Mr Nordic

Swedish ‘Lagom’: just being average is the new perfect

The Swedish writer Lola Akerström discovered the Swedish secret for the good life: Lagom. Lagom is the typical Swedish social sensitivity. Everyone must be satisfied, that’s how you can describe it. It also means: walk the golden mean. Find your sweet spot and stay there. With an undertone of: do not put on, do not go overboard, do not stand out.

Lagom is about honesty, moderation and being satisfied with what you have in life.

Don’t do too much, not too little, but just enough. Translate this in your life into the balance between work and private life; to a conscious life, with quality time and happiness. It’s not for nothing that the Swedes are one of the happiest people in the world! Lagom is about lots of different aspects. From interior and design, to fashion, leisure, food and drink, relationships, work and a better life. Relaxing and taking it easy is the way to improve the quality of life.

What does lagom mean?

As I wrote in the introduction to this article: you can’t literally translate lagom. “Exactly enough” comes closest. Not too much, not too little. Almost perfect. It’s about balance. It is not as negative as the word “sufficient”.

Lagom
Adjective
‘almost perfect’, ‘sufficient’, ‘adequate’, ‘just as good / as much as it should be’.

Everything can be lagom. You may have lagom köttbullar on your plate, your house may be lagom, … It is about how you look at life, how you feel, … If you think about it for a moment, you quickly sense the concept.

The word lagom would have its origins in the time of the Vikings. They drank from the same cup, ate from the same dish. So they had to make sure there was enough for everyone. The cup circled the entire team (laget). According to the Swedish Academy, the word lagom comes from one of the old cases of “lag” (according to the law). Lag also means “common.” I olag is again “not in order”.

A moment of peace during "fika" fits in perfectly with the lagom philosophy.
A moment of peace during “fika” fits in perfectly with the lagom philosophy.

Exactly enough

Sweden does not like to fuss. Just do it, they think. They attach great importance to moderation. Swedes do their best not to stand out. They temper their feelings and will rarely talk about their achievements. Modesty graces. Jante’s law, which is deeply rooted in the Swedes, also has something to do with it. “You must not think that you are special.”

Choose sustainable clothing instead of mass consumption. Create your own herb garden instead of buying everything packaged in the supermarket. Grab the bike instead of the car, take the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s the little things that give you more balance in your life.

Some Swedes and especially the young people would like to break free from that lagom. They rather see it negative and do not want to be mediocre but also stand out. They feel limited. That’s why many Swedes think there is a negative aftertaste: people who live lagom are quickly too satisfied with the status quo. It is also described as boring.

Some Swedes see lagom as a vision that pursues mediocrity

We hear every year that another Scandinavian country is in first place of the index of the happiest countries in the world. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland are very pleasant places to live. This is largely due to lagom. They not only look at themselves but also see the bigger picture and are socially aware. Their lives are less complicated due to their lagom philosophy.

The Swedish brands H&M and IKEA also owe their success to this “not too little, not too much, just right” philosophy. Their products are accessible to everyone and functional, but they are also not too beautiful. Fika is also a good example. It’s more than a break, fika is the time to slow down and appreciate the good things in life. Just go offline. You can do it alone, with colleagues or with friends, at home on the couch, at work or outside in a park. As long as you think about what you are doing and unwind.

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Mr Nordic

Mr Nordic is always looking for the most beautiful places and the best experiences in the Nordic countries. He enjoys traveling, outdoor, writing and is based in Sweden.

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