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Swedishness through lagom Can words tell us anything about a culture?

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Abstract

How much can words tell us about the culture behind them? Every language has its particular words that are not translatable to other languages; similar words in various languages may hide different meanings or connotations; expressions and folk sayings are often peculiar to a language and to a people. To what extent can we use such peculiarities to describe the culture they pertain to? How much can lagom tell us about Swedishness? In a game like form I try to give an overview of the Swedish culture through the Swedish language.
Research Paper Series
Swedishness through lagom
Can words tell us anything about a culture?
Ester Barinaga
Centre for Advanced Studies in Leadership
1999/6
ISSN 1402-0726
SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration No 1999:17
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Swedishness through lagom
Can words tell us anything about a culture?
How much can words tell us about the culture behind them?
Every language has its particular words that are not translatable to other languages;
similar words in various languages may hide different meanings or connotations;
expressions and folk sayings are often peculiar to a language and to a people. To
what extent can we use such peculiarities to describe the culture they pertain to?
How much can lagom tell us about Swedishness? In a game like form I try to give an
overview of the Swedish culture through the Swedish language.
The interest for culture has been expanding in the last decades. What initially was
restricted to anthropology, has been growing, now being the object of study in many
other disciplines. Economics, management, politics and psychology are only some
examples of it. The pendulum has swung even too much. Culture and cultural factors
suddenly seem to be the explanatory factors of everything: suicide and divorce rates,
financial crisis or even civil wars are explained in cultural terms. As Adam Kuper (1999)
points out, the excess lies in culture becoming the source of explanation par excellence,
instead of something to be described and explained. Culture has become the explanation,
instead of remaining in a more humble corner. In this paper, I will take the more humble
of these positions, and will try to describe one culture, the Swedish.
In the intent to describe what culture is, it is sometimes viewed as something
more than shared values and beliefs. It is the mean we help ourselves with to make sense
of our environment and give meaning to others’ and ours actions. As Bruner (1990) puts
it, culture stores the symbolic resources that help to give meaning in a “lifelike” manner.
Besides, it is often said that language bears culture. Shotter (1993) maintains that our
ways of talking constitute the way we make sense of ourselves and our world. An
analysis of how cultural members use their language may give us a fair picture of the
specific traits of their own culture.
After going through the view of culture as a system of meaning, and language as a
cultural carrier, I will try to give a broad picture of Swedish culture, understood as a
system of meaning, by looking at Swedish language and its use. I do not try to be
exhaustive neither to generalise. Not all Swedes behave and think the same way. That
would be an easy stereotype! However, Swedish culture is a peculiar symbolic discourse
talking about the collective Swedish identity. Rests to say that I am describing the
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Swedish culture from the point of view (and bias!) of another peculiar symbolic
discourse, the Spanish one. Such peculiarities are often a source of confusion and
misunderstanding when cultures meet, but as they appear in the comparison between
cultures, they become also a source for understanding each culture.
On Culture and Language
Following Clifford Geertz, culture “denotes an historically transmitted pattern of
meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic
forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate and develop their knowledge
about attitudes toward life” (Geertz 1973, p. 89). Culture thus tells us what reality is like
and how we should act in it. He adheres to a semiotic definition of culture, and believes
culture to be the webs of significance in which man is suspended. The study of such webs
of significance or systems of meaning is not an experimental science, but an interpretative
one (p. 5).
Jerome Bruner (1990) maintains that we human beings are expressions of a
culture. Culture is the store of narrative and symbolic resources helping us to “give
meaning to action by situating its underlying intentional states in an interpretative
system” (p.34). As he puts it, meaning-making and meaning-using processes connect man
to culture. Because we all participate in culture, meaning is rendered shared and public.
When something unusual or unexpected happens, culture provides us with a
symbolic structure helping us to give meaning in a “lifelike” manner (p.68), to justify the
difference between the happening and the expectation. We construct a narrative
justifying the violation of what we took for granted. By putting the difference in the
cultural interpretative system we are able to make sense of it (p.39).
Meaning and a shared symbolic structure are connected to language. After all,
Bruner says, a narrative is more than the plot (Bruner 1990, p.123). It is the way
we tell that plot, the expressions we use and the words we choose. Words, expressions
and even grammatical forms can discover us a great deal about the cultural system
behind them. John (Shotter 1993) maintains that our “ways of talking constitute our
ways of accounting for and making sense of ourselves and our world, they form a lexicon
of justificatory ultimates, a whole taken-for-granted vocabulary of things and processes”
(p.35). In such a sense, language is the carrier of culture. An analysis of language and
already made expressions can therefore help us better understand the specific culture
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behind it. Similar is Fairclough’s idea when he suggests Critical Discourse Analysis as a
method for researching a range of social science and cultural studies questions
(Fairclough 1995).
