5 essential Swedish words

zlatanThe following five Swedish words will teach you about Swedish culture and help you learn Swedish.

Jantelagen — the literal translation is Jante law. If you follow the rules of Jantelagen, you are never supposed think you’re anything special. Don’t stick out in a crowd. The concept is similar to small poppy syndrome. How do you embarass a Swede? Tell them they’re good at something. Nine times out of ten they’ll blush and say, “Nejjjjj!” That’s janteglagen.

Lagom means just the right amount. Excess is frowned upon in traditional Swedish culture. In a way, lagom is related to Jantelagen. Here’s an example: My inlaws dislike Sweden’s best soccer play, Zlatan Ibrahamovic because he is “too flashy” and generally just too much, too good, too loud, and too cocky. There’s a typical Swedish phrase that describes this mentality perfectly — “Lagom is best.”

Semester means vacation, and Swedes get a lot of it. The country practically shuts down in July when it seems like everyone is on their Swedish vacation. Most people start with 5 weeks of paid vacation. The older you get, the more vacation days you get. You’ve got to love the Nordic model.

Mörk is dark. Maybe Swedes cherish equilibrium, the lagom concept, because Swedish weather is not at all lagom. In the summer it’s bright all day and in the winter it’s painfully dark.

Snaps means snaps or aquavit. That’s an easy one to remember. Maybe Swedes drink so much snaps because of the dark winters and the pressures to abide by the rules of conformity.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Swedish words and share some of your own favorites in the comment section.

3 Replies to “5 essential Swedish words”

  1. How about if you excel and do really well, but are not flashy, cocky or boastful ? Is that ok in the nordic mindset ?

    1. Yes. That’s fine, but you can’t talk about your successes. People would say, “He is the best cross-country skier out there, but he’s still so humble.” That’s a Swedes’ perfect ideal of a superstar.

  2. Hey there! Im a 23 year old girl from Kenya planning on moving to Sweden to work as an au pair. Do you have any advice for me!? Thanks! I love Sweden!

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