The dancing Swedes

- in Column

International columnist Leonie de Waard writes about the unexpected cultural shock she experienced going into the Lundian party scene.

As an exchange student who moved from the Netherlands to Sweden, you don’t expect things to be very different. To be honest, a lot of things aren’t that different and I felt at home almost right away. But then, very unexpected, I experienced a cultural shock.

In daily life, Swedes are always so nice and friendly. One reason might be that Lund is a relatively small town in contrast to a big city like Amsterdam and I am used to the blunt rudeness of people there. Swedes may come off as a little distant, but I have enjoyed their company and the peaceful vibe of Swedish towns.

The night life is a little bit different from the peaceful feeling. For any (exchange) student, going out is probably a significant part of student life. So as an exchange student I wanted to experience the Lundian party scene by checking out different nations – yes, this was just an excuse to party.

This is where the cultural shock starts. The behaviour of Swedes is a contrast of day and night. Literally. Swedes can come off as a bit reserved during daytime, but these walls fade away when the night comes. Or let me rephrase: when there is alcohol. Suddenly, people start dancing like maniacs and occasionally falling to the ground, even when the party just started. And then they say Dutch people are the crazy party people (which we are, no worries). Although I know there won’t be many dull nights in Lund, I keep wondering about the reason for this extravagant dancing and letting go of everything. Perhaps the partying and dancing is an outlet for the restrictive nature of Swedes in daily life.

Or maybe it is the lack of access to alcohol here in Sweden – how contradictory this may sound. In the Netherlands, you can get alcohol any time of the day once you turned 18. In Sweden you’re screwed once Systembolaget is closed. Since it is harder – and more expensive – to get alcohol it might be more fun to get drunk and dance like crazy.

For me there’s only one way to handle this: start drinking earlier, get over any form of shame and get into intense dancing. This might mean I will have to drop it like it’s hot and fall down to the ground occasionally, but at least I can say I’ve had a proper Swedish experience.