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Swedish word of the day: lingon

Today’s word is one of Sweden’s favourite berries.

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

Lingonberries, or just lingon as the Swedes call them, go by many names across the English-speaking world, so you might know them by a different name. The most used is either lingonberry (which actually comes from Swedish) or cowberry, but in different places they are called partridgeberry, mountain cranberry, foxberry, quailberry, bearberry, beaverberry, red whortleberry, lowbush cranberry, cougarberry, mountain bilberry, redberry, and so on. Apparently there are nearly 30 different names. The reason for the many names is probably that the plant grows in boreal forest and Arctic tundra throughout the Northern Hemisphere – that is to say in Europe, Asia, and North America.

Lingon are a staple of Swedish cuisine. Having trouble finding them because you are abroad? Well, fret not, IKEA, the unofficial Swedish embassy, sells them at all their stores. 

So what do you cook with lingonberries?

Here are a few dishes: raggmunk med fläsk och lingon (potato pancakes with pork and lingon) kroppkakor med mangold och kålrabbi (potato dumplings with beet leaves and Swede), Wallenbergare (see here), köttbullar med rot eller potatismos (meatballs with mashed root vegetables or potato). 

Usually the lingon come in the form of lingonsylt, which is lingonberry jam, or rårörda lingon, literally ‘raw-stirred lingonberries’, which are frozen lingon that you top with sugar and heat in a pan until they are thawed and the sugar dissolved. Also called sweetened lingon. Both of these are used to add a sweetness to savoury dishes.

For more ideas just google ‘maträtt med lingon’ (‘dish with lingonberries’) and you will find a plethora of dishes. Lingon are also used to make desserts and drinks, and you can be sure that Swedes across the nation are hard at work expanding the ever growing list of dishes and drinks containing them.

Lingon are in fact so ubiquitous that they have made their way into the lexicon of Swedish expressions. 

Lingonvecka, meaning ‘lingon week’, is a Swedish way of saying that it’s ‘that time of the month’. The expression is quite popular, and has even become the name for a line of feminine hygiene products from the Swedish company Renée Voltaire (yes, that’s a very French name for a Swedish company).

Another expression is inte värt ett ruttet lingon, which literally means ‘not worth a rotten lingonberry’ and more straightforwardly means something is ‘useless’.

This can be applied to both people and things. If used on people it should be used with värd as in Han / Hon är inte värd ett ruttet lingon. The expression is somewhat archaic. If you ever hear it, it will be from an older person. If you say it to someone’s face, they are more likely to laugh than get upset.

So there you go, lingon are an essential part of the Swedish soul. Get acquainted with them if you have not already. Learn to love them, because you can be sure that some Swede will serve them to you. 

If you happen to be into the Swedish habit of foraging for mushrooms and berries, you should know that now is the time for lingon. Lingon are not cultivated but harvested in the wild. If you are near a place where they grow, why not gather a group of friends and head out? The season runs from the beginning of September until mid October. Have fun!  

Example sentences: 

Hörru, varför är du så sur, är det lingonvecka eller?

Hey, why are you so grumpy, is it that time of the month? 

Kan jag få lite mer rårörda lingon?

Could I have some more sweetened lingonberries?  

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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For members


​​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 to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.