Category Archives: Language Nerd

Even more Swedish language hilarity

My two posts on hilarious Swedish words and phrases got a lot of reader feedback. As it turns out, the best kind of nerd-fest is a foreign language nerd-fest.

A man who goes only by the name of “Woodge,” (@woodge on Twitter) sent me these two photos, one from Bornholm, a Danish island off the coast of Sweden, and the other of some Swedish candy bars.

First you’ve got some bådfarten, and before you know it… PLOPP! 

Haha, ewwwww! (Yes, I know, I’ve got the maturity level of an 8 year old boy… as if that’s a negative.)

For more Sweden-related blog posts from Woodge, check out his blog at Thanks again, Woodge, for the photos!


If you haven’t seen my two posts on Swedish words that make me giggle, check them out here: 

14 Swedish Words That Make Me Giggle

25 More Swedish Words (and Phrases) That Make Me Giggle


Frank the Sheep Speaks Swedish

Every single time I see this commercial on TV, I want to die laughing.

First of all, a little back story.

Frank the Sheep. Photo from Tele2's website.

Frank is a black sheep. He never felt like he fit in, so he left the flock. Eventually, he ended up at a telecom company, where realized he was born to be cheap. Bliss! He’s a street smart, tell-it-like-it-is kind of dude.

Frank the Sheep, born to be cheap. Image from Resume magazine.


So, Frank is not from Sweden, and he doesn’t really speak Swedish. He gives it a try, though, in the following commercial.


I’ve been in Sweden for awhile now, so I’ve seen a number of these commercials. This one is definitely one of the best, though.

So now, thanks to Frank, you have a little insight into what it’s like to try to start speaking Swedish. The grammar? Not so hard. The words? Yeah, you have to learn them. The sounds? Totally and completely incomprehensible to me.

(As a sidenote, what a testament to Swedes’ abilities with English that they can follow and enjoy a commercial campaign in English for three years, and it motivates them to buy the service! Crazy.)

You gotta love it.

If you know Swedish or have been trying to learn it, you might want to check out these blog posts I wrote on funny Swedish words and phrases!

14 Swedish words that give me the giggles

25 More Swedish words (and phrases) that give me the giggles

Two more Frank the Sheep commercials (because I just can’t resist)

Catch up with the Expat Blog at!

There’s been a lot of action at the Expat Blog over the summer, and of course I don’t want you to miss a single minute. An entire summer’s worth of Sweden posts? In one place? Could your reading list get any more convenient? (No.)

A Preliminary Treatise on the Style of the Swedish Male The Swedish male, while obviously related to others of its type, looks very different than other nationalities’ specimens.

Top 5 Money-Saving Tips for Traveling in Sweden There’s no reason to go broke while traveling in Sweden.

Quick trip to THE MOTHERSHIP! In Stockholm and at the Swedish Institute!

Nostalgia, Hybridity, and the Zen of an American Brunch in Sweden American brunch gets Swedified with elderflower mimosas, lingonberry pancakes, and much, much more.

ALL THE INSIDER BABY GOSSIP: What the English-speaking media doesn’t know and isn’t telling you OMG Victoria is having a baby!! Get all the dirty gossip.

5 Simple Steps to Start Speaking a Foreign Language Now Five easy steps to help you get started speaking a foreign language now. Based on my experience learning Spanish, Italian, German, and Swedish as well as my work as an English teacher.

Cope with Summer Rain Like a Swede “Close your eyes and think of the empire.” No wait, I think that was for something else.

Brief Update from Southern Sweden A canal boat! Old timey folk songs! Europe!

1 Year in Sweden, 30 Swedish Experiences… and 30 more to work on What a year. Feeling better than ever and looking forward to more. Bring on the Swedish experiences!

The Great “Sweden is Socialist” Hoax Let’s talk dirty… real dirty. About toilets in Sweden and how they’re not free and how this is substantive proof that Sweden is not socialist. 

Oh, Snap(s)! It’s Midsummer Midsummer is here, and we made our own snaps! So bootleg, right?

Happy Midsummer! Twas the night before Midsummer and all through the house…

5 Steps to Making Your Own Midsummer’s Head Wreath Five simple steps to help you be the Swedish fairy/princess/queen of Midsummer that you always wanted to be.

THE COUNTDOWN IS ON! Pre-Midsummer anticipation! Plus, an insider look on what really goes on in Sweden during Midsummer.

When eating flowers out of the garden is not just for unruly kids How to make elderflower cordial/concentrate and the joys of being one with nature in Sweden.


5 Simple Steps to Start Speaking a Foreign Language Now (from the Expat Blog)

From the Expat Blog…

I’ve lived in four different countries and studied four foreign languages, plus I work as an English teacher. Thanks to these experiences and, well, my personality, I have developed some strong opinions about languages and language learning.

Regardless of whether you’re planning on moving to Sweden or just visiting, I’ve decided to share my tricks for kick-starting the language learning process so you can be a Swedish whiz by the time you get here.

