The mysteries of the Swedish language

by Claudia

Hey everybody – or – hej allihoppa =)

Another week has passed and we are soon deep in the November month, which is my least favourite month ever!

Last weekend I have been visiting my boyfriend’s family, because it has been fathers’ day in Sweden. I have been studying Swedish for several years now and I must say I am quite fluent. BUT I never understand my boyfriend’s grandfathers. They are quite old and they sometimes even use words that do not exist in modern Swedish anymore. What is left to do for me? Well I always just nod and smile 🙂 But sometimes I would really like to know what they are talking about 😉

There is a few other things that are a mystery to me with the Swedish language.

Why do Swedes for example like to say things double all the time? Like “hej hej” (hello hello), “finfint” (nice nice) or “tja tja” (kind of short for hey hey). Are they such enthusiasts? Do they feel like people don’t hear them the first time? Maybe that’s why Swedes never play the bad guys in movies, because they just sound so damn sweet all the time 😛

lagom - not too much, not too littleAnd what the h*** does this “lagom” actually mean?! I believe this is a word that you won’t find a literal translation for in any language. Imagine the following conversation:

“Hur mycket sås vill du ha?”(How much sauce do you want?)

– “Lagom.”

How much is lagom? A bit? A lot? Something inbetween? I don’t know. I think it’s best to translate it with “just enough” or “just the right amount” – but tastes are different and how am I supposed to know what is just right for you? I guess to say lagom is a way to be polite and leave it for the host to decide what he or she thinks is appropriate. Swedes in general are very humble and don’t like to get into conflicts. (On the picture it says: not too much, not too little)

The same holds true for words like “nja” (is it a yes, a no, or something inbetween?), “duktig” (good, smart, talented?) or to call grandparents “mormor”, “morfar”, “farmor” and “farfar” (which tells you if it’s the dad or mum of your dad or mum respectively – which sounds very confusing in English and I wish we would have these expressions in other languages as well).

If you want to know more about some fun Swedish words that are hard to translate you can have a look here.

Now I am going to be duktig and do the dishes before we will have a fika and eat lagom many chips 😀


Om Claudia

A German living and studying in Helsingborg, passionate about planning events and cultural diversity. Are you curious of learning about student life in Helsingborg as well as Swedish culture from a foreigner's perspective? Then follow my blog entries!
Det här inlägget postades i Intressant, Prat om mest ingenting, Tänkvärt och har märkts med etiketterna , , , , , , , . Bokmärk permalänken.


  1. hej hej, this inlägg was better than lagom 😉

  2. yippie 🙂 thank you Anna!

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