Little Lessons: Smorgasbord

April 5, 2019 | Leave a comment

Little lessons: How to Smörgåsbord

There is literally nothing more Scandinavian than a good old Smörgåsbord. Except, Smörgåsbord is a Swedish word and in Norway and Denmark, it’s called something else (Koldt Bord (cold table), and similar). But really, it’s all about food and our way of grazing through a nice, big wonderful lunch.

No matter which of the Scandinavian countries you are in, follow this guide and you won’t go far wrong, bar a few regional variations. As long as there is enough aquavit, people will be happy.

The word smörgåsbord comes from the Swedish word smörgås, meaning ‘open sandwich’ or ‘buttered bread’, and bord, meaning ‘table’. If you translate it very literally, it could also mean Butter-Goose-Table, but that would be wrong, although quite funny.

A smorgasbord is basically means a buffet made up of many smaller dishes: ‘a laid-out table’. The traditional smörgåsbord is slightly different, depending on the country you are in. Just follow the guidelines of what to eat and in what order and you’ll be all right, no matter where you are. It’s our tapas, our buffet, our small-plate-phenomena.

The term smorgasbord first cropped up outside Scandinavia during the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, when a Swedish restaurant served a smörgåsbord as we know it today. This, however, was not the first occasion of a smörgåsbord, as this was more of an accidental invention. Many centuries earlier, people in well to-do homes had what was known as an “Aquavit Table”. They would return back from whatever they had been doing (hunting moose or looking after their estates etc) and enjoy a few snacks. A few hours prior to dinner, shots of aquavit were served, likely as an afternoon pick-me-up. These were accompanied by a selection of cheeses, pickles and meats laid out on a side-table to snack on before the main meal. Over the years, the choice of dishes expanded and, one day, the Aquavit Table because the main event instead of the actual lunch or dinner. Clever marketing people at the World Fair coined a new word that since then has been adopted into a word that works in many languages.

The essence of a real smörgåsbord (or cold table) is all about taking your time to eat and talk to your guests as you do it – and share food, conversation and time. There is lots of food, granted, but we spend many hours eating it. No smörgåsbord ever took an hour – and there is no time limit on how long we might sit there – the Danish Christmas Table, for example, can easily take an entire afternoon and end with an early dinner and most certainly result in quite a hangover, too. This is why these are usually done during high seasons such as Christmas, Easter and Midsummer when people plan big get together and have time to relax and enjoy both food and company to the max.

Traditionally, a smörgåsbord is served in ‘rounds’ – on a Swedish one, usually everything is set out at the start of the meal in buffet style, whereas in Denmark, each round is brought to the table one after the other in strict order and shared round.

It’s tricky to know how to maneuver a smörgåsbord if you are a rookie, especially if you are in Denmark and nobody has told you that there are seven more rounds of food to follow the one you are eating. What foods go together? Can you put remoulade on liver pate (answer: No) and do you ever put herring with prawns (answer: NEVER). How much aquavit are you allowed to drink? (Answer: As much as you can, but not so much so that you appear drunk until everyone else is).

Rookies will fill a plate like they are at an all-you-can-eat buffet. They will also hit the aquavit hard – and you just know that no rookie will last till the end. Many a newbies have fallen off the Smörgåsbord wagon at round 2 and missed the party.

The biggest smörgåsbord of the year is at Christmas. This is the julbord (literally meaning ‘Christmas table’) and is also the one that takes the longest to complete. There are many dishes and rounds – and there will absolutely be beer and aquavit, too. And singing. Lots of singing.

During December, people across Scandinavia will attend many different julbords. There is the work julbord, the friends’ julbord, the julbord for the golf club, the book club … The most intimate one is always on Christmas Eve with the family (less drinking at that one). Then there is the smörgåsbord at Easter, Midsummer and birthdays.

The dishes on a Scandinavian smörgåsbord vary seasonally and regionally, but the main dishes are the same – and these are also what connects us Scandis together, despite living in a place 3 ½ time the size of Britain and with quite a varied food culture. This is where you will always find herring and meatballs!

Photo: ScandiKitchen Summer Cookbook – by Bronte Aurell, photo by Pete Cassidy – click on photo for link to buy a signed copy.

The order and how-to of a good Smörgåsbord

Always eat everything with a knife and fork – NEVER with your hands.

Always start with the herring. It needs its own plate, because it’s a strong fish and you don’t want it to flavor all the other foods. We eat the herring first – and it needs a glass or two of Aquavit to go with it – it pairs well in flavor. Yes, you have to drink the whole shot and smile through gritted teeth. From this follows other fish, sliced meats, warm meats, salads and other warm dishes, then cheese and then – finally – dessert. And coffee.

Everything is served buffet style or passed around the table in small servings. You will never find pre-made open sandwiches on a smörgåsbord – you are supposed to make your own as you go along – and you will also rarely find many ‘fillers’, such as warm potatoes or gravy (it is not a dinner, it is a cold table with a few contradictory warm dishes included).

A good old smörgåsbord may sound a little complicated at first, but it is a very enjoyable way to spend 4-6 hours with some really nice people you get along with. While Scandinavians will never, ever talk to you at the bus stop or in the supermarket, once you have shared a few merry tunes around the smorgasbord and a few shots of aquavit, you’ll be making new friends in no time, perhaps even find yourself fluent in a Scandinavian language by song number three.

The basic order of the smorgasbord – a guide

Round one

Pickled herring (a few different kinds, served in bowls) and shots of cold aquavit. Singing at this point is optional. Beer is the traditional drink served with smorgasbord. You can drink wine, but if you mix that with wine, it just gets you even more drunk.

Suggestion: A good plain onion herring and then Mustard herring for Swedish, Curried herring for Danish, spiced herring or tomato herring for Norway.

Round two

Fish and seafood dishes. Smoked or cured salmon (with dill & Mustard sauce). Serve bowls of good quality prawns, smoked mackerel (either fresh or literally from a tin), skagenröra, halves of hardboiled eggs or any fish other than herring – even small, warm fried plaice fillets (quite a Danish thing – goes well with remoulade dressing). Lumpfish roe and creamed cod roe on the side.

Round three

Cold meats and pâté. Smoked ham, salami, liver pâté (a firm favourite amongst all three countries), cold roast beef, rolled rullepolse sausage – any deli meats are served in this round, along with pickles and/or toppings.

Round four

Warm meats. Meatballs (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian), roast pork (Christmas only for the Danes), mini sausages – anything warm is served for this course. If you want to serve Janssons frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation – a traditional Swedish gratin-style casserole made with potatoes, onions, cream and sweet pickled sprats) for the smörgåsbord, this is the course to do it. It’s mainly served at Christmas, but can also be served at Easter with some lamb (The sprats go well with lamb). In the summer seasons, serve a light quiche instead of heavier meats – Vasterbotten cheese quiche, mushroom pie or similar. But always meatballs.

