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The words and phrases that will help you survive your commute in Sweden

Commuting to work is hardly the most joyful of experiences whatever the scenario, but when your train hasn't shown up and the tannoy announcements are in a language you don't speak, it can go from mild annoyance to major frustration. Sadly we can't put a stop to delays or cancellations, but this vocabulary guide should save you time and panic when using public transport in Sweden.

The words and phrases that will help you survive your commute in Sweden
A crowded station can be stressful even when you do understand the language. File photo: Ulf Lundin/
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Types of transport

Firstly, it's key to be aware that the types of public transport in Sweden vary from city to city, and may be different to what you're used to in your home country.

Most of Sweden's larger towns and cities are served by bus (buss, plural bussar) and train (tåg, plural tåg), while in Stockholm, Gothenburg and several other towns you also have the tram (spårvagn, plural spårvagnar).

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A tram in Gothenburg. Photo: Emelie Asplund/

But it doesn't stop there; Stockholm also has its underground network (tunnelbana) and in the two major cities, your public transport card is also valid on the commuter ferry (pendelbåt). Just make sure you double-check which boat you're getting on, since there are other ferries in both cities which require a separate ticket.

The different kinds of train are also worth a mention. First, there's the pendeltåg (literally 'commuter train'), a city service that stops at suburban stations. For longer distances, you can choose between long-distance trains (fjärrtåg) and regional trains (regionaltåg), with the latter serving mid-distance routes.


Common announcements

The phrase you'll hear some when you get on board one of Stockholm's underground trains is se upp for dörrarna, dörrarna stängs (watch out for the doors, the doors are closing), and at each stop you'll hear a variation of tänk på avståndet mellan vagn och plattform när du stiger av (be aware of the gap between the carriage and the platform when you get off).

A sign that usually causes some amusement to international travellers is when trains announce that you've almost arrived at the slutstation. This simply means 'end station', so you need to get off the train.

READ ALSO: The Local's ultimate guide to exploring Sweden by train

Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/

Delays and problems

Two phrases to look out for are inställda tåg/inställda avgångar (cancelled trains/cancelled departures) and förseningar (delays).

Some of the most common issues are a signal failure (signalfel), a problem with one of the carriages (vagnfel) such as a door not working, or the more mysteriously vague 'technical failure' (tekniskt fel).

Listening closely could help you work out how serious the issue is: sometimes the announcement will specify whether the hold-up is due to an earlier signal failure (tidigare signalfel) or an ongoing, widespread issue (omfattande signalfel).

Another common cause of delays is simply overcrowding of the public transport (hög belastning), particularly if there's a popular event taking place that day.

Delays may also be due to a lack of staff on that particular day (personalbrist) or a traffic incident (trafikhändelse), a term which is used when there's an issue affecting one part of the transport system that has a knock-on effect on other aspects, such as a delayed bus that means a train needs to wait for it.

READ ALSO: The best tips for a move to Sweden (from people who've been there, done that)

Photo: Tomas Oneborg / SvD / TT

Sometimes the problems are caused by other passengers, whether deliberately or not. This includes trespassers on the track (obehöriga i spårområdet), a passenger falling ill and requiring the bus or train to stop while it waits for an ambulance (sjukdomsfall), or any behavioural issue such as threats or violence towards transport staff (ordningsproblem).

And when travelling by train in particular, listen out for weather-related disruptions. This could be solkurvor (literally 'sun bends') which refers to strong sun causing metal on the tracks to expand and bend, which is risky for train travel.

Lövhalka or 'leaf-related slippery conditions' is used to describe the phenomenon of wet leaves sticking to the tracks and making them slippery, forcing drivers to keep to lower speeds. And rådande väderförhållanden ('prevailing weather conditions') is a term you won't often hear in conversational Swedish, but it's the go-to term to describe any kind of heat, rain, snow or ice that's causing delays or disruption to transport.

Can you think of any other words we should include? Scroll down to comment below.

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For members


The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your Swedish

Once you've learned the basics of Swedish, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for Swedish learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your Swedish


Coffee Break Swedish 

Coffee Break Swedish aims to take you through the basics of Swedish in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where Swedish native Hanna teaches Mark Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark, begins at the same level as you. He is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break Swedish Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes.

Say it in Swedish 

This lively podcast from Stockholm-based Joakim Andersson has an enormous amount of content, with a course of beginners lessons, and stand-alone lessons on various different aspects of Swedish usage. Andersson stopped making podcasts after 80 episodes to concentrate on his YouTube channel, which is also very much worth a watch, with a lot of interesting, and fun, snippets on how to pronounce and use Swedish. There’s also a merchandise site, with some fun Swedish-themed t-shirts. 

