Scandinavian TV-Shows to binge-watch

 🇮🇹

I honestly think that watching tv-shows helps you in the process of learning a new language. That is why I came up with this idea of a list of Scandinavian tv-shows, sorted out by country and genre, in order to finally hear the actors speak the language you always wanted to learn. But hold on, I’m going to update this article very often and add tv-shows from Finland, Iceland and possibly even Fær Øer. Without further ado, let’s jump into it!

Scandinavian tv-shows

From Sweden with love and kanelbullars

Thrillers:
  • Kalifat (Caliphate, 2020): available on Netflix, it is a thriller-drama made up of 8 episodes, it builds up to a terrorist attack in Sweden.
  • Störst av allt (Quicksand, 2019): available on Netflix, it is a crime drama based on the novel Störst av allt by Malin Persson Giolito. 1 seasons, 6 episodes, you will binge watch it and won’t regret it. The story is about Maja, a young girl arrested right after a school shooting in Djursholm, on of the richest neighborhoods in Stockholm.
  • Bron/Broen (The Bridge, 2011–2018): set between Malmö and Copenhagen, you will listen the characters speaking Swedish or Danish. Good luck playing ping-pong with languages!
  • Jordskott (2015–): and last but not least, Jordskott (literally earthquake). So ironic that I’m writing this blogpost right after a earthquake here in Rome. You can watch Jordskott on SVT.
Comedy and Drama:
  • Bonusfamiljen (Bonus Family, 2017–): a drama set in Stockholm. As the title suggests, it is about Lisa and Patrick, who recently divorced from their ex-spouses and therefore end up with a bonus-family. You can find it on SVT with Swedish subtitles, so if you want to test your Swedish, that’s the right tv-show for you.
  • Welcome to Sweden (2014): In this comedy, you can see an American guy moving to Sweden. That’s why you can follow the show in English and (very basic) Swedish. I think it is a nice way to get to know Swedish culture from a stereotypical and fun point of view. You can easily find it on YouTube.
  • Äkta människor (Real Humans, 2012–2014): this science fiction show is impossible to find and watch legally. I tried everywhere, but with no luck. But I believe in you, I bet you can find it *wink wink*.

From Denmark with love and hygge:

Drama:
  • The Rain (2019): an amazing post-apocalyptic show produced by Netflix. The third and final season is coming very soon, it will be released in May 2020. It is about a strange virus inside the rain that wipes out 99% of humans, survivors are few. Kind of ironic to write this in the middle of a pandemic… but anyway, although it is set mainly around Copenhagen and the actors speak mainly Danish, you will hear Swedish too.
Comedy:
  • Rita (2017): this Netflix comedy-drama is what you need if you want to avoid all the blood spilled in the other series I’ve mentioned so far. The fifth season should air in 2020, no date was confirmed yet. The show is so popular that it was even remade in the US, the Netherlands and France.

From Norway with love and pølse:

  • Ragnarok (2020): although I didn’t like the modern representation of Scandinavian folklore and paganism, I think you will like Ragnarok for the beautiful sceneries of Vestlandet. It aired on Netflix a few months ago and I think it is useful if you want to learn Norwegian (even though they don’t speak in western dialect, despite being set in the West) and watch something that doesn’t last many seasons, although it was recently renewed for a second season. I must warn you, it seems that Norwegians hated it so much that they compared it to a “Danish series” (“Norskspråklig Netflix-drama som egentlig er dansk. Og en kalkun.”). Oh, the rivalry.
  • Skam (2015-2017): probably the most famous Norwegian TV-show of all times and the most popular among teenagers. I still love it even though I’m not a teenager anymore (what a pain to write this sentence…). If you loved Skins, then you can’t miss Skam. I would define it the smartphone version of Skins, at this point. It was so successful that there are something like seven international remakes.
Scandinavian tv-shows

I guess you have a few Scandinavian tv-shows to binge watch during quarantine now. Which one would you like to see first?

If you’re looking for some inspiring books, then you might want to check this out. Do you want to know more about the history of Scandinavian languages? Then this is the article for you.

