Groan-worthy Swedish humour in the city of Gothenburg

Humour is one of the things that often doesn’t translate too well interculturally. Sarcastic, ironic humour is one example – which can be perceived as rude by other cultures. The British style of self-deprecating humour is often seen as incomprehensible by others who take it literally.

But the biggest type of humour that doesn’t translate is the pun. Because it is language based, it simply doesn’t translate linguistically.

In Sweden, the west coast city of Gothenburg is known for its puns. The humour is based on witty plays with words, the more groan-worthy the better. In English, we refer to these as Dad jokes – pun-filled quips that make every child’s eyes roll and every father’s heart fill with pride and accomplishment. No matter how bad they are, these jokes always manage to get at least a chuckle out of us. Maybe deep down we actually think they’re funny, or maybe we just love to see our dads smile because they made us laugh. Here are a couple of Gothenburg jokes, which simply don’t translate…

Which country has the cheapest meat?’

‘Ko-rea’ (Cow sale)

‘What noise comes out of a court?’

‘Rättsväsendet’ (Word for judicial system, but also translates as justice hiss’)

So, as these didn’t translate. Let me present you with some of the best English dad jokes that would make any Gothenburger proud.

1. ‘Why don’t crabs give to charity?’

‘Because they’re shellfish’

2. ‘I got hit in the head with a can of Diet Coke today. But don’t worry, it was a soft drink.’

3. ‘A ham sandwich walks into a bar. Sorry, says the bar tender, we don’t serve food here.’

4. ‘How do you make an octopus laugh?’

‘With ten tickles’

5. ‘My wife asked me to sync her phone. So I threw it in the ocean.’

And my own dad’s favourite joke that he used to say every time we went past a cemetery –

‘You know that’s the dead centre of town. People are dying to get in there.’

Do you know any Gothenburg puns? Please share them!

Have yourself a Merry Gay Swedish Christmas

With gay men being hunted down and ‘punished’ in Uganda, Tanzania, Russia and many other countries around the world, it is easy to blame religion for the persecution.

And the evidence to back this up is fairly compelling. Countries that have a strong foot in religion are often countries that have strong anti-LGBT policies and attitudes. Not always, but often. Fanatical interpretation of the scripture can be one explanation, as can the crushing concept of sin, and the devouring need to uphold traditional ‘family structures and values’. For example, in a recent comment, the Pope said a lot can be done for LGBT people through psychiatry.

Sweden is a country that separates the church from politics. It is a country where almost 90% of the population identify as atheist or agnostic. It is a place where religious morality does not usually dictate the behaviours and choices of individual citizens. Of course there is organized religion in Sweden, there are churches and there are priests. Of course there are minority religions in Sweden such as Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Of course there are casual believers, devout followers and extremists. But compared to many other organized religions in the world, the Swedish Church is very liberal.

This was manifested in the recent service at a church in Stockholm, a service called Gay Jul (Gay Christmas). The slogan for the event was ‘come in as you are, come out as you want to be’. As I sat in attendance at this service, I witnessed a welcoming space, filled with members of the LGBT community, the church decorated in rainbow flags, and the words ‘Gay Jul’ emblazoned on the pulpit. I was moved by the openness of the church to welcome the minority group that is so often demonized and persecuted by the Faithful. It was an escape, and embrace, a sanctuary.

However, I was also struck by a sadness as I sat there in that echoing church. I realized the experience was a uniquely Swedish one, occurring in a small city in a small outpost of Europe and an unlikely sight in other churches, mosques, temples and tabernacles around the world.

In that church, amongst the rainbow flags, we were far far away from Uganda, and Tanzania, and Russia.

The relief of Swedish Advent

 

So it’s the first of Advent this weekend and this year it comes as a major relief for those of us in Stockholm.

You see at Advent, Swedes decorate their houses, apartments and windows with lights. From ceilings, illuminated stars are hung. On window ledges, electric advent candles are placed. On tables, four candles are positioned and one is lit every Sunday up until Christmas. Small candles, often red, are dotted about the home.

Some years, there is already deepish snow at the first of Advent, but this year in Stockholm, there isn’t. So it is very, very, very dark. The collective advent decoration is a definite reprieve from this darkness as light is spread into these murky places.

The word ‘advent’ comes from the Latin ‘adventus’ which means ‘arrival’ and is traditionally the start of the period where we wait for the arrival of nativity, or Christmas. Some religions also see it as waiting for the second coming of Christ. But in this secular society that is Sweden, the waiting is probably for the snow to come, the cold to hit, the water to freeze to ice and for winter to clasp its fingers firmly around us.