Lagom is a Swedish word that has no English equivalent. After spending time in Gothenburg’s Southern Archipelageo, it became clear to me that lagom is a feeling more than a word. Whereas words like “sufficient” and “average” suggest some degree of scarcity, or lack, lagom carries the connotation of balance, although not necessarily perfection.
As we wandered the islands, overcome by tranquility, we tried to convey the experience with English words, and we couldn’t. It wasn’t until we learned of the concept of lagom that we knew what we had experienced.
The islands of the Southern Archipelago are car-free, year-round, lively communities. On one of the islands, Köpstadsö, no mopeds or electric scooters are even allowed and all transport of goods is done by wheelbarrow.
There are fishing villages mixed with resort towns, and everything in between. The cafes served the best sweet buns (kanebullar) laced with cinnamon and butter. Throughout the day, we sampled local bites, lounging on whitewashed benches covered with sorbet-colored floral pillows, while looking at the sea. The kids splashed in the shallow waters as we island hopped the day away.
The islands were mentioned by historians as early as the Viking era and changed nationalities a few times during the Nordic wars. During WWII, coastal defenses were set up on the islands and many of these gems were closed off to all non-Swedish citizens until as late as 1997!
There was a gentle, rugged, old-salt, elegance that was present on each unique enclave. The only way to capture the experience is perfectly simple – lagom.