SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

SWEDISH HABITS

Five suggestions for the next hyped Swedish lifestyle trend

Foreign media have a habit of picking up any seemingly obscure Scandinavian tradition and proclaiming it a new lifestyle trend. Now that friluftsliv, lagom and fika have all been covered, here are The Local's tips for the next strange Swedish concept to promote abroad.

Five suggestions for the next hyped Swedish lifestyle trend
A student in Lund at Valborg celebrations embodying the spirit of 'supa'. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

We’ve all read them.

Articles in international media introducing people outside of Scandinavia to new “lifestyle trends”. It started with us being told to buy candles and fluffy slippers so we could practice hygge, then guides to decorate our homes in the supposed “style of lagom“.

Then we were told that taking a coffee break or a fika is somehow the route of Swedish happiness (to be fair, I am often happier after eating cake), given a checklist for Swedish death cleaning to get rid of clutter for future generations, told to stand up for ourselves by practising Finnish sisu, and urged to wake up early on Ascension Day to go and sit in a forest and try and hear a cuckoo

With Scandinavian lifestyle trends becoming increasingly more obscure, we thought we’d provide our own examples for marketing executives and publishers everywhere to help push the Scandinavian brand abroad.

Extra points if they use letters that don’t exist in English, aren’t actually practised by anyone in Scandinavia, are not directly translatable, or are especially difficult for non-Scandinavians to pronounce.

1. The Swedish art of supa

This Swedish tradition is commonly practised by Swedes from their teenage years onwards, especially around big public holidays such as Midsummer, Easter and Christmas. 

You’ll need to commit to this lifestyle trend, testing your body to its limits as you consume large amounts of alcohol – brännvin or akvavit are the most authentic choices, although any kind of alcohol will do – while you activate your brain by trying to remember the lyrics of drinking songs with increasingly incomprehensible subject matter.

The sign that you’ve encompassed the true spirit of the supa is when you find yourself in a trancelike state dancing around a maypole pretending to be a small frog with your friends and obscure relatives of your Swedish partner, who you only met a few hours previously.

You may recognise some elements of supa from your home country – there is no direct English equivalent, but a few translations could be “to drink yourself paralytic”, “to get smashed” or the more formal term “to binge drink”.

Of course, supa is not for everyone – it does result in the somewhat less aspirational states of illamående (nausea) and bakfylla (hangover) – so we won’t judge you if you’d rather give this lifestyle trend a miss.

Swedes practicing patience and zen in the queue for Systembolaget before the Easter holidays. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

2. Experience patience, zen and part-time teetotalism with the Systembolaget lifestyle trend

Closely related to the art of supa mentioned above, you can practise Swedish patience and restraint with the Systembolaget lifestyle trend.

By willingly subjecting yourself to the structure of opening hours, carefully crafted through years of Swedish teetotalism, you will learn discipline, patience and the stress that only those rushing to pick up a bottle of wine on their way to a party before Systembolaget closes have known.

This can be a bit difficult in other countries which do not have a state-owned alcohol monopoly, but to get into the Systembolaget spirit if you live abroad, you just need to not buy alcohol between the hours of 10am and 7pm on weekdays or 10pm and 3pm on Saturdays.

What about Sundays, you may be wondering? Well, true observers of the Systembolaget lifestyle abstain completely from buying alcohol on Sundays and public holidays.

You can even brush up on your anger management skills as you attempt to buy a few beers or a bottle of wine on an obscure public holiday like Epiphany, Ascension Day or All Saints’ Day, or when you forget your ID ten minutes before closing and the cashier refuses to serve you, despite the fact you’re well into your 30s.

Finally, relish the opportunity to develop your skills of innovation and ingenuity as you find yourself in the kitchen on a Sunday making a recipe which calls for a glass of wine, only to discover that you forgot to pick some up at Systembolaget before it closed the day before.

A passive-aggressive note in its natural habitat, the laundry room. (“Whoever washed their clothes last night: clean up after yourself!”) Photo: Mats Andersson/Scanpix/TT

3. Tap in to the Swedish tradition of konflikträdsla  

Another Swedish tradition ready for export is the lifestyle trend of konflikträdsla, or “fear of conflict”.

