Officials in Gävle, a coastal town about two hours north of Stockholm, paid 221,000 kronor ($33,000) for the phrase “Välkommen ombord” (‘Welcome aboard’).
But the new slogan didn’t sit well with many residents, being called both “dopey and social democratic” by critics in the local media, according to the E24 news website.
“Welcome aboard what?” asked actor and Gävle resident Rolf Lassgård in the Expressen newspaper, who added that boat traffic can no longer reach the city because of the obstruction caused by two bridges.
“It seems like it would have been better to use the money to buy a boat first.”
But Gävle’s new slogan, despite any shortcomings, looks like a relative bargain in comparison to Gotland’s.
Public administrators on the Baltic Sea island shelled out a whopping 5 million kronor for “Det magiska Gotland” (‘Magical Gotland’), which is considered the cornerstone of the municipality’s “brand concept”.
The investment did at least also come with an accompanying tagline to better reveal the essence of Gotland’s soul: “Kreativitet, livslust, närhet, livskraft, och magiskt” (‘Creativity, vibrancy, closeness, vitality, and magic’).
While exact figures for the amount of taxpayer money spent on marketing slogans for Swedish municipalities aren’t available, in some cases the results speak for themelves.
In Fagersta in central Sweden, for example, the official slogan “Här får du livstid” (‘Here you’ll have time for living’) can also be interpreted in Swedish to mean that you’ve been given a lifetime prison sentence.
And the northern Swedish municipality of Malå’s attempt to capture the local dialect in writing resulted in a slogan,“He som hänn he hänn hänna”, consisting of ‘words’ which aren’t even in the Swedish dictionary.
The phrase was so incomprehensible to most Swedes that the Expressen newspaper included a rough translation of the phrase from Malå-speak to Swedish.
Read in English, Malå’s bold metaphysical claim that ‘Whatever happens, happens here’ may however, be enough to attract any number of philosophers and thrill seekers to see exactly what does happen in the town of just over 3,000 people.
In other cases, Swedish towns have sacrificed brevity for descriptiveness.
For example, Stenungsund on Sweden’s west coast goes the distance with “Det goda kustnära samhället med framtidstro och utveckling” (‘The pleasant coastal community with belief in the future and development’).
And for Malung, a town of 5,000 in west central Sweden, specificity is prominent with “41 kvadratkilometer med utveckling” (‘41 square kilometres with development’).
Nor are Sweden’s municipalities above injecting a little humour into their town mottos.
There’s Skurup’s “When in Europe don’t miss Skurup”, and the brief “I love Hjo” (pronounced ‘you’), for the eponymous municipality of around 9,000 that stretches from Sweden’s west coast to the shores of Lake Vättern.
Vingåker municipality’s slogan, “En promille kan inte ha fel!” (‘One in every thousand can’t be wrong’), seems innocent enough at first glance.
But to Swedes, the phrase may conjure up questions about Vingåker’s stance toward Sweden’s strict drunk driving laws, as offenders have their blood alcohol level measured in ‘promille’.
Another slogan which could have been overheard at a pub can be found in Trelleborg, a one-time brewing town on Sweden’s south coast.
While beer branded with the town’s name is no longer produced in Trelleborg, its motto “Lite mer Trelleborg” (‘A little more Trelleborg’) may conjure up images of last call at a local watering hole from a bygone era.
And no examination of Swedish town slogans is complete without mention of Trosa, which features the self-mocking motto, “Världens ände”, which in Swedish can mean both “the end of the world” or “the world’s rear end”, as ‘trosa’ in Swedish is also the singular form of the word for panties.