Why Germans don’t like Swedish curtains

Ask people to think about Sweden and invariably they will say IKEA. The massive flat-pack corporation has world dominance when it comes to home furnishings. However, in Germany, Swedish curtains are not necessary an attractive option.

To be ‘hinter schwedischen Gardinen’ (behind Swedish curtains) in colloquial German means to be in prison.

Not entirely sure of the reason but one theory is as follows:

German bars used to be made from strong Swedish steel, as they were particularly strong and escape-proof. When the bars formed a grille, they became the kind of ‘curtain’ that you don’t want to be behind!

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‘Don’t act like you’re a Swede!’

Unfortunately I can’t speak Spanish very well. However, I have heard a phrase in Spanish that is somewhat derogatory to the Swedes.

In Spanish there is a well-known expression ‘no te hagas el suecowhich means ‘Don’t act like you’re a Swede.’ A related expression is ‘hacerse el sueco‘ which means ‘to play Swedish’.

The expression apparently means ‘don’t pretend you don’t understand’ or ‘don’t act dumb’. It is often used when somebody is trying to get out of taking responsibility for something.

Clearly there’s an element of dishonesty underlying this expression and that’s not particularly favorable towards Swedes.

I wonder what has happened in Spanish history that was the catalyst for this well-known and well-used expression? I’m not playing dumb, I’m afraid I don’t know.

Oh my God! Am I pretending to be Swedish?!!

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It’s fatty Tuesday – Swedish style!

Today it’s ‘Fat Tuesday’ in Sweden, known as Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras around the world.

While in the UK we eat pancakes (today is even called Pancake Day) and in Latin America they scoff down fried bread, Swedes celebrate by eating the traditional cream Lent bun – the ‘semla’. I’m also clearly going to indulge. In fact, my mouth is watering just writing this post.

The semla is a creamy bun filled with delicious almond paste. They were eaten traditionally in Sweden to commemorate the start of Lent and the great Fast, leading up to Easter. In the south of Sweden, they still refer to them as ‘fastlagsbullar’ – Shrovetide buns. Nowadays however, semlas are usually sold anytime between Christmas and Easter.

I just love them. I could eat a barrel load. But I’d end up looking like a barrel if I did. I love the taste of them, and the feeling of luxurious indulgence. I also love the knowledge that as you take a bite into a creamy semla, you are biting into over 500 years’ history of Scandinavian baking.

The word ‘semla’ comes from the Latin ‘simila’ which means fine flour and originally referred just to the bun without any filling. As long ago as the 1500’s, bakers started to hollow out the middle of the bun and fill it with cream and butter. As ingredients became more available, bakers started adding almond and cardemon and the type of semla that we know today developed towards the end of the 1800’s. After rationing of sugar and dairy products ceased at the end of WW2, the semla took off and became very popular.

Nowadays the semla trend has reached new heights. Every year bakers around the country try to launch new types of semla, with their own spin on it -for example, the semla wrap, the semla burger, the semla layer cake, the semla cocktail, the chocolate semla, the vanilla semla, the lactose-free, gluten-free vegan semla. This year, the gross-sounding fermented Baltic herring semla was revealed.

But I’m a traditionalist in this matter. Give me a round fluffy cardemon-scented wheat bun brimming over with whipped cream and almond paste.

And give it to me NOOOOWWW!!!

Swedish expressions: to get a bloody tooth

Years ago I sang a solo at a concert. It was the first time I ever sang solo, and I was nervous. Thankfully I didn’t die and actually it went ok. After the show, a friend came up to me and said ‘har du fått blodad tand?’ – ‘have you got a bloody tooth?’

So, what does this expression mean? Well, it’s not ‘bloody’ in the sense of ‘damn’. It’s more in the sense of ‘covered in blood’.

To understand this, we need to go to the animal kingdom. Many animals are herbivores in the early stages of their lives. The saying refers to the moment when an animal eats a bloody prey for the first time. After that, all they want is meat and blood. They develop a taste for it and don’t want anything else.

During the Middle Ages the metaphor moved into the Swedish language to mean that somebody wants to do something more often after trying it once. They have been inspired often by a success and want to continue.

In English, we can say ‘he has tasted blood’. Another translation that closely matches the meaning would be ‘to have your appetite whetted’ for something (whetted is an old English word for sharpened).

