Swedish word of the day: usch

This is one of those little words that helps your Swedish sound a lot more natural, if you use it at the right time.

Swedish word of the day: usch
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Usch is used as an interjection in Swedish, meaning something like 'yuck', 'ugh' or 'ew'.

It often expresses disgust, distaste or dislike, for example if you're eating or talking about an unappetising food, miserable weather, or something that's repulsive in some other way.

But it doesn't always have that connotation, and is sometimes used to convey other strong emotions. In sentences like 'usch, någonting är fel' (ugh, something is wrong), 'usch, vad pinsamt' (ugh, how embarrassing) or 'usch, jag är nervös' (Oh, I'm nervous) it shows discomfort.

And you might say something like 'usch, vad soligt!' (wow, it's sunny!) even if sunshine is usually a positive, in situations where the sun is causing you discomfort – for example if you forgot to bring your sunglasses or suncream out with you.

You could also use it to fill an uncomfortable silence: imagine there's just been an argument and someone's stormed off. While everyone left is wondering what just happened and what to do next, someone might say 'Usch'.


Usch, vilket väder!

Ugh! What miserable weather!

Usch, vad är det som luktar?

Yuck, what's that smell?

Usch, nu måste vi prata med henne

Yikes, now we have to talk to her

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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.