Getting To “Yes” In Northern Sweden


All it takes is a sharp intake of breath through pursed lips, a tradition that has been described as the world’s strangest way to indicate the affirmative.

A simple “ja” does it in other parts of the Scandinavian country, but people from up north don’t even have to say anything. The city of Umeå is located 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. This may be why they’ve chosen to stop saying one of the most common words in Swedish, ja, which means “yes.”

Reporter Oliver Gee from The Local travelled to the region to delve deeper into this unusual tradition, admitting that at first he thought people were either impressed by him or a little bit shocked.

But locals were very happy to explain the sound to help Gee understand a little better, with some saying that it was even better to accompany the sound with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders. One women, from Umea, noted that it was so easy because you didn’t even have to open your mouth, while another described it as like sucking a mint.

Swedes from Stockholm and the south revealed that to some extent the sound was being used, with variations like “shoop”, “fjo” and “whoosh” being adopted. However, one commenter, Jan Reuterberg, questioned whether any of the sounds were actually easier than “ja” or a simple nod.

But Stefan Andersson was all for the northerners’ way, noting that it took less energy than an “mm”, which requires exhaling with enough power to arouse your vocal chords, whereas a simple “suup” needs only a quick intake of breath through your teeth.

Some would claim this makes them sound silly, but this is Sweden, a nation of Viking-descended good-governance addicts who hand out Nobel Prizes every year and all speak decent English. Nearly every country has some variation of the world of confirmation that all sound somewhat similar. Except for the city of Umeå in northern Sweden.

Read more about Umeaa:
Umeaa – A Swedish Music Loving City