Pimsleur Swedish.

OK, so this is an app rather than a podcast, but the experience of doing the daily 30-minute audio lessons in Pimsleur Swedish is very similar to listening to a regular podcast. This is a highly structured audio-based language learning programme, which encourages you to learn through sound rather than the written word, and repeats vocabulary and grammar at intervals to implant them in your memory. It’s very effective, and is a good way to have decent pronunciation from the start. The downsides are the cost – at $150, or $20.95 a month, it’s not particularly cheap – and the fact that Pimsleur have so far only made 30 lessons, meaning it only gets you to quite a basic level.  


Radio Sweden på Lätt Svenska

This daily news bulletin in simplified Swedish put out by Sweden’s state broadcaster SR is a fantastic resource which, so far as we know, exists in no other country. It’s essentially the main stories from Ekot, SR’s main news bulletin, simplified and then read very slowly, with short sections of real-life interviews. If you go onto Radio Sweden’s website, you can read along with the text. Incidentally, 8sidor, which means literally “eight pages”, a newspaper in simplified Swedish, has a function which allows you to listen to the stories. 

Klartext on P4 

The Klartext news bulletin is actually designed for mentally disabled people, but it also works for beginners learning Swedish. It’s faster than Radio Sweden på Lätt Svenska, but still uses simplified language, so it’s good for language learners wanting to move a step up (so long as you don’t mind getting a bit more news than you might expect of particular relevance to the disabled). 

Simple Swedish

Despite its name, the Simple Swedish podcast from Fredrik Arhusiander, is not for beginners, but rather to help people who already understand basic Swedish develop their vocabulary and listening skills. The episodes aren’t graded, so can be listened to in any order, and feature Fredrik discuss his life, what he’s doing, what’s in the news, basically anything at all, in slow, simplified Swedish. With 146 episodes so far, there’s a lot of material to get through. Fredrik also offers his Strong Swedish online course for €199. 

SR Ekot nyheter 

After you’ve listened to the two simplified versions of Sweden’s official radio news bulletin for a few months, it might be time to try the real deal. The Ekot Nyheter podcast has three major broadcasts a day: in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening. If you make it part of your routine, you’ll find that what starts off a bit hard to grasp slowly becomes as easy to understand as news in your own language. 


Anyone with half-Swedish children can benefit from listening to Radioapan, “the radio monkey”, a podcast from Swedish state radio’s children’s channel which has original stories, children’s radio plays, and readings from children’s books. It’s a really great resource. 


Lysande Lagom. The Lysande Lagom podcast from Emil Molander and Sofi Tegsveden Deveaux combines analysis of the clichés and reality around Sweden and Swedishness with language-learning advice. It’s from Lys Förlag, the publisher which published The Local’s Swedish Word of the Day anthology, Villa, Vovve, Volvo, and it makes for very entertaining listening. 

Ekots Lördagsintervju

The long Saturday interview on SR, Ekots Lördagsintervju, is a great way to develop your listening skills, with host Johar Bendjelloul grilling party leaders, ministers, agency chiefs and other important people in the news  

Alex och Sigges poddcast 

The 10-year-old comedy podcast, Alex & Sigge’s podcast, is an institution in Sweden. It features Alex Schulman and Sigge Eklund, two novelists and media personalities, talking about the news, their lives and just about anything they find amusing. 


Currently Sweden’s most listened-to podcast, Rättegångspodden, which translates as “The Trial Pod”, exploits the fact that all trials in Sweden are recorded, with the audio available to the public, to develop dramatic true crime podcasts. The podcast’s founder Nils Bergman, also uses audio evidence collected by police, such as intercepted phone calls. For language learners with a true crime bent, this is a great way of improving your Swedish. The long form documentary podcasts on P3 also have a lot to offer for true crime enthusiasts.  


The Politiken podcast from Svenska Dagbladet is far and away the best podcast in Swedish on politics in the country. Wife and husband journalist team Maggie Strömberg and Torbjörn Nilsson analyse the week’s developments, with Strömberg providing up-to-the-minute gossip from the Riksdag cafeteria and Nilsson drawing on his encyclopaedic knowledge of Swedish political history to put it all in context. Linguistically, it’s quite rich, so regular listening will expand your vocabulary.  


Language geeks might enjoy Språket, a podcast from SR on language usage and etymology, which will help advanced Swedish learners get to grips with some of the things that puzzle even native speakers. If this is the sort of thing that floats your boat, then you might also enjoy Språktidningens podd, the podcast from Sweden’s language newspaper Språktidning.