Barbecues in Sweden

Posted on 30. Jun, 2015 by in food, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Come summer, Swedes (in one of those stereotypes that paints with broad strokes) like to be outside. That means drinking at the outdoor bars even if it’s cold (don’t worry, the bars generally provide blankets and have plenty of heat lamps), trying to get out for a swim, a bike, a hike, something, and heading out for a picnic or a barbecue. Just like any good barbecue there tends to be a lot of eating, a lot of drinking, and maybe even some games. A good game is kubb, a throwing game involving wooden batons and a king in the middle of it all that is often said to be from the Viking Age. Maybe, but it really became popular in Sweden in the 1990s. I’ll leave you to decide the game’s provenance. No matter when it was invented or where it came from, it’s a great game for a barbecue and can even be found here in the US. There’s even a U.S. National Kubb Championship! Of course, you’re going to have to attend quite a few barbecues before your kubb playing skills are ready for the national championship. Luckily, it’s summer time and you’ve got plenty of reason to get outside and enjoy the weather.

By Jamie Thingelstad (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jamie Thingelstad (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

With the Fourth of July just a few days away, there’s no better time to learn a host of Swedish vocabulary words for your Independence Day barbecue. While the Swedes don’t spend a whole lot of time celebrating American independence from British rule back in the 1700s, there are plenty of Americans living abroad who do. But whether you’re an American abroad looking to impress your Swedish friends or just learning Swedish somewhere else in the world, the words you need for a Fourth of July barbecue are the same words you need for a Midsummer barbecue. Or a Tuesday-in-July barbecue, for that matter.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at twenty new words for your summer vocabulary:

Swedish English
att äta to eat
att dricka to drink
att grilla to grill
att prata to talk
att skratta to laugh
att spela (kubb) to play (kubb)
en engångsgrill a disposable grill
en filt a blanket
en grill a grill
en grillfest a barbecue
en hamburgare a hamburger
en ketchup a ketchup
en korv a hotdog
en läsk a pop/soda
en picknick a picnic
en potatissallad a potato salad
en senap a mustard
en solkräm a sunscreen
ett hamburgerbröd a hamburger bun
ett korvbröd a hotdog bun

Going to the Bathroom in Sweden

Posted on 25. Jun, 2015 by in Culture, Vocabulary

When learning a new language, we don’t always spend too much time on certain vocabulary—like bodily functions. A while back, Katja wrote a post titled The sensitive subject (which isn’t so sensitive in Sweden) where you can learn all kinds of vocabulary about bodily functions. It’s a wonderful list. Now it’s time to expand on that list a bit by focusing on the act of actually finding a bathroom to go to. While pee and poop are not all that stigmatized in Sweden (they have plush toys in the shape of those particular bodily functions and even a children’s show!), as an adult, it’s probably not the best idea to just walk up to someone and tell them: Jag måste bajsa! Let’s instead take a look at the bathrooms in Sweden.

For those of you who are new to Sweden, many places, especially in big cities, charge you to use the toilet (en toalett). Sometimes, like at a big shopping center, for example, they may have a bathroom attendant outside taking your money and allowing you in. Other times, like at a public bathroom in a park, there might just be a little change slot where you pay to unlock the door. Usually, you won’t have to pay more than 5SEK or 10SEK. I suppose the idea is that if you have to pay for it you’ll treat it better, plus the money can then go to upkeep and pay for the supplies like toilet paper (ett toalettpapper or ett toapapper), soap (en tvål), and paper towels (ett torkpapper or en pappershandduk). Maybe. You’ll still find yourself holding your breath and trying to get in and out as fast as possible in some Swedish public toilets.

If you’re out of change and just have to find a bathroom, there are ways around paying to pee. And no, it does not involve you peeing in public. Head to a nearby library. Many (but not all) libraries offer free bathrooms. Or if you’re feeling brave, just walk into a nearby café or restaurant and find the nearest bathroom. You might want to buy something, in which case, check out this post about ordering at a café in Swedish. In many semi-public bathrooms, like cafes, restaurants, or libraries for example, you’ll find a toilet brush (en toalettborste). It’s there for a reason. Use it.

If all else fails, find an occupied pay bathroom and wait. Don’t be creepy, but wait until someone comes out and then grab the door before it has a chance to close. You might get a dirty look from the person that paid 5SEK or 10SEK, but depending on the urgency and your lack of change, it could be worth it. You’ll find that this is pretty common practice the later it gets in the evening and the more alcohol people have consumed.

Of course, now that you know all about bathrooms in Sweden, you probably need to know how to ask for one in Swedish. You will almost exclusively ask for the toilet. While there is a word for bathroom, ett badrum, that’s where the bathing takes place. Toileting? That happens in the toilet. So if you need to pee, try saying:

Ursäkta, var är toaletten? Excuse me, where is the toilet?

Or:

Ursäkta, var är toan? Excuse me, where is the toilet? Toa is a little more casual word for toilet.

You’ll probably get a few directions in response: to your right (till höger), to your left (till vänster), at the back (längst bak).

