13 Hilarious & Weird Swedish Idioms

This was sent over to me from some friends reading The Local; an article about funny Swedish idioms.

I put them all together in one page with some extra idioms and our own interpretations.

Are there any other idioms to add?

Nära skjuter ingen hare – A close shot will never get you the rabbit
What it really means:
I was so close to winning!
Yea, “it was close but no cigar.”

Skägget i brevlådan – Caught with your beard in the mailbox
An English idiom to translate: “To be caught with your pants down.”

skaggen i brevladen gandalf

Det ligger en hund begraven – There’s a dog buried here
“There’s something more to it”
As in, someone is not telling the complete truth.

Att ana ugglor i mossen – Suspecting owls in the bog
This is pretty much as close as a WTF does this mean as you can get.

You can translate it as, “you can suspect that something is wrong.”

Smaken är som baken, delad – The preference is like a butt, split
Don’t translate smaken as, “taste”, like eating taste. Translate it as a “preference.”
I would translate this as, people can have different preferences, like a butt with two cheeks.

Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum – If there’s room in the heart there’s room for the ass.
“Everybody can fit in here” – think of a crowded room.

Gå som katten kring het gröt – To walk like a cat around hot porridge
The Swede has never heard it, so we have no idea what this is talking about.

Göra en höna av en fjäder – To make a hen out of a feather
The English idiom we all know: “To make a mountain out of a molehill.”

Köp inte grisen i säcken – Don’t buy the pig while it’s still in the bag
In English, “to buy a pig in the poke.”
I wasn’t quite sure what this even meant, so I headed over to Wikipedia for their explanation:
The idioms pig in a poke and sell a pup (or buy a pup) refer to a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce, but cats and dogs (puppies) were not. The idiom pig in a poke can also simply refer to someone buying a low-quality pig in a bag because he or she did not carefully check what was in the bag.

Ta sig vatten över huvudet – Take water over your head
“To bite off more than you can chew.”

Inte döma hunden efter håren – Don’t judge the dog by the hare hair
Another bunny phrase that means, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Inte för allt smör i hela Småland – Not for all the butter in Småland
Because America is the land of plenty of butter, we say, “I won’t do it for all the tea in China.”

Inte sälja skinnet förrän björnen är skjuten – Don’t sell the skin before the bear is shot
Meaning, “don’t count your chickens until they hatch.”

And that’s that, don’t throw water over your head if you can’t do it!

The Nordic Region – The Happiest Place on Earth

For all that Swedes complain about the winter, weather, and rain, Sweden is one of the happiest places on Earth.

And so is Finland, Norway, and Denmark. Our saddest little neighbor, Iceland, is only the 15th happiest place on Earth.

Overall, the Nordic region is one happy family and Scandinavia is Disneyland in real life.

The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index, produced by a British non-partisan public policy organisation, identifies the world’s happiest and saddest countries. They used several sources of data (objective and subjective) from Gallup, World Development Indices, and self researched. The 2012 LPI is similar to the UN World Happiness Report though the latter relies more on surveys than objective data.

The LPI focused on eight areas: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital.

Scandinavia and the greater group, the Nordic region, rank near the top in every category.

Here are the rankings of the Nordic countries. A few OECD and BRIC countries are included for comparison.

ship &
Education Social
United Kingdom261862071130121335686.2
United States202122710145101247153
Use the arrows to zero out a category and reset the ranking list.
In some ways, the findings are not too surprising. India, while growing economically, severely lacks basic access to healthcare and sanitation. Women, suffering some of the greatest injustices in the world, sends the country spiraling downwards when backwards ideology like “marrying your rapist” is acceptable. Interestingly, governance is the country’s highest ranking factor; perhaps a sign that India has the potential to become a better and happier place.

The United States dropped two spots to 12 after three years of holding 10. A massive recession coupled with increased long term unemployment, decisive elections, and long wars have played its toll on the American psyché. The next several years will tell if the people can return to higher levels or continue on a broken path.

There was one very interesting finding. Nordic swept the Entrepreneurship and Opportunity category. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway took the top four positions. I would not have expected it because the venture climate is still lukewarm. Delving into the study questions, it became clear that the Nordic region would top the list. Some questions included, Mobile phones (per 100 people), Mobile phones per household, Secure internet servers (per 1 million people), Good place for entrepreneurs to start a business? (% yes), Business start-up costs (% of GNI per capita).

And most definitely the Nordic region is home to cheap cell phone plans and low start up costs from Skatteverket. If you think about it, how many people do you know owning a HB or AB in Sweden versus your home country?

Looking at the World Happiness Report, the Nordic region holds the top three slots (Denmark, Finland, Norway) followed by the Netherlands and Canada. The whining about the Swedish weather pushed Sweden out of the top.

Still, after all our complaining about Sweden, it really is not a bad place. We are happy, prosperous, and eat a lot of semlor. What more could one ask?

