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Not Much Midsummer for Scandinavians in Brussels

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By Anna-Karin Friis The Scandinavians in Brussels can be traced by following the flags in Etterbeek and Ixelles: the Finnish church and café in Rue du Luxembourg, the Scanshop in Place Jourdan and even a Scandinavian hairdresser in Avenue d’Auderghem!

A stroll through these emblematic contact points on Misummer Day does not reveal the Swedes letting loose by jumping around the Midsummer pole in any awkward postures. Quite to the contrary; some Scandinavians have given up on their tradition.

Viveka and Paula are having coffee outside Blomqvist’s espresso bar in Place Saint Boniface. "Midsummer does not feel like the thing to do here," they say. "Normally we would not go to Scandinavian hang-outs. The reason we come here is because there are others here, too."

Swedish hair-do

Hair In Etterbeek, Marie-Louise Larsson is busy working. Saturday is a big day and on weekdays she works until late in the evening. "People come here because they like the way we colour people's hair, it is a bit different to the Belgian methods," she explains. "And we devote more time to our haircuts. Most of our clients don’t have the Belgian habit of going to the hairdresser’s to have their hair styled once a week." And not everyone wanting a Swede to do their hair comes from Northern Europe; many just want the advantage of someone who speaks English.

And Midsummer? "No," says Marie-Louise, "I don’t even think my children know what it is."

Photo: Specialist in blondes

Caviar, licorice and bread

Scandinavian Shop Josefin Javenius is all alone in the Scandinavian food store in Place Jourdan. Perhaps people stocked up on their favourite sausages before the sunny weekend. "Normally we have 30-50 clients a day", says Josefin. "The Swedes want their Kalle’s Caviar and the Finns want their bread." There is a smell of delicious freshly baked buns in the air.

Candy is also a best-seller; salty licorice is not a common flavour in other countries. Even Swedish milk products are sold in Brussels, as the local yoghurt apparently does not live up to the demands of Swedish taste buds. And pickled herring is available, too. Josefin is the only one who confesses to having had a proper Swedish Midsummer celebration. "Oh, yes! I had to show others what it should be like!"

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