Eating Surströmming in Sweden and Other Unforgettable Experiences

Eating Surströmming in Sweden and Other Unforgettable Experiences

Not much has gone on over the past few days, it has calmed down a little as Ebba and I are getting ready for school. Thursday I had a meeting at my school with the Vice Principle of my classes mentor. They were very nice and spoke English while we talked about the school, my classes, and went on a tour around the school. My school is only one building so just a tiny bit smaller than my nine building school back home but it is super nice with a lot of lounge areas, a ping pong table, some study rooms. and nice big lockers!!

After, my host mom and I took the bus to downtown Södertälje and she showed me around the stores and different “malls.” I put mall in quotations because it is not like the malls in the U.S., there are about 10-15 stores in all. We then went for a fika at a nearby cafe before walking to Torekälleberget, which is a little town that was made as a recreation of Södertälje from the olden days.

They had lots of farm animals and barns and stores selling the famous pretzels that Södertälje is famous for. When men went off to war women made these pretzels to bring in money to the family. They are like smaller versions of soft pretzels without salt, and sweeter. We ate them on our train ride home. Once home we rested our feet with some card games and movies before heading off to bed.

Friday, I went to another appointment, this time at the migration office to get my visa!! We rode the train for an hour and had a short wait before it was our turn. Super quick and simple, we were done in no time and should only have to wait a few days for my UT card to come in the mail. Mamma and I then took the train and stopped by my dance studio to see the class schedule so I could decide on classes.

Once home, we sat down for some sandwiches and cards with Ebba and her friend Sofie. As you can see, we play tons of cards here. They have been teaching me some new Swedish card games that I can’t wait to bring home to my card loving family!

I have noticed similarities between my host family and my family, but also some differences. I think it is good to have a strong balance of both so that you feel more comfortable with your host family and so you can adjust easier to your new life. The relationship you create with your host family is the most important bond you will make while abroad so it is important to be able to share both similarities and differences. After many rounds of cards, Sofie, Ebba, and I went out for dinner at Pizza Hut, which are waaaaay nicer here, and a movie, which are very similar to those in the U.S., just with different candy options!


Saturday we woke up a little early and headed out to Stendörren, which translates to “The Stone Door” in English. It is a camping ground, but most people go just for the day, that is right on the water with many islands, well rocks, connected by bridges. It was a stunning sight to see with amazingly blue water, so clear you could see straight down onto the bottom.

The only bad thing was it was very windy which in turn made it very cold. We didn’t stay long and instead decided to stop at a little summer town named Nyköping where many go to swim and shop on their vacation. We walked through the town, looked through shops, and ate ice cream.

Saturday night my host parents and I went to Stockholm to watch Modnattsloppet, a big race that Stockholm puts on every year. They have a few races towards the end call masquerade races where people dress up in funny costumes and run the 10 kilometer race. My favorite costumes of the night were definitely the group that dressed up as robots!!!

This morning was relaxing. We spent the first half of the day playing cards  and the Swedish version of Sorry! out on the porch with the nice weather we are having. When we walked down to the grocery store to pick up some lunch and Fika, my host family had the horrible idea of eating surströmming.


Surströmming is a Swedish dish that has been named the smelliest food in the world. It is herring that has been fermented for several months. If you’re thinking, wow that sounds disgusting!, then you’re totally right. The smell alone is unbearable so you have to open it out side. We all watched as Pappa cut open the fish and covered our noses to try and keep the smell as mild as possible, but it still didn’t help.


We rolled it in a wrap with cucumber, onion, and herbs to try and minimize the tongue/surströmming contact and the taste was still so powerful. We each tried to eat it, Pappa went first and ate it, he was the only one! Mamma and Ebba then ate theirs, both spitting it up, and then Mamma threw up a little. They then turned to me and said it was my turn!


After I had seen their reaction and not very good ones at that, I had to try it myself. I waited for so long staring at it and stalling before I finally just threw the thing in my mouth and started chewing. In my first bite I bit right into the fermented fish. The taste spread through my mouth fast and even though I tried. I couldn’t keep it in my mouth much longer. I spit it into my napkin and washed it down quickly with some 7 Up.

I’m glad I tried it because my curiosity of if this food was actually as bad as they say was killing me, but it is definitely something I will never do again. The only problem was the disposal of a large can of fermented fish. We didn’t want to bring it inside to send it down the drain and were not going to put it in the garbage can to let it rot even longer until someone came by and picked it up. So, we decided to bury it in the back yard!! Yes, the can is now sitting in the ground under the lovely garden of my home here in Sweden, just where it belongs!!!!


While surströmming was an awful thing to both smell and eat, I’m so glad I tried it. I know that must sound weird after what I have just described to you but if I had not, I would have gone my whole life wondering what it was like and always regretting not trying it when I had a chance.

Part of studying abroad is immersing yourself into another culture with school, music, clothing, food, holidays, and traditions. You are not going to like everything, but how can you state your opinion about something without ever trying it?

Surströmming, as well as many other things I have done here in Sweden, is something I would never be able to do back home. I came here to get away from the norms of society and see how other people live. Without trying surströmming and salty licorice candy, you could never get the true Swedish experience. If you want to see the video that terrified me, here’s the link!

Never let the what ifs or the unknowns in life scare you, taking a leap into the freezing water is what will make your time in a new place the best it can be. My time here in Sweden has been all I could ever ask for so far and I plan to keep it that way. Trying new things and forgetting fear is the only way I can truly live as a Swede.




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