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10 posts categorized "Observations about Scandinavia"

April 28, 2014

Ten Scandinavian words that mean something a bit different in English…



At the end of every fairy tale, they all lived happily ever after. Slut. You also slut when you finish a phone call. It means ‘end’. If you change your settings on your iphone to Danish, Swedish or Norwegian, every call will end with a 'slut'.


We have fart controls. We have fart hinders. Our lifts fart. As do our buses. Fart means speed.


A little prik will do. It means dot. You can also prik someone on Facebook and it means ‘poke’. But this isn’t 2008 so no prikking on Facebook.


We’ve got many slags of herring at ScandiKitchen. It means ‘type of’. Can also mean to beat or hit. Don’t slag me.


In Swedish, your laundry is known as your tvätt. Your washing powder could be ‘for all slags tvätt’.


There’s lots of slutspurting going on in the shops of Denmark and Sweden at sale time. It means ‘the final spurt’. It’s better than saying ‘end of sale’, isn’t it? In Sweden, it's referred to as 'Slut Rea'.


Nothing to do with boobs. It means ‘good’. But if you speak Scots or read The Broons, you already knew that, because it’s the same word in Glasgow too. Braw.


Titta ye not, because there’s no smut with this word in Sweden. It means ‘to watch’. People who watch TV are called ‘tittare’.

Kock / kok

You can be Head Kock in Sweden. Or a Master Kok in Denmark. But only if you can cook, because that’s what it means.


When a Swede has a kiss, it means they’re urinating. Remember that one.



April 24, 2014

How to be more Danish, in ten easy steps.

We asked the good people on Twitter how to be a Dane in 10 steps…

 Here are some of the top replies:


1. Wear black. And only black.



2. Eat open sandwiches. Preferably topped with cheese and jam. Yes, jam.



3. Throw the word "hygge" randomly into sentences, then pretend to try really hard to find an English translation. Yet again.



4. Never use the word please, with the excuse that “but we don’t HAVE a word for please in Danish”.



5. Test ANY non-Dane on whether they like salty liquorice and laugh when they don't.



6. Have an awkward sense of humour and laugh at jokes such as “Do you know how to save a Swede from drowning? No? Good!” HarHarHarHar... See also: making fun of everything Swedish. And Norwegian. And Icelandic. And German.#hilarious



7. Have a flagpole in your garden and raise the Danish flag at every opportunity (Sundays, public holidays, birthdays, popping to the shops…)



8.  If someone asks you how you are, be sure to really explain to them how you are feeling. 


9. Top most food groups with a dollop of remoulade. Especially chips, beef, fish and hotdogs. And salami. And meatballs. 



10. Always have one white sock over one trouser leg (or roll one trouser leg up, if not wanting to wear white socks over your all-black outfit). You never know when you might be going cycling. This way, you can be ready in a flash.


February 13, 2014

WIN: 'The Almost Nearly Perfect People' - by Michael Booth


Did you read the article that got everybody talking a few weeks back? (if not, read it HERE) Are we Nordics not all we're cracked up to be? Who decided to put us on a pedestal in the first place and how do we get down from there without ruining everything? Are we really obsessed with Midsomer Murders? (Ed: Yes).

Michael Booth, writer and journalist, currently living in Denmark (and, we can vouch, speak Danish pretty well) is not sure all is as it is cracked up to be. Well, actually, that is if you only read the article (so don't be offended just yet). In the book, you see, Booth goes deeper into the psyche of what makes us Scandinavians special and finds that, in fact, we might just be almost perfect...

Confused? Don't be. It's a good book and it is worth a read. You can buy it here

We've got a copy of the book to give away - fancy being in with a chance of winning it?

Just answer this easy question:

The statue of the Little Mermaid is in which Nordic town:

a) Stockholm

b) Copenhagen

c) Skagen

Answers by e-mail, please, to iloveherring@scandikitchen.co.uk before Monday at noon (17/2). Winner will be drawn at random from correct entries. No cheating, no cash alternative, no non-sense and all usual terms apply. 

January 30, 2014

Liquorice: A mini guide.