ONE ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENT: You must be brave. You can memorize verbs, build your vocabulary, and study grammar until the day you die, but unless you start speaking, it won’t do you any good when you actually want to use it. (NB: It’s not cheating to strengthen your resolve with alcohol.)

A few of my Swedish books. They're great, but most important... start speaking!

Step 1: Focus on the present tense first.

Step 2: Learn the past and future forms of to be, to want, to need, to have, to like, and to go.

Step 3:  Build your vocabulary.

Step 4: Speak… all the time.

Step 5: Stay positive.

For the whole story, check out the Expat Blog at!

My trusty Swedish pocket dictionary has been a real lifesaver from time to time.

British Idioms New To Me: “Drinking the Park Bench Bottle”

My job as a Language Consultant (a fancy title for teaching English, proofreading, translating, copy writing, etc.) in Malmö has more than opened my eyes to how different American and British English really are, not to mention Australian, New Zealand-ish (should that be New Zealand-ian?). Nearly everyone in the office is English mother tongue, but we have some pretty particular ways of using the language. Add to that the inevitable influence of hearing Swedes speak English as a second language all the time, and you’ll end up with some strange mutations in pronunciation, prepositions, and grammatical constructions.

That said, here’s a British idiom that’s new to me—and fortunately I didn’t learn it at the office. I was reading a review of Everyday Drinking from Book Forum Magazine, the collection of Kingsley Amis’ three books on alcohol: On Drinking, Everyday Drinking, and How’s Your Glass?. The reviewer, Alexander Waugh, writes:

Amis drank like a proverbial fish from boyhood through adulthood. In his early days, when he was poor and unrecognized, he went for whatever gave the most alcohol for the smallest amount of money. This method is known in England as “drinking the park-bench bottle,” because it is by looking under park benches, where the tramps have left their empties, that one may discover, without having to work it out for oneself, which drink gets one drunkest for the fewest pennies.

“Drinking the park-bench bottle,” you say! What a classy way to explain my college years! And the years following thereafter. Hurrah, hurrah.

Here’s a picture of the park-bench bottle drinker himself:

Kingsley Amis, photo from The Australian newspaper

Books from A to Ö

I did a double take when I first saw this sign, but of course! Books in Sweden have to go from A to Ö, not A to Z. The Swedish alphabet includes three extra letters, the pronunciation of which was not easy for me to learn. Now I’m getting a little better… I hope.

"Lund's Book and Paper," a bookstore that is right across from the bus stop that takes me home from the train station.

It makes me laugh when I remember how surprised I was to see “books from A to Ö” the first time. It’s little things like this that quickly lose their novelty the longer you are in a country.

1 Year in Sweden, 30 Swedish Experiences… and 30 more to work on

Last Wednesday marked one year in Sweden for me. This time last year, my boyfriend drove through half of Europe in a heat wave to collect me (and all of my belongings) in Vienna… and then the real adventure began!

One year ago: the adventure began, as it always does, with me having too much stuff that then needed to be unpacked.

The transition hasn’t always been easy; one thing I’ve learned is that it’s much easier to move somewhere new when you have a structure to step into, whether it’s work or school or some sort of project you need to get started on. I think that would be true anywhere, though, not just in Sweden and not just as an expat.

Nonetheless, one year later I’m happy, I’m employed, I have friends, and I speak a fair amount of Swedish, although there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Equally importantly, my boyfriend and I are still doing great (he’s the reason I’m here, after all). It feels like a huge accomplishment to have reached the one year mark—I feel as though I cleared many of the hurdles that were standing in my way.

All that said, the year has gone by quickly! A year always sounds like a long time in my head, but when I think of all the things that I’ve done and seen, it feels unbelievably short.

1 Year in Sweden, 30 Swedish Experiences:

  1. Picked mushrooms… and ate them! (And didn’t die, as you can tell.)
  2. Went to a Swedish bachelorette party
  3. Went to a Swedish wedding
  4. Attended two Thanksgivings; cooked my own turkey for the first time as well as food for 26 people
  5. Attended a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit theme party

For the full list, check out my blog post at!

30 Things Still to Do in Sweden, definitely more than one year needed to do them all:

  1. See the true Midnight Sun
  2. Read Selma Lagerlöf’s children’s stories and the Pippi Longstocking books
  3. Become fluent in Swedish… or at least close enough good enough to understand and make jokes
  4. Stay in one of the rooms at the Tree Hotel
  5. Make homemade pickled herring

For the full list, check out my blog post at!

Punch it, Chewie! Jojo Sommarkort, Charming Ystad, and MacGyvered Swedish

Steve has decided to learn Swedish.

That in itself is a big deal, because Steve has lived in Sweden for awhile now, and while he is totally fluent in local customs and could probably tell you the name of every barista within a 15 km radius of Malmö, he’s avoided learning Swedish because he thought his stay would be temporary. If you ask me, the man will live here until the day he dies. He remains in quasi-denial about the fact that he is totally not going to move back to the US again, but at least now he’s decided to learn Swedish.