One could wonder though, is it she, a Spanish person, appropriate to describe
such a different culture to hers as the Swedish is? Åke Daun (1989) would answer that
one is handicapped when studying one’s own culture. One is blind to the taken for
granted that might not be such for a foreigner. He even maintains that “the deviating
frame of reference of foreigners constitutes a “method” to discover cultural
particularities”. In the same line of thought, Barbara Czarniawska (1998) says that the
foreigner comes with a novel reading. By not being socialised in the same system of
meaning but still being familiar enough to it as to recognise it, the foreigner brings a new
insight. The gap between the standard account got from observation, conversations and
interviewing, and the non-standard one or novel reading is itself a source of knowledge
(p. 29).
A good way to get an understanding of a given culture is finding out and
analysing those words and expressions exclusive to its language, or peculiar uses of
words already existing in other languages. In the paper, the method I have used is to
review some words typical to the Swedish vocabulary and, by this doing, describe those
characteristics that are peculiar to the Swedish culture.
On the method
But before going to the study of Swedish culture through the use Swedes do of
their language, I want to make some comments on the study of language peculiarities for
cultural analysis.
The study of language to sense a certain culture is a not very common qualitative
method, but it is not new either. A good example, Hofstatter’s study where Germans
associated ‘loneliness’ with ‘big’, ‘strong’, ‘healthy’, ‘courageous’, ‘deep’; and Americans
with ‘small’, ‘weak’, ‘sick’, ‘cowardly’, ‘empty’, ‘sad’, ‘shallow’, ‘obscure’, ‘bad’, ‘ugly’
(cited in Peabody 1985).
A variation of the method is the semantic differential scale. Pairs of opposing
words are used as the extremes of a line where 5 or 7 points have been drawn. The
person filling the questionnaire has to choose among the 7 points that better corresponds
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with his view or attitude. It works similar to the Likert scales. However, these forms of
the method are in a way quantitative since their goal is to be able to measure attitudes.
The second presented version of the method may seem more scientific if judged
with the criteria of modern science. But criticisms can be many. Have the same words
equal connotations in all languages? Does all the opposing terms exist as such in all
languages? A simple study of the Swedish language shows that new words are found in
other languages and that common words may have very different meanings. Vocabulary
and semantic differences among languages can actually tell us more about a culture than
quantitative Likert scales trying to measure and compare attitudes.
The method I opted for has been picking up certain words from the Swedish
language that do not exist in any other language, other words that exist but with a
different meaning or a special connotation compared to other languages, and common
expressions in Swedish daily life. I have arranged the words and expressions in various
areas describing different spheres of Swedish culture.
Swedish Culture
The existentialist dilemma of the choice between primarily looking after oneself
or taking care of ‘the other’1 in the first place is common to most cultures. Depending on
the answer each society provides to this dilemma the culture will be positioned within the
line individualism-collectivism. Although both Hofstede (1980) and Trompenaars (1993)
describe Sweden as one of the most individualist countries, the GLOBE project shows us
that this picture depends on how individualism is defined (Holmberg and Åkerblom
1998). It is argued there that Sweden’s culture is characterised by its “socially concerned
individualism”.
A subtle equilibrium pervades the Swedish character in the way of behaving, the
view held of society and of one’s role in it. There is a balance between individualism and
social concern. According to some observers, Sweden has reconciled both extremes of the
dimension (Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars 1993). Let’s see if a simple study of their
language, in a game like form, tells us anything about such a peculiar trait.
1 ‘The other’ is broadly seen here as either the extended family or the wider society in general.
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Ensamhet (Loneliness/Solitude)
One of the first striking things when one comes to Sweden as an immigrant from
a radically different culture is the positive connotation the word ensamhet (solitude) has.
It suggests inner peace, independence and personal strength. It is a virtue already taught
in early years of life. In the well-known Astrid Lindgren’s children books of Pippi
Långstrump, it is frequent to hear her saying Jag kan själv or Jag klarar mig själv (I am
able to do it by myself). Children are early encouraged to become independent, since, for
the Swedish mentality, independence is equal to maturity (Hendin 1964). Ensam är stark
(Solitude is strength).
