How to meet Swedes and maybe even find romance

I met up with a good friend yesterday who has just got two puppies. We went for a stroll through Stockholm’s Old Town and out onto the harbour island of Skeppsholmen. These two little puppies are of the breed Daschund, and they were incredibly popular with passers by on the street. Countless times, we were stopped and chatted to by Swedes and tourists alike. It seems that getting a dog is a great way to get people to talk to you in Stockholm!

In Swedish there is a concept called ‘hundtricket’ (the dog trick) which basically is about getting a dog so that you can pick people up on the street. And it obviously works! It’s actually how another friend of mine met her husband.

Of course, this isn’t a specifically Swedish phenomena. It’s been proven to work on dating site Tinder. A UK company carried out some research recently into how attractive people are perceived to be if they have a dog with them in their profile picture. According to the research men got 38% more swipes if there was a dog with them in their picture. Women got 69% more swipes!

People with dogs are apparently perceived as more open, relatable and approachable. Having a dog seems to be a great conversation starter, whether you’re on a dating app or walking down the street.

So, you want to connect more easily with Swedes? Get a dog!

10 very confusing Swedish words

In an earlier post, I wrote how Swedish can sometimes be very clear. To the point of literalness. There are also cases where Swedish is very unclear, where you’re not quite sure what is being said, or referred to. Here are 10 very confusing Swedish words:

  1. Himmel – in Swedish this is the word for heaven and also for sky. So which is being referred to?
  2. Trappa – Swedish sometimes doesn’t distinguish between inside and outside. This is the word for stairs and also for steps. So, take the ‘trappa’ can be confusing.
  3. Tak – likewise, this is the word for roof and also ceiling. So, what does fixing the ‘tak’ actually refer to?
  4. Man – the word for man, is also the word for husband. Confusing…is he married or just a man?
  5. Ben – is the word for leg and also for bone. So if you break your ‘ben’, what have you broken?
  6. Kudde – in Swedish is the same word for pillow and for cushion. So, tidy up the ‘kudde’ means which ones exactly?
  7. Låna – the word for borrow, and also for lend. So what exactly do you want to do? Give – or take?
  8. Tidning – Swedish uses the same word to describe a newspaper and a magazine. So, pass me the ‘tidning’ means which one exactly?
  9. Lov – in Swedish the same word is used for permission, promise, duty and praise. It’s just all round confusing.
  10. Nöt – the most confusing of all. I know from my personal experience in a restaurant. This is the word for nut, and also for beef. So is the food vegetarian or not? Trust me, it’s an easy mistake to make.

Know any other confusing Swedish words? Please share!

Bad Swedish summer

Last week I was in the Swedish county of Dalarna – where it was 3 degrees and hailed! That was extreme, but also fairly typical of this summer so far.

After last year’s mega warm and long summer, expectations were high for this year. These expectations have been crushed. Cold winds, low temperatures and rain have been the melody of summer 2019 and people are not happy.

There’s a great Swedish expression – ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes’. I wonder how many people agree with that saying at the moment. Summers like this are filled with reluctant book-reading and crossword solving and not so much sunbathing and swimming.

I guess it’s early days still. The weather can change and August could be amazing. That’s what we all keep telling ourselves.

And that takes us to another great Swedish expression -‘Hope is last thing to abandon us’.

Swedish expressions – to be a ‘seven sleeper’

I am what Swedes would call a ‘sjusovare’ – a seven sleeper. The opposite of the early bird, a seven sleeper loves to sleep late, lie in and definitely not get up early. The nearest expression in English is probably a ‘sleepyhead’.

Curious as I am, I checked into where the word ‘sjusovare’ comes from. It does not have an agricultural origin to do with sleeping past the hour of 7 o’clock. No, the expression has much more religious beginnings.

In 251 AD, the Roman Caesar Decius carried out a purge where he persecuted Christians. Seven young men were accused of following the religion, and asked to repent. They refused, and retreated to a cavern to pray. After a while they fell asleep. On hearing this, Decius ordered the mouth of the cave to be sealed off, entombing the men inside. Three hundred years later, a landowner opened the cave again and found the sleepers within. They awoke, thinking they had only slept one day. They awoke to a new political and religious landscape where Christianity was the norm and they were no longer persecuted. Basically, they slept until the danger was over.

These miraculous men were named the Seven Sleepers, which later became the Swedish noun a seven sleeper. Their legendary tomb can be visited today, just outside the Turkish town of Selcuk.

So I am a seven sleeper. But 300 years seems a bit extreme. 9.30 seems a more reasonable time to get up.

The Top 15 literal Swedish words

Swedish is quite a difficult language to learn, especially the pronunciation. However, there are moments when the Swedish language is ridiculously literal. And it is so literal that it is hilarious. Here are the top 15. Feel free to add any others that you can think of in the comments field.

