The word ‘’svennigt’ is a slang term to refer to the typical, middle of the road Swede. Derived from the common surname Svensson, ‘svennig’ describes the lifestyle preferences and attitudes of the mainstream Swede.
Depending on the intention, the word ‘’svennig’ can be used endearingly, or even proudly, to refer to the ‘typical Swede’ or the typical Swedish. It can also be used as an insult. I often hear the word, laced with contempt, to undermine or criticize other people’s behaviours and choices. There is a definite class element to the term, where ‘svennigt’ implies lack of sophistication.
In American English, the closest comparison is ‘Average Joe’. In British English, there’s no real equivalent but ‘Joe Bloggs’ comes closest. However, in both of these, there is no element of ridicule, and they aren’t used as an insult; they are used just to describe an average person in the population.
Since ‘svennigt’ can have many different interpretations, I went onto social media and carried out some informal research. I asked people what was ‘svennigt’ for them. My hope was to get closer to an understanding. While there were some overlaps, I received a lot of differing inputs – positive, negative, and neutral. Most of the people who answered were themselves Swedish. Here are some of the perspectives:
Being afraid of conflict but still whingeing
Being politically correct, but harbouring other opinions under the surface
Binge drinking at the weekends
Eating pickled herring at every national celebration
Eating Salty licorice
Eating TexMex on a Friday evening
Going to ‘After work’ on Fridays
Going to Golden Hits nightclub
Going on holiday in a Caravan/ Trailer
Going to the Canary Islands
Having a ‘Poodle’ hair-do
Liking Swedish dance band music
Loving the singer Carola and wondering why she hasn’t succeeded internationally
Playing car bingo
Quoting and laughing at lines from Swedish film Sällskapsresan
Reading Camilla Läckberg, author of crime fiction
Saying the vague, non-committal words ‘Jaha’ and ‘Nja’ when you actually disagree
Shopping at Ullared
Sweet loaves of bread
Talking about the weather
Talking about what is ‘typically Swedish’
Taking Löfbergs Lila coffee och Kalles kaviar fish paste when you travel abroad
Watching Lets dance/Strictly Dancing
Watching Melody festival
Wearing matching tracksuits
Working 9-5 and saying ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ at the end of the week
Worrying what other people think
As you see, these descriptions are very wide-ranging. It seems hard to nail down one particular attribute, attitude or behaviour that makes somebody ‘svennig’; it depends very much on the perception. Being ‘svennig’ is in the eye of the beholder. That said, judging by the responses above, it seems like we are all a bit ‘svennig’ now and again.
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