So, have you got a bloody tooth for something? If so, what?

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22 Swedish farts

outfart or infart dr heckle funny wtf signs

One of the fun things about learning a foreign language are the words that are rude, or funny in your own language.

Swedish has a few of them: slut, kräpp, plopp, kock, spurt

But the funniest one is probably the most purile; it is the ever prevailing ‘fart’, especially when you see it on street signs. This is the word that has most visitors to Sweden holding their sides with laughter.

Even after all these years, I can still have a little giggle when I think about the word ‘fart’ and its various usages in Swedish. In Swedish, ‘fart’ can mean a lot of things such as speed, drive, route, pace, spirit, vivacity, rate. But it is when it is put together with another word that it becomes amusing. Childish, I know…but here we go…

  1. utfart – ‘out fart’ – exit from a building
  2. uppfart – ‘up fart’ – driveway
  3. infart – ‘in fart’ (sounds painful) – entrance
  4. avfart – ‘of fart’ – exit from a motorway
  5. framfart – ‘forward fart’ (quite an accomplishment) – progress
  6. fartkamera – ‘fart camera’ (didn’t know these existed) – speed camera
  7. kringfart – ‘circular fart’ (also sounds painful) – causeway
  8. fartfylld -‘full of fart’ (know a few people like that) – speedy
  9. krypfart – ‘crawl fart’ – crawl
  10. luftfart – ‘air fart’ (the worst) – air travel
  11. fartrand – ‘fart stripe’ – go faster stripe on a car
  12. maxfart -‘maximum fart’ – top speed
  13. farthållare – ‘fart holder’ (dangerous) – cruise control
  14. blixtfart – ‘flash fart’ – flash speed
  15. fjärrfart -‘distant fart’ – transocean traffic
  16. halvfart – ‘half fart’ – half speed
  17. snigelfart – ‘snail fart’ – snail speed
  18. förbifart – ‘passing fart’ – ring road
  19. fartgräns – ‘fart limit’ – speed limit
  20. marschfart – ‘marching fart’ (like a hit and run!) – cruise speed
  21. överljudsfart – ‘supersonic fart’ (impressive!) – supersonic speed
  22. fartblind – ‘fart blind’ (although deaf is probably preferable) – when you become desensitised to the speed you are driving and stop noticing it

 

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When Swedes have diarrhoea

We’ve all been there. Those embarrassing moments when the belly rumbles and we have to race to the toilet to evacuate as quickly as possible. An all round unpleasant, and undignified, experience.

Well, February in Sweden is synonymous with sickness and right now there’s a stomach flu flying around the country. So last night at dinner, conversation moved onto sickness and landed on a colloquial Swedish word for diarrhoea.

The discussion was about where this word comes from. So, true to form, I researched it.

And I have the answer.

The word in question is the Swedish word ‘rännskita‘. One theory was that it originated from the word ‘takränna’ which is a gutter, and would reflect the speed at which the water runs down the drainpipe. But actually that’s not it.

The word is a combination of the old Swedish word ‘ränna’ which means ‘to run’ (often quickly) and the word ‘skita’ which means to shit. It’s directly translatable to the English ‘ to have the runs’.

Although it sounds like a new word, it actually entered the Swedish language in 1587! I guess it was a problem back then.

So there you go. Another fascinating foray into the Swedish language with ‘Watching the Swedes’.

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Yum Yum Sweden!

Working with many non-Swedes, I often hear the complaint that Swedish food is bland, boring and tasteless. But the truth is that Sweden prides itself on its good food and its number of top-notch, often experimental, restaurants.

The Scandinavian kitchen is full of mouthwatering delights such as warm-smoked salmon, creamed dill potatoes and shellfish by the bucket load. No surprise then that there’s a lot of expressions in the Swedish language for food being delish. When we in English might say ‘yum, yum’ or ‘scrummy’, the Swedes also have a plethora of words to use. Here are a few:

  • Smaskens
  • Smaskig
  • Läcker
  • Mumsig
  • Namnam
  • Gött
  • Smarrig
  • Delikat
  • Skitgott
  • Utsökt

So many foreigners might not think that Swedish food is great – but it’s clear that the Swedes do!

Let me know what Swedish food you think is ‘smarrig’!

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