Six Phrases for the Swedish Café

Posted on 30. Apr, 2015 by in Living in Sweden, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Last week we learned how to navigate our way through the ordering process at a café in Sweden. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to practice. If not, take a look back at Ordering at a Café in Swedish. If you’ve already got that down, let’s take a look at a few extra phrases that will help you navigate not just the ordering process, but also the café experience.

Even though you learned how to ask for sojamjölk last week, maybe you forgot to ask for soymilk. Or maybe you just really dislike soymilk. Luckily, Sweden has a lot of non-dairy options. If you just want the classic lactose-free milk, it’s a simple question:
Har ni laktosfri mjölk?

Wonderful, you’ve got your coffee with lactose-free milk. Now it’s time to get to work. Maybe send some emails to your friends back home bragging (how very un-Swedish of you) about your ability to order coffee in a Swedish café. But to do that you need some internet. Most cafés in Sweden are equipped with some sort of wifi. Either completely free or available to customers. Before heading off to search for a seat, ask the barista about the wifi. Start off by saying:
Har ni Wi-Fi?

You’ve just asked the most important question of all. Do you have wifi? If they say yes (and they most likely will) ask a follow-up question about the password:
Vad är lösenordet? Or: Vad har ni för lösenord?

Actually, that might be the most important question of all. What’s the password? Depending on the place, you could end up having to remember a tough word, a string of numbers and letters, or something obvious, like the name of the café. Either way, it can be tough in a different language. If you don’t trust yourself to remember, ask the barista:
Kan du skriva ner lösenordet? Can you write down the password?

Now that you have your coffee with lactose-free milk and a wifi password, you’re ready to find a place to sit. You’ll often find empty seats next to people on couches or at communal tables. But sometimes it’s hard to tell if that backpack on the couch is saving the seat for someone, or if it’s just because the person in the seat next to it has spread their stuff out everywhere. Best way to find out? Ask them. If you want the seat, go ahead and start with:
Ursäkta, är det ledigt här?

That means, excuse me, is this seat taken? Or literally, excuse me, is it unoccupied here? The answer will usually be pretty simple. Ja or nej. Listen carefully. Ja means have a seat!

Finally, you’ve finished your coffee and had a glass of water to boot. You need to pee. It happens. If you can’t find the sign labeled toalett, try to find an employee and ask them:
Ursäkta, var är toan? Or: Ursäkta, var är toaletten?

After an afternoon in the café and all this Swedish, it’s time to head home. If you’re feeling friendly, give a nice little wave to the staff and say tack and hej då!

Ordering at a Café in Swedish

Posted on 24. Apr, 2015 by in Living in Sweden, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Anyone who has ever worked to learn another language knows the situation. You’re in a new country, let’s say, hypothetically, Sweden. You’re ready to partake in the Swedish fika tradition. You’re excited to test out your Swedish. But before heading in to the café, you want to make sure you’ve got it all right. So you stand outside for a couple of minutes. You decide what you want. One coffee. Maybe a cinnamon bun. You go over in your head how to say those words in Swedish. Coffee=kaffe. Cinnamon bun=kanelbulle. Check. You’re ready. Ish. You head inside. Talk to the barista. Ask for your coffee. Ask for your cinnamon bun. You nail it. Then they ask you something else. A follow-up question. A question you weren’t prepared for. The gig is up and you switch from Swedish to English. Foiled again.

But don’t worry! We’re going to go through some of the ways you can interact at a café. Of course, this post won’t be able to predict how each interaction goes, but hopefully it will give you a good start. So let’s begin.

There are several ways to ask for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun. For example:
Kan jag få en kopp kaffe och en kanelbulle?
Jag tar en kopp kaffe och en kanelbulle.
Jag skulle vilja ha en kopp kaffe och en kanelbulle.
Jag skulle vilja beställa en kopp kaffe och en kanelbulle.
Jag vill beställa en kopp kaffe och en kanelbulle.
Jag vill ha en kopp kaffe och en kanelbulle.

I think you get the idea. Keep in mind that often times you don’t need to include the word kopp. People will simply say: jag tar en kaffe. Kaffe is an ett word, so just imagine the kopp being silent. Jag vill ha en [kopp] kaffe.

If you’re like me and don’t drink coffee, you might ask for te or varm choklad.

But you’re going to get follow-up questions at some of these places when you order coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

They may ask you: vill du ha socker? Mjölk? Sojamjölk? Vispgrädde?

So you’ll have to decide on the fly. Do you want sugar? Milk? Soymilk? Whipped cream? Here’s where your politeness comes in. In English, we would use the word please. In Swedish, you’ll want to use the word thank you.

