The Rhythm of a Swedish Summer
The rhythm of the Swedish summer is taking over. The country is slowing down. You can feel it. Traffic is lighter, the beaches and lakefronts are filled, there are people wearing shorts (maybe some should rethink that), but summer is here and most days—the days that aren’t blowy and cold or threaten storm clouds and rain—it’s beautiful.
Summer feels like the aftermath of what has been a long winter tantrum, winter being the child that wouldn’t stop screaming—a holy terror that now lays exhausted, limbs sprawled on the lawn, sleeping peacefully. Summer is lovely and calm and thanks to hours and hours of sunshine it feels longer than it really is.
Swedes get 6 weeks of paid summer vacation, taking off the entire month of July. Bakeries close, shops don’t open, police stations in some towns shut down…I guess even crime takes a holiday. Last year when we arrived in July to zero traffic and beautiful empty downtown sidewalks we thought we’d found paradise, until we couldn’t get a plumber to fix our no hot water problem for two weeks. (There’s some downsides to living in paradise.)
As Americans we don’t have a legal right to 6 weeks paid vacation. We don’t even get free healthcare. But here’s what I’m thinking, this could be the next democratic platform in the bid for the White House—mandatory paid vacation (small business owners you should be used to getting the shaft by now). My guess is even if we had it, we wouldn’t take it. Americans are used to working year round, plus overtime. It’s what we do. More than a couple of weeks off and things would start to feel weird.
But a little weird can be a good thing and this is going to be a different kind of summer for us. With the exception of the three busy weeks we have planned in America (I’ll be at Target if anyone cares), we’ll be here in Sweden, relaxing. No summer camps, no formal lessons or shopping at the mall, just hours and hours of Swedish sunshine in which to visit the beach, read books, sight see, hike and go on long bike rides together. Can you sense my children’s’ excitement?
There will be chores (this is my vacation too), and many hours of boredom (my kids will let me know when those happen), but I won’t try to fill the dull moments with activities or shuffle them off to Grona Lund (Stockholm’s amusement park). Being bored-out-of-your-skull is how imaginations grow and frankly, it’s how I grew up. If you’re not bored now, when you’re a kid, then when will you ever be?
Summer in Sweden won’t last and that’s why I want to experience it, to slow down, along with the Swedes. The locals always know, what we as visitors don’t, how to really live in their own country. Finding that rhythm isn’t natural or easy, but I’m willing to give it a try…before that holy terror of a winter wakes up.