If you liked this blogpost, make sure to share it with your friends and binge watch these Scandinavian tv-shows with them. You can watch them on Netflix Party too, which allows you to stream any tv-show or movie simultaneously. Hejdå!

Do you speak… Scandinavian?

 🇮🇹

Why do Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish look similar? What is the history of Scandinavian languages? Are Finnish and Icelandic also Nordic languages? I will try to answer the most frequent asked questions about these wonderful languages.

If you compare the same text in Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, you will immediately notice that they look so similar. It’s not only the geographical proximity that makes the three languages so close, but it’s a more complicated and long story that has to do with politics and social exchanges. I will try to be as concise as possible here.

The Big Branch Theory

Sorry for the pun, I had to say it. Let’s start with an extremely simplified history of Scandinavian languages.
Germanic languages can be grouped into three big branches: West, East, and North. The East-Germanic branch went extinct. Of this branch, Gothic is the most famous East-Germanic language and the only one of which we have written proof, that is Wulfila’s translation of the Bible. The other main two East-Germanic languages, Burgundian and Vandalic, don’t have any attested text. The Germanic languages and dialects that we speak today derive from West and North Germanic.

West-Germanic languages later split up into more branches and that’s where contemporary English, German, Dutch, Afrikaans, and Yiddish come from. Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Faroese, and Icelandic are all North-Germanic languages.

Let’s go North

North-Germanic languages split into West-Nordic and East-Nordic. East-Nordic languages include modern Swedish, Danish, and Gutnish (or Gutlandic), while the West-Nordic branch includes Icelandic, Norwegian, and Faroese.
The West-Nordic dialects derive from middle-age Norwegian thanks to the Viking-phenomenon. No, no, I’m not talking about the famous TV show. I’m talking about real Vikings who, in fact, never wore horned helmets. Vikings didn’t just sack villages, but they helped with the exportation of their own language. This “export” was of two kinds:

  • The colonization of uninhabited territories such as the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland.
  • They integrated with the pre-existing substrate. For instance the mixture with the already existing Celtic substrate in the British Islands.

So basically the language spoken by vikings reached Iceland and Faroe Island and remained more pure compared to modern Norwegian, Swedish and Danish. This is something you can notice when reading an Icelandic or Faroese text, since they still use two letters that derive from runes such as Þ/þ and Ð/ð.
(Exception made for Elfdalian, a language that deserves its own blog post on Fake Swedish Accent!)

What about Greenlandic?

Yes, vikings went to Greenland (and to North America as well according to some geographical descriptions in certain sagas). They exported their language there as well, namely Greenlandic Norse, even though only some runic inscription survived. Written texts in Greenlandic Norse don’t exist (anymore?) and right now the language spoken in Greenland is not the one coming from Old Norse but it belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut language group, which is not related to the history of Scandinavian languages at all.

What about Finnish?

If you didn’t see any Finnish here, it’s because it is not a Nordic language even though Finland is both culturally and geographically close to Scandinavia. Never say that Finnish is “Scandinavian” or “Nordic” in front of language nerds, they might cry or run away and hide in the dark for several months.

Finnish is quite an exception linguistically speaking as it belongs to Finno-Ugric languages (just like Hungarian and Estonian – but if you compare the same text in all these three languages you’ll notice how different they look). I must confess that I tried to learn Finnish several times, but unfortunately I had to give up. Finnish is not a joke and mastering the language is extremely hard. When I think about it, I kind of cry.

How many Norwegians?

Norwegian is a cool language, we all know that, but since Norway has been under the influence of Denmark for several centuries as well as Sweden’s (even though Denmark’s influence was definitely stronger), Norwegian is probably the North-Germanic language that has been discussed the most, especially when Norway was starting to become more and more independent from its neighbors’ occupation and influence.

There are two official forms of written Norwegian, namely bokmål (literally “the language of books”) and nynorsk (new Norwegian). The history of Norwegian as a language is quite long and interesting and I will write about it in another blog post, I promise.

If you find this short article inspiring, why don’t you start planning a trip to Scandinavia? You can find my blogposts about Sweden here, for example.

If you liked this blogpost, don’t forget to share it or save it.