  1. Sugrör – the Swedish word for straw – literally translates as ‘suck pipe’
  2. Grönsak – vegetable in Swedish is literally ‘green thing’
  3. Tunnelbana – the Swedish metro is literally ‘tunnel lane’
  4. Tvättbjörn – the Swedish word for raccoon translates at ‘wash bear’ (as it tends to wash its prey before eating it)
  5. Tidskrift – newspaper, literally ‘time writing’
  6. Sköldpadda – the Swedish word for tortoise is literally ‘shield frog’
  7. Studsmatta – Swedish word for trampoline is literally ‘bounce carpet’
  8. Flygplats – Swedish airport translates literally as ‘flight place’
  9. Vattenkokare – the Swedish word for kettle. Translated literally, it is ‘water boiler’
  10. Glasögon – the Swedish word for spectacles is ‘glass eyes’
  11. Rotsak- the Swedish word for root vegetable, translates as ‘root thing’
  12. Flodhäst – the Swedish word for hippopotamus, literally translates as ‘river horse’
  13. Järnväg – the Swedish word for railway translates as ‘iron road’
  14. Kylskåp – the Swedish word for fridge, translates as ‘chill cupboard’
  15. Finally, my favourite. The Swedish word for vacuum cleaner is dammsugare. Literally – ‘dust sucker’

Swedish politics week – important or irrelevant?


Once a year, there is a summer politics week in Sweden. The week is happening now, and takes place in a park called Almedalen on the Baltic island of Gotland, and attracts heavy media coverage. Every day of the week belongs to a specific party that has a seat in the parliament. This year there are 8 parties.

The Alemdalen politics week started when legendary Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme spoke publicly. It was at the end of the 60s and there was an audience of a few hundred people.

Now Almedalen politics week attracts thousands of participants and is intended to involve the man on the street in politics and to protect the strong Swedish value of democracy and free speech. The idea is that at Almedalen politics week, we meet each other in debate. And in debate and discussion, we influence each other and our environment.

The Almedalen week has been heavily criticized, and just seeing social media can explain why. The event has become a popular opportunity for companies and organizations to meet and network with each other. In a parallel existence, some people go to Almedalen only for this purpose and not to participate in any political activities. Social media is awash with images of participants mingling, drinking rose wine, partying, dancing and taking drunken groupies.

Live and let live I say. Far be it for me to criticize other people’s choices. I just wonder how far away from the original concept of democracy politics week will go.

And how long before your average Swede sees it as elitist, excluding and irrelevant?

How Sweden exposed the Chernobyl catastrophe

If you haven’t seen the HBO series ‘Chernobyl’, do so. Probably one of the best series ever made, it depicts the events of the nuclear disaster that happened in the Soviet Union in 1986 killing up to an estimated 200,000 people (ref Greenpeace). It’s a vivid reminder of the perils of nuclear energy, and highly relevant to the growing debate in Sweden about the expansion of this form of energy production.

The series is directed by Swede Johan Renck, and stars many Swedish actors such as Stellan Skarsgård. However, what I didn’t know was how important Sweden’s involvement was in the discovery of the disaster.

Here’s how, taken from the European Parliament news page:

The alarm sounded at Forsmark, Sweden’s second largest nuclear power plant, when one of the employees passed one of the radiation monitors on his way back from the restroom. When it showed high levels of radiation coming from his shoes, staff at first worried an accident had taken place at the power plant. However, a thorough scan discovered that the real source of the radiation was some 1,100 kilometres away in the Ukrainian town of Chernobyl.

The early detection by the Forsmark plant, one hour north of Stockholm, played a crucial role in forcing Soviet authorities to open up about the disaster that happened in Chernobyl in April 1986.

Thanks to the power plant’s early detection, they could inform the Swedish authorities at an early stage, who then told the world about the radioactive pollution coming from the disaster in the Soviet Union.

Today, most harmful materials have decayed. But some harmful materials, such as Caesium and Plutonium, will remain in the environment over a longer period of hundreds, even thousands, of years, though at lower levels.’

Sweden was affected in other ways by the radioactive cloud that blew from Ukraine across the Baltic. Still today, people in the north of Sweden are dying of cancer brought on by exposure. As recently as 2017, hunters found a pack of wild boar containing more than 10 times the safe level of radiation.

In Norway, the levels of radioactivity have reduced over time but there are still exceptions. Most recently in 2018, values detected in meat and milk suddenly doubled. The reason turned out to be an unusually widespread crop of mushrooms that year. Fungi have the ability to absorb a lot of radioactivity, up to 1,000 times more than plants. Those yearly variations mean that there will be a need for control for many years to come.

Thanks to its geographical location, Sweden played an important role in the revealing of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. But it also paid a high price, the effects of which will still be felt for generations to come.

Today, Sweden has 8 nuclear power plants producing about 40% of the country’s energy. This is despite a national referendum that voted to phase nuclear energy out by 2010. In 2015, decisions were made to phase out four older plants by 2020.

The constant question is can a disaster like Chernobyl happen again? And are we willing to take that risk?

One thing is for certain, the Chernobyl disaster showed us all that pollution has no borders.