Monthly archives: March 2012

9 Swedish Words that Should Be Incorporated into English Pronto, Immediately, Now

The English language has a lot of words… maybe even the most words of all the languages in the whole wide world. I can’t be totally sure of that because I haven’t counted myself, and even if I had, I probably still wouldn’t trust my count. I’m the kind of person who gets a headache and has to lie down if I think too hard about how Daylight Savings Time works.

Nonetheless, that’s what reputable sources (ahem OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY cough) tell me, and I’m sticking to it, despite claims to the contrary from certain Swedish acquaintances of mine (cough MY HUSBAND I really have to get some cough drops) that the Swedish language actually has more words than English.

Apparently Fredrik Lindström (Notable Expert on the Swedish Language) told him that the English language’s claim to having the most words was a myth. Having not seen the clip myself, I’m going to just keep on saying that English has the largest vocabulary in the world until Fredrik Lindström or Horace Engdahl (another Notable Expert on the Swedish Language) personally consent to an arm-wrestling match or convince me otherwise.

All the same, the English language could always stand to add a few more words to the list.

In the time that I’ve lived in Sweden, I have encountered some words that are just so amazingly perfect I want to buy them coffee, ask them out on a date, and then somewhere down the line ask them to spend the rest of their lives with me. And if they agreed—oh, how happy I would be!!

Marry me, Swedish. MARRY ME?!?! Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

Here’s the catch, though: it’s likely that no one outside of Sweden would understand my Swenglified English. Then everyone would think that I’m a stark raving lunatic (as usual), poke my eyes out and cast me out of society. (It’s happened before.)

My solution is, therefore, to spread my favorite and most useful Swedish words to the rest of the world so that I can keep using them and everyone will understand what I mean.

Ideally, of course, all the words that make me laugh (here and here) would make it on the list, too, but I’ve actually narrowed down the list to only the words that cover some concept that we don’t have a word for in English.

Biggest vocabulary or not, there’s always room for a few more words in the English language. Read more » >>

B-List Signs of Spring

Before I lived in Sweden, spring was a time of year that I looked forward to and enjoyed. End of story.

Now that I’ve lived in Sweden, I have a completely different relationship with spring. Spring is renewal! Spring is rebirth! Spring is a season in which winter clothing is joyfully and deliberately shed, one layer at a time! Spring is something to be savored and rejoiced in.

In that vein, I first learned about “vårtecken,” or “signs of spring,” about this time last year, when I was coming out of my first Dreadful Swedish Winter. I was instantly enchanted by the concept.

Vårtecken lead to “vårkänslor,” or the feelings of happiness brought about by the coming of spring, and therefore I am all totally obsessed with finding and cataloging different signs of spring in order to reassure myself that yes, winter is really and truly giving way to spring! 

Normally, people understand the word “vårtecken” as including a variety of spring flowers, different birds returning from their winter residences on the Mediterranean (jealous), and an obsessive interest in the weather/hours of sunlight.

One thing I just learned from the Sustainability blog here at is that you can actually become an official, registered observer of spring (that’s “Phenology Observer,” to you) and report your findings back to the Swedish Meteorological Institute, which is totally awesome. If I knew anything about nature, which (sadly) I don’t, I would be so there.

Leaving tradition behind, however…

I’m going to go ahead and take a quantum leap in the common understanding of vårtecken and say that there are way more signs of spring than just those found in nature. In celebrity gossip terminology (a field of knowledge in which I have a deep and abiding interest), sprouting crocuses and budding wildflowers would be the “A-list” signs of spring. Everyone recognizes them and can name their last five romantic partners gets excited about them.

But what about the B-Listers? They’re people signs of spring, too! You know, the rash of bedazzled twigs and seasonal soft drinks and (ahem) important birthdays!

Since I am well and truly obsessed with spring (thanks a lot, Swedification), I just had to make a list, and here it is, the “B-List Signs of Spring.”

Feathers, feathers, everywhere! Photos: Kate Reuterswärd

Read more » >>


It’s cold and flu season in Sweden, so it’s not uncommon to be a little sick right now. After a month or so of not being able to shake this kind of strange feeling, though, I decided to go ahead and book an appointment with the doctor.

The local healthcare center. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

I took the morning off work and took the bus to the office. Once I had slipped on those omnipresent disposable shoe sleeves, I shuffled in and sat myself down next to two obviously pregnant women who looked at me, looked at my stomach, looked at me, then went back to sipping their glucose mixtures.

A little while later, the doctor came out to the waiting room and called my name: Katreeen Reuterswärd? (Never Katherine, always Katreen. It doesn’t bother me because I love it when my first name sounds like latrine.)

Together we went into the examination room and she did all the usual things: took my blood pressure, calculated my BMI, listened to me describe what symptoms had led me to book the appointment. Finally, she sat back in her chair and just looked at me with some pity in her eyes.

I got nervous.  Read more » >>

Bring on the Spring!

Signs of the season: spring flowers, muddy sidewalks, balmy breezes and best of all—sun, glorious sun!

Two weeks ago, I was surprised to wake up one weekend morning because of sun shining into our bedroom, a first in this new apartment. Now the sun is up ahead of me even on weekdays, making it unnecessary for me to turn on the kitchen light as I groggily make my way towards the coffee pot in the morning.

And would you believe it, I’m finally down to wearing just one coat and one pair of socks instead of two of each.

Blooming flowers, sunny train stations, babbling brooks: Spring! Spring! Spring! Photos: Kate Reuterswärd

Read more » >>

Stress Less, Speak More: 15 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language (Part 2)

This post is a continuation of Saturday’s post, where you can read Tips 1-7 for learning a language!

Swedish is not a language many people study just for the heck of it. Romance languages, German, Chinese or Japanese—not too out of the ordinary. But Swedish? Not so much.

Nonetheless, when in Rome…

For expats and all language learners, here are my top 15 tips for kick-starting your language learning, even when it’s rough going, even if you’re shy, even if you think you can’t.

8.   Be brave!

Learning a language is not for the faint of heart. It’s important to be kind to yourself during this process by taking breaks when you need them, allowing yourself to be imperfect, whining about how difficult it is (we’ve all been there!).

As soon as you’ve gotten that out of your system, though, you have to be brave! You have to get out there, you have to talk to people, you have to let yourself be vulnerable. Above all, do not allow yourself to be shy.

Shyness is the language killer. Don’t kid yourself that doing an endless number of grammar exercises is going to result in your waking up one day and suddenly being fluent! You have to talk.

I’ve gotten pretty good with my Swedish, but there are still times when I suddenly feel shy or nervous for some reason. When that happens, I try to trick myself into being brave. For example, I’m the oldest of three girls, and I am very protective of my two little sisters. (Not that they’re little, really, but I will think of them that way for the rest of my life.)

If I tell myself before I go into a shop that I’m going to do something for them, I am automatically 5 times more courageous and more determined than I would be on my own. It’s not me that wants the coffee, it’s my sister! For some reason, creating a scenario like that pushes me out of my own shell and gives me that extra edge that I need.

Every now and then, you’ve got to take a break and maybe even have a delicious fika to recharge your brain. Photo: Kate Wiseman

9.   Take breaks when you need them. Read more » >>