In such an individualist culture, individual freedom is of extreme importance but,
curiously, it is a socially responsible freedom. Att få vara i fred (To be let in peace) does
not only refer to the beauty of finding time for oneself but it is also attentive of others’
need of peace in solitude, and respects it (Herlitz 1991). Thus, trust in the other as an
individual, reliance in others’ capacities and in others’ potential answers to problem
solution or task implementation, is always present. This has direct consequences in work
related issues as managers are easily ready to delegate trusting their subordinates capacity
to add to the task being performed and listening to their suggestions (Hampden-Turner
and Trompenaars 1993).
Individual freedom has a social use; it is a responsible self-government. Personal
independence has social responsibilities; solidarity is addressed to the socially weakest
not exclusively to the close family relatives. Att göra rätt för sig (To make right for
oneself) perfectly pictures the moral dimension of Swedish individualism. This expression
means both not to owe anything to anybody, as well as to have social solidarity with
others’ needs. There is a quest to be useful to the wide society, helpful to the abstract
‘other’ rather than solely to the closest family as it is common in other societies. How
would otherwise people accept such a high level of taxes if it wouldn’t be for their social
concern?
The consequences of this social responsibility are clear at the work level. People
do not seek promotion solely on the basis of personal income and individual power but
also for the more important contribution they will be able to give to the companies they
work for or to society. As Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars put it, the ethic of socially
oriented individualism is summarised in the Swedes search “to individualise themselves
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by what they contribute to the workplace and to their colleagues” (Hampden-Turner and
Trompenaars 1993), to give a social use to one’s freedom.
Jämlikhet (Equality)
The previously described respect for ‘the other’ drives Swedes to have a strong
sense for equality, or jämlikhet. An obvious sign of this is the similar roles played by men
and women condensed in the figure of pappaledighet: the right for fathers to take some
months leave off their jobs when they have had a baby, similar to the women’s right. On
another sphere, equality and equal right to participate in decision taking is evident in
1976’s Medbestämmandelagen (the Co-determination Act), guaranteeing unions the
formal right to membership in company boards.
The idea of equality is reflected in the informal atmosphere seen at the
workplace, where it is not unusual to see the manager making coffee (Hill 1995) or
eating with his or her subordinates. Hierarchy does not imply long distances, and certain
formal letters may begin with an informal hej! (hi!). However, this should not be
confounded with a lack of respect towards the other and some touches of formality can
be seen addressed to superiors, fellows, subordinates or even friends. An example of this
is the use to thank for the last time one was invited to somebody else’s, tack för senast,
even if it was several days ago and from a very close friend.
Enighet (Consensus)
A Swedish trait reflecting the subtle balance between individualism and
collectivism is the search for enighet (consensus). Everyone’s opinions, ideas and
experiences are respected and listened to, since all are potential contributors to the
accomplishment of the task in place or to the solution of the problem being dealt.
Closely related with this strive for consensus is the Swedish ideal to avoid conflict
(konfliktundvikande), especially in the public sphere where open quarrels are parried.
Therefore, loud voice and aggressive behaviour is dubiously considered and will seldom
lead to the desired results. At work, this attitude “is expressed through the lack of
corrective actions against personnel that do not perform well” (Forss, Hawk and
Hedlund, 1984). Relocation of the badly performing employee is preferred to open, face-
to-face conflicts.
The conflict avoidance spirit claims for the Swedish ability to control feelings.
Mutual understanding, collective consideration and compromised solutions are favoured.
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A kind, polite and neutral attitude is preferred. Emotional issues or arguments are
depersonalised and translated into a matter-of-fact making it easier to handle (Åkerblom
1995). Therefore, a special love for rituals is found among Swedes. A well prepared
speech by the Managing Director to the just pensioned accountant, preferably including a
little joke, is the appreciated way of expressing love and gratitude to a loyal employee;
the end of an era. In such way, emotions become predictable and easier to handle.
In this context, kompromiss (compromise) is seen as a practical attitude,
attaching no negative connotations, what is something highly surprising for the outsider
living or working in Sweden (Herlitz 1991). This description connects to Hofstede’s
(1980) definition of a feminine society, where “humanisation at work takes the form of
feminisation – it is a means toward more wholesome interpersonal relationships in its de-
emphasis of inter-individual competition”. In his seminal study, Sweden was ranked the
most feminine society.
At this point, awareness should be called for. Frequently, foreigners mistakenly
confuse this search for consensus with indecisiveness (Hampden-Turner and
Trompenaars 1993). However, as Barbara Czarniawska states it, consensus is seen as a
condition for dialogue rather than as the purpose of that dialogue, such attitude enabling
a search for creative solutions. This provides Swedish business with its unique capacity
for collective action (Czarniawska-Joerges 1993).
