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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: förort

The word of the day is a suburb with a twist. 

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

Förort used to be the equivalent of the English ‘suburb’. It is made up of the two words för and ort, which mean ‘before’ and ‘locality’ respectively. Ort shows up in other words like bruksort meaning a ‘mill town’ or a locality where some form of countryside industry was or is the main employer. But beyond being an area on the outskirts of a city, förort has other connotations.

Förort, you see, generally refers to housing projects that were built as part of the Million Programme in Sweden between 1965 and 1974, and that today are primarily inhabited by people of immigrant background, many of whom are low income earners or unemployed.

Förort can be said to have clear racial and social class connotations. When someone says they are “förort”, they might mean that they come from “the hood”, for those of you who are American English speakers, “a housing estate” in British English, or “la banlieue” for French speakers. The French word banlieue is actually closest to förort – not by etymology, but by its modern meaning. Banlieue also means a suburb filled with housing projects with a population primarily consisting of people with an immigrant background with low income jobs. 

Förort also, by extension, implies areas where there are problems with crime and gang violence. And since Swedish rap is seriously dominated by gangster rap, naturally the word förort appears in a ton of rap songs. You will see it either just as “förort”, or as “orten” (‘the hood’), “min ort”(‘my hood’), but sometimes also as “trakten” (‘the area’), or ‘programmen”/”programmet” (from the Million Programme). 

Try going on Youtube and search för “förort” and you will get most if not all of the connotations. 

It’s important to know is that förort or orten can also be used as an adjective, which would be the equivalent of saying someone is ‘ghetto’ – so you can be very “förort” or “orten”. 

If you want to use the word, you might ask, kommer du från förorten?, which is roughly the same as asking, ‘are you from the hood?’. Just be mindful that some might take offence at the question, whereas others might be very proud of their origin.

This is mainly because förorten is somewhat stigmatised for being at the heart of an ongoing Swedish political debate about gun violence and gang crime, a topic many have strong feelings about.

To end on a positive note. If you are looking for hard-to-find international culinary items, förorten is usually the place to go.

Example sentences:

Visste du att en del inte vågar åka ut till förorten? Galet va?

Did you know that some people are afraid to go to the suburbs? Crazy huh?

Var är du uppvuxen? I förorten.

Where did you grow up? In the suburbs/hood.  

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: möte

The word of the day is perhaps Sweden’s second favourite pastime, after 'fika', and they often go hand in hand.

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

In 2017 Swedish television published an article with the headline, Möteskulturen frodas i Sverige, “The Meeting Culture is Thriving in Sweden”. For a non-Swede that might seem like an interesting and perhaps bizarre headline, but to the initiated it is all too familiar. 

A möte is simply a meeting, but for Swedes möten are something you do at every opportunity. Need to decide anything at all? Let’s have a möte. This can seem like an awful waste of time to a non-Swede, but Swedes are all about consensus. The idea is that after you have consensus you can move forward more efficiently. And Swedish society seems to do that really well. And it does not hurt that a möte is the perfect time for fika, or more precisely mötesfika.

As a bit of history, the English ‘meeting’ and Swedish möte are related, and they are also related to ‘moot’ as in ‘moot court’ or a ‘moot point’, “an issue that is subject to, or open for discussion or debate; originally, one to be definitively determined by an assembly of the people.” That assembly of people was originally an old Germanic type of town hall, a ting, where people met to discuss communal matters and settle disputes.

Today we can find the word ting in the names of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, the Danish parliament, the Folketing, and the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. In Sweden you still find it in the name of the lower courts, Tingsrätten

The point is, there is a very old tradition of möten in Scandinavian culture. The Icelandic parliament, for instance, claims to be the oldest in the world. Whether the Icelanders can beat the Swedes at the time spent in möten at work is unsure, no statistics seem to be readily available for a comparison. 

Malin Åkerström, the researcher who was interviewed in the piece by Swedish television, claims that the public sector are the primary champions of möten, but it is also very common in the private sector. And möten are on the rise in many workplaces. 

Here it might help to know that in Sweden a möte can also be between you and just one other co-worker to discuss almost anything, so the term is quite broad. Then there are so called arbetsplatsträffar, more commonly referred to as APT, a type of longer, more serious möte that many workplaces hold regularly (there you can almost always count on fika). 

As you can see, Swedes love their möten – so why not find an excuse to stämma tid för ett möte with one of your Swedish friends or maybe a coworker? You might just make their day.

Example sentences:

Bettan, kan vi stämma tid för ett möte?

Bettan, can we decide on a time for a meeting?

Jag blir galen med alla dessa konstanta möten, va fan är det för fel på svenskar?

I’m going insane with all these constant meetings, what the hell is wrong with these Swedes?

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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