Category Archives: Swedish traditions & culture

Så funkar Sverige

Hos UR Skola kan du hitta en program-serie som heter “Så funkar Sverige”. Serien består av korta, animerade filmer om hur Sverige fungerar. Det här är ett bra sätt att öva svenska och samtidigt lära sig om kultur och Sverige.

Avsnitten handlar om rättigheter och skyldigheter i Sverige. Programmen kan endast ses i Sverige.

Här kan du se ett klipp.

Här hittar du samtliga avsnitt.




Mysigt att mysa

Denmark has ”hygge” and us Swedes have ”mys”. “Mys” is explained in the Swedish Academy Glossary as – my own translation – well-being coming from snug and cozy environment, or a nice, cozy activity. Think fika; hugging and kissing; drinking a glass of wine; sitting in front of the fire; being snowed in yet warm and safe; reading a book with your child on the couch; resting under a woolly blanket; having a cat lying on your chest, purring; flickering candles; having a family picnic in a sunny opening in a forest.

We use the word in different combinations, creating new words. Below you find a list of what I came to think of.

ett fredagsmys = explained here

mysbyxor = pants in comfortable material, for leisure

ett mysplagg = garment in comfortable material for leisure

en mysdress = garments in comfortable material for leisure; word much used in the 70’s

en mysbelysning = dimmed lights for a cozy ambience

en myshörna = cozy corner for relaxation

ett mysrum = cozy room for down time, particularly used in preschool for reading or resting (we are not likely to have a spare room in our houses or apartments to use just as “mysrum” 🙂 )

en mysfaktor = ”coziness factor”

ett myspys = a cozy moment, might involve hugs and kisses and even more but does not have to

en mysstund = cozy moment, for instance with your toddler to snuggle up, and enjoying some ”mys”

omysigt = not cozy

en mysrysare = a soft horror movie or book

The verb “mysa” has two meanings. One is having a cozy time (compare all of the above), and the other is to beam (contentment).

Some examples using the verb in differents tenses:

Vi myser inomhus idag; det är kallt ute.

I går myste/mös Hanna och Jakob med te och en brasa.

Mormor myste mot barnen. (the beaming-version of the verb)

Hon hade myst 30 minuter med en filt i soffan, när telefonen ringde.


The verb is “att mysa” – Katten myser i solen.

The adjective is “mysig” – Det är en mysig villa. Det är ett mysigt hus.

The adverb is “mysigt” – Ljuset skiner så mysigt.


Say the word Fredagsmys and every Swede knows what you are talking about. An easy Friday evening get-together, to mark the end of the work/school week and the beginning of the weekend. Family or friends, easy cooking, snack and a TV-screen are ususally involved.  It could also include a board game. Tacos is a classic, as well as chips/crisps and dip; at least that´s what the commercials want us to believe. Veggies and fruit works too. Fredagsmys is part of our modern culture, probably substituting the Sunday dinner family gathering. The location and activity does not have to follow the description above; the importance of the matter is that it includes “mys”.

Week numbers

In Sweden we are very fond of speaking in terms of weeks rather than dates. This can be rather confusing if you are not used to it.

“Vi åker bort vecka 10.” – we are leaving week 10

“Provet är vecka 5.” – the test is week 5

“Veckobrev v.35” – weekly letter of week 35

“Affären är stängd v. 29-31” – the store is closed week 29 through 31

I use a separate app to keep track of what week it is since it is not in my regular calendar.


Välkommen februari; but please stay away vabruari

February in Sweden is a month of both pleasure and pain – pleasure as in winter break (Sportlov) with possible skiing, and pain as in the month when kids apparently get sick the most – it is the peak month of parents staying at home from work to care for sick children.

The winter break is known as Sportlov, and occurs from week 7 to week 12 depending on where in Sweden you live. If the Sportlov is in February we also call it Februarilov. Week numbers? What?

Ok; back to the topic of February. Recall the sick children?

When parents take leave of absence from work to care for a sick child it is called

“Vård av sjukt barn.” = care of sick child in Swedish.

An abbreviation hereof is VAB (Vård Av sjukt Barn)

In everyday Swedish language these words have become a verb; “att vabba” = to “vabba”

“Jag måste vabba idag” means that I have to take leave of absence to care for my sick kid; well, you get the picture; we need a shorter way of saying it since a sick child leaves little room for long talks.

Remember the word februari (=the month of February) from the text above? Put together what you have learnt from the info above and you will understand why we sometimes jokingly refer to it as “vabruari”. Even if it is no joke.

And yes, I posted a photo of my tulips instead of a sick child.



Outside of Sweden the word “lagom” seems to be trending this year. It takes over the Danish “hygge” and I expect to see books to be written on the subject. Or, wait; could really that much be squeezed out of the word lagom? To fill an entire book? Well, if hygge could …

Lagom is not trending in Sweden. It’s always around, always with us.

The urban legend has it that lagom derives from the Vikings; sharing the meal and the mead between themselves, using the same bowl. The words supposed to have been spoken were to not eat or drink more than that it would last “laget om” – the team around. Laget om then became lagom. Alas lagom means ”just the right amount, not too little not too much”. Lagom is a balance of things. Wether used for water temperature, amount of miles travelled during holiday, how much pick-and-mix candy the kids are allowed or how many guests are to be invited lagom is the answer.

A few examples in English and in Swedish:

Is it time to leave? Yes, it’s probably (the right) time. // Är det dags att gå? Ja, det är nog lagom.

Isn’t it too cold to swim? No, it’s just about right/perfect.// Är det inte för kallt för att bada? Nej, det är lagom varmt.

Does the blouse fit you (refering to size) Yes, it’s good! // Passar blusen? Ja, den är lagom!

Is it lots to do at work at the moment? No, it’s pretty ok/the right amount of work. // Är det mycket att göra på jobbet just nu? Nej, det är ganska lagom.