Now only if Disney opened a Disneyland here would we be truly the happiest people on Earth.


California versus Sweden

As many of you know, I’m from California. Well, not really from California but spent a good part of my life and college years there. It still counts.

And every time I visit California, I notice all these differences between there and Sweden. Duh, I know they are two different regions. There isn’t much to compare when you have the North Pole versus silicon babes and chips.

But, did you know that Sweden is roughly the same geographic size as California? And did you know that Stockholm has a similar sized population as San Francisco?

Yea, I bet you didn’t know that!

the stockholm archipelago
view from the hot air balloon over western stockholm

wine country – napa county
les ombres

I thought then how fun would it be to make a comparison list of California versus Sweden. Crime, teenage pregnancy, unemployment rate, geography, the number of Swedes hiding in Noe Valley, etc.

Perhaps that will help all you’all people sitting on the fence whether to move to Sweden from California or vice versa.

Fun facts and statistics:

Official Name Konungariket SverigeState of California
Land Area (km^2)449,964423,970
GDP* (in billions $)5381,900
Unemployment Rate %8.810.2
Teenage Pregnancy (per 1000)732
Teen Abortion (per 1000)20.926
Official AnimalElkCalifornia Grizzly Bear
Official BirdBlackbirdCalifornia Quail
Number of Lakes100,0003,000
Number of Islands24,000600
State ColorsBlue and yellowBlue and gold


And just a caveat, moving to San Francisco is like moving to Göteborg, it’s rainy, foggy, and rainy most of the year with a chance of crazy people. On the upside, SF is warmer, sunnier and has less hipsters.

If you think about more facts and bits to compare, write in a comment and I will add them to the table.

Sweden’s Dagen H – Leaving the Brits Left to Go Right

Forty five years ago today, Sweden switched it’s traffic from left hand side (like in the UK) to the right side of the road. After all, Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbors were on the right side of the road, most of Europe was on the right side of the road (props for Britain being the special one), and Swedish cars had left hand steering.

That’s right, errr, left. Saab and Volvo built their cars with left hand steering for drivers who drove on the left side of road.

You would think with a double blind spot, there would be a myriad of accidents. That was the government said. That was what all the campaigns said. “Switch to the right side of the road, and we’ll have less accidents.”

That worked for four years from Dagen H when traffic accidents fell. Then it was business as usual for cars to smash into each other again. And still remains today.

Göteborg on Dagens-H via GP

The campaign to switch Sweden to the right side of the road battled for more than forty years. And for forty years the people voted for against the measure. In 1955 through a public referendum, the measure lost 15.5% to 82.9%. More than two million Swedes said no to the right side. They wanted to be cool like the Brits.

But in 1963, the Riksdag voted for the switch. They created a new commiteee, Högertrafikkommission, to oversee the switching of every road sign, bus stop and traffic signal in the country. Dagen H {Right hand side traffic diversion} was the H-Day for Sweden to make history.

And Högertrafikkommission had four years to teach the country how to make the switch. From logoing the “H” on women’s underwear to pasting info on milk cartons, Swedes were bombarded with the new regulations.

At 5AM on September 3rd, 1967, Sweden made the switch. No one was run over and cars didn’t fall into the rivers. Overall, it was a success. Even Olaf Palme was estatic on September 3rd, “Fantastiskt! Kan någon tänka sig, att svenska folket upplevde en revolution för bara några timmar sedan.”

So was the government right {left}? Do Swedes miss being like the British or should island people stay on the wrong side of the road?

{Photograph by Jan Collsiöö / Public Domain}

A Call to Bloggers in Sweden – Join the Lost in Sweden Moosletter!

Hej bloggarna!

I’m really excited to announce a new project I have been working on to make life and visiting Sweden more awesome.

Drumroll please…


It’s called the Lost in Sweden Moosleter. I know there are so many of you fantastic bloggers out there. But, it’s hard keeping track of everyone and following through easily from Google reader or blogrolls. Plus for those just wanting to get emails, getting 100 latest blog posts from bloggers is hard to digest.

The Lost in Sweden Moosletter will be a monthly newsletter with excerpts and photos from bloggers who write about Sweden. It’s awesome because you get the best of what’s happening in Sweden by real bloggers.

Bloggers get the advantage of increasing their traffic through a collective newsletter. Everybody loves visitors <3 Joining as a blogger is SUPER easy:
1. Be a blogger that writes about Sweden on a regular basis. You don’t have to be in Sweden, you just have to write *about* Sweden.

2. You can write in any language! If it is not English, put a Google Translate button on your site so visitors can easily translate to their native language.

3. Add the badge below to your sidebar on your blog so that everyone knows you’re part of the network.

You can right click “save as” and resize the image to fit your sidebar.

