x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Midsommer madness looks among UAE's Swedish community

Looking forward to sharing summer traditions and rituals with a horde of Swedish friends.

My life in the UAE is a pretty cosmopolitan affair. I live in Dubai, I drive a German car, I eat Japanese food, I love French clothes, I've taken Arabic classes and I've been known to watch the occasional subtitled Korean movie. My circle of friends also reflects my love of all things foreign, with one slight bias. Swedish people. Lots of them. For a country of just over nine million people, with an estimated 3,500 expatriates in the UAE, I seem to have had the good fortune to encounter what feels like 90 per cent of them.

How this happened, I can't explain. For although I speak fluent Abba and am not averse to the odd piece of pickled herring, I've easily been to Ikea more times than I have Stockholm. Nevertheless, I've felt simpatico with these relentlessly sunny individuals over the years and I'm proud to count them among my closest friends.

Having now become au fait with their many traditions and social calendar, as May ebbs away I'm only too aware of what's coming - a smorgasbord of Swedish celebrations. For those not back in the motherland, relaxing at their summer cabins or sailing in the archipelago, Sweden comes to the UAE.

For the past two Junes, I've enthusiastically grabbed a garland of flowers and danced around a ribboned pole for "Midsommer", the holiday celebrating the longest day and shortest night of the year. Though I have yet to master the joint-jerking motions of Små grodorna, or the "little frogs" dance which often accompanies the occasion. Nej tack! (no thanks) I'll sit this one out.

August promises the celebration of the crayfish, or Kraftskiva for those in the know. And I look forward to repeating the competitive, industrious prawn-peeling that took place at a friend's place when she held such a feast last year. Headgear (which seems to be a running theme) at this celebration is of the traditional paper kind, yet far from lacking in crustacean creativity and fishy flourishes.

None of these gatherings would be complete without a sing-song and I have yet to meet a Swede without a fine pair of lungs. But be warned, no mercy is shown to the shy at the aforementioned social throngs. Songsheets (in Swedish) are about as commonplace as cutlery at any of these summer soirées and solos are strongly encouraged. So if you get the chance this summer, I wholeheartedly recommend you give Swedish fare and festivities a whirl. After all, as Benny and Björn so aptly put it, "without a song or a dance what are we?"