.
Then our evening took a turn for the unexpected. On the train to Stockholm, we had been sitting across from an American couple.
When I heard their accent, I felt a natural compulsion to introduce myself as a fellow American, and Simon felt a natural compulsion to strongly discourage me from doing so.
In the end, I couldn’t resist the urge to talk to them, so in the last five to ten minutes of the 5-hour train ride to Stockholm, I started up a conversation and we found out that they were also planning on heading to Skansen on Midsummer.
No numbers were exchanged; no plans were made. And yet, as we wound our way up from the Skåne garden towards the sounds of folk dancing around the stång, we ran right into them.
One thing led to another and we ended up watching the folk dances and having drinks and then sitting down for dinner out by the water, spending the entire evening talking to them about their travels and the different places they had been.
As Simon and I finally made our way home — or rather, back to his aunt’s apartment — we realized how little of our social time is left unplanned and how much we had appreciated the flexibility of our day, going from meeting up with Lola and her family to wandering around just the two of us to being able to enjoy a chance meetup with people we meet along the way.
It was also a good reminder to stay in touch with the outgoing, spontaneous part of my personality. In my efforts to assimilate to Swedish culture, I think I’ve become a little quieter and more reserved — a little more careful to align my behavior with the society around me.
In the last couple of months, I might have even started to over-correct.
That’s both good and bad, of course. Good, because I’m paying attention to the world around me and learning to operate by its rules instead of mine. Bad, because “careful” doesn’t always mean “right.”
A toast to all the expats out there who are, like me, growing, changing, and somehow trying to figure out how to be yourself… in a different country. Skål!
Summer picnics across Djurgården [Photo Blog]
Scenes from Midsummer at Skansen [Photo Blog]