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Life as a student at Stockholm Business School

Peculiarities of the Swedish Langauge: Words That Don’t Exist in English

Hej allihopa!

Time for a little Swedish lesson! One of the big changes when moving to Sweden is that suddenly you have no idea anymore what people around you are talking about. However, most people try to make some kind of effort to learn at least the basics of the language. The more you learn, the more you encounter words that actually don’t even exist in the English language. This week I thought I’d teach some of the most common of these gems of the Swedish language to you. Let’s start with a few verbs that might come in handy.

Fika. I couldn’t start this list with any other word. When in Sweden, word fika can’t be avoided as Swedes absolutely love it. It doesn’t have a perfect translation but it can be used as a verb meaning something like “going for a coffee” or “having coffee” or as a substantive meaning “coffee break” or “coffee date”.  For more information, check this post.

Hinna. A much-used word in Sweden that approximately means “having time to do something” or “being on time”. For example, if you’re friend asks you to go the movies you can answer “I’m sorry, I don’t hinna”.

Mysa. This must be one of my favourite words in the Swedish language. Mysa-ing contains the idea of relaxing, being comfortable and having a good time. Many Swedish families have a tradition to mysa on Fridays – eat together, charge batteries after the work week and maybe watch a movie. This tradition is called “fredagsmys”.

Swedes have also come up with pretty useful terms when talking about your family and relationships that English lacks. Here are some examples:

Farfar/Farmor/Morfar/Mormor. In Sweden, instead of having words grandmother and grandfather, you have separate words for each of your four grandparents. Basically “far” means father and “mor” means mother so farfar mean your father’s father, morfar your mother’s father and so on. No confusion who you are talking about! There is a similar logic with words uncle and aunt as well.

Killkompis/Tjejkompis. “I was out with a boy friend yesterday. I mean, he’s not my boyfriend, just a friend who is a boy, you know?” Have you ever been in this situation? In Sweden there’s is no confusion like this as there actually is a different word for your friend who is a boy/girl than for your boyfriend/girlfriend (which by the way is pojkvän/flickvän).

Sambo. Are you living with your significant other but you’re not married? Does calling him/her your boyfriend/girlfriend sound too childish and not serious enough? No worries, there is a word for that too in Swedish! Sambo means someone you’re in a relationship with and living with but not married to. Pretty convenient word in Sweden where this arrangement is very common.

Of course I also have to mention the most Swedish adjective ever, otherwise this list would be incomplete.

Lagom. The meaning is something in the lines with “just the right amount” or “not too little but not too much”. This word is sometimes used to describe the Swedish mentality as equality, moderation and avoiding extremes are often seen as important aspects of Swedish culture.

Until next time!



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