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Lagom or antilagom: Swedes conflicted on this year's Scandi fad

Published fredag 21 april kl 09.09
Antilagom Swede: Lagom is loving, but not loving too much.
(8:06 min)
Journalist Hector Barajas (left) is anti-lagom. Linnea Dunne (right) loves it.
Journalist Hector Barajas (left) is anti-lagom. Linnea Dunne (right) loves it.

‘Lagom’, the Swedish concept of ‘just good enough’, is this year’s international lifestyle publishing phenomenon. But in Sweden itself, views are sharply divided. Radio Sweden investigates.

Hector Barajas, a journalist who came to Sweden from Columbia 27 years ago, believes lagom is part of the way ethnic Swedes impose limits on themselves, something he finds so frustrating that he calls himself ‘antilagom’ on Twitter and on his blog. 

“It demands you to become quite invisible. It demands you as a citizen to become part of a large grey mass,” he exclaims. "I couldn't be happy with that, so I decided to be antilagom in order to survive, in order to keep on being myself.” 

For him, lagom involves a distrust of diversity that comes close to fascism. 

But for culture journalist Björn Wiman, who is campaigning for Swedes to renew their appreciation of ‘lagom’,  it’s quite the opposite: an antidote in an age of extremes,

“The Swedish word lagom comes in as a kind of a dream, an ideal, something which is the opposite of everything we see around us,” he says. “The opposite of fascism, the opposite of Donald Trump, the opposite of polarisation, the dream of something which still has its senses.” 

Linnea Dunne, a Dublin-based Swede, recently handed over the manuscript for one of the more than seven lagom books due to be published: Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced living. 

She thinks ‘lagom’ is all about finding a balanced life, making it attractive to stressed-out people in London and New York whose lives are anything but. 

“If we try to market lagom as some sort of balanced way of life I think it could really take off,” she says of the concept.  

But she also concedes that lagom can’t easily be used to sell these people Scandinavian-themed knitwear in the same way that ‘hygge’, the Danish concept of ‘cosiness’ was last year. Its less-is-more philosophy is simply too anti-materialist. 

Rather like herself, Dunne’s take on what lagom means has a definite Celtic lilt.  

“Lagom,” she says, ”is about taking the time to do things right without making it difficult for yourself.”

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