By Leonie Glaser
Besides having a high-ranking university, beautiful old buildings, and being surrounded by nature, Uppsala has a vibrant student life, unlike any other Euroculture City. The reason? Student Nations! This article will tell you everything you need to know about these Swedish traditional clubs – from the stairs in front of Värmlands to the fancy Gasques – a membership at a nation will define your Uppsala student life!
So, what are these nations? Student Nations are old student associations with their own bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, which are entirely run by students. They organise activities and have clubs ranging from choirs to sports, and from theatre to orchestra. The nations in Uppsala date back to 1630 and the names of the nations (for example, Stockholms Nation, Göteborgs Nation, and Värmlands Nation) give away their origin. The clubs were for students from certain areas of Sweden to meet people from their own region and feel a bit like home again. Nowadays, coming from a certain district is not necessary for membership anymore and even international students can join whichever nation they like!
Thirteen different nations
There are thirteen different student nations in Uppsala, each with its own building. They also all have their own character. For example, Kalmar Nation is all about indie music and Gästrike-Hälsing Nation has the best selection of special beers. Some have cosy gardens and cool rooftop bars, which open during the summer months. At the beginning of the semester, you’ll receive a temporary general nation card, with which you can enter all the nations. Use this time to get to know the nations! However, don’t get overwhelmed if you don’t have the time to get to know them all. The great thing about the nations is that if you become a member of one of them, you can enter all the other nations as well! You’ll receive a student nation card, which gives you unlimited access. So, in the end, it doesn’t really matter that much which nation you choose to become a member of. A membership at a nation is around 300 kr (30 euro) for a semester, which is definitely worth every penny!
TIP: To make a good decision, it is helpful to ask what benefits nations offer to their members. For example, if you become a member of Värmlands Nation, you can enter their nightclub for free, and if you become a member at Västgöta Nation, you’ll receive a nice discount at the soup they serve for lunch. Check out the different nations here.
Almost all students join a nation, from Bachelor to Master and even Ph.D. students. A big reason for this is to survive the Swedish alcohol monopoly: the drinks in nations are not as expensive as in other bars. Which is, concerning the high Swedish prices, a real benefit. On top of that, most nations have their own restaurants in which you can eat burgers and other finger foods for a fair price. All of them have vegan options as well! You must realise that these places are entirely run by students, so the burgers don’t always taste phenomenal, sometimes you have to wait long, and other times the food is cold. Nevertheless, it is definitely a good cheap option and most times the burgers do not disappoint! Are you a burger master, beer-guru, or king of the bar? Then you should definitely consider working in one of the nations. You can do an occasional shift to earn a little bit of money, or become part of the core team to enjoy benefits such as skipping the line at every nation nightclub. Most importantly, it is great fun and perfect for socialising and making new friends.
TIP: Look at the deals that nations have! For example, Gästrike-Hälsing Nation has a burger deal, 2 for the price of 1, every Tuesday! Some nations even do breakfast and lunch. Check their events here.
Dancefloors & DJs
Besides food and casual drinks, some of the nations have actual nightclubs, with large dancefloors, DJs, and everything you need to dance your ass off. Not every nation has one, but as pointed out, you can enter every nation club if you are a member of at least one of them. The entrance fee is around 60 kr (6 euros) if you are not a member of that nation, and a night of fun is guaranteed! If you’re into dance music, this is definitely your spot, but if you’re not into sweaty people, a loud bass, and young students making out, the normal bars might suit you better. Nevertheless, nightclubs are a place where students go to find love, or something less. If you didn’t find your soulmate on the dancefloor, Värmlands has a solution. Just go and sit on the stairs in front of the club, to let people know you’re still available and hope that someone picks you up. Yes, it’s horrible. Yes, this actually happens.
TIP: make sure you go to the club in time, as the line can be quite long! If you can buy tickets in advance for a certain party, definitely do so, as this saves you queue time.
The most traditional Swedish events the student nations host are the Gasques. A Gasque is a formal dinner where you dress up and sing Swedish songs. Intrigued? You should be! These events are a Swedish experience that you just cannot miss. Most gasques are just fancy dress-up, with dresses, suits, and heels. Some are fancier than others: the actual balls. These are also a bit more expensive, as they last longer, include more food, and are a bit more extravagant. The dress code for these is tuxedoes and long dresses. Other than fancy outfits, the night is all about singing! Not just any song, but old traditional Swedish songs. You can get a songbook from your nation, in which all the songs are written. This book also serves a memory purpose: during the gasque, you’ll hand out your book to others who will write something in it. You will write in your friend’s books and books from people you meet as well! The rule is that only after the gasque you can read what people wrote to you. So, writing in the book of your secret crush is totally safe 😉
TIP: ask the members which one is a must-go-to and keep an eye on when the tickets will be sold, as they sell out quite fast!
To sum up, nations are a vital aspect of student life in Uppsala. Whether you become an active member, start working, join for the burger deals, or just for an occasional drink, everything is allowed and there are no strings attached. Studying during Euroculture is one thing, emerging yourself in Swedish student culture another! Njut av Uppsala, och hejdå!
Picture credits: Leonie Glaser, Carolina Reyes and Annelou Snippe