Any warm sides, such as red cabbage, can be served here – but again, warm cabbage is usually more of a winter thing. Opts for a coleslaw style in the summer.

Round five

Cheese selection. Optional decorative grapes that nobody will eat and maybe a slice of green pepper that you can put in the bin after. 2-3 cheeses is enough. Go for a good blue cheese such as Kornblost or Danish blue, a solid harder cheese – Vasterbotten is always a hit here. And a milder one such as Creamy Havarti (Åseda). For the love of Thor and Freya, get yourself a good few cheese slicers.

Round six

Dessert and coffee. Any soft cake, such as a strawberry Midsummer cake or a berry cake, works here and a nice selection of little fika treats goes well too – there won’t be many hungry people at the end of a smorgasbord, so limited selection is fine. At Christmas, you might have your creamed rice pudding, in the summer a more fruity option. Or simply little marzipan/chocolate treats with the coffee. By this time, there will be no more singing, just attempt to manoeuvre a fork.

Stuff to always serve alongside a smörgåsbord:

Rye bread, crusty bread and crispbreads, bowls of salads (beetroot salad, mainly), pickles, condiments, sauces such as dill and mustard sauce, Mayo, Danish remoulade – and more.

Traditional drinks for smörgåsbord: Beer and aquavit.

Round Seven

Bugger off – food

In Denmark, the last dish serves is called Skrub-Af Mad, this means “Bugger off, food” – it is served right at the end a few hours after the last bit of the smorgasbord – it is a signal for people to leave. This might be a light soup, a hotdog or similar.

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    ScandiKitchen Kottbullar – Swedish Meatballs 300g
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    ScandiKitchen Rödbetssallad – Beetroot Salad 200g (Rødbedesalat)
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    Aalborg Dild Aquavit 38% – Dill Aquavit 700ml
    Amo Fuldkornsrugbrød – Rye Bread Mix 1kg
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    Abba Grebbestad Ansjovis – Sprat fillets 125g

Little lessons: Hiking in Norway

March 22, 2019 | Leave a comment

Little lessons: Hiking in Norway

One of the most favourite thing to do amongst Norwegians is going for a hike. No, not just going for a walk, but a hike. Which essentially means going for a walk but a bit longer and you have to bring a thermos of something to drink along the way. 

There is a Norwegian saying that goes ‘Ut på tur, aldri sur!’, which literally translated means ‘Out on tour, never sour!’ You should never start your hike in a bad mood – always be positive and ready for a great experience. Sing this merry little tune in your head every time you head out for a hike, especially if you are not in the frame of mind to be out walking – and think lots of positive thoughts.

Norwegians’ love of hiking and skiing is absolutely second to none. It is an essential part of being Norwegian both to go hiking and go skiing. It is unlikely you will find many Norwegians who do not enjoy these two activities.

Weekends and holidays are spent getting out into the fresh air and heading upwards to a hill or mountain, on foot or skis. To gå på tur (‘go for a walk’) is a favourite pastime – and is done by, literally, everybody. It is absolutely part of being a Norwegian.

If it’s a weekend day and impractical for you to get out of the city, you are allowed to take your walk in parks and around where you live. These are leisurely walks, but do not include popping to the shops for a loaf of bread or cat food: the walk has to be for the purpose of the walk itself. A weekend walk is often called a Søndagstur (Sunday walk). Then everyone knows what you’re doing and with what purpose (i.e. no purpose, other than the walk itself).

When out for a weekend walk, you must always factor in a stop for coffee (drinking this from your thermos that you packed at home, because a cup of coffee in Norway will set you back a small mortgage – bring your own). You must also bring one treat – usually a chocolate bar – and, if there is any kind of snow or ice, you must also bring one fresh orange.

Why an orange? Nobody knows, but it is always: an orange. Maybe its because it is super refreshing and completely impractical to peel when your fingers are frozen (which is often the case in Norway). An orange is, nevertheless, essential.

The word Søndagstur can also be used in Norwegian to describe something that was a bit easy, as in ‘How was that ultra marathon yesterday?’ ‘Oh, it was like a Søndagstur.’

When you manage to leave the city and aim to go on a proper hike, you need more appropriate equipment. These include:

Physical maps

Because you are unlikely to have any phone reception once you leave the town as half of norway is made up of fjords, mountains and other inaccessible terrain. It’s massive, but with only very few people in it. Bring a map, Citymapper is not your friend here. You can go out on a hike and see nobody for days and days, so best to be prepared like a native or risk getting lost.

More oranges

For these longer hikes, still bring the obligatory orange, your Kvikk Lunsj chocolate bar (although other brands are allowed) and the thermos of coffee. a Matpakke (packed lunch) is also advisable.

Hiking smile

Being on a hike is the only time in Norway when you are allowed to talk to strangers. You meet someone along your merry way, you smile and say Hei. Do not stop: Just “hei’ and get a “hei” back – and then you hurry along, minding your own hiking business.

Good Shoes

The shoes for a good hike are the kind that will rip your feet to shreds for the first few trips. Eventually, they will fit you and you will love them. Until them, bring plasters. Stop moaning: It’s normal. Keep walking.


Every Norwegian knows the saying: No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Dress for the weather and don’t try to get away without layering. Do not, ever, wear jeans. Wear proper waterproofs if it’s raining. Norwegians out hiking tend to look like an advert for comfortable hiking clothes (in rather bright colours so you can warn other hikers to put their hiking smile on.

Happy hiking!

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    North: How To Live Scandinavian – Bronte Aurell
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    Manger Fiskekaker – Norwegian Fish Cakes 300g
    Tine Gudbrandsdalen Brunost – Brown Cheese 250g
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    Mills Kaviar – Smoked Cod Roe Paste 185g
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25th March: Day of Waffles (Våffeldagen)

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25th March: Day of Waffles (Våffeldagen)

This day is very celebrated in Scandinavia, but no places more than in Sweden where it is seen as a great excuse to have more waffles than normal! (In Norway, it is also celebrated, but to be fair, in Norway, every day is waffle day, so…. Norway will always win when it comes to waffles).  It is also celebrated in Churches, as it is Our Lady’s Day – in Swedish, this is called Vårfrudagen – and this apparently got misunderstood once upon a time – so it became Våffledagen (Waffle Day) – an easy mistake to make, but now we get to celebrate both on the same day.

Scandinavian waffles are made in a waffle iron that is heart shaped – usually 5 little hearts make up one waffle. You can buy these waffle irons online and in places such as Clas Ohlson 

If you have a different waffle iron, by all means, you can use this too but your yield and cooking time will be slightly different, so apply logic when cooking if you use different size waffle irons.

