27 August, 2015

No cow on the ice and other confusing Swedish expressions

Every country has its fair share of weird expressions and Sweden is no different. As a Newbie who speaks Swedish you will soon encounter Swedish expressions that will make you a bit confused.

And if you don’t speak Swedish yet, don’t worry – it is quite common that Swedes will take their expressions and just translate them directly to English. So if someone tells you that there is no cow on the ice, don’t start looking for the nearest psychiatric hospital or for any livestock on the lose – just chill as it simply means not to worry.

  1. When a Swede tells you you are a lucky cheese (din lyckans ost) he means that you are a lucky dog.
  2. When a Swede tells you not to walk like the cat around hot porridge (gå inte som katten kring het gröt) he is telling you to not beat around the bush.
  3. To carry the dog head (bära hundhuvuet)  means to carry the can.
  4. No danger on the roof (ingen fara på taket) is a Swedes way to tell you not to worry.
  5. When a Swede is on the cinnamon (på kanelen) he has simply had one too many drinks.
  6. And the next day he will be wearing a lead cap (blykeps), which is not an intricate torturing device but a raging hangover.

    Gammal ost

    Photo: Pixabay

  7. If you do something bad to a Swede, he will not seek revenge – instead he will give you back for old cheese (ge tillbaka för gammal ost). 
  8. If a Swede tells you that Satan and his aunt will be there (fan och hans moster) you mustn’t worry about going to hell. It just means that everyone will participate.
  9. When a Swede tells you he wasn’t born in a hallway (inte född i farstun), don’t feel you need to regale your own birth story as he is just telling you that he can’t be fooled.
  10. And finally, a Swede is not raging mad, he is forest crazy (skogstokig).

There are of course many more linguistic beauties but we will save them for some other occasion. In the mean time, get out there and impress with your knew found Swedish knowledge.


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Julieta Spoerer
I was born in Sweden but it was a fluke that I ended up here. My mother was a political refugee and had all of 20 minutes to decide which country to go to once she could no longer stay in her native Chile.

Thanks to her I am parts Swede and parts South American and believe in the good that can come out of people moving beyond borders.

I work with words and digital marketing for a living and run the company Caligraph Communication. You can find out about it at

2 Comments on “No cow on the ice and other confusing Swedish expressions

21 November, 2016 at 21:40

No cow in the ice…
(ingen ko på isen)

Nothing to worry about

Janice D. Soderling
18 January, 2018 at 02:40

When a Swede says he wasn’t born in three vestibule (farstu) he means he wasn’t born behind the barn.

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