Exclusive Guest Post: Linnea Dunne
Find balance with ‘lagom’ – the ethos behind Sweden’s success
We are living in the age of technology and hyper-connectedness, of 24/7 emails and ever-increasing expectations of our standard of living. Yet at the same time, stress has been dubbed the epidemic of the 21st century and our natural resources are fast being depleted. It almost seems like we can’t enjoy the good stuff without going overboard.
Consistently in the top-ten of rankings for happiness, well-being, equality, sustainability and trust, a small country in the north of Europe seems to have found the antidote. A celebrated welfare state, a beautifully minimalist design heritage and a business culture known for both efficiency and integrity speak of a nation that has managed to strike a fine balance – and, thankfully, there is a word to help us understand the Swedish approach.
‘Lagom’ simply means ‘not too little, not too much, but just enough’, or ‘just right’. It can be as simple as the right temperature of a bath or as complex as perfectly implemented consensus culture in a business context. It is what brought the world understated yet oh-so-striking design classics such as the Lamino armchair – perfectly functional and made to last, but at the same time beautiful – and a parental leave package that rewards parents who share the 480 paid days equally.
Did you know that Swedes have a near-religious relationship to their coffee – or ‘fika’, for having coffee and pastries – breaks in work, known to be good not just for general contentedness, but for productivity too? Moreover, Swedes are keen foragers, always up for a flea market crawl, and fans of socialising in the home. The balance of ‘lagom’ can be found in the Swedish approach to food, in conscious consumption habits and in a general willingness to embrace and deal with emotions good and bad.
Last year was all about ‘hygge’, the Danish way of cosying up and enjoying the moment. While Swedes have their own version of ‘hygge’ in ‘mys’ – exemplified among other things in ‘fredagsmys’, the Friday evening ritual of vegging out with loved ones in lounge wear, eating super simple tacos – perhaps the world could do with the slightly more proactive all-round mindset of ‘lagom’ too. If you could learn to be more present both in work and at home and enjoy the benefits of minimalism in a financial as well as an emotional sense, would you say no?
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About the author
Linnea Dunne was born and raised in Sweden, where she started her writing career as a columnist at the local newspaper aged 15. She left for Ireland a few years later and eventually moved to London, where she studied Creative Writing and Political Communications. She now lives in Dublin with her husband and two half-Swedish, half-Irish kids.
Linnea’s work on subjects ranging from motherhood to women’s rights and media narratives has been published by (among others) the Irish Times, the Guardian and the Irish Independent, and she also works as Executive Editor of Scan Magazine. Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living is her first book.