We Nordics have a favourite pass time: to try and get non-liquorice lovers to taste the stuff we enjoy eating by the bucket load. We cannot comprehend why you do not enjoy these (usually) super salty and often peppery sweets.

To be fair, we are aware that liquorice is one of those tastes that have to be developed over time. The enjoyment of liquorice (to us) start in the sweetie shops when we’re kids and it grows over a great number of years. By the time we’re adults, we’re so accustomed to the taste of salty liquorice that we can eat the liquorice-equivalent of crack and still think straight. Most likely, we can consume bags at the time.

First, the nature bit: Liquorice comes from the liquorice root. It’s a plant that has medicinal powers known for centuries. Admittedly, commercial liquorice isn’t that similar to the root. However, did you know that pure liquorice is actually 20 times sweeter than sugar? 

Liquorice is popular all across the world but especially in Europe.  The further North you go, the saltier we like it.  The Nordic countries as well as the Netherlands, seem to have developed the taste for the particularly Strong Black Stuff. Many believe this is because the salty/sweet combo is very much part of our food heritage.

When you talk about Salty Liquorice, what we usually mean is Salmiakki.  The word Salmiakki is a Finnish word and we prefer using that because the actual word is Ammonium Chloride, which doesn’t sound so nice. Ammonium Chloride is a powder that taste like salt, but isn't really actual salt as you know it. It’s this stuff that gives some of our liquorice the distinct edge of saltiness. But let’s just call it Salmiakki, shall we? Or saltlakrids, if you want to be specific about it.

The way to start appreciating liquorice is to start with the mild stuff then slowly move towards the saltier varieties, much like you would when enjoying spicy foods.  There are many varieties of liquorice – from the gourmet to the less gourmet, from the mild to the super strong… Where to start? 

Here’s our mini-guide to some of our favourite liquorice – and a guide to the strength, as measured in good old skulls.

Lakrids copy

Our favourite has to be the gourmet liquorice by Danish maker Johan Bülow. When we say gourmet, we really do mean gourmet: hand made using the finest raw ingredients. Not strong, just very fine liquorice.

No skulls - this stuff is very mild, although Liquorice number 5 does have a good kick at the end as it has added chilli.  For beginners, try number one - the sweet one.  

Salmiak_tyrkisk_peber copy

Tyrkisk Peber.  The most infamous of Nordic liquorice, these babies come in the original super hot flavour (boiled sweets with a peppery inside).  We also love the Firewood selection: chewy, but less strong. Still, we rate both as 3-skull due to the consistent salmiakki delivery while eating.

if you get hold of a few bags of the blue one, crush the sweets then add them to a bottle of vodka. Leave for a week or so to marinade - and voila! A very salty pepper shot. Also know as 'Little Grey Ones' in Denmark ('Små Grå). 

411-4-10623lakrifun copy

Lakrifun / Skolekridt.  A firm childhood favourite, these little sweet 'chalks'. The liquorice centre is sweet with a slight hit of salt. Coated in a white sugary glaze. A great sweet – most people will admit to liking this after a few tries. 1 skull

Djungelvral_80g copy

Djungelvraal – literally, JungleScream. Sweet liquorice covered in salmiakki. Initially the shock is a 3 skull taste – but quickly you will realise it is just the coating. If you can take the initial ten seconds, you can join the club. The rest is easy.

Black (1) copy


Marabou Black – yes, chocolate with liquorice in it. Also available in the Salmiakki version by Fazer. Eating chocolate and salty liquorice together is something only true lakriphiles do. The liquorice enjoyment is long, drawn out and constant. Not strong, just very liquorice.   Is it really called lakriphile?

Lakrisal copy



Lakrisal -little liquorice powder tablets. A bit of a kick, but nothing serious.  A good salmiakki starter. 1-2 skulls.



Super Piratos – salty liquorice coins. Actually, this is the extra salty version. If you can eat this, you’re in the club. 3 skulls.


