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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: nollning

This Swedish word is useful to know if you're starting at a university in Sweden this autumn, or if you live in a university town.

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

Nollning could be roughly translated as 'hazing' or 'initiation', almost always in the context of starting at university.

You'll often see groups of young adults wearing student overalls or fancy dress, who are asked to carry out certain tasks by older students.

Typically the idea is that these should be a fun and harmless way to get to know fellow students, with tasks like a scavenger hunt or singing a song. Over recent years however, there have also been many reports of nollning rituals being used to bully or humiliate students both at high schools (gymnasium) and universities (högskola/universitet). Alcohol usually plays a part in the activities too, but drinking and taking part in the tasks should in theory be totally optional.

The name nollning comes from the term nollor (literally 'zeroes') which is used to refer to the new intake of students. But although 'zeroing' might sound degrading, there's no negative connotation to nollor, which is the equivalent to 'fresher' or 'freshman' in English, and students become ettor (ones) once their first year of studies officially starts.

Note: Despite this, it's extremely rude to refer to someone as a nolla outside this student context, as it can also mean 'a nobody/a person of no importance'.

As well as nollning, there are two other terms you can use to refer to the events welcoming new students at the start of term: inspark and mottagning. These are often used by institutions which want to avoid the negative connotation which nollning has begun to get. 

Examples

Nollning borde vara roligt

University initiations should be fun

Några gymnasier har förbjudit nollning

Some high schools have banned hazing

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

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

The word of the day is perhaps Sweden’s second favourite pastime, after 'fika', and they often go hand in hand.

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

In 2017 Swedish television published an article with the headline, Möteskulturen frodas i Sverige, “The Meeting Culture is Thriving in Sweden”. For a non-Swede that might seem like an interesting and perhaps bizarre headline, but to the initiated it is all too familiar. 

A möte is simply a meeting, but for Swedes möten are something you do at every opportunity. Need to decide anything at all? Let’s have a möte. This can seem like an awful waste of time to a non-Swede, but Swedes are all about consensus. The idea is that after you have consensus you can move forward more efficiently. And Swedish society seems to do that really well. And it does not hurt that a möte is the perfect time for fika, or more precisely mötesfika.

As a bit of history, the English ‘meeting’ and Swedish möte are related, and they are also related to ‘moot’ as in ‘moot court’ or a ‘moot point’, “an issue that is subject to, or open for discussion or debate; originally, one to be definitively determined by an assembly of the people.” That assembly of people was originally an old Germanic type of town hall, a ting, where people met to discuss communal matters and settle disputes.

Today we can find the word ting in the names of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, the Danish parliament, the Folketing, and the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. In Sweden you still find it in the name of the lower courts, Tingsrätten

The point is, there is a very old tradition of möten in Scandinavian culture. The Icelandic parliament, for instance, claims to be the oldest in the world. Whether the Icelanders can beat the Swedes at the time spent in möten at work is unsure, no statistics seem to be readily available for a comparison. 

Malin Åkerström, the researcher who was interviewed in the piece by Swedish television, claims that the public sector are the primary champions of möten, but it is also very common in the private sector. And möten are on the rise in many workplaces. 

Here it might help to know that in Sweden a möte can also be between you and just one other co-worker to discuss almost anything, so the term is quite broad. Then there are so called arbetsplatsträffar, more commonly referred to as APT, a type of longer, more serious möte that many workplaces hold regularly (there you can almost always count on fika). 

As you can see, Swedes love their möten – so why not find an excuse to stämma tid för ett möte with one of your Swedish friends or maybe a coworker? You might just make their day.

Example sentences:

Bettan, kan vi stämma tid för ett möte?

Bettan, can we decide on a time for a meeting?

Jag blir galen med alla dessa konstanta möten, va fan är det för fel på svenskar?

I’m going insane with all these constant meetings, what the hell is wrong with these Swedes?

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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