Five ‘Swemojis’ that will help you understand Sweden

Having a tough time getting your head around Sweden? Fortunately it's now possible to get to know the Nordic nation through emojis – or 'Swemojis', to be specific. Sarah Falck from online language portal has picked out five that will give you a great all-round grasp of Swedish culture and its mysterious ways.

Five 'Swemojis' that will help you understand Sweden
Fika in emoji form. Photo:

Did you know that Sweden has its very own set of emojis called Swemojis, created as a tribute to Swedish culture and heritage? While the meaning of these emojis is probably crystal clear to a Swede, the average foreigner might have a hard time interpreting some of these icons. That's why I'm here to help! Let's have a look at five strange Swemojis and their meanings, shall we?

1. Fika

We know most of you are familiar with Swedish fika – and are perhaps beginning to tire of all the talk about this supposedly holy institution – but we could not write a list like this without mentioning the fika Swemoji. On the off chance that you have never heard about fika before, you're probably thinking, 'whoah, this must be something really special'.

READ ALSO: Here's what happened when this Swede introduced fika at her London office

Well… it's basically coffee and some kind of sweet pastry, cake or cookie. What? Your mind isn't blown? Oh, my friend, you're just not Swedish enough (yet!).


2. Midsommar

It's a beautiful summer's day and you're walking through town. Suddenly, you hear a noise. You're not sure what it is, but you decide to go and find out. As you approach the source of the noise, you realize it's actually coming from humans– and it seems like they are singing. You go even closer. You see a big pole dressed in green, and the people are dancing around said pole. They are wearing flowers in their hair, and they seem to be in a trance-like state. Some are even doing a strange dance while making frog sounds. You realize this must be some kind of weird Swedish hippie cult. You slowly step back and run away.

No, no, no! You just missed out on the most traditional Swedish party of them all – Midsommar. Celebrated around the summer solstice, more specifically the Friday between the 19th and 25th of June, this is the day to go crazy in Sweden. Many Swedes even strategically choose Midsommar as the starting point of their summer vacation so that they have several weeks of rest after this grand occasion of drinking, eating and dancing around the maypole, the symbol of Midsummer (and this emoji).


3. Kräftskiva

Forget about Christmas – late summer is the most wonderful time of the year in Sweden. August and September (even late July if you're particularly eager) is the time for the traditional Swedish kräftskiva aka. crayfish party, aka another excuse to drink because Midsummer was already a long time ago now.

READ ALSO: How to survive a Swedish crayfish party

What does a kräftskiva consist of, you ask? It's simple: all you need is a mountain of crayfish, some seriously strong alcohol and your best singing voice. Because you can't just drink during a crayfish party. No, no. You have to sing first. But no need to improvise – there are standard drinking songs called snapsvisor.

READ ALSO: Eight zaniest Swedish drinking song lyrics

These are short, bright and humorous songs, often about how delicious the snaps is and how much you are craving it. If you're still confused, just smile and hum. You're only a few shots away from being fluent in Swedish anyway.


4. Dansbandsmusik

Sweden is known for producing a lot of amazing music: ABBA, The Cardigans, Zara Larsson… all great and popular around the world.

And then there is dansbandsmusik – dance band music. If you think this means house or techno or whatever you usually like to dance to at the club… well, that's not it. The bands from this genre have not met the same international success as others. There is a reason why: only Swedes can get into this music. Well, mostly middle-aged Swedes. The songs are light-hearted and usually about cheesy topics/have cheesy lyrics such as “smiling golden brown eyes”, “don't say no, say maybe maybe maybe” and “the last sweet years” (actual song names).

READ ALSO: Swedish dance bands, a musical mystery wrapped in spandex

The bands are often named after the lead singer and some make it extra catchy by replacing the letter 's' with a 'z' (I mean, Larz Kristerz just looks so much more hip than Lars Kristers). The band members also wear matching outfits.

These album covers say it all. But hey, if you're into this, who am I to judge? We all have our guilty pleasures. I'm a sucker for The Great British Bake Off and I like to sing Disney songs when I'm alone.


5. Kebab pizza

Meatballs are so 1700. The modern Swede is experimental and exotic when it comes to food. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: the kebab pizza.

READ ALSO: Could Sweden make New Year's Day kebab pizza day?

This is the most popular pizza in the whole country. And don't say it's not Swedish cuisine – it was invented in Malmö! If you're feeling extra Scandinavian, you can upgrade to the Viking kebab pizza, which is a folded kebab pizza that is supposed to resemble a Viking ship. It doesn't get much more Swedish than that (unless you go one step further and try the 'Calskroven'). This baby will cure your post Midsummer/crayfish party hangover right away.


If you feel like you need these Swemojis in your life – and I know you do – you can download all 87 of them in the App Store here.

This article was written by Sara Falck, who works for the online language portal

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What irritates Swedes the most about the Swedish language?

A new study shows that more than one in five Swedes is irritated by the pronoun "hen", and the same number can't stand it when compound words are split up. Here's a rundown of the main offenders.