Pin Scandinavian Languages - What you should know

30+ Books that will make you fall in love with Scandinavia

🇮🇹

Unfortunately, as we all know, traveling is off-limits right now. Everyone is asked to stay at home as much as possible and I’ve been in my apartment for more than two months now. Grocery shopping is the only meaningful event in my life right now, so I’m trying to stay positive and do a lot of things during this quarantine because I’m still one of the lucky ones.

Now I have more time to read and I thought that this could be the right time to write about books that will make you fall in love with Scandinavia. So here comes a list of books to read while in quarantine. I divided the lists in three main categories: contemporary literature, classic literature, and lifestyle books. Each category is divided by country and at the end of this blogpost, you will also find a bonus list from Iceland, Faroe Islands, and Finland.

Contemporary Literature:

From Sweden
  • The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson (2009). This comic novel is probably longer than my life but rest assure you will read it in one week or even less. The title is quite long and unusual and so is the story, but I’ve never laughed so much while reading a book. The story is about Allan, an old man who decides to run away from his retirement home right before celebrating his 100th birthday. That’s where another adventure starts for Allan, whose past adventures we read along his present ones. You won’t regret reading this book, trust me.
  • The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden, Jonas Jonasson (2013). At this point, I guess you’ve realized two important things: the first is that Jonas Jonasson is one of my favourite authors and the second is that he’s into long titles and unusual comic stories. The title in Swedish is Analfabeten som kunde räkna, literally “The illiterate who was good at math”. However, the editor decided to change the title into “The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden”. I think it is because titles starting with “The Girl Who” are generally more appealing to the public and it clearly recalls the titles of the books in Stieg Larsson’s famous Millennium saga. Since we’re talking about Jonasson’s works, at this point, you should read also Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All (2015).
  • A Different Life, Per Olov Enquist (2008). The author unfortunately died in April 2020, so I thought it would be right to include his autobiography here. The story is told in third person as if Enquist is writing about a different life and not his own. Everything starts in 1934 in Northern Sweden and we can slowly see what happens not only in his life but we learn about European history in the twentieth century.
  • Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004). If you’re looking for a horror novel, then I got you covered with Let the Right One In (Swedish: Låt den rätte komma in). The story is set in Stockholm in 1980s and it is not a coincidence that Lindqvist is often considered as the Swedish Stephen King. The novel was a best seller and it was later adapted in two films, two stage adaptations, and even a comic book. I think that the best film adaptation is Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In (2008), while the American adaptation Blood Story… well, I don’t recommend it since it isn’t even set in Sweden and honestly I don’t like movies that adapt books too much rather than being more faithful. But this is just my opinion, of course.
  • April Witch, Majgull Axelsson (1997). I was lucky enough to meet Majgull in 2018 in Rome, at the presentation of her novel Jag heter inte Miriam (I’m not sure if there is an English translation of this novel). Anyway, I want to recommend the novel that got her the August Prize, April Witch (Aprilhãxan). The novel was quite a surprise and it’s not the usual witch-horror story, instead it is far from being a fantasy novel. The April Witch (it’s not a spoiler, I swear) is Desiree, who was born with cerebral palsy and has violent epileptic seizures, therefore she cannot speak, nor walk, nor do anything else. Being an April Witch is what allows her to travel with her mind to find out the truth about her mother and how her life could have been if she wasn’t abandoned because of her condition.
From Norway
  • Egalia’s Daughters, Gerd Brantenberg (1977). How would the world look like if gender roles were inverted? If women had the power and men were the expected by society to take care of children? This is what you will find out by reading the feminist novel Egalia’s Daughters by Gerd Brantenberg. One of the most interesting aspects is language. Language mirrors the world we live in but if this world is reversed, then we find out that Egalian language is highly sexist. The book is rather hard to find, but it’s worth the effort.
  • Don’t Look Back, Karin Fossum (1996). If you want to read Norwegian crime fiction, I got you covered with Karin Fossum. There are a lot of Norwegian crime writers (*cough cough* Jo Nesbø *cough cough*) out there but I decided to recommend you my dear Karin because it was the first crime novel I’ve read from Scandinavia.
  • My Struggle, Karl Ove Knausgård (2009). It’s a series but I recommend reading book one of the series. He is quite a controversial author since in this autobiographical series he tells everything that happens to him, including embarrassing moments or life events that a “normal” person would usually keep more hidden. Why I think you will like it? He describes every single detail and will make you feel what he’s feeling. You will have a hard time trying to lift your eyes from those pages.
Egalia's Daughters, Don't look back, My struggle
From Denmark
  • Doghead, Morten Ramsland (2005). As my friend Francesca wrote on her wonderful blog, Doghead can be considered as an atypical Nordic saga about the Erikssons. It will take you a couple of days to read this fun and weird story. It is hard, at times, to understand who is living what, but you won’t be disappointed by Doghead.
  • Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, Peter Høeg (1992). Another example of Scandinavian Noir, I bet you will love Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow as much as I do. Miss Smilla grew up in Greenland and she knows how to recognize all types of snow. The novel won the Edgar Award in 1994 and the Silver Dagger Award in 1994.
  • The Man Who Wanted to be Guilty, Henrik Stangerup (1973). I will try to summarize what I think about this wonderful novel: you will read the modern dystopian development of Kierkegaard’s concept of guilt, while Stangerup subtly criticizes the Scandinavian welfare state. I also chose to include this novel in my MA dissertation, so here you will have to trust me hands down.

