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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: vårstädning

Vårstädning has a simple English translation, but also refers to a very Swedish concept.

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

Vårstädning (vår + städning) means ‘spring clean’ and refers to a big tidy-up at the start of the warmer season. You can do this on your own at home, but in Sweden many housing associations and apartment blocks also organise a vårstädning day as a group activity.

Usually the association will invite residents to take part in the day, which might involve weeding, planting flowers, and bringing out any outdoor furniture. It’s a chance to get to know the neighbours and (in non-pandemic times) coffee and snacks like biscuits or hotdogs are often provided for helpers.

There’s also an autumn counterpart, höststädning, when the outdoor furniture gets taken in and the garden cleared up ready for winter.

Sweden is generally considered a tough place to make friends, and even to get to know neighbours — it’s not that common, for example, to knock on neighbours’ doors to introduce yourself as a new arrival, especially in big cities where apartment blocks have a relatively higher turnover of residents.

But participating in these organised chores, as well as getting involved with the association’s board itself, is a way to show you’re a good neighbour, willing to do your part.

You can also use vårstäda as a verb, for example vårstäda trädgården (to give the garden a spring clean).

And like in English, the term can be used figuratively. In 2021 ministers have spoken about a vårstädning of Sweden’s population register, involving removing outdated coordination numbers from the register, and you might also use it to talk about another kind of re-organisation. 

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: foppatofflor

Love them or hate them, foppatofflor are unexpectedly coming back in to fashion. But what are they, and how did they get their Swedish name?

Swedish word of the day: foppatofflor

Foppatoffla – foppatofflor in plural – is the Swedish term for Crocs – plastic sandals or clogs which first became popular in the early 2000s.

The word foppatoffla is made up of two words. The first is foppa, which is the nickname of one of Sweden’s most successful ice hockey players, Peter Forsberg. The second half of the word is toffla, the Swedish word for “sandal”.

Foppatofflor, the Swedish term for Crocs. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix/TT

So, what does a famous Swedish ice hockey player have to do with plastic clogs?

The story begins in the early 2000s, when Forsberg was recovering from a foot injury sustained playing professional ice hockey. When looking for a shoe comfortable enough for him to wear without exacerbating his injury, he came across Crocs, which were designed to be comfortable and ergonomic.

Recognising the shoes’ potential, Forsberg became an early investor, securing the sole rights to distribute Crocs in Sweden through his company Forspro. But Forsberg didn’t just invest in the shoes, he also appeared in adverts for them, leading Swedes to start referring to the shoes as foppatofflor.

By 2010, sales of foppatofflor were dwindling, so Forsberg shut down Forspro to focus on other investments – but not before the name had stuck.

Peter “Foppa” Forsberg. The man you can thank (or despise) for introducing Crocs to Sweden. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

The shoes are still popular as ergonomic and hygienic work shoes, particularly in the healthcare sector, although they were briefly banned in some Swedish hospitals on suspicion of causing a build-up of static electricity which disrupted hospital machinery.

They may also be coming back into fashion, gracing the Oscars red carpet and the Instagram feeds of musicians such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Pharell Williams in the last few years.

So, love them or hate them, foppatofflor seem to be here to stay. Now you know what word to use if you decide to pick up a pair for yourself this summer.

Example sentences:

Jag har precis köpt nya foppatofflor till barnen – de är ju så praktiska!

I’ve just bought new Crocs for the kids – they’re so practical!

Gud, är foppatofflor verkligen trendiga nu? Bra att jag har kvar mina från 00-talet!

God, are Crocs really trendy now? Good job I kept mine from the noughties!

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 USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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