Swedish Language Blog

The Diary of Dairy Posted by on Oct 23, 2008 in Culture, Vocabulary

I am out of town for a while, actually I’m out of Sweden for a week, and I’ve been gone for only one day and my dearly beloved already managed to call me four times.
“I need milk,” he says, “I’m at the store and I don’t know what kind of milk to buy.”
Errr… normal milk, I told him. He said there were many kinds of milk. The dairy section went on for miles and miles, he said. A few minutes later he called again to tell me that the milk he bought was sour. I asked him to read to me what it said on the carton. “Something mjölk,” he answered.
Turned out the poor dumbo bought filmjölk and attempted to add it to his coffee. Foreign men, eh?

A word of explanation is in order. My dearly beloved doesn’t speak a word of Swedish, and as you can see, he doesn’t do much shopping either. But he was right in noticing that Sweden has a dizzying varieties of dairy products, some of which would be considered unfit for human consumption anywhere in the world outside of Scandinavia.

And this observation is shared by all newly arrived expats. Sweden loves dairy. Fresh dairy, sour dairy, yogurt dairy, strange yogurt dairy and every imaginable flavor of sour cream under the sun. What it lacks, in my opinion at least, is in the cottage cheese (“keso” på svenska) and cheddar cheese departments. Fortunately, I’m not a fan of cheddar, and I can live with only a couple kinds of keso.

But just what is this mysterious filmjölk that my not-so-smart half bought today? You can say that:

  • Filmjölk (fil) är en sorts tjock mjölk som smakar lite surt.

Which is a very gentle way of explaining it.

Mini mjölk is your garden variety skim milk.
Lätt mjölk is low fat milk.
Mellan mjölk (literally – middle milk) is milk with somewhat reduced fat content.
And then you have your standard mjölk – full fat milk.

Cheese is simply “ost” and there’s again a mind-boggling array of varieties of kinds of types of flavores of it. The most popular (at least it seems so in our town) is hushållost, which comes in huge plastic packages. And by “huge”, I mean really huge – the things are a kilo each, or more. I don’t know about you, but it would take me about a year, if not longer, to eat a kilo of cheese.

One of the largest producers of dairy in Sweden, and actually – in the world, is Arla. The company has a website in several languages, and the Swedish version makes for a surprisingly easy read. They even have a section where you can search for recipes (sök recept) or if you’re like me, too lazy to search, go straight to Arla Köket to read about the new cooking ideas. Check it out!

Now, let’s see just what kind of mess my dearly beloved will make on Saturday when he’s doing the laundry. I can’t wait to find out! LOL!

image: Arla Foods

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  1. ceci:

    very very well ! this is an important information for me, as my kids have 1 or more litres of milk per day!
    thak you anna!

  2. Curt:

    Ha-ha, send him to buy some “strömming” and see what happens 🙂

    Keep smilin´

  3. Nicole:

    that’s too funny – what a combination – a man and a foreigner. Mine is almost as bad and he has lived here for 10 years!

  4. Laurens:

    I don’t agree with you entirely – I live in Holland and we have an enormous assortment of dairy products as well. Including all the kinds of milk you mention: “volle melk” (full fat milk), “halfvolle melk” (reduced fat content milk), “magere melk” (even more reduced fat content milk), not to mention types of milk that you put in your coffee, sour milk, sterilised milk, etc.
    I just say: long live dairy…
    Kind regards. Keep up the good work on your blog.

  5. Anna:

    Hi Laurens,
    The different names of milk were only provided as reference, not as something unique to Sweden, because these days you can find skim milk even in Burkina Faso. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    hahaha! Ah, men – they seem to be generally useless – I’m just writing a post on doing the laundry. If he could he’d make me do it over the phone! 😉

    Now, don’t laugh. My man actually LIKES the stinky fish! Says it has “personality” and he likes food with “personality.” LOL!

    OK, then I will need to write a post about candies and cookies for your kids, too. I can only imagine that will be useful, too. 🙂

  6. Rache:

    As a foreign citizen in Sweden, I must say I was a little offended to hear you calling your other half a ‘poor dumbo’. I am learning Swedish (hence how I found this post), and I am aware of the different types of milk, but it can be confusing, and you saying ‘normal milk’ to him, probably wasn’t very helpful. Is he aware that you write entries about his failings in Sweden, and have a joke about it with commenters?