What irritates Swedes the most about the Swedish language?

One in five Swedes dislike the gender-neutral pronoun hen

In the study, carried out by Novus on behalf of language magazine Språktidningen, 22 percent of Swedes said that the pronoun hen was the most irritating aspect of the Swedish language. 

The first reported use of the gender-neutral pronoun, to be used instead of han (he) or hon (she), was in the 1950s, when it was used by language professor Karl-Hampus Dahlstedt, but it didn’t appear in writing until linguist Rolf Dunås wrote a newspaper article in 1966 proposing the introduction of the new pronoun.

After that, use of the pronoun was mostly limited to those within the LGBT community until 2012, when a children’s book sparked debate and media attention thanks to the exclusive use of hen to refer to its characters.

In 2015, hen entered the Swedish dictionary, a move which made it more difficult for critics to argue that it wasn’t an established or accepted alternative to han or hon.

As Språktidningen’s editor-in-chief Anders Svensson points out in this article, the pronoun hen has had an ideological and political dimension since debate took off in 2012, and this is still clearly visible today.

Although 22 percent of the survey’s respondents listed hen as the most irritating aspect of the Swedish language, this number rose to a whopping 50 percent amongst respondents who identified with the Sweden Democrats.

On the other side of the political spectrum, those sympathising with the Left Party, the Greens, the Liberals or the Centre Party were least likely to find hen irritating, with a mere 5 to 7 percent of these groups putting it in first place.

Torbjörn Sjöström, CEO of polling company Novus, told Språktidningen that these results didn’t surprise him.

“The fact that hen is irritating for Sweden Democrat sympathisers more than others is not surprising. People join that party because they want things to be like they were in the past. A new word which is gender-neutral symbolises a lot of the developments these people are against,” he explained.

One in five against särskrivning

The same amount, 22 percent, stated that särskrivningar – writing compound words incorrectly as two separate words – annoyed them the most.

This may sound like a minor error, but särskrivningar (literally: “separate writing”) can lead to major misunderstandings. Just look at these amusing examples of särskrivning gone wrong:

En rödhårig kvinna: “a red-haired woman”

En röd hårig kvinna: a red, hairy woman

Kassapersonalen: “checkout workers”

Kassa personalen: “useless employees”

Barnunderkläder: “children’s underwear”

Barn under kläder: “child under clothes”

In contrast to debates over the use of the word hen, debates over särskrivning have raged since the 1800s, where they were often considered to be major mistakes if featured in a text. One reason for this, Svensson notes, is that order in itself was seen as beautiful at this time.

Maria Bylin, language advisor at the Swedish Language Council (Språkrådet), told Språktidningen that she recognises this argument in modern debate on särskrivningar.

“You associate developments in the language with the country and with society,” she explained. “So whatever changes you can see in the language, you think it will happen in society, too.”

One popular scapegoat for this increase in särskrivning is the influence of English on the Swedish language. In English, we have fewer compound words than in Swedish, although they do still exist: a few examples are postbox, doorknob and blackberry. It is, however, harder to form compounds than in Swedish.

To return to the examples above, it would look strange to write “redhairedgirl”, “checkoutworker” or “childrensunderwear” as compounds in English.

So, is the rise of English to blame for mistakes in Swedish? Not according to linguist Katharina Hallencreutz, who noted when studying high school students’ English essays that they had no issues writing English compound loan words such as makeup or popcorn. 

This also wouldn’t explain the large amount of särskrivningar seen in historical texts in Sweden: they feature heavily in laws dating back to the 1200s, as well as Gustav Vasa’s Swedish bible translation, which was published in 1541.

One surprising result of the survey was the fact that young people were more likely than older people to find särskrivningar irritating:

“That surprised me a bit,” Svensson told public broadcaster SVT. “Often you hear the argument that older people think young people write carelessly and särskriver too much.”

Svensson wasn’t sure why this was, but did have a theory: “I suppose those who have recently finished school – most of them have learnt when words should be written as one word, and when they should be separate,” he told SVT.

English loanwords

The influence of English on the Swedish language was a major bugbear for a number of respondents, though. As many as 15 percent of those in Novus’ survey answered that “unnecessary English loanwords” were the most irritating thing about modern Swedish.

English loanwords were most irritating amongst Swedes over 65, where 29 percent stated they were the number one source of irritation, a number which was much lower in other age groups.

Lena Lind Palicki, a Swedish lecturer at Stockholm University, said that this could be to do with comprehensibility. She noted that irritation over English loanwords was especially high amongst older respondents who had left school at 16.

“We can assume that these people have a lower level of English, and then it’s a democratic problem, if English loanwords are used which can be difficult for many people to understand,” she told Språktidningen.

Palicki can’t imagine that English will remain as large a source of annoyance in the future as it is now, though.

“The irritation over English loanwords may have gone out of date in twenty years. Today’s youth will not start to be irritated by the same things as today’s elderly, but they’ll probably start making a symbolic issue of things they struggle with in school today,” she told the magazine.