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​​Swedish word of the day: invandrare

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

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

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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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.