When I first saw these trucks driving around Stockholm last year I had no idea what was going on. I could hear them long before I could see them. And even when they got closer I still couldn’t work out what it was all about. At first I was wondering if it was a parade of some kind or maybe a protest? My inability to read Swedish at that stage meant that I couldn’t understand the slogans on the banners.
For about two weeks, every time I went into the city I would watch the trucks filled with teenagers dancing to very loud music and spraying each other and everyone they passed with cheap beer. The trucks were usually followed by a trail of spilt beer and you could smell them long after they had gone past! They were all decorated with flags, banners, balloons and some even had birch twigs attached to them. The local police didn’t seem to be bothered at all by the trucks even as they held up the traffic and filled the air with loud music, singing and constant honking.
Whatever was happening everyone seemed to be having an amazing time. A lot of the trucks were followed by cars with teenagers hanging out of either the sunroof or windows holding flags. In the busier tourist areas, people were stopping to watch the trucks pass and take photos and videos. I also learnt very quickly that if you stood too close to the side of the road you were likely to get covered in beer!
so what was it all about?
After asking around I learnt that this is called Studentflak. It’s how a large number of graduating students celebrate. I guess it’s the Swedish version of Schoolies in Australia!
High Schools in Sweden stagger their graduation ceremonies. So the celebration period lasts for about two weeks at the end of May, beginning of June. On graduation day students fill the local parks. All dressed up in suits, dresses and white hats to start the celebration with a champagne breakfast with their close friends. They then meet as a class in the school hall and rush out to cheers of congratulations by family and friends. Who are usually holding big signs with baby photos of the students and flowers and gifts. Then they get changed (into something that will be covered in beer and sweat by the end of the day!) and load themselves onto the back of the trucks to start the festivities.
There are websites dedicated to helping students plan for the perfect afternoon. They can hire the truck, driver, security, music and buy the sprutöl (spraying beer) all on the one site. There are different size trucks ranging from 20-120 people. The afternoon can cost anywhere from 11,295kr to 29,295kr depending on the size. Over the years there have been a few unfortunate incidents of students getting injured. So now there are rules put in place by both the police and local transport authorities. All trucks must register a route and avoid the streets where they are banned and must not exceed 20km/h.
All in all, everyone seems to have an amazing time. Its great fun to watch as a tourist or newcomer to the city 🙂