There are hundred of different waffle recipes. Literally. This one is from Bronte’s book Fika & Hygge and comes via her Mother-in-Law Eva who makes these when they are all together in the cottage in the North of Sweden, skiing over the winter months. It is a simple recipe – containing no sugar or egg – and you get wonderfully crispy waffles. Be warned, though, the waffles need to be eaten straight out of the waffle iron or they go soggy.

One recipe makes around 7-8 waffles. We usually double the recipe. Or triple. Can you ever have too many waffles?

Basic Frasvåfflor recipe

150g melted butter
300g plain flour
250ml whole milk
250ml water
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Mix ingredients together to form a smooth batter. Turn your waffle iron on and make your waffles. Depending on your waffle iron you may need to brush the waffle iron with a bit of butter (but most these days are completely non stick). Bake until brown and crispy.

Enjoy straight out of the waffle iron with your chose toppings. We think the very best is a good dollop of cloudberry jam and some vanilla whipped cream or ice cream. Actually, any kind of jam will do.

Female person making fresh waffles with a waffle maker towards black on white

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    Torsleff Vaniljesukker – Vanilla Sugar 100g
    Ekströms Frasvåfflor – Waffle Mix 210g
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Little lessons: Scandinavian Easter

March 15, 2019 | Leave a comment

Little lessons: Scandinavian Easter

After the long, dark nights of winter, Easter and the arrival of spring are truly celebrated in Scandinavia. Whether spent in the south welcoming the return of the spring flowers or spent escaping to the mountains in the North, getting in a few last runs on the slopes, Easter is a time of renewal for Scandinavians, celebrated with good food and good company (and perhaps the odd shot of aquavit or two). Peek into the history of the Viking north and you’ll find plenty of magic things that add to the richness of Scandinavian Easter celebrations.

Here’s our quick guide:

The lingo

Easter in Scandinavia is called

  • Påsk (Sweden)
  • Påske (Denmark, Norway)
  • Pääsiäinen (Finland)

An Easter egg is known as a Påskägg / påskeæg / påskeegg – and is gifted on Easter morning.

Easter in Scandinavia means the last of the skiing.

Well, except for in Denmark, where there are no mountains. Everywhere else, people head for the last of the snow somewhere high up.

More than anything, it’s a sign that finally, the long dark nights are ending.

The hut (Hytte)

Most Norwegians will head for a wooden hut somewhere, as remote as possible and as far away from people they don’t know as they can get. If it has an outdoor toilet and no running water, even better.


It’s still all about Vikings

Our forefathers celebrated something called Ostara, the spring Goddess, around spring Equinox 20-21 March. Freya and Thor were often celebrated, too. This was all about gathering and giving of eggs.

Photo: Absolutely nothing to do with real vikings, but in the absence of Viking photography….

Swedish and Finnish kids go trick’or’treating at Easter.

Well, there are no tricks, only treats as kids dress up as Easter witches and go door to door, asking for sweets. These Easter witches are called Påskkärring in Sweden.

In Finland, the mini witches sing the rhyme: Virvon, varvon, tuoreeks terveeks, tulevaks vuodeks; vitsa sulle, palkka mulle! (I wave a twig for a fresh and healthy year ahead; a twig for you, a treat for me!) and offer fresh willow twigs in exchange for sweets.

Easter celebrations in Sweden are also rooted in the old Christian witch-hunt times. The celebrations last from Maundy Thursday until Easter Monday. In the olden days it was thought that on Maundy Thursday, all the Witches would fly off on their broomsticks to the Blue Mountains in Germany to have a weekend of fun and dancing with Satan.

Let’s light a fire

In many western Finnish villages, bonfires are still lit to drive away evil spirits on the evening of Easter Saturday.

Norwegians become obsessed with dark crime

For some reason, Norwegians read crime novels at Easter. Sales of these more than triple as everyone buys the latest who-dunnit to bring to the wooden hut. These books are known as Påskekrimmen.

This is such an important thing the milk producers even put little who-dunnits on milk cartons so that people can solve crimes over their cornflakes.

If you spot a Norwegian out and about at Easter, his backpack will contain 2 crime novels, an orange and a Kvikklunsj chocolate. But unlikely you will see any, they are all hiding away from people.

Write your name with dots

The rhyme goes: I write my name with dots, careful they don’t sting you (Mit navn det star med prikker, pas på de ikke stikker”.

The Danish tradition of writing teaser letters (gækkebreve) is a wonderful one, an old tradition since early 1800’s. Cut out a pretty pattern in paper, write a rhyme and add your name in dots and enclose a snowdrop flower from your garden (the symbol of Easter in Denmark). If the receiver guesses who it is from, you have to buy them an Easter Egg – and vice versa. Magically, no grandparents ever guess who their letters are from, and thus a great source for getting LOADS of sweets.

The perfect Easter egg

Scandinavian Easter Egg traditions are people buying an empty cardboard shell and filling it with their favourite sweets, rather than just a huge chocolate egg. We like a mix of everything – sweet, sour, salty, liquorice, chocolate, marshmallow, and perhaps and extra Kvikk Lunsj, Kexchoklad or marzipan eggs for good measure.

Fancy a bit of whipping?

You’ll see many places with decorated twigs – feathers and other types of decorations, depending on area. This is a Påskris – Easter Twigs – to signify Christ’s suffering – originally used to lash out at people as a tease – and in some areas, get people out of bed on Good Friday morning. Nowadays, used mainly as decorations.

Make your own: Get some twigs, decorate with feathers. Whip your flatmate and tell him it’s tradition.

The Smörgåsbord

We never turn down an opportunity for good smörgåsbord. Essentially, the same as at any other high season, although with more fish and egg. This is the time to add new salmon to the spread, a few extra fish dishes and of course, egg in different shapes and sizes. We also recommend adding Jansson’s Temptation and pair it with some new lamb – it works so very well.

Goodbye, lovely buns

Easter is the absolute last time you will see Semlor buns anywhere in Sweden. Most of these lovely luscious Lent buns are already gone at this time of the year, but for those still clinging on, Easter marks the final hurrah, signalising the end of the season. No more semlor until next year. Nope, none anywhere – all gone.

We stock Easter goodies from all over Scandinavia – both online and in our café deli. Pop by and see us – we will be open all over Easter except Easter Monday when we will be busy hunting for eggs and whipping each other with twigs and reading crime fiction. That’s how we roll.

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    Swedish Easter Egg Bundle
    Påskägg – Easter Egg Shell, 18cm
    Freia Kvikklunsj – Chocolate Covered Wafer 47g
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Little lessons: Friends of Norway

March 8, 2019 | Leave a comment

Little lessons: Friends of Norway

There is this thing in Norway called Norgesvenner – literally Norway Friends.

