Swedish word of the day: hemester

Here's a word that's sure to spark some debate around the fika table this month.

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

Hemester is a portmanteau (the linguistic term for two words smashed together to combine their meanings) made up of hem (home) and semester (holiday — we've looked into the origin of the Swedish term here). So it literally means 'holiday at home', but the English equivalent would be 'staycation', also a portmanteau.

Fun language fact: in Swedish, the word for portmanteau is teleskopord (literally 'telescope word'), probably because the parts of words are combined just like lenses in a telescope.

A hemester can mean you literally stay at home and simply explore your own neighbourhood like a tourist, perhaps attending local events or going to that museum you've always walked past but never set foot in. But it can also be used to talk about any vacation spent in the same country you live in. 

Like semester, you can turn hemester into a verb, for example vi har vält att hemestra i år (we've decided to take a staycation this year).

An alternative word is svemester, from Sverige (Sweden) + semester (holiday).

Hemester is a concept that's been around for a while, and was named one of the New Swedish Words of the Year back in 2009, but it's seeing a boost in popularity this summer thanks to a recent trend towards sustainable travel. Climate activist Greta Thunberg has urged Swedes to ditch international flights, and the hashtag '#hemester' has thousands of posts on Instagram. 

But how popular is the concept really? After a heatwave that brought record warm summer weather to Sweden in 2018, many people apparently planned to stay at home this summer, but a cooler than usual start to July saw rocketing numbers of families book last minute package holidays further south.

READ ALSO: Seven must-do activities to add to your Swedish summer bucket list


I stället för att resa utomlands, varför inte ta en hemester? 

Instead of travelling overseas, why not take a staycation?

Jag hade planerat att hemestra, sen blev juli mycket kallare än vanligt

I had planned to staycation, but then July was much colder than usual

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would 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: 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 to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.