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!
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:
- Himmel – in Swedish this is the word for heaven and also for sky. So which is being referred to?
- 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.
- Tak – likewise, this is the word for roof and also ceiling. So, what does fixing the ‘tak’ actually refer to?
- Man – the word for man, is also the word for husband. Confusing…is he married or just a man?
- Ben – is the word for leg and also for bone. So if you break your ‘ben’, what have you broken?
- Kudde – in Swedish is the same word for pillow and for cushion. So, tidy up the ‘kudde’ means which ones exactly?
- Låna – the word for borrow, and also for lend. So what exactly do you want to do? Give – or take?
- Tidning – Swedish uses the same word to describe a newspaper and a magazine. So, pass me the ‘tidning’ means which one exactly?
- Lov – in Swedish the same word is used for permission, promise, duty and praise. It’s just all round confusing.
- 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!
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’.
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.
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.
- Sugrör – the Swedish word for straw – literally translates as ‘suck pipe’
- Grönsak – vegetable in Swedish is literally ‘green thing’
- Tunnelbana – the Swedish metro is literally ‘tunnel lane’
- Tvättbjörn – the Swedish word for raccoon translates at ‘wash bear’ (as it tends to wash its prey before eating it)
- Tidskrift – newspaper, literally ‘time writing’
- Sköldpadda – the Swedish word for tortoise is literally ‘shield frog’
- Studsmatta – Swedish word for trampoline is literally ‘bounce carpet’
- Flygplats – Swedish airport translates literally as ‘flight place’
- Vattenkokare – the Swedish word for kettle. Translated literally, it is ‘water boiler’
- Glasögon – the Swedish word for spectacles is ‘glass eyes’
- Rotsak- the Swedish word for root vegetable, translates as ‘root thing’
- Flodhäst – the Swedish word for hippopotamus, literally translates as ‘river horse’
- Järnväg – the Swedish word for railway translates as ‘iron road’
- Kylskåp – the Swedish word for fridge, translates as ‘chill cupboard’
- Finally, my favourite. The Swedish word for vacuum cleaner is dammsugare. Literally – ‘dust sucker’
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?