In Sweden, winter is the perfect season for exercise. Schools put on endless sports days involving skiing and skating, which is great for those who enjoy this – but not so much for those who’ve reached an age when organised fun seems like the epitome of hell. This was how I felt, aged 14, being packed off on one such sports day. The idea of rattling around inside a bus for hours before being strapped inside a pair of poorly fitting ski boots until the sun went down did not appeal.

There was, however, an alternative offered to dissidents like myself. Ice-fishing. I’d like to point out that I was not in any way a rebel, merely sullen and full of teenage pessimism. I was also shy, and so – looking around the small gathering of equally grumpy teenagers who’d opted for ice-fishing – I feared that I’d made a mistake. Picture us like a Scandinavian Breakfast Club in snowsuits. None of us fished. But out we trundled onto the ice, stopping some distance in, clumsily drilling a hole. Then we sat, in unified silence. Freezing winds blew across the open expanse. No fish came. Eventually we were all so cold that we had to start talking. Not only that, but one of us was going blue, and so, reluctantly, we huddled around him to warm him up. As the temperature dropped further, we remained like this, eventually becoming one giggling pile of bodies.

Once back on the rattling bus, we slunk off to separate seats, reverting to our usual selves. But for those few hours on the ice, we’d been a team. It goes to show that you should never underestimate the effect that impending hypothermia can have, especially when making new friends.

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.

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