    Maybe instead of mocking his attempts at adjusting, you could explain things to him, maybe help him learn a little Swedish, and the different processes here? Perhaps you should visit an alien country and see how you fare in a supermarket, then we can all laugh about it.

  7. Anna:

    Hi Rache,
    of course that my “poor foreign dumbo” knows I write about him here – he encourages me to describe his trials and tribulations hoping that someone else can learn from his mistakes. Fortunately also, he has a sense of humor and is my most faithful reader.
    And Rache, Sweden is an alien country to me (about 7th or 8th that I’ve lived in so far) and if you read this blog for a wee bit longer, you will see that I laugh at myself aplenty 😉

  8. Nicole:

    Rache I think many of us are a little sensitive in the beginning, especially if you are uncomfortable not being able to speak the language and you are keen to fit in, but after a while you kind of get used to it and you can laugh at yourself a bit more.

    I don’t know Anna how long your beloved has been here but in the case of mine – there comes a time when we need to accept responsibility for our actions – if you are going to live in another country you need to learn the language and not be content to always rely on others – it becomes a enormous responsibility for the person you rely on.

  9. Nicole:

    just wanted to add that it is great Rache that you are so keen to learn the language and I hope you are getting the support you need – it is VERY hard in the beginning. I remember it well, but I also remember being praised so much for my efforts – every step of the way.

    From the 100s of expats I have met in the last 15 years it is usually the women who strive to succeed – I have met far more men than women who never really learn Swedish – even if they are here long term.

    It is unfortunate – learning the language gives you the key to the city – after a while you realise how blessed you are – you understand a whole new world, a people, a culture that is completely off limits until you can communicate with those around you. But it does take a long time to “get back to yourself” – back to being the person you really are – perhaps that is the real reason so many struggle to really embrace a new language.

    Ok, I’ve rambled enough now – the subject gets me quite philosophical….
    I wish all those learning Swedish the best of luck!

  10. Anna:

    you are so very right that it’s usually the women who strive to succeed and work super hard to learn the language. I was extremely lucky that I already could speak Swedish when I came to Sweden. On the other hand, from what I see (at least in our city) is that many men came here on temporary job assignments where there was no need to learn the language. And then they met someone and stayed on. That’s where the problems start and that’s where I’m at with my partner. He knows he needs to learn Swedish eventually, but then he says “what for?” He works in English, everybody around him speaks English, at home we use English, and only very occasionally situations like the one with milk arise. I know people who’ve lived here for 10+ years and they still can barely get by in Swedish.

  11. Rache:

    Hey guys,

    Okay, maybe I overreacted, it just brings back a childhood experience to me, of being in France, and not being able to communicate with some French children in a park, it got me so frustrated I just cried! Hehe, sounds silly now.

    Anyway, because of that, I started learning French when I was 8, so I have a ‘language brain’, kind of 🙂 I am glad to hear your boyfriend knows of your writings, and I guess he’s not as sensitive as I would be in that situation (I still get frustrated in the same way when I get it wrong, sadly).

    I will read more, and I am glad you published my comment, it has lead to understanding, whereas otherwise, I might have just been passed off as an angry, flaming commenter. I’m really not 🙂

  12. Anna:

    Hi Rache!
    No worries, it’s all good. 🙂
    And I’m sure you’ll have no problems learning Swedish. You already know one foreign language, so it will be that much easier to learn another one. Good luck!

  13. ship:

    Very helpful for an American in Sweden, thank you. Now could you get into the creams, yogurts and what not? And how do you translate half-and-half? Sour cream? Tack!!

  14. Anna:

    Hi ship!
    You and ceci must be the only ones that liked this post! Thanks! 😉
    Sour cream will be either gräddfil (that’s the kind you can’t use for cooking) or creme fraiche (which you can cook). I personally prefer creme fraiche.
    Half-and-half I never use, but I guess this is something like kaffegrädde.
    And another milk post is coming up! 🙂

  15. WreseeTauntee:

    The good resource should be brought in bookmarks

  16. Dairyman:

    Never mind how a foreigner is treated in Sweden but I like dairy products, especially the fermented variety like yogurt. Cheese is my another favorite and I like mozzarella type of cheese…