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10 Untranslatable Scandinavian Words

10 Untranslatable Scandinavian Words

Last year I spent four months living and studying in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. Before I arrived in Stockholm, I was a little apprehensive about the language barrier but soon realised I had nothing to worry about as nearly everyone in Sweden can speak fluent English. This was great for diminishing my nerves but didn’t help when it came to motivating myself to learn the language. I admit my attempt at learning Swedish was pathetic, but I did pick up a few words or concepts which are unique to Scandinavia.

You may have heard of the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’ this is often used when marketing Scandi interiors and furnishings but is often misused in advertisement. ‘Hygge’ relates to the mental state of cosiness, conviviality, and togetherness in the heart of winter. The word describes an intimate, loving feeling associated with sitting around a fire in winter with friends rather than relating to material items. I picked up several other interesting Scandinavian words that don’t translate in English which I’ve shared below.

Fika (Swedish): a time to slow down with coffee and friends whilst enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

Klämdag (Swedish): meaning Squeeze Day, if there’s a bank holiday, then a working day, then another day off, then the working day will become ‘squeeze day’ and everyone will have the day off.

Sliddersladder (Danish): meaning gossiping and chitchat. Pronounced with a soft ‘d’.

Buksvager (Swedish): what you call someone who had sex with someone you’ve already had sex with. A useful Swedish word!

Fredagsmys (Swedish): to be cosy on a Friday, eat nice food, sweet treats and relax inside. This usually involves tacos (for some reason) only on Fridays though.

Gökotta (Swedish): to wake up in the morning with the purpose of going outside to hear the birds sing.

Jamsk- (Danish): describes feeling under the weather and not quite right. Pronounced with a soft ‘j’.

Lagom (Swedish): not too little, not too much just right.

Vabba (Swedish): to work even though you have taken a paid day off because your child is sick. An increasing problem in Sweden.

Planka (Swedish): to sneak behind someone else through turnstiles by standing as flat as a plank of wood. This is a common occurrence on the metro in Stockholm.

Despite learning the bare minimum of the Swedish language whilst I was living in Sweden, I can see how I could integrate some of these words into my daily conversations. Now I’m back home in the UK I love to confuse my friends by asking them if they want to go for a fika! Have you heard of any of these Scandinavian words before?

If you enjoyed this post, why not not check out my other posts on Stockholm on 35mm and my Norway Road Trip.

Travel Itinerary: Norway Road Trip

Travel Itinerary: Norway Road Trip

Stockholm on 35mm

Stockholm on 35mm