Franske Saltpastiller – French salt pastilles. Also a good beginner at 1 skull strength. Blue and white coated sugar sweets with slightly salty liquorice inside. Chewy. Not really French; doesn’t even know how to ask for directions to the nearest Metro. 




Liquorice pipes – under threat from the EU and might be banned, the pipes are sweet and not strong. And a bit fun, too.  One skull strength. Great for starters and for pretending you are some kind of weird liquorice pipe eating pirate or sailor. 

Salty_Fish copySalty Fish – those Swedish Fish, but the liquorice version. 1 skull strength with a nice salty finish. A good beginner fish.

We're celebrating a bit of a liquorice week at ScandiKitchen Cafe starting 31st January.  Pop by and have a few tasters, chat to us about the strong stuff and get advise on what to try. We'll be most happy to try and help you develop your own liquorice addiction.

Click here to shop for liquorice in our online store.


June 19, 2012

Midsummer in Scandinavia - the low-down

Imagine the setting:  the perfect rolling green hills that go on forever; flowers of all colours and sizes in bloom all around you.  Those perfect little wooden red houses with the white window frames and neat window boxes, dotted around the landscape as if planted there by a person with the perfect eye for detail.  The sky is bluer than blue and the lake is sparkling as if diamonds have been scattered all across its surface.    

And then, without warning, all the lovely pretty people start to gather around a Maypole and jump around like crazy folk, singing songs about pretending to be little frogs with no ears and no tails.

This can only mean that you’re celebrating Midsummer in Sweden, my friend.  Welcome to songs about frogs, aquavit and lots and lots of herring.  It’s all perfectly normal.

From way back in the day when we wore funny helmets and sailed the infamous longboats have we celebrated the beauty of the start of the summer and the days when the darkness doesn’t even bother showing up.   It has always been and still is one of the most important celebrations in the Scandinavian calendar. It is almost more important than Eurovision.  Almost.

The longest day of the year is celebrated all over Scandinavia, although traditions vary slightly from country to country.   In Denmark, we keep the Midsummer celebration a bit more sombre.  Every beach and city centres have huge bonfires where people gather and sing songs about how much they love Denmark.  It’s very serious stuff.  On top of each bonfire is a witch.  Well, not a real one (there aren’t enough left: they are an endangered species nowadays) but a witch made from straw and twigs and stuffed with firework whistlers called “heksehyl” (‘witch’s’ screams’, literally).    They set fire to the witch and this signifies her being sent to the German mountains to dance with the devil. 

Norway also have big bonfires and gather in coastal areas to do to celebrate St Hans – or  the Eve of St John, as it is known in English.  A time for people to meet up and have a nice evening by the waterfront to watch the sun only slightly dip on the horizon before it returns back up.  The Finns also like a bit of Ukko-kokko (bonfires to celebrate the Finnish God Ukko) – and maybe a sneaky sauna trip or two after running naked around a rye field (it’s an old fertility ritual).

In essence it is all about celebrating the summer and the fertility of the season - and all that mother Nature gives us:  light, food and a surge in hormones.  It’s the time of year where us Northerners who have spent a winter indoors in the darkness finally get to go out and celebrate the light and have a bit of an excuse to party outside in the fields.  It is not a coincidence that every year in Sweden, the birth rate surges exactly nine months after Midsummer.

We Scandinavians are a funny lot:  so close are our countries that our traditions and beliefs overlap, but so far apart are we when it comes to what makes each corner of Scandinavia unique.  Never the less, what binds us all together, without fail, is the excellent produce and food that is produced and Midsummer is an excellent opportunity to create a beautiful Scandinavian smorgasbord of summery delicacies, from dill cured salmon to delicately pickled herring and an abundance of shellfish.  Not forgetting beautiful layer cakes covered in cream and fresh strawberries.

To celebrate Midsummer the Swedish way, you first need a large pole (as in a stick, not a person).  Add to this a stick across towards the top and two rings at either side.  Place the pole in the field where you’re planning to have your party and start decorating it with flowers and leaves.  Ever wondered why the Swedes have a Maypole at the end of June?  We didn’t have enough flowers on the first of May so we moved it a bit.