Once you find the toilet and do your business, you need to wash your hands (p.s. always wash your hands). What if there’s no soap though? If you’re at a café, for example, find the nearest employee and let them know:

Ursäkta, tvålen är slut. Excuse me, there’s no soap left.

You can use this as a template for just about anything in the bathroom. Ursäkta, toapappret är slut. Ursäkta, torkpappret är slut. You get the idea.

Since going to the bathroom is generally a solitary activity, there won’t (and maybe shouldn’t) be much more of a conversation to be had. But now you’re ready should you find yourself in Sweden in need of a toilet. Good luck!

Swedish Midsummer Dances

Posted on 19. Jun, 2015 by in Culture

512px-Midsommardans_av_Anders_Zorn_1897Every June, Swedes gather to celebrate Midsummer. Actually, they celebrate Midsummer Eve. It’s a time of singing and dancing and even a bit of drinking. That singing and dancing is quite the traditional part of a Midsummer celebration. As is the drinking, actually, but we’ll focus on the singing and dancing for now, just like Anders Zorn did back in 1897 in this famous Swedish painting.

Many of the songs that are sung during Midsummer are also sung at Christmas time. Which might seem a bit strange, but both celebrations offer a large green thing to dance around. In June, it’s the Midsummer pole and in December, it’s the Christmas tree. Songs like “Små grodorna,” “Räven raskar över isen,” and “Vi äro musikanter” are popular choices. In fact, we wrote a bit about Små grodorna a few years ago.

This year, we’re going to introduce another Midsummer song. It’s not a new one, by any means, but is a classic song and dance that people around Sweden will be performing and taking part in. The title of the song differs from place to place, but it is commonly known as “Så går vi runt om ett enerissnår” or “De små tvätterskorna.” Sometimes the enerissnår, the juniper bush, is replaced by the Midsommarstång, the Midsummer pole.

The song involves several laps around the Midsummer pole with several verses. Each verse differs jus a bit and describes some of the household chores that folks are taking care of during their work week. Of course, those household activities offer the dancer a chance to act out the chores, which you can see in the YouTube clip below.

YouTube Preview Image

But let’s take a quick look at the song in both Swedish and in English.

Så går vi runt om ett enerissnår,
enerissnår, enerissnår.
Så går vi runt om ett enerissnår,
tidigt en måndagsmorgon.
Så göra vi, när vi tvätta våra kläder,
tvätta våra kläder, tvätta våra kläder.
Så göra vi, när vi tvätta våra kläder,
tidigt en måndagsmorgon.

Så går vi runt om ett enerissnår,
enerissnår, enerissnår.
Så går vi runt om ett enerissnår,
tidigt en tisdagsmorgon.
Så göra vi, när vi skölja våra kläder,
skölja våra kläder, skölja våra kläder.
Så göra vi, när vi skölja våra kläder,
tidigt en tisdagsmorgon.

Så går vi runt om ett enerissnår,
enerissnår, enerissnår.
Så går vi runt om ett enerissnår,
tidigt en onsdagsmorgon.
Så göra vi, när vi hänga våra kläder,
hänga våra kläder, hänga våra kläder.
Så göra vi, när vi hänga våra kläder,
tidigt en onsdagsmorgon.

And the song continues through the rest of the week, but I think you get the idea:

Tidigt en torsdagsmorgon:
Så göra vi, när vi mangla våra kläder

Tidigt en fredagsmorgon:
Så göra vi, när vi stryka våra kläder

Tidigt en lördagsmorgon:
Så göra vi, när vi skura våra golv

Tidigt en söndagsmorgon:
Så göra vi, när till kyrkan vi gå

No problem, right? Now let’s take a look at the song in English translation:

This is how we walk around a juniper bush
Juniper bush, juniper bush.
This is how we walk around a juniper bush,
Early on Monday morning.
This is what we do when we wash our clothes,
Wash our clothes, wash our clothes.
This how what we do when we wash our clothes,
Early on Monday morning.

This is how we walk around a juniper bush
Juniper bush, juniper bush.
This is how we walk around a juniper bush,
Early on Tuesday morning.
This is what we do when we rinse our clothes,
Rinse our clothes, rinse our clothes.
This how what we do when we rinse our clothes,
Early on Tuesday morning.

This is how we walk around a juniper bush
Juniper bush, juniper bush.
This is how we walk around a juniper bush,
Early on Wednesday morning.
This is what we do when we hang our clothes,
Hang our clothes, hang our clothes.
This how what we do when we hang our clothes,
Early on Wednesday morning.

And just as in Swedish, the lyrics continue for every day of the week. I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now, so here are the relevant lyrics to switch out:

Early on Thursday morning:
This is what we do when we mangle our clothes

Early on Friday morning:
This is what we do when we iron our clothes

Early on Saturday morning:
This is what we do when we scrub our floors

Early on Sunday morning:
This is what we do when to church we go

There you go! Now you can gather your friends and sing and dance your way in Swedish around the Midsummer pole.

And if you’re interested in finding more songs, check out MidsommarSånger.se.