Sensing the Scandinavian solidarity in Sweden

Evie and Steven were lucky enough to be in Malmö for the celebration of Denmark winning Eurovision 2013 on Saturday

Congrats Denmark! But the real star was the weather

Evie Sargeant – Our Woman in Malmö 

It’s possible that the real star on Saturday was the weather; it was a gorgeous day. Naturally then I was sat in the shade under a hat bigger than Bonnie Tyler’s hair circa 1983, smearing on factor 50 sunblock instead of facepaint. Still, had it been raining then we, that is myself and a group of other international students, may not have bothered making the journey to Malmö. None of us would profess ourselves to be Eurovision fans in the slightest. 

I had joked on the way to Sweden that it might all get very tense, similar to derby day, but in fact it was quite the opposite.  When we got off the train it was ghostly quiet. I haven’t been to Malmö before, but I heard it could be ‘done in a day’, and with all due respect, I know what they mean. Despite hosting such a huge event, outside of the park there wasn’t a lot going on at all. The only drama I saw was between a Spanish women and a Swedish woman waiting in the ridiculously long toilet queue. I had no idea what either of them were saying … and neither did they. 

My heart did sink a little when I first saw Folkets Park where we would be watching the screening of the competition. The park looked small and lacking in party atmosphere. But thankfully it turned out to be perfect; we managed to find a big enough spot to throw down a picnic blanket and while away the few hours before it all began. By 9pm everyone was ready to wave their flags and dance in public. The highlights of the evening were of course when the Swedish and Danish acts performed; everyone pretended to know the words and swayed with arms slung around new friends’ shoulders. There were a considerable amount of Union Jacks to be seen during the unremarkable performance of Bonnie’s ‘Believe in Me’, but you can’t buy them in Tiger so we opted to wave the Dannebrog instead. 

Due to the running order, the Danish, Swedish and British entries were over quite early on, and without any flag waving to partake in after that, we just huddled up in our drunk coats, waiting for the scores to come in. Emmelie de Forest winning was the least surprising part of the day, but any excuse to return to Denmark next year and spend another day like Saturday is fine by me.

If you don’t embrace Eurovision it will embrace you!

Steven Karwoski – Our man in Malmö

I’ve previously avoided the Eurovision Song Contest as an American living in Scandinavia, but realised this past week that unless I spent the week hiding in my apartment’s bomb shelter (yes, most apartments in Sweden have bomb shelters), there’s nowhere to hide. 

Eurovision is like Cirque du Soleil meets ‘American Idol’ during Carnival. Living in the gay mecca of San Francisco for eleven years informed me well about the complexity of the gay world. The gay community contains many different flavours – from macho bears (google it) to glow stick-waving drag queens – and after five years in Malmö, I had started to pine for the flamboyancy, the glitter and the glow stick-waving that gay pride culture brings. Fortunately Eurovision offers everyone the opportunity to bring on the fabulous.

While at Tuesday’s Eurovision semi-final, I chatted with the man seated next to me. Realising he was not local, I asked what brought him to the contest. “My boyfriend is one of the choreographers,” he stated. “Your boyfriend?” I wondered? Having grown accustomed to misreading the standard effeminate, over-groomed straight Swedish guys wearing scarves in the summer for gay guys, I found it refreshing to meet a normal, openly gay guy. My gaydar recalibrated, I felt as if I was back in San Francisco.

Scandinavian cultural norms dictate avoidance of eye contact and smiling at strangers (staring from a distance is acceptable). While at Kulturen, the cultural museum in Lund, last week a group of boisterous strange-looking people approached us, smiling and making direct eye contact. Having acclimated to Scandinavian culture, I diverted my eyes, held onto my wallet, and reached for my phone and rang the police. 

As Gianluca, the Maltese Eurovision entry, introduced himself to my seven-year-old daughter and her friend, signing autographs, taking photos and handing out swag, I phoned the police back to explain we were not being attacked, but had rather run into a Eurovision contestant.

Eurovision also brought much needed vibrancy to the city. Malmö’s colour palate seems at best inspired by teen-age goths: stunning young women layer themselves in frumpy bland clothes dressed like middle aged pensioners in awkward berets – and not in a hipster sense of irony way either. Even as a fashion-challenged male, I know a fashion mess when I see one (I look in the mirror every day). So thank you Eurovision for allowing us to dress in outrageously colourful outfits without the threat of being institutionalised.