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Swedish word of the day: Sverigebilden

A word by the social media influencer of nations?

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

Sverigebilden simply translates to the ’image of Sweden’. A bild is an ’image’ or a ’picture’, and Sverige, of course, is Sweden. 

But why does Sweden have a word for its image? You could just as well say bilden av Sverige, but Swedish as a language has a tendency to create new words in order to be specific, very much like its Germanic siblings and cousins. 

Sweden is also obsessed with its image, an image that is overwhelmingly positive. Articles with headlines like “Why Sweden beats other countries at just about everything” are not hard to find, and you will consistently find Sweden in the top of rankings related to all matter of positive measures for a country, many of which you will find in the above linked article. 

Beyond the current ranking of the country there is a persistent image of Sweden going back to the glory days of the Swedish Social Democratic wonder when Sweden was the envy of the world, and was often described as a welfare paradise.

But this image has not managed to persist purely on its own, like many might believe. The truth is that it has had some help along the way, primarily from an institute dedicated to cultivating the image or brand of Sweden. Meet Svenska Institutet, the Swedish Institute.

Svenska Institutet describes its work as informing about and analyzing the image of Sweden abroad, as well as facilitating international exchange and cooperation. This is all done with the goal of putting Sweden “on the map” and building good relations with individuals, organizations and other countries. The idea being that if these have a high confidence in Sweden then that increases trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange, as well as helping with the recruitment of international talent to the many successful companies in the country..

As for their specific work with Sverigebilden, Svenska Institutet writes the following:

Vi analyserar Sverigebilden [We analyse the image of Sweden]

SI is the expert on how Sweden is perceived on various issues globally and continuously studies and analyzes the image of Sweden. We follow and measure the perception of Sweden in other countries and analyze how Sweden is relevant to international target groups. Through our own studies, external monitoring and analysis, the authority builds knowledge on specific issues and events that can affect the image of Sweden.”

Discuss Sverigebilden amongst yourselves. Has it changed over time? And if so, what has driven that change?

Also, if you have a project abroad that could somehow be a positive for Sverigebilden you should definitely get in touch with the Swedish Institute. Follow them on their socials for all the latest updates.

Example sentences

Vet ni vad ni gör med Sverigebilden?

Do you know what you’re doing with the image of Sweden?

Är Sverigebilden positiv? 

Is the image of Sweden good?

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For members


Swedish word of the day: sommartid

The clocks are springing ahead this weekend, marking the beginning of daylight saving time and the end of Sweden's dark winter period. Aptly described in Swedish as 'sommartid', here is the history of how the practice came about.

Swedish word of the day: sommartid

The phrase will come in handy this weekend if you want to lament a lost hour of sleep in the morning or celebrate the extra hour of daylight in the evening. 

Sommartid translates literally to “summertime” and refers to daylight saving time, which begins this weekend in many European countries, including Sweden. At 2:00 am on Sunday, the clocks will spring one hour ahead.

In the UK, this period is known as “British Summer Time” – one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time – while in North America, daylight saving time is used more commonly.

The first time sommartid was officially trialled on a national basis was in 1916, when the German Empire along with other countries such as Austria-Hungary, the UK and Sweden introduced the practice in order to conserve fuel during World War I, with the idea being that the extra daylight would reduce the use of artificial lighting, allowing the surplus fuel to be put towards the war efforts.

In the following years, the practice spread to Australia, Russia, and the US, too.

After the war, daylight saving grew unpopular in Europe, especially among farmers, whose schedules were – and still are – dictated by nature and sunlight rather than the clock.

It wasn’t used on a large scale again until World War II, when Germany again popularised the practice. But a few years after the war ended, it fell out of favour for the second time. It only picked up again when France reintroduced it in 1976, in response to an energy crisis sparked by the oil embargo in 1973.

By 1996, the EU standardised daylight savings, which now runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. 

But the future of daylight saving time looks uncertain once again. In 2019, the European Parliament voted to abolish the practice, however efforts to actually implement this measure have stalled. So at least for this year, sommartid will continue.  

Example sentences: 

När börjar sommartid? 

When does daylight saving time start?

Kom ihåg att sommartid börjar på söndag, så man behöver stå upp en timme tidigare.

Remember that summer time starts on Sunday, so you need to get up an hour earlier.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is available to order. Head to to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.