A few weeks ago I was in the kitchen sawing through a milk carton with a knife, which was actually my go-to method for opening them. The Swedish milk carton has beguiled us for months now, it’s looks simple and it tells you where to tear, but it’s doesn’t tell say that you need to first squeeze the carton in a certain is-this-milk-going-to-explode-if-I-do-this kind of way. The cartons are small, so we go through them quickly, which has afforded me many an opportunity to ponder ideas like If Swedes are known for considered functional design, how can this be a Swedish product? Is it possible that this package design predates that school of thought? The cartons are also slippery, so when a particularly big splash of milk hit me after a fairly aggressive saw, I took a moment to stop and officially resign myself to the fact that I might never know how to correctly open one of these cartons, and should instead start asking myself how I might learn to saw it open more gracefully the next time.
It was only recently, at a Swedish friend’s apartment, that I finally learned how these cartons are best opened. The solution feels neither elegant nor “Swedish” in my 2-month-old view of what “Swedishness” is, but it is certainly better than “the saw”, and it’s with some shame that I admit it was unlikely I was going to put it together on my own. So, in the spirit of everyone who has ever contributed to a forum, written a blog post, or answered a Yahoo answer about how to deal with the little things as an American in a Sweden (there are many and I reference them quite often), I submit my own minor contribution, a guide to opening the Swedish milk carton.