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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: bastu

If this Swedish word reminds you of nudity, you're not entirely wrong.

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

An important thing to know in Sweden is that the Swedish word for sauna is not sauna, which is an old Finnish word meaning “earth pit”. The sauna dates back thousands of years in Finland, but has in modern times developed into the log cabin steam bath that we recognise today.

In Swedish, it’s instead referred to as a bastu, which is short for badstuga, a word that literally means “bath cottage” or “bathing room”. The word stuga also appears in words such as tvättstuga (“laundry room/building”), förstuga (“porch”, often shortened to farstu) and simply stuga (“cottage”).

While not as massively popular as in neighbouring Finland, Sweden also has a strong sauna tradition.

Sweden was for centuries a relatively poor country, so at first, it was mainly used around special occasions such as Christmas. But it really gained ground in the first half of the 20th century when around 10,000 public saunas were built across the country – partly as a drive to organise school bathing sessions, to make sure that all schoolchildren no matter their social class could tend to their personal hygiene.

Today, most Swedish swimming pools will have a sauna. They’re especially popular after cold winter dips in icy lakes.

You’re usually stark naked in the sauna, but you’re expected to bring a towel to sit on. In fact, swimsuits are often completely banned from public saunas – this is because the chlorine used in the water at swimming pools can cause health and breathing issues when it vaporises.

It is usually OK to wrap the towel around you if you’re uncomfortable with nudity. Few people will be truly offended.

If you’re picturing naked people happily running around outside in the snow after their sauna session, hitting each other with birch twigs, stop it immediately. That’s Finland, not Sweden (and even Finnish people may argue that it’s a bit too stereotypical an image of their country).

Examples:

Åh, vad varmt och skönt det är i bastun

Oh, it’s so nice and warm in the sauna

Ska vi basta?

Let’s use the sauna! (or “shall we use the sauna?”)

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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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: tacofredag

Today’s word is a modern Swedish national tradition.

Swedish word of the day: tacofredag

Tacofredag simply means ‘Taco Friday’.

If you have been living in Sweden for a while you might be familiar with the concept of att mysa, ‘to get cozy’. If you are not, the number one mys-day is Friday, fredagsmys, or “Cozy Friday”, which we have previously covered. Fredagsmys has become somewhat of a modern national tradition, where the idea is to stay at home, watch a movie, have a chill and nice time together while eating fast food.

And the fast food of choice for fredagsmys is tacos, Tex-Mex style tacos, but with a Swedish twist. You might have seen the large taco section in your local supermarket and wondered. This is why it is so large.

Here’s the story behind it. Around 1990 Sweden was reemerging out of a financial crisis. Swedes were increasingly willing to spend again, and television advertising, which was illegal on cable based broadcast, was becoming a thing through satellite broadcasts from the UK. Somewhere around this time the idea of fredagsmys was born. To sit at home, eating easy to make food while watching television.  

Though crips company OLW was the major populariser of the phenomenon of fredagsmys through a series of popular adverts that started in 2009, the big winners of the new cultural phenomenon were the tex-mex producers Old El Paso and Santa Maria (which even changed its name from Nordfalks due to the success of its tex-mex products). 

Through in store demonstrations of how to assemble the tacos, and a series of advertising campaigns, tex-mex sales grew from 70 million to 1,2 billion SEK over 20 years from 1991-2011. In 2014 Santa Maria released a statement containing statistics from a survey which showed that 85 percent of Swedes eat Tex Mex regularly, and that 55 percent of them do it on Fridays. Though that survey was done on only 1000 people, it still gives an inkling of the popularity of the phenomenon.

So what are the essentially Swedish ingredients on tacofredag? Cucumber, pineapple, yoghurt sauces, canned corn and even peanuts. These are also things that you might find on Swedish pizzas such as the Africana or the Hawaii, or even the odd Kebab Pizza (another Swedish take on imported food). 

As you can see, tacofredag is a widely appreciated and, due to its twists, quintessentially Swedish modern tradition. Invite your friends over for tacofredag instead of Taco Tuesday, and don’t forget to include the Swedish ingredients. It will certainly be appreciated.

Example sentences:

Vi tänkte ha tacofredag till helgen, vill ni komma?

We’re having Taco Friday this weekend, you wanna come?

Åh, jag älskar tacofredag!

Oh, I love Taco Fridays!

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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