‘It’s a kind of Swedish Goldilocks approach, with everything “just right.”’
Evidently, the Scandinavians have really got some things figured out.
And naturally, the rest of us are lining up- and signing up- to become a little more Scandi-savvy!
In today’s post, let’s take a look at Sweden’s ‘best export’; lagom.
The word lagom seems to have originated with a Viking term ‘laget om‘ (around the team) which referred to the social custom of passing a horn of drink around a circle and making sure everyone took just his fair share, so as to leave enough for the others to do the same. As one author wittily remarked,
“The Vikings wouldn’t usually be first on my list as a moral compass, but they were certainly on to something.”
Modern Swedes have come a long way from their Viking forbears; so how does Lagom translate today?
Contentment, balance, and doing things in ways that make sense for everyone…
Harmony, restraint, and appreciation for simplicity…
Moderation, sustainability, and environmental consciousness…
As I sit typing this morning at my HEMNES desk (thank you IKEA) I’m hoping you’ll enjoy taking a little peek with me into the timeless, yet trendy Scandi-secret of lagom!
For your scrolling pleasure, I’ve read three books (just triangulating data 😉 on this scintillating subject to share with you. Each one was written by someone in the know…
Elisabeth Carlsson grew up Swedish in Sweden, and is now married to an Englishman raising their children in London. Here is her book, the lagom life.
Linnea Dunne is another Swede who left the land of lagom as a young adult and is now married to an Irishman, with whom she lives in Dublin, where they are raising their young child. She’s the author of this LAGOM book:
“Consensus is king and everyone mucks in.”
Honestly, my favourite is Niki Brantmark’s Lagom book; she’s an Englishwoman who fell in love with a Swedish man and jumped at the chance to relocate to his homeland (about 15 years ago) where they are happily settled and raising their children Swedish-style!
Somehow her perspective seems more to the purpose… She’s looking at the culture of her adopted homeland through the lens of someone who was newly (and enthusiastically) introduced to it as an adult, which is closer to how the rest of us are seeing it, with fresh eyes and an appreciative embrace…
“Perhaps the most liberating lesson of all has been feeling satisfied with ‘enough’.”
Whatever their various emotional approaches are to Swedish culture, they are definitely all speaking on the same subject! Here are some common themes I found running steadily through all three books:
- Moderation– while this isn’t a terribly exciting approach to life, it’s certainly a healthy one. And it greases the wheels of social life; greed and bragging are frowned upon. No self-respecting Swede would reach for the last treat on the plate once it had gone around at fika (coffee break) time.
- Forangkringsprocessenkvallspromenad (evening walk after supper) or bass bastu (sauna with refreshing breaks in cold water or snow)!!
- Balance– famously efficient, Swedish employees mean business about quitting time! Making time for family, health (such as Friskis & Svettis; unpretentious open air group exercise in public parks), self care, and creativity. (Incidentally, friskis & svettis sounds a little to my untrained ear like frisking and sweating- nej?
- Allemansratten“He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.” -Swedish Proverb
Lagom at home means keeping down clutter. Simply take a kopstopp (purchasing break) if all else fails. To further ensure home comforts, draw in as much natural light as possible, decorate with plants, and choose furniture for functionality. This is all very important, especially when the weekend comes; Fredagsmys is the traditional Friday night family veg session with convenience food and TV, followed closely by Lordagsgodis (Saturday candy time)!! Very lagom ways to approach lounging on the couch for some screen time, and consuming candy, ja?
I have lots to learn about this moderate and balanced approach myself… I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and never take coffee breaks (with or without cookies and cake)!
How about you?
Are you Swedish?
Have you been to Sweden, and what do you think of lagom?
Do any of these ideas resonate with you or help you see day-to-day challenges in a new light?
Thank you for reading with me,