Hofstede translates social concern, equality and the search for consensus as
Sweden being characterised by a feminine, low power distance culture (Hofstede 1980).
While Trompenaars translates such traits as Swedish culture being neutral and self-
possessed, universalistic, and oriented towards achievement as opposed to ascription
(Trompenaars 1993).
Lagom (Not too much, not too little; Just right!)
The delicate balance between the individual and the collectivity is illustrated by
the untranslatable term lagom. Its origins are found in Viking times, when a bowl of
drink was shared among those seated around the table. Doubts arouse about how much
to sip: not too much for the others not to get angry as not enough drink was left for
them, not too little as one also wanted to enjoy the drink. Just right!
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This term is extensively used in daily life. It mirrors the dilemma between
personal freedom and social responsibility, between informal relations and formally
showing respect for the person, between expressing one’s emotions and avoiding open
conflict through compromising and consensus. Lagom är bäst (Lagom is best), which is
similar to what Aristotle said, “virtue lies in the middle point”.
In normal life, lagom renders into the paradoxical individual desire for being
somehow different but without sticking out too much. Wille Crafoord in one of his songs
phrases this Swedish peculiarity with a beautiful game of words Alla vill vara annorlunda
på ett likadant sätt (Everybody wants to be different in a similar way). At the work level,
this was confirmed in a study by Åkerblom (1995) who conducted a series of focus group
interviews. When asked to state three advises to a manager, many participants said things
like: “You should be just like everyone else”, and “Do not think you are special, just
because you are a manager!” Following the norm Swedish leaders remain behind the
curtains, becoming invisible.
Förnuftstanken (Sense of Rationality)
Although not directly related to the dilemma existing between the individual and
the community, a notable feature of Swedish mentality should not be forgotten: its sense
of rationality. As Daun points out, the word ‘rationality’ is given a variety of meanings.
Therefore, he goes on defining ‘Swedish rationality’ as setting the accent on practical
solutions, on suitability to the pursued goal, on aiming to a single objective at a time
(Daun 1989). Swedes adopt a practical orientation which other authors summarise with
the term “pragmatism” (Czarniawska-Joerges 1993).
Aiming to a single objective at a time, att gå rakt på sak (to go straight to the
point) is an often-heard expression when discussing something. When having to decide or
to talk about several issues Swedes prefer to treat them one by one, and only when one
question has been treated and something has been decided on it, may the discussion
move to the next one. Ordning och reda (literally translated as ‘order and order’,
amusingly using two words expressing the same thing!) would be an idiom eloquent of
the same idea of not mixing matters.
Closely related to this concept of sequence and order lies the sharp separation
between public and private time, between work and individual relations. Working life
and family life are strictly held apart, very seldom blending friends with work-fellows.
Likely, while working, no personal affairs should interfere. However, this division
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between both spheres has also been interpreted as fulfilling a different function. Daun
(1989) believes that “a function with this protecting border could be to defend integrity,
and guarantee the individual feeling of independence from the outside world”, which
reminds of the positive connotations the word ensamhet had. Within the private sphere,
the Swede is unmasked; any weakness is well known by the close friends and loved ones.
Here is the place to relax from all outside demands. Here is the place where att vara mig
själv (to be myself) as a Swede would put it.
The ideal of order and the sequential rationality is interpreted by Trompenaars as
a sequential view of time and as specific degree of involvement in relations. However,
this idea of sequence and order, which drives Swedes to make plans of what will be done
and in what succession, may seem to go against Hofstede’s conclusion of Sweden being a
low uncertainty avoidance country.
So…?
How much can words tell us about the culture behind them? Karl E. Weick
would answer with another question, how can I know what I think until I see what I say?
Or, as he puts it somewhere else, “the words I say affect the thoughts I form when I see
what I’ve said” (Weick 1995, p.90). Words and expressions are ready-made labels
serving us to bracket and punctuate the ongoing flow of time. Language shapes and gives
substance to whatever situations and activities the person encounters, framing our
perceptions, thoughts and behaviours. Clifford Geertz answer to the question would lie
in a similar line. Culture, he writes, is the “structure of meaning through which men give
shape to their experiences” (cited in Kuper 1999, p.96). Culture, through the symbolic
forms of language and rituals, tells us what the world is like and how we should act in it.
