What We Can Learn From Scandinavia

Firstly, to the Scandis: please don't be offended. I'm not trying to throw all of Scandinavia into one group or say it's all the same; this is purely because it's a handy way to categorise and it just so happens that these various concepts do all hail from that most lovely part of the world. Please still let me into your beautiful countries!

With the people-pleasing grovel out of the way, let's just dive straight in. Basically, there is a lot I love about Scandinavia, as I have said many a time. I have been collecting various concepts from all over Scandinavia that I just love for a while now (21 to be precise, but I'll be selective here), so it's about time I shared them. Also, I've done my best with describing the pronunciations but I am merely an enthusiast and not a native so please give me some artistic-linguistic license...

What We Can Learn From Scandinavia, www.imogenmolly.co.uk

hygge (Danish)
Let's start with the cliche, the word of the moment (or the moment that is kind of just ending), the trend that took the world by storm all of a sudden last year (much to my delight - have been a fan for a while): Danish hygge. It's pronounced hue-guh, with a kind of closed throat - other Scandis say the Danes speak as if they have a potato in their throat (sorry Danes). Not that I really need to explain it, this is pretty much the idea of being snug and comfortable and taking some relaxy, cosy me-time (or us-time - hygge is not exclusive). There are about a billion and one books on the 'art' of hygge, two of which I own, so if you want to learn more about it then you very easily can. (The Norwegian equivalent is kos, while the Swedish is mys, and every Friday you have Fredagsmys - Friday cosy time, essentially.)

lagom (Swedish)
I only came across this one relatively recently, and I feel it needs to be shared. It is pronounced lah-gom, with slightly more emphasis on the beginning of the word, and means 'just the right amount' but in a much nicer, more poetic way. Think Goldilocks and her bowl of Baby Bear's perfect porridge, and you're on the right track. It relates to everything - the ideal amount of food, possessions, friends, time, anything really. Apparently, interior designers are even drawing inspiration from lagom for perfectly balanced homes.

fika (Swedish)
MY FAVOURITE ONE. By a mile. Or maybe by a marathon. I love fika. Mostly, though, the Swedes love fika. The closest translation is coffee & cake, but it's so much more than that - it's like a much more laid back afternoon tea, taking time out of your day to recalibrate and catch up with people, and features plentiful mega-strong coffee alongside some sort of sweet treat. Traditionally, you're supposed to serve seven types of baked goods (because of a recipe book from 1945 called Sju Sorters Kakor ('seven kinds of biscuits') that has basically become gospel) - you might say seven different sweet treats is lagom.

Something else I love about fika is its pronunciation - I have been earnestly attempting to teach myself Swedish for about ten thousand years, but have only really mastered a few select words and phrases. One of these is chokladbollar, which is something you might have for fika and something you might see on the blog soon..... they're made of oats & coffee & chocolate & coconut, and are quite possibly my favourite thing about all of Scandinavia.

døgn (Danish & Norwegian)
This isn't so much a concept as the others, more just a really useful term. In English, a day is quite ambiguous. Is it the time from when you wake up until you go to bed? Is it the time between sunrise and sunset? Does it include the night that comes before or after it? If you want to be more specific, you have to start talking in hours which just sounds a smidge regimented, really. In Danish, however, døgn (pronounced doyn) refers to a period of 24 hours comprising one day and the following one night. Simple.

orka (Danish, Norwegian & Swedish)
If you are familiar with 'ceebs' then this one might come in handy for you. (For those not in the know, it's an abbreviated form of CBA which stands for can't be arsed [to do something].) While ceebs is only really a negative thing ("I ceebs doing anything today."), orka has the same idea but in a more neutral sense - it basically means 'to have the energy to do something'. You wouldn't say "Do you ceebs going on a walk?", but you might say "Do you orka to go on a walk?". And then if you're me from last weekend, "Yeah, I orkar that. Let's climb Ben Lomond." (In Swedish: "Ja, jag orkar det." (I think)).

utepils (Norwegian)
Scandinavians are consistently ranked as being among the happiest in the world, and their language can give us some indicators as to why: the Norwegians have a word that just means sitting outside and enjoying a beer. (The emphasis is on the first syllable, with a little on the third, and the s at the end is soft - think oooootepilss.)

kvajebajer (Danish)
The Danes rank the happiest out of all of them, and this may be a clue: they have a word specifically for the beer that you enjoy when you have royally screwed something up. You know when everything is a giant mess and the shit has gone flying straight into the fan? No problem. Have a kvajebajer (pronounced kvye-bya, sort of) and things will seem a little less disastrous.

I have a ginormous long list of many more brilliant Scandi words, but I'll leave it there for now. Do you know any other words that English could benefit from? Leave a comment!

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P.P.P.S. Please forgive the almost month-long gap between my last post and this one; I'm writing my dissertation at the moment, and while it is interesting, it has kind of pushed everything else to a bit of a back seat which is slightly annoying.. Bear with, though - one month more and then it's all done!


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