More on Scandinavian culture

Following up on my first article on Scandinavian culture, here’s more on this northerly region many are curious about. As previously mentioned, Scandinavia strictly refers Norway, Sweden, and Denmark; but the term is often used interchangeably with Nordics, which technically refers to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, Finland and Iceland. They all have their own distinct cultural characteristics that make them unique, and many that unite them as a whole.

Scandinavian culture is highly influenced by its long history and maritime heritage. You may have heard of the Vikings. Seafaring has been a major part of the region’s culture since ancient times and people have a respect for the sea and the environment. There is a law that says everyone should have access to the sea/nature, for example (I’m summarizing and simplifying here), and if your property faces the beach or forest, you can not restrict people from accessing them.

The concept of equal access comes up a lot in the Nordics. The region prides itself on being an egalitarian society, where all have equal access to health and education and all aspects of social welfare regardless of economic background.

Scandinavian culture is known for its close connection to nature. Participating in outdoor activities, such as skiing, hiking, and exploring the landscape, swimming in the ice-cold fjords, are popular pastimes for many people in the region. Overall, the culture of Scandinavia is one that appreciates and celebrates nature and individuality. There is also great attention given to the environment and sustainability. Recycling is commonplace; cities and municipalities have garbage systems in place to encourage recycling. This is not to say that everyone recycles, but the conversation around taking care of the environment and climate change is bigger in Scandinavia than most places.

Hygge, which is the act of making everyday life feel cozy and comfortable, and gained global popularity a few years back, is a big element of Scandinavian culture. This is likely due to the region’s dark and heavy winters, which give people the desire to inject warmth and cosiness wherever they can, to counteract the depressive effects of the long, dark winters. People embrace the idea of taking time to relax and appreciate the little things: lightning candles, redecorating the home in warmer tones, even eating more chocolate.

Scandinavian culture is also renowned for its global influence on fashion. Many popular global apparel brands, including Acne Studios, & Other Stories, and H&M, are headquartered in Scandinavia. Scandinavian fashion tends to feature clean cut lines, straight jeans, and muted colours. When I first moved here, I was surprised to see that nearly everyone wore black, white, blue or grey. My eyes had never experienced such an absence of colour and vibrance, and it was a shock to my creative senses.

Things have changed a lot in the past few years, likely largely due to social media and women here being exposed to what women in other parts of the world are wearing, and people becoming more open-minded and willing to look a bit different from the usual Scandinavian mold. I wrote about this in my previous article about Scandinavian culture, a mentality called Jante’s Law (Janteloven); which, briefly put, prescribes that one is not supposed to differentiate themselves from others in anyway. Many people are lately revolting against this idea, in favor of being more individualistic. Even then, Janteloven is alive well in Scandinavian society so beware.


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