Photo: Vlad Teodor/Shutterstock

How to Survive the Swedish Sittning

by Seth Barham Apr 15, 2012
While the most famous sittning is the celebration of Midsummer, student sittnings are arguably the most popular due to their lack of formality, games, snarky drinking songs, and high levels of alcohol consumption.

“THIS ONE FEELS NICE, I think I’ll have him.”

I’m kneeling against a wall with a blindfold on. Rather than the cold steel of a gun barrel being placed against the back of my head, a Swedish girl begins to massage my right earlobe. She finds it desirable, and removes her own blindfold. We are now partners for this most wondrous exercise in revelry: the Swedish sittning.

The “sittning,” which doesn’t make a huge translingual leap to the English “sitting,” most often refers to a student dinner party. Let’s be fair; it’s about 20% dinner and 80% party. It doesn’t matter exactly how you classify it — just make sure you have a pep talk with your liver beforehand.

Eat a hearty lunch.

Sittnings and copious amounts of alcohol go together like a bicycle and its chain; the night will go nowhere without it. In order to act like you can hold your booze, be sure to have a nice, absorbent meal beforehand.

Usually, there’s a small förfesten (pre-party) prior to the sittning in order to loosen everyone up for an evening of fun. A nice lunch (with plenty of water) will help you succeed in this goal, and maybe you won’t make an ass of yourself before the first song. Oh yes, there will be singing.

Adhere to the traditions.

Every nation (basically a fraternity, but with clubs, pubs, and less pointless hazing) has unique traditions when it comes to sittnings, but there are some commonalities. There’s always a boy-girl seating arrangement, and the guy and the girl to the right of him are “partners” for the evening. Typically, a game is played to determine the pairing, my ear-market being a prime example.

Sometimes, the couple draws a mischievous task from a hat, which they must execute during the course of the evening. This may or may not include: collecting shiny objects, pilfering booze from others, or doing 10 pushups after every song. These traditions add to the festive energy of the sittning and have a 100% chance of resulting in hilarity, or minor injury, or both.

Brush up on your Swedish.

A cornerstone to a successful sittning is the singing of several songs, each of which are followed by a snaps (a shot). A song booklet is available to each guest, and the tunes are selected by the sånganförare (song master).

Trust me, it’s definitely more fun to belt these songs out with your Swedish friends than halfheartedly and awkwardly humming the tunes. A good effort will get you some hearty back slaps and perhaps even a personal toast. Careful not to overdo it, however, or the sånganförare may invite you to lead the next song.

Make a proper toast, or suffer the consequences.

After each song, glasses are raised for a toast, or skål. The intricacies of the skål are hotly debated among student nations and even towns, some finding others’ methods outlandish or even absurd. A common if not complex methodology is to first raise your glass, say “Skål!”, nod to your table partner, then to the person on your other side, and finally to the person seated across from you before knocking that bad boy down the hatch.

You then nod to everyone in reverse order. Legend has it that if one should not adhere to this, they will enjoy bad sex for the next seven years. If you slip up, try to brush off the finger pointing and laughter, and seek comfort in the fact that bad sex is better than none at all. And perhaps try to trick someone else into your boat as well.

O gamla klang och jubeltid!

You’re almost in the clear, but an intense challenge yet looms ahead. At the end of every sittning it is customary for everyone to stand in his or her chair and sing “O gamla klang och jubeltid.” This can be extremely problematic considering how much you’ve had to drink at this point.

Just stand in place for a bit to gather your faculties, and slowly step up, using the chair and table as leverage. Maintain your balance, and sing. Once the song is over, so is the sittning, and you’re not supposed to take your seat at the table again.

The next day…

Wake up, find an ibuprofen. Drink two glasses of water. Go back to sleep for two hours. Turn on the Swedish news and order a pizza. Lounge about and await potentially damaging photos so you can delete them as soon as they appear. Once you’re able to endure doing your laundry, you’re out of the woods. You survived your first sittning! [Note: Matador editors selected this Community blog post for publication at the Network.]

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