How to Be Swedish: This Video Will (Sort Of) Tell You

cacophonyx, Flickr

Nothing like stereotypes to really give you the feel of a country. It seems that a lot of people have a soft spot for anything that gives us an insider look – whether true or not – at Scandinavia. Why Scandinavian, and in particular Swedish culture, is of such interest is a bit beyond me, but there’s certainly an obsession with that country in the north that brought us flat-pack furniture and ABBA. People do love their Swedish videos.Wherever the interest in Sweden comes from, everyone from John Stewart to the Gevalia coffee guy like to give us a taste of it.

And now there’s a new video to give yet another look at Swedish culture. A little over the top, but if you have a thing for tongue-in-cheek sketches about Sweden, this one’s for you.

It’s titled “Swedishness” and, well … I’ll leave the rest up to you.

Learn Norwegian in an hour

Misleading headline? Well, I just came upon a wonderfully detailed post arguing that Norwegian is the easiest language for English-speakers, to learn. This followed up on an equally fresh post from last week in which the poster explained why Persian/Farsi (two languages for which the CIA is desperately looking for translators) happen to be easier to learn than most people think.

Anyways, back to Norwegian. The guy’s basic points are:

  • It’s a Germanic language
  • But with simpler grammar than other Germanic language
  • And a word order that more closely mirrors English

You’ll have to read the original post for the many examples. After an hour of this stuff, you’ll probably feel like you have a rudimentary grasp of Norwegian! Great way to introduce a language.

Straight-up Scandinavia: Fika, the quintessential Swedish word

Any trip to Sweden, be it for business, personal reasons or just because you want to stay in the Ice Hotel, is going to necessitate knowing the word fika.

In a grammatical sense it is a verb meaning “to take a coffee break.” But fika is so much more than a word; it is a Swedish way of life. Swedes love their coffee breaks (and I am not stereotyping). Fikas are happy afternoon gatherings between friends, study breaks for university students, and beyond that, absolutely necessary in the workplace. I dare you to try and find a Swedish company that doesn’t encourage a mid-morning fika for its employees; it is practically written into the contracts, although sometimes that fika time can turn into a casual business meeting.

The word can be used as a verb or a noun. Ska vi fika? (Should we take a coffee break?) or vilken trevlig fika! (what a nice coffee break). Originally the word was really only used for coffee, but nowadays there is often an implied consumption of an accompanying pastry, bun or small sandwich. And fika isn’t just about what beverage and food items are consumed, it is also about the social gathering that takes place. This is a time when Swedes gather and relax in a casual setting. A fika is therefore great option, and very standard, for a first Swedish date. Or for catching up on office gossip.

Fika is such an integral part of Swedish culture that MSN Sweden recently ran an article called Fika dig friskare (Fika yourself healthy) about the benefits of getting together with friends and being in a relaxing and enjoyable place like a cafe, or an outdoor terrace in the summer sun. But, as the article clearly noted, to really “fika yourself healthy,” the delicious Swedish baked goods that go along with the cup of coffee need to be switched out for a sandwich made with crisp bread. Not as glamorous as a kanelbulle (cinnamon roll) but tasty all the same.

If you happen to read Swedish and want to check out the article, you can do so here.

Word for the Travel Wise (10/22/06)

Sweden FlagJazz – the music that really gets the gears in my head shifting and my mental motors running. Whenever I put on the music I feel as if I want to do great things, create great things and be great things. Sadly, I’ve never even made my way to a great jazz festival. The Umeå International Jazz Festival taking place in Sweden from October 25-29 looks pretty promising though and will feature artists from all over the world. Wish I could be there.

Today’s word is a Swedish word used in Sweden:

kändisar – famous people

Phrasebase has a decent sound library for several language translations. The downside is I couldn’t find the Swedish equivalent to the English words we already know in written form. I struck gold with this long list of words and phrases used in the country. It includes the good and the bad so be prepared. BBC has the usual mp3 download for the basics. One can find several Swedish radio stations listed here. As always there’s Lonely Planet and their handy pocket phrasebooks.

Past Swedish words: ett askfat, invandrare, bortrest

Word for for Travel Wise (06/10/06)

Sweden FlagStaying in the spirit of idioms from World Cup teams here’s one from Sweden and a rather pleasant one at that. Good luck in the rest of the games.

Today’s word is a Swedish word used in Sweden:

bortrest – gone travelling

Phrasebase has a decent sound library for several language translations. The downside is I couldn’t find the Swedish equivalent to the English words we already know in written form. I struck gold with this long list of words and phrases used in the country. It includes the good and the bad so be prepared. BBC has the usual mp3 download for the basics. One can find several Swedish radio stations listed here. As always there’s Lonely Planet and their handy pocket phrasebooks.

Past Swedish words: ett askfat, invandrare