In this day and age when people are seemingly more attached to the virtual world than the physical one, kubb gives us a reason to observe the present moment. Indeed, it refreshes us, brings us together and generates joy. And it’s accessible to everyone: young, old and all those in between. You can play with friends, neighbors, family. But you can’t play with a phone in your hand. And you can’t play alone.
Swedes may be surprised to discover kubb isn’t common in America. I was 21 when I was first introduced to kubb while studying in Växjö. The winter frost had just broken, and the spring sun bathed the Småland landscape in warmth. University students burst into the sunshine from their dark rooms to spend each and every free moment in the day’s light, as if at any moment winter might rear its ugly head again. I immediately fell in love with the lawn game and became resolute to bring it back to the States when I returned from my year abroad. But would the game translate for American players? Would my friends back home see kubb’s appeal?
Of course they did. Back in the U.S., I threw myself a giant homecoming party, wanting to share a few of my favorite Swedish experiences with friends. I decorated my apartment in blue and yellow streamers, served IKEA meatballs alongside beets and lingonberries, and introduced my friends to the sounds of Håkan Hellström. The night concluded, of course, with a game of kubb. Watching my American friends play the Swedish game was a magical merging of two special worlds.
It’s been 10 years since my transformative year in Växjö. Ten years since I fell in love with Sweden — its landscape, its people, its ways of life. When I returned home, I vowed to maintain some of the Swedish habits I’d amassed while living abroad. Some have been easier than others to hold onto. I still involuntarily utter “mmm” during conversations — a very confusing practice to Americans, who believe I’m having a hard time hearing so begin to repeat themselves. I still try to squeeze in a fika whenever I have time, and at breakfast, I’ve traded American white toast smeared with peanut butter for knäckebröd and prästost. But it’s been hard to uphold my desire to bike more and drive less.
Kubb, however, has been easy to carry over from my Swedish life to my American one. It still excites me to set up the pitch, still thrills me to gather friends and family for a game. While I sometimes get wistful that it’s not the Swedish sun under which I’m playing, and while sometimes my heart aches knowing it will be a few more years until I can return to the land I love, kubb will forever be a pastime indelibly joining me to my Scandinavian home.

Jessica Lied