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Swedish word of the day: bostadsrättsförening

The thing about buying an apartment in Sweden is that you don't actually buy the apartment. The key to understanding this is in one word: bostadsrättsförening.

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

Bostadsrättsförening can be broken down into bostad (home/property), rätt (right) and förening (association).

A bostadsrätt means the right to live in a property, and this is almost always what you buy when you purchase an apartment in Sweden.

You also buy into a collective, the bostadsrättsförening which is the association that's in charge of running the property, usually one or several blocks of apartments, but can also apply to groups of houses, especially terraced houses.

An English translation would be tenants' association or housing cooperative. Before you can move into a newly bought apartment, you need to be accepted by this cooperative, although this is usually just a formality.

Each month, as well as your mortgage, you'll pay fees to the bostadsrättsförening, which is often shorted to BRF in Swedish. These fees cover maintenance of common areas like staircases, lifts and the all-important communal laundry room, as well as things like plumbing, upkeep of external doors and windows, and often heating and water.

When you look into buying an apartment, it's important to check exactly what that monthly fee covers, because if you have to pay extra for hot water or electric heating, for example, that could mean a big increase to your bills each winter.

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On the other hand, some bostadsrättsföreningar offer extra perks such as a shared gym, sauna, or guest apartments for when members have visitors staying. In the plushest of BRFs, there might even be something like a pool or cinema just for residents. 

The BRF also sets rules for members, with the idea being that this ensures everyone can live comfortably. These rules will usually include something like no loud noise after 10pm, and no smoking in common indoor areas. 

So who are these mysterious people in charge? The bostadsrättsförening is made up of tenants living in the building, who take on roles on the BRF's board.

They will work together to make decisions on how to use the money; for example in a good year, they might decide to invest in some new benefits for members, and it would be the board who decide whether to build a new playground or an outdoor dining area. Everyone living in the BRF would get a say, though, not just those on the board. There's no goal of making profit, so any extra money should be put back into benefits for BRF members.

Of course, since the associations are run by ordinary people, there's a risk of mismanagement of money. Before thinking about buying a house or apartment in a BRF, it's important to look into the association's finances.

There are also external factors to these; a cooperative that rents out some space to businesses, or owns its land rather than renting it from the municipality, will often have a stronger financial situation. Factors such as a low loan per square metre can make the property a lower-risk investment, since there will be a lower debt to pay off if something goes wrong.

Examples

Trevligt område, stabil bostadsrättsförening med bra ekonomi

Pleasant neighbourhood, stable housing cooperative with good finances (you'll see phrases like this in estate agent adverts)

Det är viktigt att analysera en bostadsrättsförenings ekonomi innan man köper en lägenhet

It is important to analyze a housing cooperative's finances before buying an apartment

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: pyttipanna

This word of the day is a lot of bits of leftovers.

​​Swedish word of the day: pyttipanna

Pyttipanna or pytt i panna is a Swedish dish, but really a Nordic dish, as it exists in Norway (pytt i panne), Denmark (biksemad), and Finland (pyttipannu). The word or words supposedly mean ‘little bits in a pan’. Panna of course is simply ‘pan’ as in ‘frying pan’. But pytt, it seems, is an interesting little word. 

Taken as is, pytt has several meanings: a penis (see pitt), a small person (as in liliputian, lilleputt), a local name for the ‘marsh tit’, which is a little bird, or simply small. But all of those might be wrong. The Swedish Academy actually proposes that the pytt in pyttipanna did not originally mean ‘small’, but that it instead might come from putta, a word that today only means ‘push’, but which has the same root as the English ‘put’ and once also had that meaning. 

This would of course mean that the correct translation into English of pyttipanna is ‘Put in a Pan’! While many refer to it as ‘Swedish Hash’ or ‘Swedish Fry Up, and one could imagine it as ‘Pieces in a Pan’, Jamie Oliver sticks to the actual name pyttipanna when he makes it, and that is the recommended way.

The dish itself is a dish worth tasting for reference, as nearly every Swedish school child will have eaten it, sometimes several times a month, during their entire schooling. The dish is as Swedish as any. And there are fancier variations if you wanna go that way – look for krögarpytt. 

As is often the way with words, people constantly find new and at times even funny uses for them. Pyttipanna is no exception. 

Here you can see Swedish journalist Sara Mitchell-Malm making great use of pyttipanna in the sense of someone being ‘pyttipanna-ed’ or in other word proverbially cut to pieces. The target is British prime minister Liz Truss, and Mitchell-Mann also grabs the opportunity to get a jibe in at the Swedish minister for foreign affairs, Ann Linde.

Translation: ‘Aaah, a whole hour of British local radio journalists making pyttipanna of Liz Truss – the evening shift couldn’t start better. You have to listen, I beg you, she makes Ann Linde on German television seem like a professor of rhetoric.’

What Sara Mitchell-Mann is doing here is replacing the standard slarvsylta, another dish used to say that someone is being shredded by critics or opponents, with pyttipanna. An English language equivalent would be the American ‘making chop suey of someone’. 

Before you ascend to Mitchell-Mann’s Jedi level of pyttipanna use, start by making the dish for your friends. There are many great recipes online. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Gillar ni inte pyttipannan så kommer jag göra pyttipanna av er nästa gång! 

If you don’t like the pyttipanna, I’ll make pyttipanna of you next time!

Pyttipanna eller krögarpytt? Vad är skillnaden?

Pyttipanna or krögarpytt? What’s the difference?

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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