So, if words shape our thoughts and behaviours constructing our perception of
the world, what do individual independence (ensamhet), personal strength (ensam är
stark), individual freedom (att vara i fred), equality of rights (mlikhet), social
responsibility (lagom), resistance to conflict (konfliktundvikande), order (ordning och
reda) and sequence (att gå rakt på sak) tell us about the Swedish character?
Individual independence and strength sketch a strong individualism in the
background, but one that is respectful of the others’ independence. Individualism in
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Sweden does not equate to egocentrism since as much as it is conscious of its own value
as an individual, it is conscious of the value of the other as an individual. To make such
independence possible, everybody has equal right to individual freedom (at least at the
level of speech; what actually happen are matters of another story).
However, individual freedom is not an end in itself. The urge to contribute to the
smaller or bigger community and to be socially responsible rises the issue about what to
use individual freedom for. Freedom thus becomes a mean to serve society. It is not the
plain end of using individual freedom for the joy of more earthly pleasures. Even one’s
identity is somehow defined by what one does: man är vad man gör; man kan inte bara
vara (one is what he does; one cannot simply be). What one uses her freedom for, defines
who she is. This might be some remains of the Puritanism influence on the Swedish
character. Here is where Swedish pragmatism comes in. That activity that defines one self
has to be ordered, sequential and effective. Who wants to be seen as a messy person who
attempting to do many things at once accomplish none? Certainly not the Swede!
In that doing with the others, in that contributing for the narrow or broader
group, in that being useful, the Swede looks for agreement and consensus, trait which has
made them ideal as mediators in many international peace negotiations, but which can be
frustrating for the less diplomat person. The search for consensus is sometimes referred
to as avoidance or even fear for open conflict. Thorny issues might not be taken in front
of others as a follow of such fear, or maybe (who knows!) as a desire to save face. Not in
vain has been said that Swedes are the Japanese of Europe! (Daun 1989)
Individualism respectful of others and concerned for the social, where else could
the Social Welfare system have developed like it did in this country? While realising of
the value of the individual, they keep conscious of the need to satisfy a bigger collectivity
if society is to work. Hence the subtle equilibrium of a socially concerned individualism,
the search for consensus supporting such equilibrium. So, paraphrasing Weick, that is my
answer to “how can I know what they think until I see what they say?”
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A final reflection (on method)
The simple analysis of language is not enough to completely understand how a
person of a given culture makes sense of the world around her. Biographical and
contextual factors have also to be considered. Wittgenstein taught us that language is
learnt in the course of one’s life, by seeing how concepts are applied to a variety of
situations (Johannessen 1998). Words are used with a variety of nuances depending on
the context of use. No dictionary definition gives a recipe as to how a word should be
used and interpreted. Besides, cultures, as languages, are dynamic, changing along time.
That time is part of the context to consider when making sense of a word or an
expression.
Not considering biography nor context nor the dynamism of language and
culture makes the method used in the paper a not self-sufficient one. But it could be used
as a complement to other methods. Participant observation for instance could give the
researcher a deeper understanding of the culture by situating it, and in her analysis the
study of language could be a tool among others.
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Bibliography
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Peabody, Dean (1985) National Characteristics: Cambridge University Press (European
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14
About the Author
Ester Barinaga is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Advanced Studies in
Leadership at the Stockholm School of Economics and a doctoral student at
ESADE-Barcelona. In her Ph.D. she works with multicultural groups in an
organisational context with an empirical and theoretical focus.
E-mail: Ester.Barinaga@hhs.se.
Correspondence should be addressed to Centre for Advanced Studies in Leadership,
Stockholm School of Economics, P.O.Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, SWEDEN.
15
Publications from CASL Research Paper Series
1999/7 ”High-touch and high-tech - the merger of two banks. Using paradoxes as rhetorical
devices”.
Johan Berglund, Lars Strannegård & Ulrika Tillberg.
1999/6 ”Swedishness through
lagom Can words tell us anything about a culture? ”
Ester Barinaga.
1999/5 ”Black-boxing eco modernization. The interplay of the Nature and Market discourses”.
Lars Strannegård.
1999/4 ”The Practical Men of Action - The Construction of Macsculinity and Model Leaders in
Business Magazines”. Johan Berglund.
1999/3 ”Ontology and Epistemology, Stories of their Contexts. Implications for Research”.
Ester Barinaga.
1999/2 ”Conceptualising Opportunity Recognition as A Socio-Cognitive Process”. Alice J. de
Koning & Daniel F. Muzyka.
1999/1 ”Dialoger i litteraturen” - en studie i dialogbegreppet speglat i tre författarskap.
Johan Berglund & Ulrika Tillberg.
