Lagom is a Swedish concept with no English equivalent. It signifies enoughness, just rightitude, noverkill. It’s sharing in maximum chill.
On Slate.com, writer Lola Akinmade Åkerström called it Sweden’s “untranslatable ethos“:
The word lagom itself comes from a shortening of the phrase “laget om,” which literally means “around the team” and dates back to the Viking era between the eighth and 11th centuries. Communal horns filled with mjöd (fermented honey wine) would be passed around and everyone had to sip their own share and not a bit more. Sweden today might be known for cutting-edge design and fierce modernism, yet this Viking code of conduct remains ingrained in their mindset.
(While you’re here, read the rest of Åkerström’s detailed explanation. You’re learning lessons already!)
It’s the opposite of American exceptionalism. And it’s one of the concepts that drew both of this blog’s authors to Sweden.
Lessons in Lagom began when I [Rebecca (Becky) Jones] received my acceptance to graduate school in Gothenburg, Sweden for a master’s program in Global Studies beginning September 2016. In preparation for the program, I and my partner Joe Frye will be moving to the city to dig deeper into my Swedish roots – and to help satisfy our wanderlust.
With Lessons in Lagom, we want to share with you our triumphs, failures and milestones as we work to adopt a culture new to both of us. Whether it’s about Gothenburg’s hard rock/metal music scene, higher education or job hunting for immigrants in Sweden, we’ll write what’s on our minds as we try not to feel quite as American as we really are. We’ll share the lessons we learn, for as long as you’re willing to read them.