​​Swedish word of the day: invandrare

Alex Rodallec
Alex Rodallec - [email protected]
​​Swedish word of the day: invandrare
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Today's word of the day is about wandering in.


Ever a topic of controversy these days, invandrare means ‘a person who has immigrated to a foreign country’, but the literal meaning is an ‘in-wanderer’, someone who wanders in. Originally the verb invandra could also mean to wander into any place, such as a park, but today that sense is all but forgotten. 


Invandring, ‘immigration’, is as you might be well aware of, the subject of much debate today – especially now that it looks like the Sweden Democrats’ politics is set to affect public policy on the matter. But what is meant in that debate by the word invandrare is not really immigrants as a whole. Hardly anyone is referring to Norwegians, Britons or Frenchmen when they use the word invandrare in the political debate.

What they most often mean are non-white people from outside the western world. 

In Sweden you also continue to ‘wander in’ at least for another generation, because then you are an andra generationens invandrare, a second generation immigrant. Even tredje generationens invandrare is used on occasion, although that usage is perhaps not really established. This phenomenon has prompted some (much like the Israelites to Moses) to ask, “When will we stop wandering?” 

Invandrare is a neutral word, but it is sometimes used almost as an expletive, but then often together with jävla to make jävla invandrare. Jävla comes from djävul, meaning ‘devil’, but it is used much in the same way as the English ‘fucking’. Jävla invandrare thus means ‘fucking immigrant’, a phrase I would strongly advise you against using unless you are looking for a fight. 


Invandrare is also not to be confused with utlänning which means ‘foreigner’ because you can be a foreigner without having invandrat (‘wandered in’). I myself was born in Sweden, but was never a Swedish citizen. I was an utlänning but not an invandrare

In Sweden wandering has a longer history. Invandrare has its famous older counterpart in utvandrare, literally meaning out-wanderer, but which actually makes reference to a specific group of emigrants, the ones that left for the Americas in the 1800s. This is an important part of the Swedish imagination, and will no doubt garner you extra trivia points with Swedish friends. The most famous depiction of this era is in the books by Wilhelm Moberg, called Utvandrarsviten, meaning 'the Emigrant-suite', which I highly recommend, though I am unsure of the quality of the English translations. Do let us know you find a great translation. Enjoy!

Example sentences:

Visste du att Stefan är invandrare?

Did you know that Stefan is an immigrant?

Har du hört Olof Palmes tal om invandrarna?

Have you ever heard Olof Palmes speech about the immigrants?

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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