What this means is basically, someone famous who isn’t actually Norwegian, but who really, really loves Norway. Okay, they don’t have to proclaim their love of brown cheese and wooly national costumes, but they have to – in some way – declare a bit of extra love, only reserved for Norway.

In order to become a Friend of Norway and end up on the list of Norgesvenner you must first visit the country several times. Like, on a music tour or too many holidays in order for them to just be normal holidays. The fact that Bruce Springsteen has now done 76 word tours means he’s been quite a few times, so he’s in the Hall of Friends. It is also likely that you will have given some sort of indication that you’d even like to live in Norway one day once you’ve finished being a World wide superstar. A slight indication of this is fine, such as “I could really live here one day” sort of thing. We will interpret this as a desire to up sticks and move to a nice house in Bergen, if only things would work out that way.

This unofficial, but very prestigious title, is often bestowed upon to foreign politicians, artists, writers, singers, actors and other famous people who visit often or who may have a personal connection to the country. Once the title has been given to you, it is very hard to shake it – and Norway will forever be the place to welcome you as the star you are, even when Hollywood has long forgotten about you.

Examples of lifelong Norgesvenner include – but are not limited to – Lynda Evans from Dynasty, Leroy from Fame, Roald Dahl (he was Norwegian, you know), Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Tyler and the pop group A1. The Queen of Denmark is now also a Norgesvenn, as is 50Cent and Steven van Zandt (after he filmed Lillehammer). Recently, also Prodigy became Norgesvenner.

There is not actual rule book about how one can become a Friend of Norway, but it does start with a deep love for Norway as a country. All people from abroad who love Norway are sort of Norgesvenner, too, but this in their own sort of way.

Ps is it just us but does that guy second from the left on the Smokie picture look like a young Justin Trudeau? No, we can’t un-see it either.

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    Tine Norvegia – Mild Cheese 500g
    Tine Gudbrandsdalen Brunost – Brown Cheese 250g
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    Freia Kvikklunsj – Chocolate Covered Wafer 47g
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    Mills Kaviar – Smoked Cod Roe Paste 185g
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Little Scandinavian Lessons: How to slice cheese

February 15, 2019 | Leave a comment

Little Scandinavian Lessons: How to slice cheese.

Yeah, we hear your hollow laughter: Why on earth do you need to know how to slice cheese? It’s just CHEESE, isn’t it?

To you, maybe. But to us Nordics, and Swedes especially, this is key behaviour territory. We will judge you. Oh, yes we will.

Cheese is of the upmost importance to all Scandinavians. Even if you do not eat cheese, you will be around people who consume a lot of it, so it is important to understand our love affair with what is, essentially, a bacterial process.

From the time of the Vikings, Scandinavians have been making cheese and consuming it on a grand scale. We eat 19–24 kg (42–53 lb) of cheese per person per year – in contrast to the UK, where people eat around 11.8 kg (26 lb). We are nations of tyrophiles.

In Norway, the most favoured cheese is called brunost, which means ‘brown cheese’, and it is indeed brown. It looks a bit like plasticine and feels like it, too. Made from goats’ milk that has been boiled, caramelising the milk sugars and thus turning it brown, it has a delicious, almost sweet, taste of caramel and goats: caramel goats’ cheese. It’s a particular taste that you either love or hate. Once you are stuck on it, you won’t be able to stop eating it and you’ll add it to your waffles, bread and snack on it at night straight from the fridge when nobody is looking.

The Danes favour more pungent cows’ milk cheeses, of slightly softer texture. Some of them smell like things that have gone off and have names such as Gamle Ole (‘Old Ole’), which is a fair description of the smell (the taste is far milder, as with most Danish cheeses). This particular cheese smells like something that has been left unwashed in the corner of a squat for a week or so.

Only the Norwegians have a stronger cheese – an old Viking-style cheese called Gamalost (‘really old cheese’), known to be so smelly it makes grown men cry.

Swedes like to think of themselves as the kings of cheese in Scandinavia, as they consume the most. Their cheeses range from the undisputed Västerbotten gourmet cheese to the more elaborately named Hushållsost (‘household cheese’). Only the Swedes would have a favourite cheese called ‘household cheese’: It’s very lagom.

Cheese in Scandinavia is often eaten with jam or. This is a perfectly reasonable accompaniment to all kinds of cheese. Simply add butter to bread or crispbread, a thick slice of your favourite cheese and a good dollop of jam on top and you have a great ‘mellanmål’ (afternoon snack).

In Scandinavia cheese is sold in very large packs, usually over 500 g–1 kg (1–2 lb) in size. This is because all cheese lives on a plate in the fridge once opened, covered with a plastic shower cap (it does the job in a very practical way, don’t knock it) and is taken out at most morning and midday meals plus at snack times. Most households only have one (max two) cheeses on the go at any one time, which can make a Scandi cheeseboard a bit boring at times.

Next to the cheese is a slicer. There are four kinds of slicers available, broadly speaking:

The gold standard

This is a metal cheese planer, as invented by a Norwegian many years ago. A metal planer works well on harder cheeses – from Västerbotten to your cheddars. No, Cheddar is not supposed to be hacked at with a knife, it’s supposed to be sliced. SLICED. Yes!

Plastic planer

Use this for softer – but still hard – cheeses – such as Greve, Hushalssost, Havarti. Perfect slices every time. But use your plastic planer on a hard cheese and it will be thick, horrid slices. Know your cheeses. If we see this at your house: We know you’re one of us.

String slicer

The Danish choice. Seeing as the Danish cheeses tend to be too soft for both a metal planer and the plastic one, cheeses such as Gamle Ole, Riberhus, Danbo etc favour a string slicer. Also, it looks cool on the table, as if you’re some kind of cheese god.

Metal planer – with ridges

This is for the plastacine cheese; only serious cheese slicer people will have this. Perfect for slicing brown cheese. Not as common as the other kinds, but this is the one to aim for if you need perfect brown cheese slices.


This is invented by the Dutch, but could have been invented by the Swedes: How only to grate enough for your sandwich and avoid ANY waste and you can STILL keep your cheese level. A cheese-grater-planer. Smart.

How to slice it

There are rules one must follow when slicing cheese in Scandinavia. Once you have chosen your appropriate equipment, make sure you slice from the correct side. The aim is not to create any sort of slope whatsoever on the cheese. These slopes, created by careless, non-trained, usually non-Scandinavian people are referred to as skidbacke (‘ski slopes’) and are considered a waste of cheese. The ultimate sin.

If you cut the cheese wrong at someone’s house, do not expect to be spared a snide comment even if you were introduced to your Swedish girlfriend’s Dad only fifteen minutes earlier. There will be no going back if you fail at this and you will forever be known as a sloper.

