I really should recall the exact hour, minute and precise second that the Swedish word ‘lagom’ entered my life. However, the best I can do is remember that it was an evening this past summer while I was out with my husband and his best friend at a local sushi place in Gothenburg. As someone who is quite particular with my wine, I explained to the server that I wanted to try a sake that wasn’t too sweet or too dry. Our server quickly joked that I was after a ‘lagom’ sake. I replied, “Lagom…what?!?!”
At this point, my husband and his friend laughed and nodded together in complete agreement. I, on the other hand, sat dumbfounded by my complete and utter ignorance of this word. Was this a new way of describing the sugar content in wine? Thankfully, the server promptly came to my rescue and explained that in Swedish it means “not too much and not too little” like the Goldilock’s Principle. She continued to explain that this word is basically at the heart of Swedish culture. She smiled sweetly and vowed to return with my bottle of ‘lagom’ sake.
Wow…done and dusted…and that was that! I would never have imagined that ordering sake while eating sushi would lead to a better understanding of Swedish culture.
Ironically, in late August, the BBC published an article about the meaning of the Swedish word ‘lagom’. The timing of this article couldn’t have been better. After reading through it, I was thankful for the insight it provided concerning this fundamental part of Swedish society that no one really openly discusses. It’s just the way things are here. The best way to fully understand how to be ‘lagom’ is to fully immerse yourself in Swedish culture…especially for someone like me who is on the complete, opposite end of the ‘lagom’ spectrum.
So the challenge I now face is how in the world do I understand, embrace and embody this lifestyle?
To be completely honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be truly ‘lagom’ in spirit. After all, I’m an American and we’re known for being a bit loud, overly-opinionated, gregarious and well…simply stated, not very ‘lagom’. On the other hand, Swedes come across as being a bit reserved, polite, well-mannered, tactful, not too loud, not too quiet and…well, ‘lagom’! I realize that it’s going to take some time for me to achieve any noticeable state of being ‘lagom’. However, it’s worth a try!
Well, with this in mind, I better get going. I’m off…in pursuit of the ‘lagom’ lifestyle!
First step…I’m going to have a relaxing fika (Swedish for “coffee break”) and indulge in only one cinnamon roll!!
Oh dear…I’m failing already!!