Swedish word of the day: polkagris

Here's the next word in The Local's Christmas-themed word of the day series, running from December 1st to Christmas Eve.

the word polkagris on a black background beside a swedish flag
Have you eaten many polka pigs this year? Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Today’s word describes a festive sweet treat with surprising Swedish origins.

The polkagris is the name of the candy cane: rolls of peppermint flavoured, usually red and white striped candy in the shape of a stick or a hook.

The sweets were invented by Swedish confectioner Amalia Eriksson in the town of Gränna in 1859, and today, as in other countries, they are enjoyed year round as well as being used to decorate Christmas trees. 

The polka in the name comes directly from the dance, polka. 

At the time this fast-paced Slavic dance was a new thing in Scandinavia, and it was used in the name polkagris because of the fast candy-twirling action needed to roll the red and white sections together before the sugar sets to give the stick its distinctive swirls.

As for gris, this literally means “pig”, but was a common slang term for candy or sweets in the 1800s.

You’ll also hear the sweets referred to as polkakäpp, especially when the end is curved round into a hook (to be hung on a tree), from the word käpp meaning “stick”.

This is a more generic term, whereas the polkagris usually refers to sweets made with Eriksson’s precise methods and secret recipe. This was closely guarded, and the first shop making authentic polkagrisar outside Gränna opened as recently as 2011. Today it is also made in the Swedish Candy Factory in California.

And today you can also find a huge variety of flavours of polkagrisar, from the traditional peppermint to the more original apple, mojito, or caramel, to name just a few.

Example sentences:

Polkagrisar med ena änden böjd kallas ofta polkakäppar och kan hängas upp som julpynt

Candy sticks with one end bent are often called candy canes and can be hung up as Christmas decorations

Vita chokladtryfflar med smak av polkagris

White chocolate truffles flavoured with candy cane (peppermint)

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 – or join The Local as a member and get your copy for free.

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​​Swedish word of the day: konsensuskultur

Some would say today’s word describes the most quintessentially Swedish thing there is.

​​Swedish word of the day: konsensuskultur

Last week we covered the word möte, where we mentioned how Swedes are all about consensus. How so, you might ask. Well, some say that the obsession Swedes have with möten (‘meetings’) is emblematic of something called konsensuskultur, the ‘culture of consensus’, a phenomenon they claim might be the very spine of the Swedish spirit, if there is such a thing. 

According to these columnists, you can see it everywhere in Swedish society: in people wearing similar clothes on the streets (H&M etc), the constant möten at work, why the public debate on immigration has pushed voters toward the Sweden Democrats, why integration is failing, the leadership style of Swedish managers, the very idea of ‘lagom’, in every major shift in Swedish political history. Or in other words, basically in all the history and culture of Sweden.

Whether or not konsensuskultur truely has such massive reach, consensus is definitely sought after in Sweden (although one might argue that this is true of every healthy society). 

The idea of konsensuskultur also creates certain paradoxes. In 2015, at the height of the Syrian migration crisis, the Rabbi and author Dan Korn wrote that konsensuskultur was both the reason why Swedes were so refugee-friendly and simultaneously the reason why integration into Swedish society was such a failure.

Dan Korn argued this was not in fact a paradox, but instead the result of consensus on two different issues: one over welcoming refugees, and another over how to behave or not behave in Swedish society.

For immigrants living in Sweden, konsenskultur is not a word you will hear that often, but is is a phenomenon to keep in mind: 

When moving forward with group activities involving Swedes, it is often best to first have a discussion to reach some sort of consensus. 

Similarly, when analysing the twists and turns of the Swedish political landscape, it is always worth keeping an eye open for those moments when Sweden undergoes a paradigm shift, or in other words, finds a new consensus

A good way of using the word konsensuskultur, which might also start up an interesting conversation, is to ask a Swedish friend if they see Swedes as having a strong konsensuskultur

Example sentences:

Sverige sägs vara ett land med en stark konsensuskultur.

Sweden is said to be a country with a strong consensus culture.

Sara, tycker du att Sverige är ett land präglat av en stark konsensuskultur?

Sara, do you think Sweden is a country marked by a strong consensus culture?

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.