So, instead, look at the cheese and slice from the side that is currently tallest, ensuring you help to even out the cheese to perfection. Get yourself a large block of cheese and some slicers – and practice at home.

Ski-slope fixing is a national sport in Sweden and some people pride themselves on being the silent fixers. These people go through life, with slight OCD, quietly fixing other people’s mistakes, never being able to enjoy a decently sliced piece of cheese themselves. Ever. These poor people are forever eating the crappy, bitty correction sliced because you simply could not be bothered to learn the rules. Suffering for your sins. You don’t want that on your conscience, now do you?

You’ve been warned.

We’ve written a book about how to live like a Scandinavian. Read it and be enlightened. It’s called North. You can get it on Amazon (also available on Amazon US and Canada).

This article is based a little bit on one in that book.

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Our favourite Nordic idioms

February 7, 2019 | Leave a comment

Quite a few years ago we wrote a list of our favourite sayings and idioms. It was very popular and since then, we have added a lot to the list, so we thought we’d share it.

If you’re here because you miss your Nordic roots (or know someone who does)? Check out our big selection of Cure for Homesickness hampers or browse our best selling sweets for your next fix of Fazer liquorice, Freia chocolate or Marabou munchies?

Do you read our daily facts on Facebook? Maybe you should. It’s your daily dose of nonsense Nordic Knowledge #BeNordic. Follow it here.


Feel free to comment below of any extras we have forgotten….

  • That’s life when the skirt is striped (Sånt är livet när kjolen är randig). (Swedish) Meaning: Such is life.
  • If a Swede says “something landed between two chairs” he means that something has been forgotten and nobody is taking responsibility for it.
  • The Finns don’t “get diarrhoea”… they “have poop flying out of their bums like flocks of sparrows” (paska lentää kuin varpusparvi).
  • If a Dane says “Taking the bus is the sausage of dearth” (“Det er dødens pølse at tage bussen”) he simply means it’s boring or annoying. “Sausage of death” is everything trivial.
  • If there’s room in heart there’s room for the arse (Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum) (Swedish saying) Meaning: Everybody can fit in here).
  • If someone is caught with your beard in the mailbox (Skägget i brevlådan) (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish) Meaning: “To be caught with your pants down.”

  • If someone ‘slides in on a prawn sandwich’ in Sweden (“Glida in på en räkmacka”) it means someone who didn’t have to work to get where they are in life.
  • In Finland, if someone is “like a bear shot in the ass” (kuin perseeseen ammuttu karhu), it means they are cranky.
  • In Iceland, they don’t say “I’ll get my revenge”, instead they’ll say ‘I’ll find you at the beach’ (Ég mun finna þig í fjöru).
  • Made a fool of yourself? In Norway, you say that you “shat on your leg” (Nå har du bæsjet på leggen).

  • I suspect there are owls in the bog (Jeg aner ugler I mosen) (a versatile saying used in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian). Meaning: Something fishy is going on.
  • In Denmark, if something is really expensive, you can say ‘it costs the white bits out of the eyes’ (det koster det hvide ud af øjnene).
  • If a Dane tells you he is ‘angry in the garbage’ (gal i skralden) he means to tell you he is furious.
  • If a Swede tells you to go to the forest, he is telling you to get lost (Dra åt skogen).
  • If a Dane makes a mental note of something, he ‘writes it behind the ear’ (at skrive noget bag øret).
  • If you’re sitting in meeting with some Danes and one of them says that everything has gone to goat (gå I ged), they are merely trying to explain that it fell through (or failed), as in “that project went to goat”.

  • If a Swede says he is going to ‘throw a goat’s eye at it’, it means he’ll have a quick glance at something (att kasta ett getöga).
  • Some people in Norway mighty say you have ‘pooped in the drawer’ if you have been caught out in a difficult situation (Å bæsje i skuffen).
  • In Sweden, if a person looks like he’s sold all the butter and lost all the money (Ha sålt smöret och tappat pengarna), it means he looks both sad and guilty at the same time.
  • If a Finn tells you that you are “shooting flies with a cannon” he simply means to tell you that you are overcomplicating things, putting a lot of effort into achieving something impossible (ampua tykillä kärpäsiä).
  • If an Icelandic accuses you of Jumping onto your own nose (Að stökkva upp á nef sér), they mean to tell you that you get angry and worked up too quickly.
  • If a Finn tells you ‘Let me show you where the chicken pees from’ (Näytän sulle, mistä kana pissii) he simply means “Let me show you how it’s done”.

  • A Danes might say he feels like an egg yolk (‘Jeg har det som blommen i et æg‘) which and he means that he feels comfort and fulfilment.
  • In Finland, instead of saying “And that’s that”, you say “And because… onion” (Ja sillä sipuli).
  • Swedish saying: “What is hidden in snow, is revealed at thaw” (Det som göms i snö, kommer fram vid tö). Meaning, things will be revealed, secrets will out.
  • A Dane might say “one more time for prince Knud” (en gang til for prins Knud) – this refers to the former king’s (Frederik IX) brother, who was known to need an explanation more than once.
  • If a Dane says he has his ass in the surface of the water (Røven i vandskorpen), it means things are not going that well.
  • The Finns don’t say something “fits well”… they say it “fits like a fist in the eye” (sopii kuin nyrkki silmään).
  • If a Dane tells you that you are ‘pouring water out of your ears’ (at hælde vand ud af ørerne), he means to tell you that you’re talking rubbish, of stuff of no importance, or just moaning a lot.
  • In Iceland, if someone tells you they are off to play chess with the pope (Að tefla við páfann) they are telling your they need to go for a number 2.

  • The Finns don’t say something “disappeared without trace”… they say it “vanished like a fart in Sahara” (kadota kuin pieru Saharaan).
  • If you see an Icelandic baby that is super cute and adorable, you can try telling the mother that you think her off spring is “just such a butthole” (rassgat). In Icelandic, this means you are praising the baby’s adorableness.
  • If a Dane tells you that you’re laughing like a torn pair of clogs, he means you are laughing out loud (grine som en flækket træsko).
  • In Finland if someone says: “The forest answers in the same way one shouts at it” (Niin metsä vastaa kuin sinne huudetaan), he means ‘what goes around, comes around’. The proverb refers to the echo from the treeline.
  • A Swede is not “dressed to the nines”… he is “dressed up to his teeth.” (Klädd up till tänderna).