You MUST also link to this blog post so people can get more information about the newsletter.

If you don’t add a badge and link up, you can’t be part of the newsletter. Sorry. :( But seriously, it’s super easy to add the image and link up and become a part of Swedish history!

4. For bloggers wanting to put the signup box on their site, comment below and I will email you the code.


Readers, sign up for the newsletter!

You can sign up right below.

5. Spread the word! I’m super-über-jätte excited to send out the first newsletter in mid-June.

Participating Bloggers

Swede and Sour Kitchen
Photos from Sweden
Swedish Freak
Something Swedish
Monkey Goes to Sweden
Vermont to China
Stockholm Globetrotter
Now Boarding
Lost in Stockholm

The Swedish Batman is Leather Patch!

The Swedes have their own name for Batman: Läderlappan.

It literally translates to: Leather Patch.

Okay…I kid, not really. Läderlappen actually means Bat.

The ‘man’ is lost along the way though.

Errr, va?!

{thanks to Khawar for posting this to the FB page}

For the Swedes who seem to be confused and refuse to accept Batman is called Läderlappen, here are comic book covers from 1981.

Sweden Gets Ready for New Banknotes & Coins

I love European money, well the Euro and the Kronar. They are colorful, different shaped banknotes for each denomination and usually have cute/bizarre images on the notes.

Sweden has a colorful collection with dead people on the notes (you have to be dead – sorry Swedish Chef). But since the notes are 25 years old; there’s been no updates to the printing and security features, the Riksbank (the Swedish Mint) announced a design competition to create a collection of new notes for the country.

The winner was announced last week. The jury chose Göran Österlund’s entry “Kulturresan/Cultural journey” as the starting point for the new bank notes.

Each note has a motif and color which was predetermined by the jury:
20 kronor
Astrid Lindgren

50 kronor
Evert Taube

100 kronor
Greta Garbo

200 kronor
Ingmar Bergman

500 kronor
Birgit Nilsson

1000 kronor
Dag Hammarskjöld

My favorite are these two because of the backsides. They didn’t win but they were cool.

If you notice, the Riksbank will be introducing a new note, the 200 kronor to ease change carrying and breaking of 500kr notes. The new styles will not enter circulation until 2015 and the new coins, pictured below, will enter circulation in 2016.

The new coin will be a 2kr and the lowest coin is the 1kr. Death to the 50 öre!

Security features include sparking, a color shifting ink used in the new US banknotes and motioning, a window thread where micro-lenses are embedded to give the feeling of movement of the subject.

I already like the Swedish banknotes, especially Carl von Linné’s 100kr note with a superimposed image of bumble bee staring at you.

I will have to keep a copy when Mint begins to fade out the current collection.

But what I found really interesting about Sweden’s banknotes, the most popular, circulated note is the 500kr. There are 114 million 500kr notes in current circulation, that is 57 billion kronor out of a total 95 billion kronor in circulation. And there are 28 million 1000kr notes in circulation, amounting to 28 billion kronor. I wonder how much of that is black money.

Norway vs Sweden – The Differences {Venn Diagram}

Found this great venn diagram from diesel sweeties:

It also made me think of the differences between the two countries…

They always sound happy when they speak
Super athletic
Two languages: Nynorsk & Bokmål (why oh why…)
North Pole

Land of the semlor, kanelbulle
The Swedish Bikini Team
Station wagon baby-mobiles
Stinky fish
Should have never given Norway independence

Maybe we need to make a new one??

The Scandinavian Coat of Arms – A SATW Comic Drawing

The comic Scandinavia and the World is my favorite. It is epic hilarious and awesome.

You must read it, you’ll be crying yourself silly for more.

This strip, about the lions on the coat of arms of the countries is by far my most favorite. EPIC.

satw comic coat of arms

The real coat of arms in Scandinavia

coat of arms denmark
Image via wikipedia

coat of arms sweden
Image via wikipedia

I think the lions appears a bit retarded with his tongue hanging out and running with an axe…
coat of arms norway

coat of arm finland - retarded lion with flowers

Om nom nom nom nom … flowers!

PSA on New York – It’s a STATE

This is a Public Service Announcement.

Swedes, Americans, and the rest of the world, please take note that New York is a state, not a city. New York City is a city and no matter how much the people bitch, they’re still going to be part of the state of New York.

state of new york versus new york city
[Image by Sarah Roberts]


Being from New York, it becomes annoying when people say, “I love New York City.”
Me: No, “I’m from New York. The State. You know?”
Confused fool: Blank stare.
Me: “You know, where Niagara Falls, Finger Lakes and the rest of mass between NYC and Canada exist.”
Confused fool: “Ohhhh…I’ve never met anyone from outside the city.”
Me: “Yea…we do exist…”

New York Staters are in danger from being wiped out by city folk. Please save us.

Thank you.

End of Public Service Announcement.