Let’s take a look at how the ordering process is going then.

You: Kan jag få en kopp kaffe och en kanelbulle?
Barista: Absolut. Vill du ha socker i kaffet?
You: Ja tack.
Barista: Mjölk?
You: Gärna lite sojamjölk.

Nailed it. Well done. Two questions down. And you even managed to ask for a little soymilk instead of cow’s milk with the phrase gärna lite sojamjölk. That means something like, gladly some soymilk or I’d prefer some soymilk.

Ok, now you have a coffee with some sugar and a little bit of soymilk. Your cinnamon bun is on the way. You need to pay now. You’ll probably be faced with a few questions here. One: var det bra så? Two: ska du äta här eller ta med? Three: ska du betala med kort eller kontant? Four: vill du ha kvittot?

The first question—var det bra så—is the normal attempt at an upsell. Can I get you anything else? This is your chance to maybe ask for a glass of water or whatever else has caught your fancy.

The second question—ska du äta här eller ta med—is the question about your take-away preferences. Do you want to eat here or will you be taking the food with you?

The third question—ska du betala med kort eller kontant—is asking about how you plan to pay for your order. Are you going to pay with a card or with cash?

And the fourth question—vill du ha kvittot—wants you to decide about the receipt. Do you want the receipt?

Let’s get back to our conversation:

You: Kan jag få en kopp kaffe och en kanelbulle?
Barista: Absolut. Vill du ha socker i kaffet?
You: Ja tack.
Barista: Mjölk?
You: Gärna lite sojamjölk.
Barista: Var det bra så?
You: Nja… kan jag få ett glas vatten?
Barista: Vattnet står där borta.
You: Tack.
Barista: Vill du äta här eller ta med?
You: Jag äter här.
Barista: Betalar du med kort eller kontant?
You: Kort.
Barista: Slå in koden.
[Type in your PIN]
Barista: Tack. Vill du ha kvittot?
You: Nej tack. 

Woooo! You did it! You just made it through the entire coffee ordering process! When you asked for water, the barista told you that the water was somewhere else. Hopefully they pointed to where it was. Often there will be some glasses standing out so you can serve yourself.

Keep in mind that a lot of times these questions will be shortened. For example:
Vill du äta här eller ta med? = Äta här eller ta med? OR Äter du här eller tar du med?
Betalar du med kort eller kontant? = Kort eller kontant?
Vill du ha kvittot? = Kvittot? 

But now you’re ready for whatever they might throw at you. Good luck!

How to Do a Whole Poodle in Swedish

Posted on 31. Mar, 2015 by in Swedish Language

Pudel Grossschwarz

This proud poodle refuses to apologize. By B. Schoener (Flying Spark at de.wikipedia) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

That title doesn’t make much sense, does it? That’s what happens sometimes with literal translations. But in Sweden, you’ll sometimes see headlines about someone who has gjort en hel pudel. In fact, just recently, after Sweden apologized (or didn’t apologize) to Saudi Arabia after the country chose not to renew an arms deal with the Saudis, Dagens Nyheter asked that very question: Har Sverige gjort en pudel?

As I’m sure you’ve realized, att göra en pudel means to ask for forgiveness. It’s done in a public way and usually in response to a previously bold statement that turned out to be wrong. To do a poodle then is to expose your wrongness and admit to it. In English we might say that you got on your hands and knees and begged for forgiveness. That sort of thing. You’re asking for forgiveness in a way that puts you in a position of humility or vulnerability. Just like a poodle on its back after it ate the cake off the table and got caught.

The phrase is relatively new in Swedish and appeared for the first time in a 2002 Dagens Nyheter article. In that article about a Swedish political scandal involving Jan O. Karlsson, Pål Jebsen was quoted using the term to positively describe the way in which Karlsson apologized. And with that quote, a new idiom was born. In 2003, Svenska språknämnden added it to their list of new words and phrases.

But to do a whole poodle isn’t the only Swedish use of the word pudel. You can also be klok som en pudel, for example. That is to say, you’re super smart, wise as an owl.

Or maybe you are a luspudel. That’s not a good thing though. It means that you’re kind of a scoundrel. A rat. A swine. A louse even. In fact, en lus means just that, a louse. So you’re a louse poodle. The worst kind of poodle, obviously.

En pudel makes a surprising number of appearances in the Swedish language, especially in colorful idioms or phrases. Does your language have any idioms that use poodles? Let us know in the comments below.

Interested in more idioms? Check out our post Tricky Swedish Idioms.