  • In Finland, if someone isn’t quite that clever, a Finn might say “He doesn’t have all Moomin trolls in the valley” (Hänellä ei ole kaikki muumit laaksossa). Okay, its trolls, but Moomins sounds better.
  • If a Dane tells you he doesn’t have a red prawn (ikke en rød reje) it means he is skint.
  • “To step in the spinach” (At træde i spinaten) (Danish, Norwegian (although in Norway it’s salad instead of spinach!) Meaning: To make a mistake.
  • If a Swede thinks you are stupid he might say you “don’t have all the hens at home.” (Att ha alla hönsen hemma).
  • It’s blowing half a pelican (Det blæser en halv pelican) (Danish) Meaning: It’s really windy.
  • To be born behind a brown cheese (Født bak en brunost) (Norwegian) – Meaning: the person is a bit slow.
  • In Denmark, when someone hurries up, he ‘takes his legs on the back of his neck’ (Han tager benene på nakken’.

  • If a Dane is ‘pulling cod fish to the shore’ (at trække torsk I land) it means he is snoring VERY loudly.
  • In Swedish, you don’t say ‘Speak of the devil’, instead you say “Speak of the troll and he appears on the porch” (När man talar om trollen så står de i farstun).
  • If a Swede says “Now shame walks on dry land” (Nu går skam på torra land’ ) it means immorality has taken over and you cant do anything to stop it.
  • If a Dane tells you that you are earthing-up potatoes (hyppe kartofter), it means you are pushing your own agenda too much.
  • In Iceland, they don’t say “I’ll get my revenge”, instead they’ll say ‘I’ll find you at the beach’ (Ég mun finna þig í fjöru)
  • Pretend that it’s raining (‘Låtsas som att det regnar’) (Swedish) – Meaning: To act normally, so as not to attract any attention.
  • Let me show you where a chicken pees from (Näytän sulle, mistä kana pissii) (Finnish) Meaning: ‘Let me show you how it’s done’.
  • In Scandinavia, we don’t have a bone to pick with people – instead, we have a hen to pluck with you (Jeg har en høne å plukke med deg / I have a hen to pluck with you).

  • If a Dane is ‘standing like herring in a barrel’, it means he’s feeling a bit squashed (Stå som sild i en tønde).
  • In Norway and Denmark, if you make cabbage of something (å gjøre kål på), it means you are ending something, even maybe destroying it. For example: “We made cabbage of all those leftovers in the fridge” or even “She made cabbage out of him.
  • I’m cold in the ass (Jeg er kold i røven) (Danish) – Meaning: I don’t care.
  • Go where the pepper grows (Dra dit pepparn gror) (Swedish) Meaning: Go to hell.
  • In Finland, you don’t dip your toe to test the water. Instead, you test the ice with a stick (kokeilla kepillä jäätä).
  • If a Norwegian ‘has blood on his teeth’ (Å få blod på tannen) it means he’s inspired to do something.
  • Even small saucepans have ears (Även små grytor har öron) (Swedish, Danish) Meaning: the kids might hear.
  • There is a dog buried here (Det ligger en hund begraven här)(Swedish, Danish, Norwegian) Meaning: there’s something fishy going on.
  • If a Finnish person tell you it’s “like the snow of last winter”, he means it’s “like water under the bridge” (Menneen talven lumia).
  • A Swede doesn’t “beat around the bush”… he “walks like the cat around hot porridge.” (Gå som katten kring het gröt).
  • Hello jump in the blueberry forest! (Hej hopp i blåbärsskogen!) (Swedish) Meaning: A cheerful expression to be used when you are a bit surprised.
  • In Norway, if you float using your own body fat (flyte på flesket), it means you rely on own experience or resources. As in “You can float on your own body fat now, you really know this project”.
  • If a Dane is laying his head in water (at lægge hovedet i blød) it means he’ll think something over really hard.
  • If someone is arrogant and full of oneself, in Norwegian you can say “he’s high on the pear” (‘Høy på pæren’) – as in ‘Stop being so high on the pear, now..’
  • Your own cow is in the ditch ( Oma lehmä ojassa) (Finnish). – Meaning: Someone has an ulterior selfish motive behind an action.
  • A Danes doesn’t kill two birds with one stone; instead he ‘kills two flies with one swat’.

  • In Sweden, there is a classic idiom: “Everyone knows the monkey, but the monkey knows no-one.” (alla känner apan, apan känner ingen). It sort of means don’t think you’re popular just because you’re known to others. That everybody notices the one who sticks out, but he knows nobody.
  • To put onion on the salmon (Att lägga lök på laxen) (Swedish)- Meaning: To make things even worse…
  • To poop on your calf (Bæsje på leggen) (Norwegian) – Meaning: Make a mistake.
  • In Iceland, instead of saying ‘Let’s go’ or ‘Carry on’, people will say “On with the butter!” (Áfram með smjörið).
  • If something in Danish goes completely wrong, Danes will say ‘it has gone completely to fish” (gå helt i fisk).

  • Now you have shat in the blue cupboard! (Nu har du skitit i det blå skåpet) (Swedish) – Meaning: When you really have made a fool out of yourself.
  • Not for all the butter in Småland (Inte för allt smör i hela Småland) (Sweden) -Meaning: Equivalent to the English expression: “Not for all the tea in China”.
  • To swallow some camels (Å svelge noen kameler) (Norwegian) – Meaning: to give in.
  • Almost and close to doesn’t knock a man off his horse (Ligeved og næsten slår ingen mand af hæsten)(Danish) – Equivalent to the English saying: “Close, but no cigar”.
  • To be in the middle of the butter eye [melting in the porridge] (Å være midt i smørøyet) (Norwegian, Danish) Meaning: to be in a very favourable place or situation.
  • To pace around hot porridge like a cat (kiertää kuin kissa kuumaa puuroa) (Finnish) – Meaning: To beat about the bush.
  • To be under the ice (Under isen) (Swedish) – Meaning: feeling a bit depressed.
  • To jump on the gluestick (at hoppe på limpinden (Danish) – Meaning: To take the bait.
  • No danger on the roof (Ingen fara på taket) (Swedish) Meaning: No worries.
  • He took his legs on the back of his neck (Han tog benene på nakken) (Danish) – Meaning: He hurried up.

  • There are no cows on the ice (Der er ingen ko på isen) (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian) – Meaning: Nothing to worry about. The full saying is “No cow on the ice when the back half is on the ground”.
  • In Norway, if someone ‘smiles in the beard’ it means they are chuckling quietly about past events (Å smile i skjegget).
  • If a Scandinavian tells you that someone has ‘a good nasal bone’, they are merely trying to say that the person is strong and determined (at have ben i næsen).
  • If an Icelandic tells you that it “isn’t enough to fill a Cat’s nostril”, it means it is very small. (Ekki upp í nös á ketti).
  • If a Norwegian tells you that he is speaking directly from the liver, he simply means to tell you he’s telling the truth. As in “I’m telling you, straight from the liver, I love you!” (Å snake rett fra leveren).
  • In Danish, if you ‘pass the monkey on’ (at sende aben videre) it means you’re passing on a problem to someone else.
  • If an Icelandic or Danish person tells you ‘that something is the raisin at the end of the sausage (Það er rúsínan í pylsuendanum/rosinen i pølsenden), it means there is an unexpected good surprise at the end of something.
  • If a Swede says ‘Pretend it’s raining’ he simply means act normally, so as not to attract any attention (Låtsas som att det regnar).
  • In Sweden, if someone tells you that “Now the boiled pork is fried” (Nu är det kokta fläsket stekt), what they are really saying is ‘now things are really, really bad’.
  • If an Icelandic person tells you that peeing in your shoes will only keep you warm for a short while, he simply means to tell you short term solutions don’t often work (Það er skammgóður vermir að pissa í skó sinn). Idioms rock, don’t you think?

