Swedish word of the day: varuberg

Understanding this peculiar word will help you to avoid accidentally alienating people in Sweden.

Swedish word of the day: varuberg
Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Varuberg is one of those concepts that doesn't have a snappy translation in many other languages. It refers to a heap of items piled up on a supermarket conveyor belt, and is a big no-no when shopping in Sweden.

Perhaps you've already learned that berg means 'mountain' (from the Old Norse word bjarg), but it also means 'heap' or 'pile'. Meanwhile, varu- comes from the noun vara, which means 'product'; an item being bought or sold. So varuberg is basically 'mountain of goods'.

You can hear it used in general, for example to describe large shopping displays or the items in someone's cart/trolley, but it's most often used to talk about how people arrange their goods on the conveyor belt before paying.

You usually hear varuberg combined with the verb bygga (to build) rather than göra (to make) – and it's often preceded by inte (don't) since most Swedes agree that the preferred way to arrange your shopping is in a neat line.

You might be tempted to roll your eyes at the concept of a varuberg and chalk this up to Swedes loving conformity and rule-following, but some studies have shown that a varuberg can actually be a health issue for checkout staff. It delays the checkout process, since staff need to dismantle the 'mountain' and scan each item one by one, but these repetitive motions can, over time, cause damage to their muscles and shoulders.

So while this isn't exactly one of the most common words in the Swedish language, it's very handy to know in order to avoid hearing it mumbled passive-aggressively by shoppers queuing behind you. 


Vänd streckkoden mot dig och bygg inte varuberg

Turn the barcode towards yourself and don't pile up your items

Varuberg kan skada personal

Mountains of piled-up goods can injure staff

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Swedish word of the day: sommartid

The clocks are springing ahead this weekend, marking the beginning of daylight saving time and the end of Sweden's dark winter period. Aptly described in Swedish as 'sommartid', here is the history of how the practice came about.

Swedish word of the day: sommartid

The phrase will come in handy this weekend if you want to lament a lost hour of sleep in the morning or celebrate the extra hour of daylight in the evening. 

Sommartid translates literally to “summertime” and refers to daylight saving time, which begins this weekend in many European countries, including Sweden. At 2:00 am on Sunday, the clocks will spring one hour ahead.

In the UK, this period is known as “British Summer Time” – one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time – while in North America, daylight saving time is used more commonly.

The first time sommartid was officially trialled on a national basis was in 1916, when the German Empire along with other countries such as Austria-Hungary, the UK and Sweden introduced the practice in order to conserve fuel during World War I, with the idea being that the extra daylight would reduce the use of artificial lighting, allowing the surplus fuel to be put towards the war efforts.

In the following years, the practice spread to Australia, Russia, and the US, too.

After the war, daylight saving grew unpopular in Europe, especially among farmers, whose schedules were – and still are – dictated by nature and sunlight rather than the clock.

It wasn’t used on a large scale again until World War II, when Germany again popularised the practice. But a few years after the war ended, it fell out of favour for the second time. It only picked up again when France reintroduced it in 1976, in response to an energy crisis sparked by the oil embargo in 1973.

By 1996, the EU standardised daylight savings, which now runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. 

But the future of daylight saving time looks uncertain once again. In 2019, the European Parliament voted to abolish the practice, however efforts to actually implement this measure have stalled. So at least for this year, sommartid will continue.  

Example sentences: 

När börjar sommartid? 

When does daylight saving time start?

Kom ihåg att sommartid börjar på söndag, så man behöver stå upp en timme tidigare.

Remember that summer time starts on Sunday, so you need to get up an hour earlier.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is available to order. Head to to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.