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Ten Swedish words you need to know as a student

Audrey Duquenne
Audrey Duquenne - [email protected]
Ten Swedish words you need to know as a student
Students, brush up on your vocabulary. Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/

If you're going to study in Sweden, you need to know certain words. Here are some keywords to help you brush up on your student vocabulary.


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Akademisk kvart

Classes in Sweden usually start at 15 minutes past the hour, and this is called the academic quarter. It is linked back to the days when the ringing of the church bell was the general method of telling time. Thus, the students knew that when the bell was ringing, it was time to leave and to make it to the lecture. This tradition is still deeply rooted in university towns such as Lund or Uppsala.

At Uppsala University the lectures are now officially scheduled at 15 minutes past the full hour. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT


If you are going to study in one of the traditional Swedish university towns, you have to know about nations. These student associations provide a space for students to meet, socialize and enjoy life outside the classroom. Each of them are related to a Swedish region and many date back to the 17th century. Fika, restaurant, pub, club, sport activities… the nations are probably the places where you are going to spend most of your free time. You just need to get a nation card which costs a few hundred kronor per semester.

The student nations are made for studying as well as partying. Photo: Susanne Walström/


You can't find strong alcohol in a regular supermarket in Sweden. Systembolaget is the only retail store allowed by the state to sell alcoholic beverages. It doesn't matter if you think you look old enough to buy, you will nearly always be asked to show your legitimation (your ID card) to prove you are 20 or older.

The minimum age to buy alcohol at "Systemet" is 20 years. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT


Many Swedish students live in a korridor. This is a shared accommodation in which you usually have your own room but share the kitchen and the living space. These korridorer are also a common place to organize party (korridorfest) so don't be surprised if one day you find your home transformed to a huge nightclub.

While the housing situation is disastrous, many students chose to live in a corridor. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT


Watch out for this false friend. The Swedish semester is much more fun than the English one because it has nothing to do with studies. Instead, it means vacation. The Swedish word for term time is termin.

Everyone loves sommarlovet. Photo: Johan Willner/


"You can swish it to me." The first time you hear this sentence you might not understand, but once you go Swish you don't go back. It is a mobile payment service which allows you to instantly transfer money from a bank account to another one, conveniently splitting the cost of any event you organize with your friends.

Over half of the Swedish population use Swish. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT


Skål is what you say when you raise a snaps glass or drink some öl (beer) with your friends. It is the Swedish equivalent of "cheers" so remember this one.

Smiles and eyes contact go along with Skål! Photo: Gorm Kallestad/TT


Because the student life can't only be made up of korridorfest and semester, at some point you also have to study hard to pass your examinations: tentamen or tenta for short. Fortunately, it is often followed by a post-exam korridorfest.

The exam period is a busy time for students. Photo: Emelie Asplund/


A gask or gasque is a traditional dinner for students with varying degrees of formality. If you go to a gask, you should also know about the klädkod (dress code) that you can't skip. Also, it is usually recommended to eat before going if you want to stand until the end of the släpp (after party). 

The gasks are also called "sittning" in Lund which basically implies sitting at long tables and for a long time. Photo: Tor Johnsson/TT


If you're a student who don't live at his parents' place any more, the famous meatballs are probably the main ingredient of your dishes. Ideal with pasta, you can also mix them with a tomato sauce and you will obtain the best quality-time-price ratio.

Frozen meatballs. Not as good as your mum's, but they will do the trick. Photo: Per-Erik Berglund/


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