Living lagom… in Stockholm
Summarised in one word, the Nordic lifestyle can be described as living lagom. A key word in the culture of Sweden, lagom can be loosely translated to mean ‘not too much, not too little – just right’, and perfectly depicts the Swedish art of balanced living. I spent five days in Stockholm and it was clear to see lagom is the secret behind Swedish contentment.
Known by locals as ‘beauty on water’, Stockholm is blessed with stunning coastline and sits where the Baltic Sea meets Lake Mälaren. You are never far from the water, even in the city centre. With 30,000 islands in the archipelago, it’s easy to escape to a more idyllic waterside location. Experiencing the mordondopp (morning dip) is the perfect initiation into living lagom. Starting the day with a quick dip in the Baltic Sea, while staying on the archipelago, was certainly a refreshing experience! Walking up to my room afterwards, looking at the sun shining down on the fresh water below, was quite humbling. I felt perfectly content.
The archipelago is also home to Artipelag, one of over 100 museums and attractions in Stockholm. A combination of art, activities and archipelago, Artipelag is a destination of high quality art from around the world, inspiring activities and great food. A crucial foundation of lagom is contentment and creating a perfect balance, believing if you take just enough from life yourself, you leave enough for others to be happy. Björn Jakobson, founder of the well-known company, “BabyBjörn”, did just that. He created Artipelag to give back to everyone a part of what he had been able to experience in the archipelago.
View from Artipelag
Something that really stood out to me was how active Stockholmers are. Traffic on the roads was minimal, as most people seemed to be walking. The 14 islands in Stockholm are very easy to navigate with bridges connecting most of them and walking around is always the best way to discover a city. While in Stockholm I took part in a morning run, which to my delight was the fika running group, a slow and enjoyable pace, allowing you to chat along the way.
Fika is another key piece of Swedish vocabulary and literally means ‘to have coffee’. For Swedes, fika is part of everyday life and allows them to take a proper break and connect with friends, family or colleagues. A hot drink is accompanied by a delicious cinnamon bun. In fact, in most Swedish workplaces, fika is inescapable and seen as a time to unwind and converse with your workmates. The other two running groups were lagom, not too fast or too slow but just right; and ‘pftt’, the sound the runners make as they go past you at a ridiculous speed.
Although walking is seen as the best way to get around in Stockholm, the public transportation is also excellent. With buses, underground trains, commuter trains, trams and boats, there are many options to get around. The Stockholm underground is also known as the world’s longest art gallery, with 110km of art adorning the walls of the stations, brightening up the journey for those on their daily commute.
Lagom is applicable to work-life balance and frugality, but also defines a sustainable way of living – upcycling, recycling and using sustainable materials. Recognised to be the first green capital in Europe, Stockholm is a very environmentally-friendly city, and this is seen in the public transport. The Arlanda Express train runs between Arlanda airport and the city centre, using 100% renewable energy. Many inner city buses run on eco-friendly fuels such as ethanol. The new properties built in the city, play a part in providing this fuel. All waste water from the new build apartments is turned into bio gas, which is used to provide the fuel for the buses; and sludge, which is used in regeneration projects. Sitting behind the new city accommodation is a ski slope, which was once a garbage dump but has been regenerated into a green area used for mountain biking in the summer and snow sports in the winter.
New sustainable accommodation
It’s not just the transport that is making waves in sustainability; the Swedish culinary scene is changing. Head chef at the Fotografiska museum restaurant, which is the world’s best museum restaurant, is Paul Svensson. Paul is pushing the boundaries of the kitchen and took us on a food walk of the ‘New Conscious Kitchen’. Here they practice sustainable cooking techniques in their organic, plant-based kitchen to extract maximum flavour from the produce, using as much as they can and throwing as little out as possible. Vegetables were put at the centre of each dish, with meat and fish as the accompaniments. The flavours were quite exceptional!
Fotografiska food walk
The Swedes also bring lagom into their homes. Each season is reflected in the design of their living space, with blankets and cushions prominent in autumn and winter, and a thorough declutter in the spring and summer. This was reflected in the hotels too, where comfy chairs had been placed by large, open windows to make the most of the sun, and conference rooms have been designed around productivity, with chairs and tables at optimum height for concentration.
It’s hard to believe that this life of lagom exists in such close proximity to the fast paced hustle and bustle of London, but we can all immerse ourselves in this Scandi way of living after just two hours on a plane.