The top 10 most satisfying Swedish words to pronounce


I’ve spent over 20 years struggling with the Swedish language. Grammar is always a challenge for me – but it is pronunciation that still continues to drag me down.

That said, there are a few Swedish words that I just love to say. They have to be the most fun words in the Swedish language. Here, in no particular order, are my top 10.

  1. Mumsfilibaba – a hysterically satisfying way to say that something is really delicious
  2. Sjuksköterska – the Swedish word for nurse – try saying it after a couple of beers – it’s really fun
  3. Kackerlacka – the Swedish word for cockroach is somewhat onomatopoeic – the perfect way to describe these disgusting little bugs
  4. Sura uppstötningar – horrible to experience acid reflux but really fun to say the word
  5. Smidig – a useful word that’s fun to say and that means everything from easy and adaptable to flexible and pliable and even loose-limbed.
  6. Yxskaft – the handle of an axe – ok not a word that you say very often, but enromously satisfying when you get the chance
  7. Grönsaksbuljongtärning – a long word for a vegetable stock cube. Sometimes I go inte a supermarket and ask a shop assistant where to find them just so I get a chance to say it.
  8. Toppen – an uplifting way to say that all is good
  9. Hjärnsläpp – the Swedish word for drawing a blank. But it doesn’t matter if you can’t remember what you were going to say – because then you get to say ‘hjärnsläpp’ instead.
  10. Bajskorv – childish I know, but the Swedish word for ‘poo sausage’ is just hysterical.


Other Swedish words I love are ‘ångestframkallande‘, ‘slickepott’, ‘snöslask’, ‘oroväckande‘, ‘knäckebröd‘, ‘mångata’ and ‘underrättelsetjänsten‘.

What are some of your most satisfying Swedish Words to pronounce?

Let me know in the comments below….



Sweden’s nazi sympathiser, secret agent, communist spy, musical diva!!


Long before Swedish pop sensation Zara Larsson became famous, she had another famous namesake from Sweden.

Also a singer, Zarah Leander was her name, and she remains an enigma to this day. Active during the war years, was she a source of pride or a source of shame for Sweden? Nobody really knows.

Zarah Leander was born in the town of Karlstad in 1907 by the name of Sara Stina Hedberg. She began her singing career in the late 1920s, and by the mid-1930s she was hugely successful in Scandinavia and in Europe. In particular, the Germans loved her and in 1936, she was contracted to work for the German Film Foundation for whom she made many movies. As her employer was subordinate to the Third Reich, many people viewed her films and her music as nazi propoganda, although Zarah Leander herself never took a public political stance or officially joined the Nazi party. She performed live at many concerts, even after Nazi Germany had invaded Denmark and Norway. She profited from being the biggest, and most well-paid, star in Germany at that time.

After her home in Berlin was bombed towards the end of the war years, she returned to Sweden under much criticism. She was shunned by the artistic community but eventually managed to resume her career. She died in 1981 in Stockholm at the age of 74.

So was Zarah Leander a source of shame for Sweden? Was she a cold-blooded, fame-seeking, profiteering, Nazi sympathiser? On paper it would seem so. But who really knows?

Or was she a source of pride? Was she, as she herself claimed, just an entertainer working to please an enthusiastic audience in a difficult time?

Or was she in fact a spy? Soviet intelligence officer Pavel Sudoplatov claimed, just before his death, that Leander had been a Soviet agent with the codename “Rose-Marie”. He claimed she was a secret member of the Swedish Communist Party and conducted the work for political reasons.

Zarah Leander talked openly about her past and consistently denied that she had any sympathies with the Nazi or the Communist parties or that she worked as a spy for any country. But was she telling the truth? The mystery of Zarah Leander followed her to the grave and today the only legacy we have is her music and her films.

Zarah Leander, 1907-1981. Nazi sympathiser? Communist spy? Secret Agent? Musical Diva!!!

How Swedes indoctrinate their children


A friend of mine was visiting at the weekend with her small child, and she forgot one of her books when she left. I looked through it and was struck by how the story book reflected Swedish society and lifestyle: a picture book designed to groom children in the Swedish way.

