On a recent trip to see my parents in Sweden, my husband (British) and I visited the small, local boatyard to check out the ongoing excavations of a 15th-century boat wreck. As we arrived, we were met by two men sitting on the jetty, one unhurriedly completing a crossword, the other looking distinctly pale.


“Hello,” said crossword man, seeming used to foreign visitors. On hearing us speak English, the pale man joined in, perhaps feeling the need to explain his pallor. A wreck diver recently arrived from New York. He’d just discovered that the keys to his rented Volvo were accidentally locked inside of said Volvo, and now he was struggling to get through to the car rental company, not realising that on weekends, everything in Sweden is closed. Also, there was a crayfish party for the visiting divers last night, and he’s not feeling very well.

“Snaps?*” I asked, and he nodded regretfully.

As we talked, an Englishman staggered from a boat further down the jetty, looking in poor shape. This turned out to be another diver, who’d somehow mysteriously reaggravated an old foot-injury during the previous evening.

As the Brit was packed off to hospital, crossword man pointed to a shed next to the boat repair shop, explaining this was now a café/party venue set up to accommodate all the recent visitors – Italian academics, American documentary crews and English divers included. It was all very exciting and unusual for this normally quiet place.

As we left, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for these visiting professionals, though. They weren’t the first and won’t be the last to be lulled into a false sense of security by a small, sleepy Swedish community, only to be unexpectedly and brutally done over by an impromptu crayfish party.


Maria Smedstad moved to the UK from Sweden in 1994. She received a degree in Illustration in 2001, before settling in the capital as a freelance cartoonist, creating the autobiographical cartoon Em. Maria writes a column on the trials and tribulations of life as a Swede in the UK.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine Ltd.’

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