1998/2 ”Leadership and the Ethics of late Modernity”. Markus Kallifatides.
1998/1 ”Primus inter pares” – Leadership and Culture in Sweden. Ingalill Holmberg & Staffan
Åkerblom.
The Centre for Advanced Studies in Leadership
Stockholm School of Economics
P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden.
Visiting address: Saltmätargatan 13-17.
Tel +46 8 736 96 20, Fax +46 8 33 72 90.
E-mail: caslinfo@hhs.se
Internet: www.caslnet.org
... Skou and Munch (2016) describe the New Nordic Design to be "tokens of dream pictures of the Nordic countries as harmonious societies in balance with nature". Other Scandinavian concepts such as hygge (Linnet, 2011;Levisen, 2012), and lagom (Barinaga, 1999;Hart, 2017) are spreading beyond Scandinavia these days (Loughrey, 2016). These terms are Scandinavian everyday words, describing a modest lifestyle and the enjoyment of the small things in life such as an ordinary meal with good friends and the enjoyment of living a humble life. ...
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Scandinavians are some of the most digitally connected people in the world. However, the ubiquitous connectedness and globalization seems to pull Scandinavians towards a need for increased local awareness. This paper taps into how Norwegian graphic designers and design students appear to oppose the omnipresent digital impact in their lives. This resistance becomes apparent through a growing interest in design crafting and local traditions. Nordic design and Scandinavian culture seem to have renewed global interest these days. New Scandinavian concepts have emerged as a result of this. In this paper, the terms New Nordic Design and Scandinavian hygge is investigated through two student projects exploring inspiration from Norwegian crafting and local traditions. However, these students' designs are still perceived as contemporary, as they also contain inspiration from currently available digital sources.
... Later, these concepts are analyzed in the context of higher education, largely explained through Knight (1999) and Bartell (2003). Next, an explanation of the uniquely Swedish word 'lagom' is provided and analyzed in the context of higher education, with a definition provided by Barinaga (1999). Finally, a clear definition of study abroad is discussed, including perspectives from the Forum on Education Abroad (FEA) and Bhandari and Blumenthal (2010). ...
... With no direct translation to English, lagom is a term that can be best understood as 'just the same as everyone else,' or 'not too much, not too little.' A common expression in Swedish is lagom är bäst, meaning lagom is best, which can be applied to relationships, work, and style of dress just as easily as it can be applied to styles of management and politics (Barinaga, 1999). Lagom is a very important word in the Swedish context, as it not only defines the culture, but also the people. ...
Thesis
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This comparative case study examines the timely issue of internationalization of the Swedish higher education system in the context of lagom, a Swedish word which means "not too much, not too little, just the right amount." This study presents a comprehensive overview of internationalization policies at the international and national levels, and examines their application at the institutional level within a higher education institution in Sweden to determine gaps between policy and practice. The data was gathered through qualitative interviews with students and international university administrators, which provided their perspectives of the current internationalization efforts, as well as a summary of the current internationalization policies at the institution. The interviews pointed to the organizational culture of the university as a factor affecting internationalization, taking Swedish lagom culture into consideration. This discovery is followed by the application of Sporn's Organizational Culture Typology (1996) to the institution to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the university, and how to harness the strategic management style to better facilitate internationalization and thus increase the number of students pursuing studies abroad. The results suggest that a more centralized organizational university culture is a more effective way to facilitate internationalization. Additionally, the Swedish lagom culture presents a uniquely challenging paradigm for fostering the innovative internationalization agenda in HEIs.
... The welfare system should provide each person with the means needed for basic security regardless of personal wealth or kinship. According to Barinaga, that Swedes accept such a high level of taxation is an expression of their social concern [36]. To this we can add Swedes' enthusiasm for helping people around the world who are victims of injustice or catastrophes such as war, earthquakes, and starvation. ...
