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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Five ways to learn Swedish with legendary comedian Hasse Alfredson

Discover Swedish culture, history and language with the help of Swedish jack-of-all-trades Hasse Alfredson.

Five ways to learn Swedish with legendary comedian Hasse Alfredson
Hasse Alfredson, left, and his comedy partner Tage Danielsson in 1975. Photo: TT

Swedish comedian, writer, actor and director Hans 'Hasse' Alfredson passed away at the age of 86 on Sunday, prompting an outpouring of tributes from Swedes who grew up laughing at his jokes.

For readers unfamiliar with his work, and those interested in expanding your knowledge of Swedish culture and language, The Local takes a look at five of our favourite moments.

1. Lindeman

'Lindeman' is a series of short improvisational two-person comedy skits. The basic premise is this: Alfredson takes on the role of a different Lindeman character each time – punk rocker Trindeman Lindeman, mobile home owner Lindeman, flying saucer expert Ufo Lindeman and so on; the other person (often Alfredson's long-time comedy partner Tage Danielsson) asks him questions on a random topic and Alfredson ad libs his answers. They are weird, sometimes a bit dated, often hilarious. Listen to them on Spotify below.

READ ALSO: How this Swedish band helped me learn the language

2. Den enfaldige mördaren – The Simple-Minded Murderer

Alfredson was not just known for his comedy. The movie 'The Simple-Minded Murderer', which he adapted from one of his own novels, is a dark tale of evil and power in the 1930s. It stars Alfredson himself as the sadistic factory owner and a young, lisping Stellan Skarsgård as one of his workers, and was picked as one of 30 Swedish films to watch before you die. The dialogue is in the southern Swedish accent, so if you are still learning the language you may struggle with this one. Turn on the subtitles and enjoy the acting.

READ ALSO: 17 dialect words you need to survive in southern Sweden


Hasse Alfredson during the shooting of 'The Simple-Minded Murderer'. Photo: Stefan Lindblom/TT

3. Djingis Khan – Genghis Khan

In his early career at Lund University, Alfredson was a member of iconic Lundensian theatre company Lundaspexarna and penned one of their most famous productions in 1954 about a certain Mongolian warlord's attempts to invade Samarkand. If you're a student in Lund, you will be expected to know about this, and it is still performed once every five years. The rest of you will not be quizzed on bizarre student traditions, but it is worth knowing the lyrics to 'Härjavisan', a legendary tune still often sung as a drinking song.

Ja, nu ska vi ut och härja, supa och slåss och svärja,

bränna röda stugor, slå små barn och säga fula ord.

Yes, we're going out to ravage, drink and fight and swear,

burn down red cottages, hit little children and say bad words.

4. Guben i låddan

Guben i låddan is a 1960s sketch by Alfredson and Martin Ljung set in a train car. Ljung reads a bedtime tale and keeps mispronunciating the words 'gubben i lådan' ('the man in the box') as 'guben i låddan', much to the rapidly growing anger of Alfredson. Nothing else happens, but for that reason it is good for practising your Swedish skills (as long as you don't accidentally memorize the wrong pronunciation). Plus your Swedish partner's grandparents are sure to give you bonus points for having heard about this one.

5. Blommig falukorv

Blommig falukorv is a children's song written by Alfredson. The lyrics are the words of a child who insists on only eating “flowery falukorv” (the flowery bit is nonsensical fun, but a falukorv is a typically Swedish sausage) for lunch, rejecting all other food their mother suggests. Great for learning Swedish food vocabulary.

Jag vill ha blommig falukorv till lunch mamma.

Nåt annat vill jag inte ha.

Jag hatar tomaten och fisken och spenaten

och plättarna med lingonsylt.

I want flowery falukorv for lunch, mum.

I don't want anything else.

I hate the tomato and the fish and the spinach

and the small pancakes with lingonberry jam.

For members

CULTURE

‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/imagebank.sweden.se

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT

Footwear

Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden

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