  • A Swede doesn’t seek revenge – instead, he “gives back for old cheese.” (Ge tillbaka för gammal ost).
  • A Norwegian won’t say ‘upping the game’ instead he’ll say ‘the buns have changed’ (Nå blir det andre boller).
  • In Iceland, they don’t say they will sleep on it or think it over, instead they say they’ll put their head to soak in water (Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti).
  • In Finland, you don’t have a finger in every pie – instead, you have a ‘spoon in every bowl of soup’ (Lusikka joka sopassa).
  • You’re completely out cycling (Du er helt ude og cycle) (Danish) – Meaning: You’re completely wrong.
  • Go where the pepper grows (Dra dit pepparn gror) (Swedish) – Meaning: Go to hell!
  • If a Scandinavian says you need to “have ice in your stomach” (is i magen), it simply means you need to play it cool, be in control.

  • If a Dane or Norwegian tells you that ‘the toilet’s on fire’ it means the shits about to hit the fan big time (Lokummet brænder).
  • You’ve really shot the parrot (Du har virkeligt skudt papegøjen) (Danish) – Meaning: You’ve been lucky.
  • He’s got rotating farts in his cap (Han har roterende fis i kasketten) (Danish) – Meaning: He’s not quite all there.
  • A Swede doesn’t tell someone to “take a hike”… he tells someone to “throw themselves in the wall.” (Släng dig i väggen).
  • If a Dane says he isn’t quite orange free (Ikke helt appelsinfri), he means to tell you that he is not completely sober.

  • Is it the horse’s birthday? Er det hestens fødselsdag? (Danish) Meaning: the rye bread is too thick for my open sandwich.
  • To be up on the liquorices (at være oppe på lakridserne) (Danish) – Meaning: to be very attentive or busy.
  • If a Dane says you can both ‘blow and have flour in your mouth’, he means to say you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. (Man kan ikke både blæse og have mel i munden).
  • Nothing to hang on the Christmas tree (Ingenting att hänga i julgranen) (Swedish) Meaning: not special enough.

Phew! Did we forget any? Comments below, please.

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False friends

February 5, 2019 | Leave a comment

English words that mean something else in Scandinavian languages

These words are often called ‘false friends’ – words that are the same but mean something else in another language. It can be confusing, for sure. These often happen when two words look or sound similar in different dialects or languages. For example, we once had someone apply for a Barista job here who listed their previous job as ‘Vicar’. Now, we know that a Vikar in Scandinavia means a substitute worker – there are many Vikar Teachers at schools, for example.

We’ve got some great sounding foods too: what about a selection of Plopp chocolate bars? A Skum Banana or a bar of Firklover chocolate (say it out load with a bit of tempo…), and of course everyone’s favourite Salty Spunk and Fruity Spunk.

Do you have any more words to add to the list? Comment below, please.


The most famous farts of them all. We have fartbump, fartshump, and fart-hinders. We also have fart-plans (time tables) and we have “I FART” in the lifts in Denmark (this simply means ‘in motion’).


It means ‘kinds’. We have many slags of salty liquorice in our shop. It can also mean a ‘hit’ of something – you can have a slag at something in Danish.


This means The End. As in, “They lived happily ever after. Slut”. If you set your iPhone to a Scandinavian language, it will call you a slut every time you end a phone call.

In Swedish, the end of the Sales in the shops is called SLUT REA – and the same thing in Danish is SLUT SPURT. Here is a link to our big range of Scandi goodies on sale .

The end of the bus route is the SLUT STATION.


Invited to a fancy ball? Scandinavians will be wearing “a smoking”. Which means dinner jacket.


To Swedes, a template. To you, a place to go shopping.


In Scandinavia, gift means poison. It also means ‘to be married’. Yup, same spelling and pronunciation and everything.


In Swedish, Skid means ski. The same word in Danish can mean shit, so Danes often fnigger when they see signs in Sweden for the Skidskola – the Shit-School.


In Swedish, glass is ice cream.


Not a shining diamond, but a paperclip!


A chef is a boss. Whereas a chef in the kitchen is a Kock. So, Kock in the kitchen, chef in the office.


In Swedish, Tvätt means washing. So, you can many slags of tvätt in Sweden.


In Sweden, when you go for a pee, you kiss. Actually, it’s kissa, to be entirely accurate. Kiss is pee.


Bra is good, in Swedish. It has nothing to do with a bra for the boobs.


In Danish, Bae (bæ) is a kiddie word for poop. So, when you put a picture on instagram of your new boyfriend and you write ‘my bae’ underneath, we find it quite amusing.


A child. Yes, a child, not a barn full of hay.


A prick/prik is a dot. Simply, just a dot. As in “The curtains has many pricks on it”


This means ‘subject’ or even trade. In Danish, its Fag, in Swedish often fack, which in itself is funny, too. A directory for tradespeople is called a book of fagfolk.

A worker’s union in Denmark is a Fagunion or Fagforening.


I English, this is to grind things – coffee beans, for example. In Swedish, grind is a gate.


You may often hear Scandinavians say they went to the Gymnasium for 3 years. Well, this simply means high school.


Oddly, this has no roots with hygge, but merely means To Chop. As in chopping wood (hugge brænde)


To us, Island means Iceland. An island to us in an Ø (or Ö).


In English, you offer something to someone. In Scandinavia, it means ‘victim’.


Ah, yes, puss means kiss. But remember, kiss means pee. Best get these right, eh?

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Little Scandinavian lessons: Lagom

January 30, 2019 | Leave a comment

Little Scandinavian lessons: Lagom

People talk a lot about the word ‘Lagom’ – but what does it actually mean?

Lagom is the most important Swedish word you will ever learn. Used every day, multiple times, by Swedes the world over, it goes deep into the soul of every Swede. It’s part of being quintessentially Swedish.

