Hej is the probably the first word you hear when you come to Sweden. The stewardess, the cashier at the gas station or the receptionist will most likely greet you with a very friendly and slightly high pitched hej.
Also, if you are in a good mood (or want to pretend you are) you say a double hej: hej, hej.
The best way to learn how to correctly pronounce the Swedish word hej, is to go to a fashion or makeup store, where an over-ambitious young woman (in her forties) will welcome you with an exaggerated hej, hejjj.
Ways to greet a Swedish person
Actually, you only need the phrase hej. But you might also want to keep in mind the following greeting phrases and words Swedes use depending on the depth of their relationship with each other:
- Formal: God morgon/dag/kväll – Good morning/day/evening
- Formal person trying to be funny: Goddagens – Good day/hello
- Normal: Hej – Hello
- Alternative: Hallå – Hello
- Buddy-level: Tjenare – Hi
- Close buddy (or colleague who drinks a lot of beer): Tja (short form of tjenare) – Yo
- Buddy who is fed up saying tjenare or tja too often: Tjabba – Yooo
How to say good bye in Swedish
Swedes haven't come up with a proper good bye phrase, yet. They use hejdå when someone is leaving.
The laziest Swedes will just go for hej instead of hejdå. This is particular common among efficient shop assistants. When one customer is leaving and a new steps in, the assistant has to say hej only once. Smart.
Phrases to know before you go into a Swedish shop
- Hej, behöver du hjälp? – Hello, do you need help?
- Jag pratar inte svenska. – I don't speak Swedish.
- Engelska? – English?
I hope these phrases will help you during your first hours in Sweden. To get prepared for longer conversations with Swedes, check out one of the links below…
Further useful Swedish knowledge
- Useful phrases for your trip to Sweden
- Top 10 tips how to learn Swedish fast
- Flirting & dating culture in Sweden
… or read the book “How to be Swedish: A Quick Guide to Swedishness – In 55 Steps“