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LEARNING SWEDISH

Nine unique words you need to date in Sweden

Here are nine unique (and often untranslatable) Swedish words you should know about before you start dating in Sweden.

Nine unique words you need to date in Sweden
If your date goes well, you might become familiar with the word 'knullrufs'. Photo: Isabell Höjman/TT

1. Fika

As you probably know, fika is a Swedish word for a coffee and cake break. You can have a fika with a friend, a relative or a colleague. You can also get asked to go for a fika by someone who fancies you, or someone you’ve already slept with (but perhaps barely spoken to). If the whole thing sounds confusing – it is. But if you’re confident you are being hit on, the word for this is ragga.

FOR MEMBERS: So… when is a fika a fika and when is it a date?

2. Mambo 

Once you’re pretty sure the person you’re drinking coffee and/or sleeping with likes you in a more romantic way, it might be time to check out their living situation.

As well as finding out whether or not they’re married (gift), consider also investigating if they are a mambo – the word for someone who lives at home with their mother. It rhymes with sambo, the word for a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s probably a no-no as well, but we’ll let you be the judge. Given the difficulties of finding an apartment in Sweden’s major cities, you should be aware of broken-up sambos who are temporarily still flat-sharing.

READ ALSO: How to find out if your Swedish date is married

3. Bonusbarn

If your new partner isn’t married, cheating or still stuck in their parents’ nest, if they’re over 30, there’s a good chance they might be divorced (frånskild). Thanks to Swedish gender equality, any children involved usually spend alternate weeks with each parent, which means you could quickly end up spending a lot of time with them too. The word for children in Swedish is barn and the word for stepchildren is bonusbarn, putting a delightfully positive spin on preparing to spend Valentine’s Day with little Jonas or Jessica alongside your new lover.

4. Nota

This is the word for a receipt or bill in Sweden. Worth learning as you will almost always be expected to pay your share of any dinner, drink or fika date.

5. Kyss

It’s good to be aware of the difference between kyss and puss in Swedish. The former is more passionate and is pronounced something like “shiss”; the latter is more of a peck and far more innocent than it sounds in English. Puss is often put on the end of text messages sent between (usually female) friends. So you needn’t worry that your colleague is either trying to get intimate with you or commenting on that spot on your chin. By the way kiss is the Swedish word for, well, pee, so be careful how you use that one too.

6. Mysa

A bit like the English word “snuggle”, you’ll hopefully be doing plenty of this with your new squeeze if you’ve managed to navigate your way through all the fikas and the bonusbarn. But don’t jump to conclusions if your partner mentions mysa when talking about how they spent their afternoon while you were at the supermarket. You can mysa on your own at home by the fire or in a warm pub. It’s a bit like the Danish word “hygge”, a concept for “cosy time”.

7. Systembolaget

The name for Sweden’s state-run alcohol store empire. It shuts at 7pm on weekdays in big cities and at 3pm on Saturdays. It is not open on Sundays. Swedes can be shy and socially awkward, so if you’re staying in rather than going out with your new lover, you might also want to stock up on some wine ahead of the weekend.

8. Knullrufs

Well done, your relationship is blooming and you’re having a great time in the bedroom. Knullrufs is a unique Swedish word for messy “bed hair” after a roll in the hay. The first half of the word is considered slightly offensive, so best avoid using this one in front of your future in-laws (svärföräldrar).

READ ALSO: Why knullrufs is a much better word than both fika and lagom

9. Orka

This is a very common verb in Swedish meaning “to have the energy”. So when your partner says “jag orkar inte” in the bedroom, it means they’d rather catch up on sleep. This is of course fair enough, but if it starts happening regularly, it could mean you’re on the road to splitting up (separera) or skilsmässa (that divorce we mentioned earlier) and having to start all over again with that first awkward fika.

This article was written by Maddy Savage in 2015 and updated in 2022.

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LEARNING SWEDISH

The Swedish words you need to understand Sweden’s cost of living crisis

Households in Sweden, as elsewhere around the world, are feeling the economic squeeze right now as prices rise, but wages don’t. Here's a vocabulary list from Anneli Beronius Haake to help you understand the cost of living crisis.

