Lagom has no equivalent in the English language but loosely means ‘not too little, not too much, but just enough’. It is widely believed that the word comes from the Viking term ‘laget om’ – literally ‘around the team’ – and derives from the custom of passing a horn of mead around and ensuring there was just enough mead for everyone to get a sip. But while the anecdote may hit the nail on the head, the true etymology of the word points to an old form of the word ‘lag’, a common-sense type of ‘law’.
‘Consensus is king and everyone mucks in.’
So what’s the law of lagom? At its simplest, the word describes something that’s ‘just enough’ or ‘just right’ and can be highly subjective – like the right amount of milk in your coffee or the perfect temperature of a scone. Beyond the material world it becomes far more sophisticated, implying that a balancing act has reached perfection, and relying on a range of social codes. It’s gladly accepting an invitation to spend the weekend at a friend’s house, but bringing your own bed sheets because it’s fair to share the burden of laundry. It’s having the right to stay at home with a sick child – pay intact – but never abusing that right.
‘If you know what’s ‘just enough’, why go overboard?’
Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living looks at what lagom means for work-life balance, food and drink, conscious consumption and design. It takes a leaf out of the Swedish way of life to help strike that balance between being a responsible, valuable citizen and finding sustainable happiness within.
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