Great authors, great stories:

Here you will find classic authors that shaped the national literature of their countries.

From Norway:
  • Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen (1890). This play is one of the most known written by Mr. Ibsen and it is my favourite. The main character, Hedda Gabler, is a strong independent woman who definitely doesn’t fit the stereotyped role of women at the end of the 19th century. You can find it anywhere online and you can read it in a few hours.
  • A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen (1879). I know I already recommended Ibsen, but I couldn’t let you go without mentioning one of the plays that founded the modern dramatic production. Here we see how Ibsen attacks the bourgeois concept of family that considers women as objects in the hands of their husbands. Is Ibsen feminist? I would be wary with labels in his case. My personal opinion? If an author writes about women, their role in society, depicting them as strong characters who want to be independent from their husbands, it doesn’t necessarily make the author a feminist. At least not automatically. I would love to hear what you think about this.
Henrik Ibsen
From Denmark:
  • The White House, Herman Bang (1898). The story is set in Als, an island in the Baltic Sea where Bang was born, and it’s autobiographical. The author recalls his childhood and in particular his mother Stella. I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I read this novel for the first time, I couldn’t help but thinking of The Stroll by Claude Monet. Well, we could definitely say that Herman Bang imported French naturalism in Denmark. In his The White House, as well as in the sequel The Gray House (1901), Bang doesn’t describe nor comment his characters but he portrays them as they were independent actors on a stage.
  • The True Story of My Life, Hans Christian Andersen (1855). Although Andersen is mostly known for his fairytales, I believe that his autobiography is one of the most interesting books ever. We learn a lot about his life experiences and his career as a man of culture, but also we can see how life was for artists in the Romantic Age. Here we can see the same plot of his fairytale The Ugly Ducking: he was born in an extremely poor family and he had to struggle a lot before he could be recognized even just as a decent artist.
  • Seven Gothic Tales, Karen Blixen (1934). Personally, I’ve never liked Frau Blixen too much. I don’t know why, maybe I’m just biased. But I can’t ignore one of the most influential women of Danish literature, although she used a male pseudonym at first. As the title makes us understand, Seven Gothic Tales is a collection of… gothic tales. I must admit that I have a favourite tale, the Supper at Elsinore.
From Sweden:
  • Kallocain, Karin Boye (1940). I won’t recommend any other novel as this one. This is the novel that made me fall in love with dystopian literature. I’ve already read it twice since 2020 started. It was one of novels I analyzed for my MA dissertation. The story is about a chemist, Leo Kall, who invents a serum called kallocain. When the police injects people this serum, they start telling the truth about anything. I might spoil the novel for you if I keep writing. So, if you’re into dystopian fiction, you can’t miss Boye’s Kallocain.
  • Miss Julie, August Strindberg (1889). Strindberg is probably one of the most influential writers ever, but he definitely was a controversial personality. However, I will try to ignore my slight disdain for him. I can’t help it, sorry, but I must recommend on one of the most beautiful plays in Swedish literature.