To get into the konflikträdsla spirit yourself, wait until your neighbour does something annoying. Are they holding a loud party and haven’t turned their music down one minute past curfew? Do they smoke on their balcony? Your first instinct may be to address the issue with them directly, but this is not the Swedish way.

Use this instead as an opportunity to tap into your most primal emotions such as anger, irritation and exasperation, then, instead of releasing this buildup of emotion in an angry outburst, use the ancient art of letter-writing to channel your feelings into arga lappar (angry notes) directed at the object of your fury instead.

The best way of experiencing arga lappar in the wild is to visit your closest laundry room or tvättstuga, use the tumble drier and neglect to remove the dryer lint. You may need to do this a few times, but after a few weeks you’ll soon find a note framed as a friendly reminder (which is probably not all that friendly) by an exasperated neighbour who you have driven to quiet but maddening rage with your actions.

A word of warning, though. Your neighbours will hold a grudge if you do this and they are unlikely to ever forgive you, so this should not be attempted if you ever want to be in their good books again.

A Swedish apartment stairwell as it should be… empty. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

4. Hone your sense of perception in your Swedish apartment stairwell

If you have managed to irritate your neighbours to the point of them putting up arga lappar directed at you, this next Swedish lifestyle skill could be a good one to learn.

This lifestyle trend is the skill of avoidance, undvikandet, the Swedish art of doing everything possible to avoid having to greet your neighbours in the stairwell or, indeed, acknowledging their existence in any way.

Use undvikandet as a chance to heighten your senses of sound and sight to near-superhuman levels, as you become an expert at identifying movement in your building’s stairwell before you leave your apartment.

Before you learned the skill of undvikandet, you may have just left the apartment whenever you felt like it, regularly alarming your Swedish neighbours by acknowledging their existence with a hej hej as you passed by.

Now you carefully look out of your door’s peephole before venturing into the unknown, listening out for footsteps on the stairs before opening your door so you time your departure to avoid any unexpected ambushes.

Happy Friday! Time to eat so much sugar you feel sick, then avoid the stuff for another week. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

5. Indulge yourself with the Swedish art of fredagsmys

Our final Swedish lifestyle trend will help you gain control over your instincts and desires, improving your willpower as you practise restraint for five days a week by avoiding sweets or unhealthy snacks, only to give in to your primal urges and eat a week’s worth of unhealthy food in one sitting come Friday.

Akin to intermittent fasting, you can eat virtuously from Sunday to Thursday, then buy the largest bags of snacks or pick and mix you can find on a Friday evening and feast (frossa) on them until you go to bed on Saturday.

Sure, any dietary benefits throughout the week may be outweighed by giving into your hedonic urges when the weekend rolls around, but don’t let that stop you.

What tongue-in-cheek Swedish habits should become lifestyle trends, according to you? Let’s hear your suggestions in the comments…

Member comments

  1. Lovely article Becky! 😀
    I hope the compoundwordthing will not be the next scandiswedishlifestyletrend

  2. Oh! In our family and friends circle, fredagsmys is ONLY salty snacks: chips, popcorn, saltapinnar etc. While godis is only lördagsgodis.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

SWEDISH HABITS

Three Scandinavian lifestyle trends that are actually worth trying (and three that aren’t)

There seems to be a never-ending stream of 'Scandinavian lifestyle trends' in international glossy magazines, but only some of them are worth pursuing, while others are all hype and little reward.

Three Scandinavian lifestyle trends that are actually worth trying (and three that aren't)

Fika 

Fika is not in any way as much of a ritual as the international hype has made it out to be. Yes, you can go to a cafe with friends and call it a fika, but at work, Swedes are far more likely to grab a quick cup of coffee at their desk than sit down for a meditative pastry session.

That said, you’d be a fool never to avail yourself of Sweden’s excellent spread of cakes and biscuits, and the idea of taking a break-that’s-actually-a-break from work is a good way of connecting with colleagues and allowing your brain to slow down before picking up pace again.

And until you’ve sunk your teeth into a freshly made cinnamon or cardamom bun, still soft and warm from the oven, with a cup of black coffee on the side, have you ever truly known happiness? Fika is one Scandinavian lifestyle trend I can without hesitation get behind.