The word lagom is said to derive from the folk etymology in a phrase used in Viking times: “laget om” – meaning ‘around to the group – allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group. This etymology is commonly accepted to be right, although some parallels are made with the Law of Jante and the common set of rules about how much one should have of something – again, things go back to the greater good for the whole group. You would take a lagom sip of the bowl, thus allowing everyone to have a ‘sufficient amount for them’ – and everyone to be satisfied. Fairness and balance.

The word itself means ‘just right’. It also means ‘just enough’, ‘sufficient’, ‘the correct amount’ (In Finnish, the word is sopiva; in Norwegian and Danish, the word tilpasselig is the most fitting, although is not used it in exactly the same way or as often – but the meaning of lagom is still engrained in every person across the Nordics). It means ‘not too much, not too little’ and also means ‘fair share’. This single little word, Lagom, denotes all of those meanings, simply depending on the context in which you use it.

There is an old saying in Sweden: lagom är bäst (‘lagom is best’), which really sums up how Swedes think and act in everyday life:
– How big a slice of cake would you like? Lagom.
– How are you? Lagom.
– The weather is lagom.
– You drink a lagom amount of wine.
– The dress is lagom.
– You have one cinnamon bun, not two. Lagom.

Lagom is positive as well as sometimes negative, it’s also the middle of the road and the average of everything. It is as it should be. It does the job, but it’s not too much, not too little.

To understand lagom, you first need to first understand the Scandinavians – in particular, Swedish cultural psyche, which is one of consensus and equality for all. Swedes don’t overdo anything, there are no over-the-top buildings, no flashy show-offs. Everything is middle of the road, fair and just the right amount. It works, just right.

People often wonder why, with the amount of cake we eat in Scandinavia and the number of sweets consumed, are we not all as big as houses. It’s because, well, lagom. Most Scandinavians won’t have two buns with their fika break, only one. One of those big bags of to-share crisps may be opened alone, but you won’t eat it all in one sitting. There will be mayonnaise on the open sandwiches, but it’s on one slice of rye bread, making it all very lagom and balanced. ‘Super-size’ in fast-food restaurants isn’t really that popular – it just isn’t lagom. We eat sweets on Saturdays – when we pig out completely. But we don’t eat them Sun-Thu, because, well, lagom.

It’s impossible to define the word lagom as a specific amount because it varies so much between people. How much cake is it appropriate to eat? How hot is lagom when it comes to your coffee? It’s a feeling, it’s something engrained in the culture and psyche of the people that is almost impossible to learn. But the amazing thing is: if a Swede asks you how much milk you want in your coffee – and you say “lagom”, they will know exactly what you mean.

How do you define Lagom in your every day? Does balance matter that much?

This post is a part extract, part re-write from Bronte Aurell’s book North, published by Aurum Books, available in all good bookshops. Photograph “lagom’ by Anna Jacobsen (North, Aurum) 2017.

Get the book here https://amzn.to/2sYz9ZW

How to make friends with a Scandinavian

January 25, 2019 | Leave a comment

How to make friends with a Scandinavian

Swedes, Danes and Norwegians have been voted the most difficult people to make friends with. IN THE WORLD! How did that happen? We’re so full of love!

We’d like to confirm there is some truth in this – although it only applies to Scandinavians back in the old country. Once we leave Scandinavia, we become extremely friendly, like Labradors.

It IS hard to settle in Scandinavia – so we asked around our friends on social media how best to do it if you’re in a situation where you need to try and befriend us. Below are some of the most helpful answers.

Embrace the bluntness.

We’re so terribly blunt. Just embrace it fully. It is in our nature and you can’t change us. You need to make the actual effort and you may even need to be honest and tell us what you’re trying to do. We work best on very frank information exchanges and pretty much fail at de-coding the usual pleasantries.

Forget getting to know people in bars. 

If you MUST talk to us on a night out we suggest any random club at 4 am where we’re drunk enough to talk to strangers (although this may backfire as we might not remember you, sorry). Scandinavians have very big walls that often only come down with the use of Mr Absolut.

It’s at home it happens. 

Always accept an invite to someone’s house – this is where you will find the real friendship openings. See point 1: if you get an invite, we mean it. It’s not a pleasantry or empty offer – accept it. Dinner parties at people’s houses is where it’s at.

Learn the language. 

Look, you won’t meet Scandinavians at the language school, but making an effort to speak our language, in the long run, helps a lot. If you understand what we’re saying, it saves people having to translate everything at the dinner party (translating constantly is a novelty that will wear off for us). You’ll find that as soon as you learn the language and make an effort, most people will reply in English anyway (to be nice, actually, and show we appreciate your efforts).

No, it is not cool to be the foreigner who’s lived in Scandinavia for 6 years who hasn’t made an effort to learn it. You may think it is great that you got away with not having to learn to roll your R’s– but we think it’s rude.

Play handball. 

Or another sport we like playing a lot. Football works across nations, too, for both men and women. Or join a club, like Gubbetrim or clubs named Frisk & Svettis… Find us in our habitats and comfort zones, not your own.

Treat it like you’re chatting someone up.

We’re naturally guarded and we don’t talk to strangers easily – most of us have the same mates from when we were younger. This does not mean we don’t WANT to meet new people – we just don’t NEED to. That said, if you make the first move, unless you act like a total weirdo, we will probably engage in a chat, so plan your exchanges with us.

Except at bus stops, because nobody is allowed to talk to anyone at the bus stop. Keep a safe one metre distance from all other people at all times. See helpful illustration.

Ask for help (especially in Denmark).

Danes has a weird habit of not offering to help. This seems to be a social code that just… is. On the flip side, if you ASK for help, a Dane will most likely lend you his last 100 kroner. He is just unlikely to offer the help, because in Denmark, if you need help, you just ask – everyone knows that. Once you ask for help, you have an opportunity to chat and meet someone new. We don’t mean asking someone in Føtex where to find the frozen peas, but actually asking people you meet to help you with either settling in or indeed where to meet people.

It might be easier past May…

It’s so dark and cold. We are hibernating. Try again once the days are longer – it’s like we wake up and want to socialise again. Not kidding: We do hibernate. Midsummer is a great time to meet Swedes, for example. And Norway Day in Norway. Light and long days = more inclined to go out.

Hygge with us.

Do stuff with us that matters. It’s all about dinner party at Björn’s house, about joining in on the weekend hikes and trips. Just say YES to any invite, even if you know you’ll look like the klutz on skis: It’s okay, it’s only really the Norwegians who can ski, the rest just pretend.

Okay, the DANES pretend. Rubbish skiiers.

Be patient. Very patient.

It takes time. We take time. A long time, sometimes. We may be slow growers, but we are solid. Once you’re in, you’re in and you’ll wonder why you ever found it hard. Once you crack one, you’re half way there. The rest will follow.

See you in a few years. Good luck with that.

What are your own experiences on making friends with Scandinavians both in the Nordics and abroad? Comments below, please.

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