Swedish word of the day: statsminister

A word of the day to mark the Swedish parliament's prime ministerial vote – let's have a closer look at what it means.

Swedish word of the day: statsminister
Sweden has had 33 prime ministers (so far). Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

The word statsminister – literally “state” and “minister” – is the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian word for a prime minister.

It is primarily used for Nordic prime ministers, with prime ministers of other countries, such as the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson and Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison, being referred to as premiärminister (plural: premiärministrar).

Sweden has had 33 different statsministrar (with the first being Louis de Geer from 1876-1880), and the most recent being Social Democrat Stefan Löfven, who became Sweden’s prime minister in 2014. 

Sweden has had universal suffrage since 1921, meaning men and women are both able to vote (although the minimum voting age at this time was 23 years of age).

Since then, the Social Democrats have been in power for the vast majority of time.

Two of Sweden’s prime ministers have died in office. The first was Social Democrat Per Albin Hansson, prime minister between 1932 and 1946 (minus June to September 1936, when the now-Centre Party were briefly in power).

The second was Social Democrat Olof Palme, who was Sweden’s prime minister between 1969 and 1976, and then again between 1982 and his assassination in 1986.

The Swedish prime minister’s official residence has been Sagerska huset, referred to as Sager House in English, since 1995.

Sagerska huset is located on Strömgatan in central Stockholm. Prior to this, prime ministers did not have an official residence – those holding the position kept their private residences while in power. 

The establishment of an official residence for prime ministers came about after a cross-party agreement on increased security for prime ministers after Palme’s assassination.

Sweden’s prime minister has been officially appointed by the speaker of parliament since 1976. Before this date, the monarch had this responsibility.

Similarly, until 1976, Sweden’s prime minister held the title of Hans Excellens Statsminister or His Excellency Prime Minister, whereas now he is referred to as Herr Statsminister, Mr Prime Minister, or Fru Statsminister for a female prime minister.


Kommer Sverige få sin första kvinnliga statsminister i dag?

Will Sweden get their first female prime minister today?

Vem är din favoritstatsminister? Jag gillar Olof Palme.

Who is your favourite prime minister? I like Olof Palme.

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.

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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.