Friluftsliv

How do you get Norwegians, Swedes and Danes into a fight? Ask them who invented friluftsliv.

Scandinavians are well known for their love of the outdoors, all year round. Come wind, rain, snow or sunshine, they tend to make the most of getting out and about. The typical saying that exemplifies this approach to outdoor life is “there is no bad weather, just bad clothes”.

I’m loath to say this, but the cliché is true. Dressing up warm can make even a cold winter day seem hyggelig

Adding utepils into the mix – because Norwegians believe they invented enjoying a beer outdoors – makes it even better.

Friluftsliv is so ubiquitous in Scandinavia it’s even got a sub-section of several other lifestyle trends. Let the parent who has never thought of leaving their baby outside in the pram cast the first stone! And if giving “having a dip in the sea or a lake” a swanky new name like “wild swimming” is what urbanites need to make it feel cool enough to make up for their failed sourdough, who am I to stop them?

After all, until you’ve sunk your entire body into a freezing pool of water, teeth chattering as the Scandinavians among you extol the virtues of vinterbadning, have you ever truly known despair? Er… on second thought, maybe stick to engaging in friluftsliv in summer.

Hygge

I know, I know, the hygge hype is not only overblown, but so overdone that it’s hard to pretend it even qualifies as a “trend” any more.

In fact, I worry The Local Denmark’s editor will never speak to me again if I include it in this list.

But is it really such a bad thing to just have… a nice time? Letting your friends know you found it hyggeligt to see them, and making an effort to mark a pleasant moment, are those small things that may not seem like much, but make your everyday life that little bit more enjoyable.

There’s an almost-equivalent in Swedish: mys (and the Dutch have gezellig, they just aren’t as good at nation branding). It’s often less about open fireplaces and hot cocoa, and more about a bastardisation of tacos, but having a quietly nice time at home is… nice. Hyggeligt, even.

Hoogah, higgle, hygge or whatever your name is: I’m a fan.

Candles! Mysigt! Photo: Maskot/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

Friday/Saturday sweets

Lördagsgodis, a sweet tradition with a sour past, is Swedes’ way of ritualising the ancient art of eating candy on Saturdays (or fredagsslik in Denmark, where they do it on a Friday). The health rationale behind it is to minimise consumption to one day of the week, protecting your teeth from repeated exposure to sugar, but I suspect the tradition has become so popular that in the end it actually has the opposite effect.

Social convention dictates that it has to be bought from the supermarkets’ pick ‘n’ mix section – a potluck adventure where you never know how many strange children’s hands grabbed those hard and stale svampar, lakritsbåtar or rischoklad before they made it into your mouth.

Skip this lifestyle trend, you’re an adult. Grab a kanelbulle or a romsnegle instead.

Gökotta

The most surprising Scandinavian lifestyle trend to hit international magazines in 2023 was the Swedish practice of waking up early on Ascension Day to go and sit in the forest to hear a cuckoo. You could tell that at this stage, they were really starting to scrape the barrel. 

We admit to a degree of culpability as we covered gökotta in one of our Swedish Word of the Day articles.

It’s not completely untrue. There is indeed an old tradition in Sweden of having an early morning picnic, usually around the time of Ascension Day, which used to be referred to – and still is – as gökotta, the wee hours of the morning when only the cuckoo is awake. 

But it’s more likely to be organised by rural community groups, if at all, than individual Swedes, most of whom have never heard of it.

I mean no offence to bird-watchers or early-morning people, but you don’t have to bother with this one. Nobody else does.

Lagom

In practical terms, lagom makes perfect sense. Why would you want the water to be too warm or too cold when you could have it just right? If you’ve already broken into the bear’s house anyway, why settle for subpar porridge when it could be heated to the perfect temperature?

But do we really want lagom to also be a way of life?

Lagom at its worst is also a society where there’s no room for individuality, although by arguing that I realise I’m also committing the offence of treating lagom as much more than what it actually is: a neutral word frequently used by Swedes to describe “not too much, not too little”.

And frankly, is Sweden even a lagom country? Melodifestivalen, crayfish parties or Stureplan on a Friday night beg to differ. 

So by all means, use lagom in conversation. But as a lifestyle trend? It’s time to ditch it.

SHOW COMMENTS