The book is called ‘Titta Max grav’‘Look, Max’s grave!‘ – and it was first published in 1991 and written by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson. The book is a fascinating account of the life of a little boy called Max from the cradle to the grave. He is born, learns to walk and talk, gets a dog, goes to school, becomes a banker, finds a woman (unclear if they are married), has a child. But then it all goes downhill for Max. He watches too much television, so his woman gets sick of him and leaves. He gets sick, wants to consume Swedish ‘snus’ (snuff), gets sicker and eventually dies alone. And the final picture – look, Max’s grave.

The ‘simple’ story promotes many Swedish values which guide Swedish society: all children receive an education, men and women don’t have to be married to have children, women are empowered to leave useless men, everybody receives healthcare, many people die alone.

There’s nothing specifically unique about this particular book. All cultures pass on their values to their children via stories. Sometimes these are verbal stories told by grandparents as they entertain their grandchildren. Sometimes these are communicated via tv or other screens to curious minds.

Very often they are transmitted via ‘simple’ books full of pictures and easy words by parents at bedtime. But these books are actually not simple at all: they are cultural mechanisms designed to pass on values and ethics and indoctrinate children into the prevailing sense of morality.

So those of you with small children. Have you refelcted over what the stories are teaching your children? How are you indoctrinating them?



Swedes! Where’s your barbecue?!


This weekend in Sweden, the clocks went forward one hour to Summer Time. Despite the occasional complainer who moans about losing an hour’s sleep, this is usually received very positively in the country. Suddenly,  the light at 6pm becomes the light at 7pm. People are happier, daylight is longer, people venture outside to enjoy the burgeoning spring.

So why do we do this? There are clear benefits, but where does it come from? The practice was first initiated during World War I to give more light for agriculture and other important societal functions. However it was abandoned shortly afterwards, only to come back during World War II.

It was never very popular and by the 1950’s it had again been cancelled. However come the 1960’s, it was reintroduced in many countries due to the energy crisis – the lighter evenings required less electricity.  In 1981, the EU legislated Summer Time in Europe requiring member states to decide particular start and end dates for Summer Time which varies in the different countries.

In Sweden, Summer Time was originally introduced on 15 May 1916 but then took it away. In 1980, Summer Time has been observed every summer in Sweden starting on the last Sunday in March and ending on the last Sunday in October.

In Europe, there are 4 countries that do not switch to and from summer time. They are Belarus, Russia, Iceland and, since 2016, Turkey.

Around the world, there are various countries observing the switch. In USA, they refer to this as ‘Daylight saving time’ but it is not used in all states. In the picture above, blue and orange represent the countries that switch to and from summer time (nothern hemisphere summer and southern hemisphere summer). Dark grey have never used daylight saving time and light grey have formally used daylight saving time.

Remembering when to turn the clocks back and forward is sometimes a challenge to remember. In English, the saying ‘Spring forward, Fall back’ was developed to help jog people’s memories. Even the expression ‘March forward’ is used as a reminder.

So what do they say in Swedish? Well, they refer to the popular summer activity of barbecuing. Many Swedes who live in houses, or have a summer house, own a barbecue. In the summer they use it, and in the winter it is safely kept in storage.

So the Summer Time saying?

‘In spring we put forward (English: out) the barbecue, in the autumn we put back the barbecue’.







And today Sweden celebrates……?



I was looking through a paper today and I read that today it is Transafton (‘afton’ means ‘Eve’ in Swedish) in Southern Sweden.

‘Wow’, I thought, ‘isn’t that great that they have a special Eve to celebrate transgender people in the South of Sweden. Very impressive

However, upon closer inspection, I realised my error – it didn’t say ‘transafton’.

It actually said ‘tranafton’.

After my bubble was burst, my curiosity became aroused.

Tranafton? What is that? After over 20 years of living in Sweden, I have never heard of Tranafton. I know that a  ‘tran’ in Swedish is the bird called ‘crane’ in English. But why a ‘Crane Eve’?

So I looked it up.

The 24th of March is known as Tranafton in Southern and mid Sweden and has been documented since the 1500’s.  . It was said that the crane returned on this day after its winter migration. This was seen as a sign of spring as it brought the light with it. Now it was so light outside that people did not need to light candles inside their houses. On Tranafton it was important to go to bed while it was still light, otherwise you might be subjected to tricks and name-calling.

