Swedish word of the day: räkmacka

Swedish word of the day: räkmacka
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Today we'll learn not only a tasty word, but also one of the most bizarre idioms in the Swedish language.

Räkmacka means 'prawn sandwich' or 'shrimp sandwich'.

You can also say räksmörgås, using the other Swedish word for 'sandwich', and because this word is quite unusual in containing the three Swedish letters å, ä and ö, it is a popular choice for tests of software or computer systems.

It's quite a common food at Swedish lunches or buffets — remember that in Sweden, sandwiches are open-faced with fillings on just one slice of bread. A räkmacka topping usually incorporates eggs, mayonnaise, lemon and possibly caviar.

As with many popular foods, the räkmacka has its own special day, on October 14th each year. And like many Swedish 'theme days', this isn't a long-standing tradition, but dates back only to 2010 when Arlanda airport declared it the day of the shrimp sandwich — the reason being that the airport sells thousands of the convenient lunch food every week.

Aside from on lunch menus, you'll most often hear räkmacka as part of the idiom glida in på en räkmacka, literally “to slide in on a shrimp sandwich”.

This conjures up a fairly bizarre image, but can be translated as “to have it easy” or “to have everything handed to you on a plate”. You can use it if someone has had things easy due to luck, circumstances, or an unfair advantage such as nepotism. Just picture them whooshing by atop a prawn sandwich, while all the rest of us work hard to get ahead.

It's such a well known phrase that in Swedish, you can shorten it and say things like “it was no prawn sandwich” (it wasn't just handed to me) or “living in the countryside isn't just a prawn sandwich” (living in the countryside isn't just la dolce vita) and Swedish speakers will know what you mean.

And if this word of the day has you feeling hungry, here's a recipe to whip up your own räkmacka in a matter of minutes.

Examples

Vissa människor glider på en räkmacka genom livet 

Some people have everything handed to them in life

Jag vill ha en räkmacka med extra allt

I want a shrimp sandwich with extra everything


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