Swedish U-turns and the introduction of lagom

Beware of the extreme

A radio program on P1 caught my attention yesterday and I still think about it, even though it is called ”Plånboken” – ”The Wallet” – a guide for balanced household economies. The reason it got stuck with me is not my poor bank account, but that it is such a fine example for lagom, Swedens own Yin-Yang. Non Swedes, please do click and read.

Swedes (helt frivilligt och underhållande): Listen here, ca minute 30 – 36.

The host interviews an expert who has come to the deep understanding, that there are two opposite dispositions when spending money: saving and wasting.
These two poles (swedish: spara and slösa) have scared Sweden at least since 1926, when a comic strip started teaching kids how to balance their allowance.

The expert is Nina Jansdotter and works as behaviorist, coach and writer.
She claims there are six money-personalities:

  • Spendthrift
  • Gambler
  • Giver (the one with big problems negotiating salaries)
  • Saver
  • Investor
  • Take-what-you-deserve person

The latter gets praised for its healthy self-confidence, personal development and success.
Nina explains that we (read Swedes) should learn to be more outspoken, go for what we want and what we are worth. Which reminds me a bit about Johnnys candy-parabel by the way.

She comes with the following advice (watch out for the u-turn!):

“I often encourage my clients who are looking for work or especially women who need to get better at salary negotiation: “You are great! you deserve this!”.
Of course then the downside is that they may go and grab too much of the pie so that someone else gets less. They might think “screw everyone else, as long as I get mine.”  It then of course becomes a negative behavior.
So I would say: A little lagom is good.

Enthusiastic beginning, quickly followed by a sharp u-turn to then end up right in the middle of the two poles. In the spot where there is not sun and no shade, no color and no temperature. Lagom.
In Swedish this is the equivalent to perfect. Just right. It’s what the nations soul strives after. It’s in the genes. (Or is it? More thoughts about this some other time. Its one of my 3-6 big question marks).

The specialist helps only a balanced little bit: ”Its our upbringing that makes us who we are.”
Clearly! Here comes why:
Either your parents were big savers and you copy them – or you do the exact opposite.
Either you copy your spendthrift-parents because it’s what you know – or you decide not to.

She comes to the surprising conclusion that it is best to have a little bit of each.
A lagom balance. And that self-revelation can’t hurt. Because the reality can look like this – or like that.

I think Nina would be a very good politician.
She definitely is a fantastic Swede.



  1. Julia, this is not what would me convince to move to Sweden. You need to reconsider this sales pitch of yours.

    PS: As long as the extreme means holding a bottle of Moet on your lap, I am pretty pleased to be an extremist 🙂

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