Next, you need a few friends to come help you out, as drinking and singing alone doesn’t really give the look you’re going for.   Tell them to come along dressed in traditional Swedish costumes – it is up to you if you feel this is more Abba than flowing hair and white dresses dancing across a meadow that smells of Lenor.  You could go for a combination look if you so prefer.    Whatever you do, make sure you provide crowns of flowers and leaves for the girls to wear on their heads.  The men don’t wear flowers, usually, they surgically attach themselves to aquavit/beer bottles instead. 

Food wise, all over Scandinavia, the main food event is about herring.  Yes, we know: it is always about herring, but for Midsummer it is even more so about herring because we eat Matjes herring and these are more delicate than your average stash of sill.   

We also eat a load of new potatoes, tossed in fresh dill.  Especially for some of us ex-pat Scandinavians, there is something magic about the first crop of new potatoes from the soil where you grew up:  they taste different.  They taste of home, they taste of all the summers you ran across fields chasing your own tail and trying desperately to escape exactly what you’re now trying to bring back as an adult.  Add to that some nice Scandinavian bread, a few shots of aquavit and you’re ready to celebrate.

Once the food has been enjoyed and people start smiling more than usual, they gather around the Midsummer pole and hold hands.  Cue the time for traditional sing song as old as well as young join in the dancing and the holding hands.  Eventually things reach fever pitch and they break into this peculiar song about the little frogs with no ears and no tail.  It really has to be experienced to be understood. 

And what better way to do so than to join in the fun at the informal and “just turn up with a picnic” gathering celebrations for Swedish London Midsummer celebrations in Southwark Park on 23rd June – bring a picnic blanket, bring a few friends, a sandwich or two and bring good mood and pop some flowers in your hair.  There’s usually also an informal gathering at Hyde Park (speaker’s corner entrance).   Don’t miss the chance to pretend to be a little frog as all the London Swedes sing “Små grodorna” in unison.  It doesn’t get more Swedish than that.

Get your hands on a ready-to-eat Swedish Midsummer picnic 2012 from Scandinavian Kitchen – you can book it right here  - last day for booking is Friday 22nd at Midday.

May 14, 2012

Do you care enough to free someone you've never met?

We adore this experiment / advert from the Swedish Armed Forces.   Here, explained in English.

March 28, 2012

Easter in Scandinavia (2012)

After the long, dark nights of winter, Easter and the arrival of spring are truly celebrated in Scandinavia. Whether spent in the south welcoming the return of the spring flowers or spent escaping to the mountains in the North, getting in a few last runs on the slopes,  Easter is a time of renewal for Scandinavians, celebrated with good food and good company (and perhaps the odd shot of aquavit or two).  Peek into the history of the Viking north and you’ll find plenty of magic things that add to the richness of Scandinavian Easter celebrations.

Many of the Scandinavian countries have their own specific traditions associated with Easter, most of which stem from Christianity, but some of which have other origins and over the years have become part of the Easter holiday traditions. 

In Denmark, for example, the tradition of writing “teaser letters” still holds strong and has done since the early 1800s.  A teaser letter is a pattern carefully cut into a piece of paper with a little verse written between the cuttings. The sender then adds dots in place of his or her name and encloses a snowdrop – considered to be the first flower of the year in Denmark and a symbol of springtime and lighter days.  If the receiver cannot guess who sent the letter before Easter, the prize for the sender is a nice big Easter egg.  If, however, the sender guesses, the prize goes to the recipient (although, miraculously, most parents never do seem to be able to guess which letters are from their own kids).

In Norway a slightly different tradition is associated with Easter, and perhaps a slightly unusual one at that, with no links to anything much historic:  around Easter, publishers rush to churn out masses of what are known to all Norwegians as “Påskekrimmen” – literally translated as ‘Easter Thrillers’ – and bookshops are filled to the brim with newly published crime novels.  This fascination with “whodunnits” even extends to mini-thrillers being published in obscure places such as on the side of milk cartons.  So, if this Easter you happen to bump into a Norwegian who has his backpack stuffed with a selection of gory crime novels, an orange and a ‘Kvikk Lunch’ chocolate bar, it’s pretty standard fare.