Plattan i mattan, Chewie!*

The Jojo Sommarkort (summer card) from Skånetrafiken

Anyway, not only is Steve kind of over his denial, but we both have the Jojo Sommarkort (summer card) from Skånetrafiken, which, let me tell you, is the best thing ever. Between June 15 and August 15, we can travel as much as we want throughout all of Skåne (the southernmost state in Sweden) on busses, trains, and Sweden’s famous public transit donkeys. (Just kidding about that last one.) All this, and it costs less than a normal monthly pass between Lund and Malmö, which is a tiny subsection of the vast expanse of Skåne we now have at our disposal.

End result: we’ve decided to take random day trips throughout Skåne and I’m supposed to teach him Swedish. The latter part of this equation is totally ludicrous, but we’re going with it anyways. Little does he know that he’s going to end up speaking with the vocabulary of a sailor and the grammar of a four year old. It’s going to be awesome.

It was a cold and rainy Friday when we decided to do our first excursion. Neither of us were in the best of spirits, but we met at the Malmö train station anyway. And then we got on a train to Ystad because that was the next train leaving.

Charming Ystad

Ystad is a small coastal town in southern Sweden, and while we mostly just wandered around for the afternoon, we did manage to wander through a fair number of nice areas. It’s most famous for being the setting for Henning Mankell’s Wallander detective series. If you want to get a glimpse of the city in moving pictures and color, you can watch the British miniseries, featuring Kenneth Branagh as Detective Wallander—it was shot on location.

Old timey "half-timbered" Ystad houses, dinner-ish at the Bryggeriet, happiness on the train!

Here are the things we did: wandered through the main shopping streets on our way to Stortorget, had a snack at Espresso House in Stortorget, wandered some more, saw the Catholic Church (a pretty rare sight in Sweden), and then meandered on down to the Bryggeriet (Brewery) for the meal of appetizers that you see in the top right photo above.

It feels kind of silly to go to an Espresso House when you’re touristing around because as far as I can tell, they’re the Swedish equivalent of Starbucks, but I have the member card and you get a 20% discount when you use it, so now it’s kind of my go-to coffee house. Those member cards. They’ll get you every time. However, I can also tell you that there’s a really good cafe right next to the Espresso House… I just can’t remember its name. (Rookie mistake.) I went there last fall with Steve and his friend Laura, and thanks to Laura, I had a taste of the most delicious sandwich ever: homemade pesto waffle (the thin kind) grilled cheese. Oh, the joy.

This time, the call of nature (the hungry call of nature) led us to the Bryggeriet, where Ystad’s very own beer is brewed. We had a cheese and sausage platter, french fries, and garlic bread, plus some delicious fresh beer. Steve thought the sausage was to die for (my words, not his) and didn’t like the garlic bread. I had said that I wasn’t hungry prior to ordering and then plowed through the french fries, the cheese, the quasi-nachos that came with the cheese and sausage, and both of our portions of garlic bread. Plus a beer. Typical.

Then we got back on the train for Malmö and headed home… Free trip again! Oh, how I love thee, Jojo Sommarkort!

View Steve and Kate’s Adventures: Week 1 in a larger map

Next week: more adventures. Punch it, Chewie; ahoy.

*Swedish that I learned from Steve, who learned it from his roommate M-Lou. It’s the Swedish translation of “Punch it, Chewie!” Which is, of course, from Star Wars. Obviously important.

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5 Steps to Making Your Own Midsummer’s Head Wreath

My Swedish friends would probably laugh at me if I called them exotic, but to be honest, there is something so old-fashioned and nostalgic about creating flower head wreaths that they do seem foreign, enchanting, and even, well, even exotic to me.

That said, it’s all good and well to want a flower head wreath of your very own, but I had no idea how to make one.

“Oh, if only I were a Disney princess,” I thought to myself, wistfully, while standing at my window and gazing out over my kingdom courtyard. “Then all I would have to do is stand here and absent-mindedly sing as I gaze, and a host of forest animals would come bearing flowers, and then probably some remarkably humanoid mice would assemble them for me, and a team of birds would assembly to carry it to me and place it on my head, whistling industrially all the while. If only! If only.”

And then I sighed and gazed out at the courtyard again, longing for an answer to my plight.

Fortunately, I was jarred out of my reverie by my friend Anna calling, reminding me that we had already discussed the head wreath situation and had decided to meet today to do a pre-Midsummer’s trial run. Phew. Thanks to Anna, magical woodland creatures are not a necessary part of the head wreath process. Anyone can make them in five simple steps.

To read more—and to learn how to make your own Midsummer’s head wreath—follow this link to the Expat Blog at!

from the expat blog
The final product: two satisfied girls and a beautiful flower head wreath. (Mine became more of a garland… newbie mistake!) Photos by Kate Wiseman and Nils Bylander

More photos come with the instructions. Follow this link to see more!


The word of the day is “drunk”

I love my job with the Swedish Institute for so many reasons, not least of all because of its sense of humor.

Word of the day, courtesy

Truer words never spoken.

Get more Swedish words of the day (beginner or advanced) on Sweden’s social feed.

rain and cold
are not conducive to fun.