The Swedish words you need to understand Sweden's cost of living crisis

The Local reached out to Anneli Beronius Haake (Swedish Made Easy), Swedish teacher and author of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish, to put together a list of words you might hear and read in the upcoming weeks as prices continue to soar.

(ett) elprisstöd – literally, electricity price support. The government may choose to provide support to both individuals and businesses, to help cope with high electric costs.

(ett) högkostnadsskydd – high cost protection. There have previously been discussions about high cost protections to cap electricity prices or agreements for the government to cover everything over a certain amount, but following the recent elections, the status of this proposal is unclear.

(en) amortering vs (en) ränta – if you own your own house or apartment, then you already know that these words refer to payments on your mortgage (noun: amortering, verb: att amortera) and payments against the interest on your mortgage. If you’re thinking about buying, keep an eye on these two – and on interest rates (ränta)!

(en) varmhyra vs (en) kallhyra – if you’re on the market for a new rental apartment, you might see these two words pop up. Varmhyra (literally: “warm rent”) means heating is included in the rental price. Kallhyra (literally, “cold rent”) means that the rental price does not include heating costs.

(en) uppvärmning – heating, or heating costs. If your heating costs are included in your rent, you don’t have to worry about this. Instead, you only need to keep an eye on:

(en) hushållsel – or household electricity. This covers the electricity you use for everything in your home, from charging your mobile phone to using your oven.

Energisnål – energy efficient. You might see this word stuck on a dishwasher or fridge if you’re shopping for new household appliances, signalling that it will help cut down on your electric costs. Similarly, you may see the word att snåla (to scrimp or save) used in the phrases att snåla med energi (to save on energy) or att snåla med pengar (to save money).

(en) energikris – an energy crisis. 

privatekonomi – personal finances. You may see this not only referring to individuals, but also to households, where it will be written as hushållens privatekonomi.

hushållskostnader – household costs, again, linked to hushållens privatekonomi, this usually refers to gemensamma kostnader (shared costs), such as water and electricity bills, insurance and internet, but can also cover other costs such as food, hygiene products such as toilet paper, and even mobile phone contracts.

(ett) energibolag, (en) elproducent – an energy company, an energy producer.

(en) elområde – an energy zone. Sweden is split into four energy zones, with the most expensive energy prices in the south of the country, covering the three largest cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö (zones 3 and 4), and the cheapest prices in the north (zones 1 and 2).

Att spara – to save. This can be in the sense of att spara pengar (to save money), or att spara på kostnader/el (to save on costs/electricity).

Att stiga/öka/höja – these three verbs all relate to increases, but with their own nuances.

Att stiga, or stiger in the present tense means ‘rises’, and can be used to describe rising petrol prices.

Att öka, or ökar in the present tense means ‘increases’, and can be used to describe how the price of groceries are increasing.

Finally, att höja, or höjer in the present tense means ‘raises’ – when you can point out that something or someone has raised the price of something, for example, when describing how banks are raising interest rates.

Att sjunka/minska – these two verbs both relate to decreases, again with their own nuances.

Att sjunka, or sjunker in the present tense (literally sinking) means fall/slump/drop, and can be used to refer to price falls.

Att minska, or minskar, on the other hand, is like ökar, because it is used when describing how something has decreased, like your electricity usage might decrease this winter in light of rising prices.

Similarly to sjunka, you may see the verb att sänka (to lower), in the sense of lowering the heating (att sänka värmen) or lowering household costs (att sänka hushållskostnader).

(en) utgift – an expense, plural utgifter – expenses.

(en) inkomst – income. A source of income would be (en) inkomstskälla.

(en) plånbok – literally, this means wallet. Figuratively, it also means your bank account and its contents. Headlines about money leaving your plånbok don’t mean money is vanishing from your wallet, but from your bank account. During the recent Swedish election, for example, politicians spoke about plånboksfrågor (literally “wallet issues”), issues affecting people’s income and spending power.

Att dra ner på utgifterna – to cut down on your expenses. This is related to the phrase att se över utgifterna: to take a look at your expenses, for example to see if there are any areas you can cut down.

Att dra åt svångremmen – to tighten one’s belt.

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