Article
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BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic changed the academic world in various ways, and most universities are still closed and continue operating via teleworking. OBJECTIVE: This study is intended to investigate how university faculty/staff and students in Sweden have coped with the lockdown and working/studying from home during the pandemic. METHODS: A survey was conducted among 277 women and men working and studying at different universities in Sweden. RESULTS: The results indicate that most (61%) respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the current work-from-home arrangement. Additionally, they indicate that, overall, almost 30% were working more than usual due to the pandemic and teleworking. The coping methods having the highest impact on overall job satisfaction were: “thinking about what I can do rather than what I can’t do”; “being able to access medical resources and medical services if I need to seek help”; and “having trust in state or health authorities in my country.” CONCLUSIONS: The study reveals that Sweden can serve as a good example of how university faculty/staff and students can address the occupational challenges caused by a health pandemic and possible subsequent quarantines. ............................ Keywords: coping, coronavirus, pandemic, occupational health, telecommuting, teleworking, Work from Home (WFH), remote work, distance working, epidemic, adjustment to telework. ............................................. Citation: Ahmadi, F., Zandi, S., Cetrez, Ö. A., & Akhavan, S. (2022). Job satisfaction and challenges of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic: A study in a Swedish academic setting. Work, 71(2), 357–370. https://doi.org/10.3233/WOR-210442
... Making contacts with fellow Swedish HCPs is emphasized by the HCPs as well. Sweden is characterized by individualistic cultural values [27], favouring independence, loneliness and solitude [40], while the HCPs in this study come from more collectivistic countries (e.g. Syria and Iraq [27]), in which making contacts is somewhat easier. ...
Conference Paper
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Supporting migrants in entering host societies is a challenge. In Swe-den, influx of migrants resulted in problems with access to in-classroom Swedish language courses for migrants in general, and for health care professionals (HCPs) in particular. Due to its accessibility, mobile technology can be a bridging tool between migrants and host societies, providing an alternative/complement to classroom teaching. This study reports on the non-European HCPs' employability needs, and how these needs can be met by a mobile application. A qualitative methodology based on semi-structured focus group interviews and interactive workshops with HCPs, mentors and language teachers is used to a) investigate the HPCs' needs; b) discuss the content and the design of a mobile prototype application (app) for supporting labour market integration of HCPs. Further, based on the findings, a prototype is created for user testing. Thematic content analysis is used for analysis of the data from the focus groups and workshops. Descriptive statistics is used for the analysis of questionnaires for prototype testing. The results show that the HCPs need a targeted language and culture training as well as opportunities to develop contacts with Swedish HCPs. Further, a roadmap for the main steps needed to get a medical license is requested. The users are in general positive about the prototype. The results suggest a possibility of cultural impact on design preferences. The study gives suggestions for developing a mobile app for enhancing integration of HCPs in the Swedish labor market, which can potentially be further developed for other professional groups.
... Making contacts with fellow Swedish HCPs is emphasized by the HCPs as well. Sweden is characterized by individualistic cultural values [27], favouring independence, loneliness and solitude [40], while the HCPs in this study come from more collectivistic countries (e.g. Syria and Iraq [27]), in which making contacts is somewhat easier. ...
Chapter
Supporting migrants in entering host societies is a challenge. In Sweden, influx of migrants resulted in problems with access to in-classroom Swedish language courses for migrants in general, and for health care professionals (HCPs) in particular. Due to its accessibility, mobile technology can be a bridging tool between migrants and host societies, providing an alternative/complement to classroom teaching.
... To be a good Scandinavian group member, one is advised to behave in a temperate, instead of an extreme manner. The Swedish adjective lagom, meaning something like "just right", "not too much and not too little", lacks equivalents in other languages (Barinaga, 1999) and has been taken to reflect Swedish moderateness. Folk tales, for example, teach Theme 1 to Norwegian children. ...
Article
Many situations in human life present choices between (a) alternatives beneficial to an individual and (b) alternatives that are less beneficial to the individual that would nevertheless be beneficial if chosen by many individuals. Choices of the latter alternative are generally considered cooperative. Taking the supposition that a lack of cooperation between and amongst societies lies behind many crises of the 21st century as its point of origin, the paper takes a two-step approach to shed light on the Nordic cultural-evolutionary puzzle of managing to maintain a dynamic equilibrium between competition and cooperation. First, the paper suggests regarding cooperation as a valuable temporally extended pattern of behavior that may be learned and maintained over an individual’s lifetime. Second, the paper examines how Norwegian and Swedish culture fosters a commitment to extended patterns of cooperative behavior. By means of interpreting successful Scandinavian cultural characteristics in the light of selection of behavior both during phylogeny and during ontogeny, the paper derives hypotheses about functional relations between behavioral and environmental events, which make for the success of the Nordic nations and which might inspire policy development in other countries.
... To be a good Scandinavian group member, one is advised to behave in a temperate, instead of an extreme manner. The Swedish adjective lagom, meaning something like "just right", "not too much and not too little", lacks equivalents in other languages (Barinaga, 1999) and has been taken to reflect Swedish moderateness. Folk tales, for example, teach Theme 1 to Norwegian children. ...