Lifestyle books

Some of those were written by non-Scandinavian authors but I believe that these books will help you understand better the Scandinavian lifestyle, even though some of these books might be too stereotypical and generalizing. Nevertheless, I think you will enjoy them.

Sweden:
  • Lagom, Lola A. Åkerström (2017). I would need to write a blogpost just to explain the meaning of lagom. Let’s say that it means “just the right amount”. Åkerström explains how the concept of lagom can be applied in every aspect of our lives: from personal finances to our social life, from design to fashion or even mental health.
Denmark:
  • The Little Book of Hygge: the Danish Way to Live Well, Meik Wiking (2017). If Åkerström believes that lagom is the “Swedish secret of Living Well”, Wiking explains how hygge can help us reach happiness. Hygge is an untranslatable word just like lagom, but again, I will try to simplify its meaning. Hygge can be the feeling of coziness and intimacy, you can feel it while alone or with friends. It is such a complex concept that all you have to do is buy this book and read it.

While I was waiting at Oslo Gardemoen airport, I decided to buy two unusual guides to kill the time. I found the Xenofobe’s guide to the Norwegians and Xenofobe’s Guide to the Swedes. They are aimed to “cure xenophobia“. Interesting, but also highly questionable because these guides are full of stereotypes. I mean, I like stereotypes as long as there is awareness that it is just an exaggeration rather than an interpretation of the truth. So yes, if you need something light to get to know Norwegians, Danes, or Swedes, bear in mind that if you read these short guides, you must be aware that they were written with humorous intent.

Bonus books from Finland, Iceland and Faroe Islands:

  • The Year of the Hare, Arto Paasilinna (1975) – Finland.
  • Memory of Water, Emmi Itäranta (2012) – Finland. Yes, another dystopian novel but it is amazing.
  • The Howling Miller, Arto Paasilinna (1981) – Finland.
  • Under the Glacier , Halldór Laxness (1968) – Iceland.
  • Detective Erlendur series, by Arnaldur Indriðason (1997–) – Iceland. He’s probably one of the most known crime writers outside Iceland.

Unfortunately, Faroese literature is less known and less translated into English or Italian. It is easier to read Faroese literature if you speak Danish since these novels are mostly translated into Danish. However, I recommend you checking this page to see if you can find more suggestions. Here are mine:

  • Afternoon, Carl Jóhan Jensen (1979).
  • Sólrún Michelsen:
    – 2011 “Some people run in shorts” (translation of the short story “Summi renna í stuttum brókum”), published in Vencil Anthology of Contemporary Faroese Literature.
    – 2017 “Some people run in shorts” in Anthology for contemporary Nordic Literature:THE DARK BLUE WINTER OVERCOAT.
    – 2017 “Some people run in shorts” in Boundless Literary Magazine on-line.

Bonus suggestions:

  • If you’re into Scandinavian Noir, then you should read Camilla Läckberg’s series set in Fjällbacka. The main characters are Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck. Camilla Läckberg is probably one of the most known crime writers outside Scandinavia. You will see the bloody side of Sweden.
  • Amatka, Karin Tidbeck (2012) – [Swedish] . The novel belongs to a weird genre between science fiction and dystopian fiction. I guess it’s not a coincidence if the author herself says that she’s “creator of weird fiction”. Amatka is the name of one of the five colonies that were founded after a (nuclear?) disaster and where our main character Vanja moves to. In this world portrayed by Karin Tidbeck, objects disappear if people don’t label them often. It’s way less political than usual dystopian novels and focuses on the importance of words and language.
  • Anything you can possibly find by the Danish crime author Jussi Adler-Olsen. I read Kvinden i buret a few years ago and I loved it so much that I’d dare to compare him to Stephen King. I’m not sure if there are English translations of his works, but if you understand Danish, Italian or any other language Kvinden i buret  was translated into… then don’t hesitate.

I hope that this blogpost inspired you to read one of these books and I hope that these books will make you visit Scandinavia one day. If you liked it, feel free to save it or share it with your friends! Hejdå 🙂

Coffee Culture Compared: what is coffee?

Coffee culture in Italy and Sweden compared.

