Flygskam: New Scandi Word For Flight Shame Takes Off

2 Mins Read

Sweden, the home of iconic eco activist Greta Thunberg, has just invented a new word – flygskam – to describe the feeling of guilt or shame caused by flying on airplanes. The new buzzword has gained in popularity across the world as many of us become more aware of the carbon footprint associated with travelling by air. 

To ease their embarrassment, more and more Swedes are choosing to travel by train rather than air. This trains-over-planes movement has been spearheaded by the country’s climate strike leader Thunberg, who famously made her trips to the World Economic Forum in Davos and the climate summit in Poland by rail. She has been joined by Swedish television commentator Bjorn Ferry, who has vowed to stay on the ground. 

An Instagram account dubbed “Aningslösa Influencers”, which literally means clueless influencers, has even gained a 61,000-strong following by educating social media celebrities on the environmental impacts of flying. 

As a result, Swedish Railways has recorded an 8% increase in the number of passengers in the first quarter of 2019. And Swedes have also invented another word for the pride they feel when they have avoided unnecessary carbon emissions: tågskryt (train-bragging or train-praise). 

The backlash against travelling by air has pressured the aviation industry to take note. The industry’s top bosses are finally realising the need to make changes in order to combat the sentiment, which will invariably hurt their profits. In a recent meeting hosted in Seoul, CEOs from the world’s biggest airline carriers gathered to plan out how to cap its net carbon emissions. The proposed plan of action includes introducing lightweight fuel-efficient aircrafts, growing trees to offset their carbon output, and switching to bio-fuels before developing the technology for electric planes. 

Despite airplane companies trying to convince consumers that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to flying, flygskam is more prevalent in social interactions than aviation bosses think. 

Currently travelling in Hong Kong, Norwegian Oda Davenger told Green Queen: “When I went back to Hong Kong for my 10 year high-school reunion, my friend asked me if I didn’t have flight shame. Of course I do.”

While these newly invented words might seem like all fun and games, the message behind them is serious. The global aviation industry, which carried over 4 billion passengers last year, is accountable for around 2.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. We need to evaluate every decision we make and the impact it has on the environment if we are to avert global climate disasters. 

You can calculate the impact your flight has had on the melting Arctic ice caps and feel guilty about it here.

Lead image courtesy of Pexels.


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

You might also like