For members


​​Swedish word of the day: ockerhyra

A word of the day which makes strange use of usury.

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Ocker is the Swedish word for usury, and not the Australian for someone who “speaks and acts in a rough and uncultivated manner, using Strine, a broad Australian accent” for the Aussies out there who might recognise the term. 

Usury, of course, is when a lender makes monetary loans which unfairly enrich them. The term is used either in a moral sense, then as a condemnation of taking advantage of others’ misfortune, or in a strictly legal sense, where ocker refers to the crime of charging a higher interest rate for a loan than that which is allowed by the law. You might know an individual who does that not as a usurer, but a loan shark

But ockerhyra has nothing to do with loans or loansharks, at least not directly. The shark, however, might still be there, as you will see.

Hyra simply means ‘rent’ – in this case the rent you pay for an apartment or any other rental property. So ockerhyra means ‘usury rent’, but how can a rent be usurious? Well, it cannot since it is not a loan. What instead is meant here, is at least part of the moral sense of the word ‘usury’, whereby someone is taking advantage of another’s situation. 

Someone setting an andrahandshyra, a second hand rent, which is unreasonably high, would be setting an ockerhyra. This is a topic which The Local has previously dealt with, and there are instances to get help with that. The main reason people can get away with this is because many are desperate to find a place in the city, often Stockholm, and therefore will not alert the authorities. But also, owing to the fact that it is not a punishable crime, all that might happen is that the person subletting their place for more than is reasonable might be forced to pay some money back.

Furthermore, the word ockerhyra does not necessarily imply this type of scenario, it can also be used to generally complain about rents being too high. And many do complain about this.

Do you feel a bit upset about the sometimes absurd rents in Stockholm or in another city? Why not make use of the word ockerhyror in a conversation on the topic?

Just remember that the word is quite strong, so try not to accuse a friend of charging an ockerhyra – might be safer to just question whether they are charging a bit much. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Alltså, det är verkligen ockerhyror på nybyggnationer! Jag är sååå trött på den här skiten.

I mean come on, the rents on new builds are outrageous! I’m sick and tired of this shit.

Duncan, varför tar du ockerhyra på stället du hyr ut i andrahand?

Duncan, why are you charging an exaggerated rent on the place you’re subletting?

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: nämndeman

If you are not a judge, but doing a judge’s job.

​​Swedish word of the day: nämndeman

A nämndeman is a layman who together with a professional judge passes judgements in court. The noun ​​nämnd is a committee of appointed people, a board, or a jury. The adjective nämnd, which means ‘named’ or ‘mentioned’, is also used in the sense of ‘appointed’. So a nämndeman is an ‘appointed man’. In English, you would call this person a ‘lay judge’.  

So, what is a lay judge? Sometimes called a lay assessor, a lay judge is a person assisting a judge in a trial. Not used in all legal jurisdictions, lay judges are appointed (and in the Swedish case politically appointed) and often require some legal instruction. The position is not permanent. 

In Sweden, nämndemän serve next to professional judges in district and appellate general and administrative courts, such as tingsrätt, hovrätt, förvaltningsrätt, kammarrätt, though not in the higher courts, such as Högsta domstolen and Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen. In district court trials lay judges always outnumber professional judges, a situation which is reversed in the appellate courts. 

It is the municipal assemblies that appoint lay judges to the district courts, whereas county councils appoint them to the appellate and county administrative courts. Nämndemän serve for four years, typically a bit more than a day a month. 

Would you like to become a nämndeman?

Then you should know that the position is open to all Swedish citizens over 18 and under 70 years of age, who are law-abiding, not in bankruptcy, and can pass a lämplighetsprövning – a test to see if you are suitable. There are also certain professions that are prohibited from serving, such as judges, court officers, prosecutors, police, attorneys, and other legal professionals.

People working at the following authorities are also prohibited from serving: Skatteverket, Försäkringskassan, Migrationsverket, Transportstyrelsen, and Länsstyrelsen.

An important takeaway here is that you need no legal training to become a nämndeman

You should also know that nämndemän are usually local politicians working at the assembly from which they were appointed, and they are appointed in proportion to political party representation at the last local elections. So if you want to serve you should approach your local party of choice. 

As many of you might imagine, this system of using non-professionals in the legal system is not without its controversies. 

In a famous example from 2018, The Local revealed that two lay judges at Solna District Court appointed by the Centre Party had swung a court ruling based on what party leader Annie Lööf described as “Islamist” values, and in doing so acquitted a man of an alleged assault against his wife. 

In the year that followed that scandal a member of Annie Lööf’s party motioned to abolish the system, a move many would support. But the system has a long tradition, the use of nämndemän in Sweden goes back about 800 years, and such traditions are not easily changed. 

Practice using nämndeman by asking your favourite Swedes what they know about the system and whether they think it is a good system. 

Here are some useful questions. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Bettan, vet du hur nämndemannasystemet fungerar?

Bettan, do you know how the nämndeman system works?

Tycker du att det är bra för rättvisan med nämndemän?

Do you think nämndemän are good for justice?.

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.