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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: uteservering

This word is key for those long Nordic evenings.

Swedish word of the day: uteservering
Image: nito103/Depositphotos
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At a certain point in the spring, you'll see bars, cafes and restaurants setting up chairs and tables out on the pavement: this is the uteservering, which you could translate as 'outdoor terrace' or 'pavement cafe'. You can find a list of 12 of The Local's Stockholm favourites here.

You can break the word down into ute (outdoors) and servering (which means both 'restaurant/eatery' and 'the act of serving'). It covers everything from rooftop bars to cafe courtyards to kiosks in parks with tables and chairs, and they usually open from around early April to September: regulations usually define the uteservering season as between April 1st and October 15th, so outside those dates it may not be allowed.

Even on chilly days probably best spent inside, you'll see locals stubbornly wrapped in a blanket (provided by the restaurant) and eating their meal under an outdoor heater rather than waste a moment of daylight.

These days, sipping a cocktail or cold beer at one of these spots is an integral part of Swedish summertime, which fits into the Scandinavian mentality of making the most of those long summer days and nights. 

But it wasn't always the case.

The very first uteservering in Sweden is said to have been opened in Gothenburg in the mid-19th century. But over the following century, strict laws around alcohol meant a lot of restrictions on restaurants with alcohol permits. Far fewer restaurants were allowed to serve beer, wine and spirits, and even in those, they had to be drunk indoors.

It wasn't until the 1980s that the trend started up again, perhaps influenced by increasing travel overseas and Swedes experiencing cafe terrace culture in places like France and Italy.

In the early 1990s both Gothenburg and Malmö introduced permits at a municipal level for uteserveringar. When smoking was banned inside restaurants about ten years later, new permits were introduced allowing year-round outdoor areas.

So next time you're enjoying an afterwork drink at your favourite uteservering, you'll know the history of this relatively new Swedish tradition.

MORE SWEDISH SUMMER WORDS:

Examples

Det är så mysig att ta en öl på en uteservering i solskenet

It's so nice to have a beer on an outdoor terrace in the sunshine

De flesta uteserveringar öppnar den 1e april

Most outdoor terraces open on April 1st

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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For members

SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: fisförnäm

Today’s word is an expression Swedes use when other people think a little too highly of themselves. 

​​Swedish word of the day: fisförnäm

Fisförnäm is a composition of the two words fis, meaning ‘fart’, primarily one with a hissing sound, and förnäm, which means ‘noble, distinguished’. The combination is a slight slur for someone who is ‘stuck up, cocky, or thinks themselves better than others’ but who in actuality is not better at all. Perhaps somewhat comparable to the American expression of ​​’thinking the sun shines out of one’s own arse’ or simply ‘self-important’.

The late linguistics professor Jan Strid once explained fisförnäm on Swedish radio. While doing so he explained that the reason that fis refers to hissing farts is because it most likely has the original meaning of ‘blowing’. Which explains the word askfis, ‘ash fart’, meaning the youngest child which does nothing but sit by the fire blowing into the ashes and getting them all over the face. Then there is the bärfis, the ‘berry fart’, the insect commonly known in English as either shield bug or stink bug. There the word obviously refers to the bad smell produced by the bug. 

The late great professor then went on to explain how fisförnäm has a sibling in struntförnäm which means the same thing. Strunt, which in Swedish means ‘nonsense’, comes from German with the original meaning of ‘dung’, ‘dirt’ or ‘filth’. So struntförnäm in a way means ‘filth noble’ and by extension fisförnäm has the same original meaning: someone who says they are great, but they are really not better at all.

And that is a word that in a way is quintessentially Swedish. Why? Because of Jantelagen

Many of you are surely already familiar with the Law of Jante, but for those of you who are not, Jantelagen, first formalized in a satirical novel by Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose, is a set of rules or attitudes that many Swedes, Norwegians and Danes supposedly espouse. You might enjoy having a look at celebrated Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård explaining it on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Fisförnäm has been found in print as far back as 1954, some 21 years after the publication of Sandemose’s book A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor), in 1933. So it is younger than the formalization of the Law of Jante, but there is probably no connection between the two besides the societal norms both are expressions of. And though the 10 rules of the so called Law of Jante were first expressed in the aforementioned book, the attitudes are much older. 

To think yourself better than others is still somewhat frowned upon in Sweden, even if it is true. If you are familiar with Swedish football history you might have seen this in the Swedish public’s reaction to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s rise to stardom. Some Swedes just could not stand his boisterous attitude, some still can not. But of course, fisförnäm is not applicable to Zlatan, since he is arguably the best Swedish footballer of all time. 

Fisförnäm is an insult, but not a bad one, and might even be used a bit jokingly. You could perhaps try to use it when someone does not want to join an activity that is a bit ridiculous. For reference (and a laugh) you might have a look at when famed Swedish show host Stina Dabrowski asked Margaret Thatcher to do a little skip in place on her show.

Example sentences:

Sluta var så fisförnäm nu, du kan väl va med?

Stop being so self-important, why not join in?

Nä, jag orkar inte följa med dit, de är alla så fisförnäma.

Oh no, I’d rather not go there, they are all so unduly haughty. 

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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