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Ten unique words you need to date in Sweden

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

'Fika' is a coffee and cake break. Photo: Ulf Lundin/
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.

What a Swedish party might look like if your date lives with his parents. Photo: Carolina Romare/
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.

What a Swedish party might look like if your new partner has kids. Photo: Johan Willner/
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.

Even a 50 kronor ($6) waffle bill is likely to be split in Sweden. Photo: Ulf Lundin/
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 '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.

A puss on the cheek. Photo: Stefan Berg/Folio/
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 'cozy time'.

Fancy a cozy break by the fire? That's 'mysa' time in Swedish. Photo: Fredrik Broman/
7. Kondom
Not the most difficult word to translate from English, but worth a mention as Sweden has been dubbed the STI capital of Europe. It's difficult to imagine organized Swedes running out of condoms, but sexually-active Swedes are more likely than other Europeans to seek treatment for diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Safe sex is wise wherever you are in the world. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
8. 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.

A Systembolaget store in Sweden. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT
9. 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).

Both men and women can get 'knullrufs'. Photo: Staffan Löwstedt/SvD/TT
10. 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.

If your partner has no energy, at least your sheets won't get too creased. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
This article was written by Maddy Savage in 2015 and updated in 2018.

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