On Tranafton, children ran outside barefoot – often three laps around the house. The supersition was that this would build up their immune system and make them strong and resilient. In the Swedish counties of Värmland and Dalsland, this was done dressed in bird costumes – a ritual known as ‘running crane’. In West Sweden, children hung stockings infront of the fire and the crane would come and fill them with gifts. This tradition has mostly died out today, but still exists in a handful of villages in Småland, Värmland and on Öland.

So if you are at a loss for what to do this evening – go out and run the crane to celebrate the arrival of the light. But remember, just to be safe, go to bed before it’s dark.



Swedish art – a new world?

Karin Mamma Andersson – About a girl, (2005)


Going to the supermarket this weekend? Well, maybe not in the way you think….

This weekend, in Stockholm, is an art fair called Supermarket, which is an international artist-run fair that showcases artists from Sweden and all over the world. If you’re in Stockholm, it could be worth a visit. Here’s the link:SupermarketArtFair2017

Sweden and Art – is that a natural connection for you? How much do you know about Swedish art? If you are an art lover, then Sweden may very well be an undiscovered treasure trove for you.

Sweden has a strong artistic tradition and the art that is produced here often reflects the time and place in which it’s created. Art is good at that – at being the window to our souls, a kind of visual temperature check on how we as a society are feeling at that precise moment.

Let’s take the art form of painting as an example.

Looking back through history, there are many Swedish painters who became giants in their field. Very famous here, maybe not so famous outside of Sweden to those other than the die hards.

Ask somebody to name an artist and names such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, Kahlo probably come up. Probably names such as Larsson, Zorn, Bauer, Brate, Nyström, Jolin don’t come up in the first pass.

But maybe this is exactly what makes it so exciting. If you know nothing about Swedish artists, a whole world is waiting for you to discover.

Maybe you’re interested in discovering new Romantic art? Then check out traditionalists Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn. They were contemporaries and painted delightful pictures of Swedish pastoral life in the 1800’s, early 1900’s.

Or what if expressionism is more your cup of tea? Then check out Einar Jolin’s and Isaac Grunewald’s fabulous interpretations of Swedish society around the 1920’s. Or look up the post-impressionist Nils Dardel and his renound painting ‘The Dying Dandy’ painted in 1918.

Or is it contemporary art that rings your bell? Current painters who are worth looking into are Karin Mamma Andersson, Lars Lerin, Marie Louise Ekman, Linn Fernström, Peter Dahl and Sara-Vide Ericsson. And there are many more.

Or perhaps you want to buy some art, or make some connections? Then get yourself along to Supermarket and get inspired!

Your Swedish money’s  worth nothing 

Go through your pockets. Empty your piggy bank. Clean out your drawers. Start using up your money now, because from June 30th 2017, much of your Swedish currency will be invalid. 
Recently, Sweden introduced a new range of bank notes featuring Swedish celebrities: writer Astrid Lindgren, Hollywood actress Greta Garbo, troubadour Evert Taube, opera singer Birgit Nilsson, politician Dag Hammarsköld and film director Ingemar Bergman. In line with this, old bank notes and coins are being successively phased out. 

From June 30th this year, the older 100 and 500 krona notes and the 1, 2 & 5 krona coins will become invalid. The only old coin left in circulation will be the 10 krona coin. 

So start rummaging through your private areas, you might have a small fortune hidden there! 

And the Best Country in the World for Business is…..SWEDEN!


Despite fear-mongering in the media about the awfulness of Sweden, things are actually going rather well for the country. Or at least that’s what a recent piece of research from Forbes would suggest.

For 11 years Forbes has graded 139 countries on 11 factors: property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance.

The aim of this to identify which countries are the best for business investment and business development. In other words, which is the ‘Best Country in the World for Business’

And in the latest results, Sweden has soared to the number 1 position, beating out other EU countries, USA and low cost countries. So, Sweden is the best country in the world for business. This creates jobs, generates income and attracts new talent to the country.

And if we take a look at some of the successful companies to come out of Sweden, it would seem easy to confirm this. The country is home to some of the most well-known brands in the world, including Electrolux, SKF, Ericsson, IKEA and H&M.

