Introduction to Lagom

In Culture, Swedish Culture by Skjalden

Lagom is a Swedish term that stands as a testament to the cultural ethos of Sweden, encapsulating a philosophy that is deeply ingrained in the Swedish way of life. This unique concept represents the ideal of “just the right amount,” embodying the virtue of balance in all aspects of life. Differing from words like ‘sufficient’ or ‘average,’ which may hint at deficiency, lagom resonates with a sense of just right and harmony. It suggests a balance that, while not necessarily perfect, is thoroughly fitting and adequate.

Originating from the 17th century, the term lagom is rooted in the old Norse word “lag,” meaning “law.” In this context, it refers not to judicial law but to a law of common sense or customary practice. Contrary to a popular myth, lagom is not derived from “laget om” (“around the team”), a phrase supposedly used in the Viking Age. Instead, lagom has evolved to mirror the Swedish national psyche, marked by consensus and equality.

In Sweden, lagom is more than a mere word; it is a way of life, a guiding principle that influences everyday living. It encourages a lifestyle of sustainability and contentment, promoting just enough over excess. This philosophy finds beauty in simplicity and satisfaction in moderation, advocating for a sustainable balance in various life aspects.

Lagom in Everyday Swedish Life

In daily life, lagom is a versatile term used in numerous contexts. It can describe someone’s height as “lagom lång” (just the right height) or convey satisfaction with temperature, size, or a general state. Its widespread use in daily language highlights its integral role in Swedish culture.

In an environment often characterized by extremes, lagom offers a balanced alternative. It encourages making conscious choices for a sustainable lifestyle. Today’s growing emphasis on minimalism and sustainable living mirrors the principles of lagom.

Furthermore, Swedish design and architecture, known for blending functionality with simplicity, reflect lagom principles. This approach has earned Swedish design international acclaim, synonymous with elegance, functionality, and balance.

Lagom also permeates social interactions and personal well-being in Sweden. It fosters an attitude of fairness and equality, promoting community and collective responsibility. This way of life encourages harmonious coexistence with our environment and within our communities.