Sweden, on the other hand, has Easter celebrations that are deeply rooted in the old Christian witch-hunt times.  The celebrations last from Maundy Thursday until Easter Monday.  In the olden days it was thought that on Maundy Thursday, all the Witches would fly off on their broomsticks to the Blue Mountains in Germany to have a weekend of fun and dancing with Satan.  Today, children in Sweden celebrate by dressing up as little witches, called påskkärringar (literally: ‘Easter Witches’): dressed in long skirts, headscarves, painted red cheeks and freckles.  The kids go from house to house to collect money or sweets – this is the Swedish version of the North American tradition of Halloween.   The children sometimes also deliver an Easter Letter – the identity of the sender is always supposed to be a secret.  

Easter time in Scandinavia is, of course, also about eggs – both the chocolate version, the painted version and the version that has a place on the traditional Scandinavian smorgasbord.  In Sweden and Denmark, the traditional Easter lunch is pretty much the same as it is at Christmas time except minus a few of the heavier winter dishes.  Plenty of herring, cured salmon with dill sauce, meatballs and beetroot salad and perhaps smoked or roasted lamb dishes.  All washed down in the company of good friends and a bottle of something strong, such as the delightful aniseed flavoured Danish Aalborg aquavit. 

Easteregg_18_w800_1145086573If you haven’t quite decided where to spend Easter this year, Scandinavia comes highly recommended, whether you fancy walking through the budding green forests of Denmark in the south or feeling serene in the still snowy mountains of northern Scandinavia – there are certainly adventures to be had and beautiful scenery to be explored along with rich traditions in which to take part.  Alternatively, be Norwegian right here at home and cosy up in front of the fire with a bunch of crime novels and dream of long summer days to come.


February 08, 2012

How to annoy a Dane

Actually, this article is really entitled "How to pi** off a Dane".  

It's brilliant.  

There are only six easy steps in which to do this.  These include:

Tactic #1: Ask “How are you?” (and not give ten minute to hear the answer)

Tactic #2: Speak their language. 

Tactic #3: Fail to signal in the bike lane.

Tactic #4: Wear your sweatpants in public.

Tactic #5: Smile at their children (or dogs).

Tactic # 6: Act like a human at the grocery store.

You can find out why these things annoy the Danes right here in the article 

We'd like to add that comparing the Danes to the Swedes, Norwegians, Finns or Germans produce the same instant dislike and should never be attempted, even in jest.

Seriosuly, don't.  Even.  Try.

Pedigree-dog-food-great-dane-small-43052if you don't annoy your Dane, he might love you liek this Great Dane...




May 05, 2010

5th May 1945: Liberation of Denmark

Okay, yes, we know it:  lots of other places were liberated too in May 1945 by the British... But being Scandies, we get a little nostalgic around this time of year and often cast our minds back to our grandfathers and grandmothers who all fought, in their own way, during those dark years.   Under the watchful eye of General Bernard Montgomery, Denmark was liberated on 5th May (actually, 4th in the evening- Except Bornholm, a small beautiful island south of Sweden, that was still occupied for a while after that).  Today, 5th of May, is the 65th anniversary of the Liberation of Denmark.  Neighbours Norway were liberated on 8th May.

Every year on the 4th May in the evening, the Danes pop a whole load of candles in the window to signal the end of the Nazi occupation: to celebrate the light and to celebrate freedom.  It's very pretty.

War is a nasty, nasty thing.  Sometimes, however, looking back is not about remember only the bad stuff, but remembering stuff we learnt and the price we had to pay for freedom, whether from personal expereinces or learning from the stories our grandparents told us. 


January 06, 2009

Observation about Scandinavia # 1 - Swedish tubes

Welcome to a bit of a new thing on our blog:  observations about Scandinavia. Feel free to send in your links or make comments on this.

We found this clip from a Canadian chap living in Sweden who ponders, as we have done many times ourselves, about this obsession in Sweden with putting everything in tubes...?


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