Article
Full-text available
Many situations in human life present choices between (a) alternatives beneficial to an individual and (b) alternatives that are less beneficial to the individual, but could be beneficial if chosen by many individuals. Choices of the latter alternative are generally considered cooperative. Taking the supposition that a lack of cooperation between and amongst societies lies behind many crises of the 21st century as its point of origin, the paper takes a two-step approach to shed light on the Nordic cultural-evolutionary puzzle of managing to maintain a dynamic equilibrium between competition and cooperation. First, the paper suggests cooperation as a valuable temporally extended pattern of behavior that may be learned and maintained over an individual's lifetime. Second, the paper examines how Norwegian and Swedish culture fosters a commitment to extended patterns of cooperative behavior. By means of interpreting successful Scandinavian cultural characteristics in the light of selection of behavior both during phylogeny and during ontogeny, the paper derives hypotheses about functional relations between behavioral and environmental events that make for the success of the Nordic nations and which might inspire policy development in other countries.
... Evaldsson 1998, 60). From a linguistic perspective, Barinaga (1999) reflects on many of these same terms as used by Swedes in everyday life. In particular, she reflects on the use of words that have no meaning in other languages or are used differently than in other languages; for instance, ensamhet (loneliness or solitude) and lagom (a balance of not too much and not too little). ...
Article
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Producers of large conventional weapons systems are significant actors in politics and their presence in everyday life is a potential site of militarization, yet they remain remarkably understudied in International Relations (IR) research. Though the public cannot purchase their products, 88 of the top 100 arms producers use official corporate YouTube channels to reach the public. Their YouTube videos are political artefacts that these companies use to ‘sell’ national security as military security, framing the military as a ‘good, natural, and necessary’ part of society. Examining these videos reveals how this messaging can be conceptualized as a type of militarization because of the relation ‘good, natural, and necessary’ has to national security constructions. I use an intersectional lens and a multi-modal audio-visual approach to understand how images, sounds, and texts work together to tell a version of Sweden’s national security story as constructed in Saab’s official corporate YouTube videos. These videos illuminate a view that Sweden does (and should) have militarized national security that seems counter to images of a peacekeeping nation. This national security is centred on a citizen identity that consists of masculinized, heteronormative, and nationally hierarchical constructions of militarized national security.
Article
This article investigates the widely implemented compact neighbourhood type and aims to stimulate fresh thinking in Anglo-American urban enquiry by building on the work of Massey and others to illuminate relational complexities between sociality and space. The authors present findings from research in Stockholm, which reveal spatial porosity and novel social meanings existing between polarised notions of connectedness and separateness. Such insights may be overlooked without adequate recognition of agency in relational investigations. Thus, renewed emphasis on agential capacity in both people and built form would benefit planning efforts. The neighbourhoods investigated foster patterns of “just right” (lagom) urbanity in which individuals find temporary reprieve and sociospatial mediation amidst wider metropolitan challenges. Future research could determine if neighbourhoods situated elsewhere foster similar interrelations, and – if so – what impacts on human well-being result. The authors urge theorists to undertake more-than-relational research in other contexts and with other neighbourhood types.
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Sanctification is an important phenomenon and should be of keen interest to those studying religious and spiritually oriented coping. Oddly enough, this phenomenon has not received a great deal of attention. One reason may be that sanctification does not directly apply to institutional religious involvement. Moreover, the sacred cannot easily be discerned in people’s coping experience. On important issue is also the lack of attention to the role of culture in coping. One of the researchers who has paid considerable attention to the concept of sanctification and has developed it from different perspectives is Kenneth Pargament. The aim of this article is give rise to a vital discussion on the role of sanctification in coping from a cultural perspective. In doing this, we will first introduce Pargament’s approach to religion and spirituality and then his view on sanctification and then we will put forward our own critique of some discussions on this subject, concluding with our own view.
Book
Bringing together papers written by Norman Fairclough over a 25 year period, Critical Discourse Analysis represents a comprehensive and important contribution to the development of this popular field.
Article
Abstract A socio-cognitive framework of opportunity recognition is presented. The framework was grounded in exploratory field work with ten serial entrepreneurs. The framework,shows how opportunities evolve by pursuing three cognitive activities (information gathering, thinking through talking, and resource assessing) through the social context. Four groups or types of people are hypothesised for the social context (partners, inner circle, action set and network of weak ties). These constructs extend existing theory and research published in the entrepreneurshipliterature. The paper also argues social context is managed at two levels, particular opportunity processes and entrepreneurial careers. Keywords: opportunity recognition, socio-cognition