Going to a gasque

A gasque is, as many know, a traditional Uppsalian student dinner.

But a gasque also has its own internal traditions, expectations and quirks. Read on to find out more!

A gasque, is a traditional dinner, with varying degrees of formality. Each nation will arrange many different gasques during a semester, and while almost all follow a similar basic premise, each gasque will have its own unique flavour.

The first thing to get right with a gasque is the dresscode. This is very important. The two main dresscodes are as follows:

Kavaj (black tie) - Men should have a dinner jacket and matching pants and a shirt and tie. It is accepted to do the whole wide-collar-no-tie thing but as a rule that is just sooo 1999. So don't do it on those grounds. Women should wear either a cocktail dress or an evening dress. You can get away with a skirt and top depending on what sort of outfit it is - it is your call.

Högtidsdräkt (white tie/full formal dress)- Men should have a tailcoat and matching pants as well as a vest and a bowtie or similar formal adornment. You should not wear a smoking jacket or mix and match your styles. If you are confused check out some of the resources on the internet. It is probably cheaper to buy a coat and tails second hand than to hire one for one night (unfortunately!). Women should wear a ball gown.

For more formal events there may even be a dresscode for the släpp (after party).

Okay, now you know what to wear.

Timing: There is no such thing as fashionably late. Swedes are punctual, and these punctuality extends even to balls and dinners. If it says 18.00 you should get there at that time. One thing that you may notice is the letters "dk". You are by now all aware of the "akademisk kvart" - that is, the way lectures begin fifteen minutes after the hour. "DK" means "dubbelkvart" - a period of double fifteen minutes (that is, 30 minutes). So if it says 17dk it means 17.30. Again, you should turn up at this time.

The evening begins with a pre-dinner drink, usually a simple cocktail or non-alcoholic alternative. Most nations calculate the number of pre-dinner drinks exactly in proportion to the number of guests. This means that you are allocated one cocktail. Please do not take advantage of the relative freedom with which one can get cocktails, because if you are guzzling down 2 or 3 it means some other people will go without. This is quite a difference from many similar events in other countries! Use this time to mingle, take photos, and chat. It is also very important to check where you will be seated.

The next point worth mentioning is the seating. In Uppsala, and certainly many other places in Sweden, seating is arranged according to a more or less complicated system. At private parties you may play a game to determine the seating. At a nation's gasque the seating is determined by some sort of special calculation. Either way you will have pretty much no say in the matter. The idea is that during the dinner you will get to meet a whole bunch of new people and that in the presence of good food and drink you will also make a whole bunch of new friends! Seating is usually arranged boy/girl/boy/girl - as much as possible. Discrimination or tradition? You be the judge but either way you will be sitting beside someone who is nice and sociable!

After finding your seats you wait until everyone has found their seat and then you will sit down and there will usually follow an introduction, perhaps a song or some entertainment after which you can start eating the first course. The first course is often something small and a little luxurious! You will not, at this time, be feeling full. In fact, you will be quite hungry! It is therefore a good idea to have an afternoon meal before you go to the gask. With the heavy schedule of entertainment, and the difficulties involved for a nation's kitchen in preparing food for 200 people it may very well be 8 o'clock or later before you get your main meal.

During the evening you will sing a number of songs, lead by an appointed leader. Most of the songs are well known to many Swedish students, or soon will be after a couple of gasques, but for the unitiated it can be a strange experience. Try and follow along as best you can and if nothing else than sing with good spirit and it should work itself out! It is not usual that people spontaneously start their own songs - it is the job of the song-leader to adjudge the right moment for singing. After singing you will take part in a traditional Swedish toast or "skål" whereby one raises their glass and makes eye contact with those sitting around them. For men you look first to your left, then your right, and then straight across. You then take a sip of your drink, and then continue to make eye contact/raise your glass to the same three people, except in the opposite order! Women of course do the same except in the opposite direction! It will all make sense when you get there. One important thing to note is that you do not clink glasses. Some songs are snaps songs, some are wine songs and some are beer songs. Do your best to follow along!

The main meal may be served plate for plate, but it is often so that people take their own portions from larger communal plates that are put in the middle of a table. If this is the case try and think of your fellow students - don't take 5 pieces of meat and a whole tray of potatoes! Do a quick check and see how many plates of potatoes/rice/vegetables or whatever are on the table and work out how much you should take. A good guide is that a plate of potatoes should be divided amongst 6 people.

Finally, you will be served a dessert, coffee and if you like an avec - an after dinner drink. It is likely that between the main and the dessert there will be a short pause. This is your opportunity to go to the toilet, stretch your legs, have a smoke or whatever - all the sorts of things that are generally frowned upon during the sitting. Come back on time so that the festivities can begin again!

There are two final things worth noting: alcohol and the släpp, that is, the afterparty.

It is most common that you have to buy snaps/avec tickets in advance. That is, before the gasque has started you will have to consider how many snaps you would like to drink and if you would like an after dinner avec. Depending on the gasque they will come out one or more times with the offer of snaps during the dinner. You should keep track of this: if they come out only one time than you should hand in your tickets and get your entire night's snaps. If you choose to drink snaps then it is praxis to drink one third of your snaps per "round". If you only want to drink one snaps during the evening then simply take a small sip when toasting. If you are taking the non alcoholic option this is not a problem - simply fill your snaps glass with the non-alcoholic beverage of your choice and toast to your heart's content!

The släpp is the afterparty. After clearing away the tables and what not they will then open the dancefloor and the real partying can begin! Not only will you get to dance the night away with your new found friends from your table at the gasque, your friends who were not at the sitting will be able to come. So if you want to go and meet up with people after a gasque (or simply join in the great atmosphere on the dancefloor) look for what time the släpp begins and what it costs. If you have bought a ticket to a gasque then of course your ticket price includes the afterparty - all you have to do is wait around for a few minutes, practise your dance moves and get ready to party the night away when the dancefloor opens!