Skype was co-founded by Swede Niklas Zennstrom in 2003. Music site SoundCloud and file sharing site Pirate Bay are Swedish too. Tictail and iZettle are both Swedish. Sweden is also the home to companies that created three of the biggest games of this decade: Candy Crush Saga, Battlefield and Minecraft. The 1 billion dollar financial transaction company Klarna is also founded and based in Sweden. Not bad for a country of only 10 million inhabitants.

So this would suggest that Sweden is entrepreneurial and successful. And the constant development of new ideas attracts new investment which will keep the Swedish economy motoring on strongly into the future.

Here’s the link for the full Forbes listing:





How Swedes have sex


One of the major stereotypes of Swedes is that they are sexually liberated.

Twenty years ago, a large research project on 2800 people was carried out looking into how Swedes view sex. Participants were between 18-74 years old. In comparison to many other countries, Sweden was consequently seen as a place that has a liberal view on sex. Now this research is about to be carried out again, to see what, if anything, has changed in the last two decades. The suspicion is that a lot has changed in the last twenty years.

So what did the results look like 20 years ago?

Here’s a summary, courtesy of daily newspaper DN.

In 1996,

  • Sexual debut was on average 16 years old
  • The average woman had 4,6 sexual partners
  • The average man had had sex with 7,1 people on average
  • Swedes between 26-55 had the most sex
  • Sexual activity had increased since the previous study in 1967, except between the ages 31-50 were there was a decrease, probably due to work pressure
  • The top 10% were called ‘superactives’ and the men had slept with 29-560 people and the women had slept with 15-100 people
  • 38% of the Swedes had experience of sexual relations outside of their committed relationship
  • The average amount of penetrative sex was 65 times per year
  • 15-20% of women had same-sex fantasies, 3% of men.
  • Women more frequently reported a diminshing interest in sex. Difficulty to achieve orgasm was the most common reason. Amongst the men who claimed the same reduced desire, premature ejaculation was the most common reason.

 The last time they had sex,

  • 95% had had vaginal sex
  • 59-72% had carressed eachother’s genitals
  • 25% had oral sex
  • 1% had anal sex
  • 71% of men orgasmed, 62% of women acheived orgasm
  • 80% had sex with their husband, wife, partner
  • 5-6% had sex with a friend or casual partner
  • 1% had met via a contact ad


In the last twenty years, a lot has happened in Sweden. Easy sexual contacts via aps such as Grindr and Tinder makes sex more accessible. Young people who experiment with their sexualities, and refuse to identify as hetero or homo, is more common than twenty years ago. On the other hand, Sweden is a more multi-cultural society than before and attitudes to sexuality may well be influenced by religion, culture and a new restrictive morality. It will be interesting to read what the results of the new survey reveal.

What do you think? How have things changed?

Let me know in the comments below.








Great Swedish Women Part 7 – The Activist

Since March 8th,  I  have been writing a series to celebrate Great Swedish Women, past and present: women with strength and passion, women who create change. Today is the final day. 


Part 7 – transactivist, journalist and actor Aleksa Lundberg.

Aleksa Lundberg was born with the wrong body. She was born with a boy’s body and at the age of 22, she underwent corrective surgery and became physically a woman. She is the first actor in Sweden to have undergone gender reorientation. She is a strong, proud Swedish woman. But her transition hasn’t necessarily been smooth sailing – as a transwoman, she has experienced hate, disgust, rejection and ridicule.

Today Aleksa is a transactivist and works hard to change society’s view about transgender men and women and to reinforce the trans perspective in society and politics. She is a vocal representative and a fierce, sometimes provocative, oponent and is frequently seen in debate programs on television and in other media.

Aleksa is also an accomplished actor. She has played many groundbreaking, interesting roles. Currently, you can catch her in ‘King Kristina Alexander’ at Strindbergs Intima Theatre in Stockholm, directed by Elisabeth Olson Wallin.

Aleksa’s political message is actually very simple. She wants to strengthen the rights of transgender people and also change the whole of society. Everybody, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, handicap should feel accepted, needed and loved. In a recent interview, she says:

‘Our sexuality doesn’t choose men or women. In the end, it’s about choosing a person. For me, it’s more about politics than romance that love is the the meaning of life. I hope that we can have a world where everyone actually understands that.’

Who can argue with that? Love is the key. Long live Queen Aleksa.