Hej! Hur är läget? (“How’s it going?”) With March coming in now, we are finally starting to hope for a bit of snow melt and the return of some sunshine here in Uppsala, although I think it will still be a few weeks before we see much real improvement. I am assured that Sweden in Spring will be lovely, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of that!. Anyway, this week I wanted write about the act of being polite in Swedish. When I first started learning Swedish I can remember being very surprised at the lack of the word for “please”, thinking it very forward thinking and Scandinavian, and also very difficult for a well-mannered Brit to get used to it! What I did not realise at that time is the myriad of ways Swedish has not only for generally being polite, but more specifically for expressing thanks. Also, I have found that varying the way you say “thank you” in Swedish does actually make you sound more Swedish, always helpful when you are trying to pass yourself off as a native!
So, starting with the basics: tack (thank you), can and should be said at just about any possible opportunity, and can be used in place of “please”, as in “En kaffe, tack” (“A coffee, please”). Building on this, you get to tack så mycket (thanks so much), and tackar (thanks), which I like to think of as “intermediate” in the saying thank you scale. So what’s “advanced” in that case? The ultra-fancy “tack ska du ha”, literally translating as “thanks shall you have”, or “thank you very much”, and which often ends up sounding something like “tack ska-oo-aa”.
But what does one reply to all these expressions of thanks? Well, it depends on the situation. “Varsågod” is most often used like “you’re welcome”, especially after being thanked for being something (as it can also be used as “here you go”). In response to thanks for doing something for someone – giving directions, helping someone with their luggage on the train, that sort of thing – the two most common phrases in my experience at least are “ingen fara” (“no worries”), and “det är lugnt” (“it’s no bother, it’s cool”).
One final note on politeness in Swedish, this one concerning mealtimes: the Swedish equivalent of “bon appétit” (although it is something you almost solely hear waiters and waitresses saying to restaurant customers), smaklig måltid. And I have to say, this is one of my favourite Swedish phrases – literally translated, it means “tasty mealtime!” So, until next time, hej då!