 🇮🇹

As an aspiring translator, I stumbled upon a very serious concept to translate: coffee. Coffee is something that helps everyone understand everyone’s lifestyle and it is strictly connected to culture. In this article, I hope to summarise the concept of coffee culture in two different countries: Italy and Sweden.

Where do we drink coffee?

Coffee culture is pretty strong in Italy, where we don’t have cafés but bar(s). The concept of bar exists in English too, but for British culture it is a place where people meet to drink mostly, if not exclusively, alcoholic beverages, play games (board games, cues) or just have a chat to catch up with friends. The Italian meaning of bar couldn’t be any different. A bar is a place where people spend maximum ten minutes having breakfast or to have a quick coffee (espresso) before going back to work. Italians usually meet in bars in the afternoon too to quickly catch up and have, again, an espresso.

Given this premise, Italians go to a bar, pay at till, order at counter, drink a small cup of coffee, sometimes they drink a cup of water before having coffee (this happens especially in the Central and Southern regions), drink standing up at the counter, then they’re back outside after 5 minutes. So if I ask someone “do you fancy a coffee?”, this is the situation in Italy.

But if I ask someone in Sweden “do you fancy a coffee?”, you schedule everything ahead of time, go to “Espresso House” (the Scandinavian equivalent of Starbucks, even though Starbucks is an independent chain there), order a coffee at counter, you get a large cup/mug of coffee (10 times the amount that you get by ordering a coffee in Italy), pay, sit down, chat half an hour or more.

Who said fika?

Unlike Italians, Swedes have something to eat along with coffee, usually a pastry (kanelbulle or kardemummabulle) or something savoury. Swedes, therefore, don’t have simply coffee, they have fika. I know that Italian readers will probably laugh at this but trust me, it’s not what it seems. Yeah, I know, you must be confused but if you google the real meaning of that word, you’ll see why.
The Swedish word fika is an inverted syllable slang term derived from “kaffi,” coffee in the 19th century. Swedes have usually a fikapaus (fika-break) at 10AM and 3PM and they are among the heaviest coffee-drinkers in the world.

Is coffee something that makes us understand people’s lifestyle from all over the world?

What about coffee culture in your country? I’d love to understand what coffee means where you live.

(I found this interesting article about cafes in Stockholm, have a look!)

Save it if you like it!

Saint Lucy’s Day

Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated on December 13th. ⠀
In Sweden, it is called Luciadagen or simply Lucia. It is celebrated mostly in Scandinavia and in Sicily, so I really feel like a day connecting two parts of me. Swedes usually eat lussekatter, a sweet bun with saffron and cinnamon. Girls (and boys too) in Scandinavia are dressed as Saint Lucy but only one of the girls wears a crown of candles on her head. Processions are organized everywhere and they sing the so-called Lucia songs. 

My mom and I used to go to Syracuse (Sicily) to celebrate it and in Sicily, it’s a heartfelt day especially if you are named after Lucia. The typical Saint Lucy’s dish is called brusciuvia in Sicilian and it is a soup my grandmother (whose name was Lucia too) used to make. ⠀

The 13th of December was considered the longest night of the year, that’s why light plays a relevant role on this day and candles are lit on the head of Saint Lucy. 

Picture taken by Paula

Saint Lucy’s Day in Sweden and Italy

Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated on December 13th. ⠀
In Sweden, it is called Luciadagen or simply Lucia. It is celebrated mostly in Scandinavia and in Sicily, so I really feel like a day connecting two parts of me. Swedes usually eat lussekatter, a sweet bun with saffron and cinnamon. Girls (and boys too) in Scandinavia are dressed as Saint Lucy but only one of the girls wears a crown of candles on her head. Processions are organized everywhere and they sing the so-called Lucia songs. 

My mom and I used to go to Syracuse (Sicily) to celebrate it and in Sicily, it’s a heartfelt day especially if you are named after Lucia. The typical Saint Lucy’s dish is called brusciuvia in Sicilian and it is a soup my grandmother (whose name was Lucia too) used to make. ⠀

The 13th of December was considered the longest night of the year, that’s why light plays a relevant role on this day and candles are lit on the head of Saint Lucy. 

Picture taken by Paula