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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: vobba

Our chosen word of the day is a colloquial Swedish term that you're likely to start hearing a lot around this time of year.

Swedish word of the day: vobba
'Vobba' season is upon us. Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Att vobba is a handy Swedish verb which means, roughly, “to work from home even though you've taken a paid day off to take care of your sick child”. Allow us to explain.

Picture this: because of the current cold weather, your child is sick and you have to stay at home to look after them. In Sweden, parents of young children benefit from a generous policy allowing paid days off in such cases, but if the work is piling up on your desk, a day off may not be practical, especially not once flu season starts.

That's where vobba comes in. It's a portmanteau or mash-up of two words: in this case the verbs att vabba (to take care of a child) and att jobba (to work).

Att vabba is also a recently coined word, which comes from the abbreviation VAB (vård av barn or 'care of child'). This is the official term for time off granted to care for a sick child, as part of Sweden's family-friendly work culture preventing parents from income loss.

Vobba on the other hand refers to a combination of working and looking after an ill child. Officially, it's not possible to vobba if you've taken a VAB day, the reason being that you can't claim a salary and VAB benefit at the same time. But an employer may be understanding if you choose to work from home to be with the child if you're still able to carry out most of your duties (therefore caring for your child but not claiming VAB), or you can choose to claim VAB for only part of the workday and work the rest of the time. 

These options are actually becoming more popular than the tradition VAB, so the chances are this word will be sticking around in the Swedish lexicon for a long time.

Examples:

Mitt barn är sjuk; jag måste vobba.

My child is sick; I have to work from home to look after them

Jag skulle egentligen vabba men vobbade istället

I was supposed to stay at home and take care of my child, but I worked from home instead

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you'd like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: ockerhyra

A word of the day which makes strange use of usury.

​​Swedish word of the day: ockerhyra

Ocker is the Swedish word for usury, and not the Australian for someone who “speaks and acts in a rough and uncultivated manner, using Strine, a broad Australian accent” for the Aussies out there who might recognise the term. 

Usury, of course, is when a lender makes monetary loans which unfairly enrich them. The term is used either in a moral sense, then as a condemnation of taking advantage of others’ misfortune, or in a strictly legal sense, where ocker refers to the crime of charging a higher interest rate for a loan than that which is allowed by the law. You might know an individual who does that not as a usurer, but a loan shark

But ockerhyra has nothing to do with loans or loansharks, at least not directly. The shark, however, might still be there, as you will see.

Hyra simply means ‘rent’ – in this case the rent you pay for an apartment or any other rental property. So ockerhyra means ‘usury rent’, but how can a rent be usurious? Well, it cannot since it is not a loan. What instead is meant here, is at least part of the moral sense of the word ‘usury’, whereby someone is taking advantage of another’s situation. 

Someone setting an andrahandshyra, a second hand rent, which is unreasonably high, would be setting an ockerhyra. This is a topic which The Local has previously dealt with, and there are instances to get help with that. The main reason people can get away with this is because many are desperate to find a place in the city, often Stockholm, and therefore will not alert the authorities. But also, owing to the fact that it is not a punishable crime, all that might happen is that the person subletting their place for more than is reasonable might be forced to pay some money back.

Furthermore, the word ockerhyra does not necessarily imply this type of scenario, it can also be used to generally complain about rents being too high. And many do complain about this.

Do you feel a bit upset about the sometimes absurd rents in Stockholm or in another city? Why not make use of the word ockerhyror in a conversation on the topic?

Just remember that the word is quite strong, so try not to accuse a friend of charging an ockerhyra – might be safer to just question whether they are charging a bit much. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Alltså, det är verkligen ockerhyror på nybyggnationer! Jag är sååå trött på den här skiten.

I mean come on, the rents on new builds are outrageous! I’m sick and tired of this shit.

Duncan, varför tar du ockerhyra på stället du hyr ut i andrahand?

Duncan, why are you charging an exaggerated rent on the place you’re subletting?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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