Standing around in Sweden

Standing around in Sweden

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@Katherina Riesner

Living in Sweden has many beautiful sides to it. At least on first glance standing in line isn’t one of them. Columnist Katherina Riesner considers the different queuing characters and what you can learn from waiting around.

You know how surveys show that people spend between 30 to 40 percent of their day sleeping? In addition, the average Swede seemingly spends another 5 to 10 percent of the day simply standing in line: waiting in a public restroom, at a coffee house, or as is often the case in Lund, waiting for a falafel or trying to get into a nation. 

Standing in line as such is nothing special but the Swedes seem to enjoy it, sometimes even revel in it. Queuing systems here are often so elaborate the people in line don’t even know themselves what they are waiting in line for. Especially in front of nations, during the Novischperiod in particular, we can encounter hard-knock situations where the weak give up, turn around and fight their way back through the crowd that has gathered behind them, and only the strong persevere. This is when the typical Swede shows its greatest virtue: patience.

Unlike the impatient German who uses his elbows to get to the front of the line, cuts it by circling around it or employs a sophisticated ‘Excuse me, I’m a doctor’-scheme to get ahead, the Swede is calm, patient and endures the misery that life has thrown at him. He seems to know something we others do not: There is a beauty in waiting for what you want. Germans, while generally incapable of standing in line peacefully, actually have a word for this sentiment – Vorfreude, the anticipation you feel for something you are excited about. Lines slow down your life and give you the opportunity to examine the small wishes you have. Looking at the Lundian lines, the motto seems to be ‘the slower, the better’.

But don’t despair! Even if the waiting around proves to be without success in the end, that is you did not manage to get into the club or bar, the queuing does not have to turn into an evening on the sidelines. People connect under extreme situations, strangers become friends and it may turn out that having been to the actual party is not a necessity for attending an after-party. Friends can have deep, philosophical debates, while squeezed in between a group of complete strangers – physical closeness seems to facilitate psychological closeness.

If this knowledge isn’t enough, be sure to remind yourself that there is always another line to stand in, somewhere, soon. A line just waiting for you and maybe that time around it’s just the right length.

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