Swedish word of the day: folkdräkt

During Sweden's Midsummer celebrations, you might see people dressed in traditional colourful outfits, which is where today's word comes in.

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

The word translates to folk (‘people’, usually in the sense of a nation, for example det svenska folket – the Swedish people) + dräkt (costume).

While dancing around the maypole on Midsummer, some Swedes will choose to wear a traditional folk costume.

There are hundreds of different kinds of Swedish folkdräkter, and they vary between Sweden’s different regions; you will also hear them called landskapsdräkter (regional costume) or hembygdsdräkt (homeland costume). Dalarna in the middle of Sweden has the most types of folkdräkter.

The folkdräkt has been recorded since the 1600s and was worn by the allmogen (peasant class) in preindustrial Sweden according to Skansen. They were used as casual, everyday wear. 

They developed at a time when Sweden was an agricultural nation; in such a big country, rural communities were spread out and local identity was strong, so there was a focus on conformity which is how local towns developed their own costume designs. 

The national folkdräkt was created in the early 20th century to encourage national cohesion, and is yellow and blue to match the Swedish flag. The folkdräkt is often seen on national Swedish holidays such as Midsummer and National Day, by both ordinary people and royals, for example the Crown Princess Victoria who often wears the costume at public events on holidays.

Crown princess Victoria on Sweden’s national day. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT 

Sweden is not the only country that wears folk costumes for holidays. In Sweden’s neighbour Norway, wearing a folk costume for their independence day May 17th is the norm, and is more common than in Sweden. 

The indigenous Sami people in northern Sweden also have folkdräkter which vary by region in the Sami nation Sapmi.

The Samedräkt (Sami costume) includes a garment called either gákti, gábdde, gáppte, gápptie or gapta depending on the region (kolt in Swedish). They are more commonly worn than other Swedish folk costumes, especially at times of celebration such as weddings. 

A Sami choir in concert. Photo: Information Service of the Church of Norway/ Wikimedia Commons


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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.