This post about Scandi life is not at all too serious, don’t get upset. Especially if you’re from the cold north. Word of caution: here the term “Scandi” refers to Finns and Swedes. Second word of caution: this post is full of generalizations. Don’t be upset! Laugh!
For all of you non-Scandis, this is what you can expect when you are visiting us in the north.
Something I have noticed is that Scandi people take themselves very seriously. Especially Finnish people. You read the news and suddenly it seems like Finland is the centre of the world. Maybe it’s a small country syndrome – we want people to know that we exist and that we are great. And we are great – just like so many other people on the planet!
I remember when I was working in Slovakia. I used to react to the kind of compliments people gave me. I don’t need to hear that I look pretty or a sweet person – I want to be appreciated because of the things I do. For the things that are the direct result of hard work.
A friend of a friend once said that the Scandi mentality is typically cold and distant. This young woman used to live in Stockholm but apparently she found it difficult to connect with the locals. Let’s be fair – Scandinavians are difficult. I have been living in Stockholm for almost two years and I mostly hang out with my (Finnish) colleagues. It’s quite funny because I don’t need to battle with a lot of the challenges that other foreigners face. I already speak Swedish and the culture is familiar. Still, making friends outside of work is difficult. However, I probably have my own typical Scandi mentality to blame; I don’t like speaking to strangers, I don’t like talking about myself, and I most definitely don’t want to start chitchatting about nothing – not with anyone. However, it’s a whole other story if someone starts talking to me. In my case, the reason I don’t start conversations with strangers are a) I don’t want to disturb them, and b) I don’t know what to say.
So, what’s the other side of the coin? Because apparently something must be working? Having a functioning social welfare require some kind of connecting and caring for others. I would like people to remember that even though we are socially awkward and we don’t kiss strangers – we do care about each other. That is a core aspect of Scandi life, I think: caring for others, trusting others. I personally fear that these values are slowly giving way to a more individualistic approach, I hope that we will stick to these values. Trusting people is important!
Another friend once complained about Finnish men; they don’t talk and they don’t give gifts. Now, I have never had a Finnish boyfriend but I’m engaged to a Swede. He talks, a lot! As for the gifts, I think that there is a notion that they are of secondary importance. I’d rather have my boyfriend cooking and cleaning instead of opening doors and giving me fancy gifts all the time. Because that’s also quite common in Scandi life: gender equality. (And equality in general). Feminism and gender equality are important aspects in the Nordic countries, these terms are also often misunderstood. Somewhere I read a comment where a person would rather talk about humanism. Humanism is a good word, in my opinion!British people queue a lot, but they are not the only ones. There is absolutely nothing as annoying as people who don’t stick to their place in the queue. Another tip for understanding Scandi life: don’t talk too loudly, and whatever you do, don’t interrupt. I used to live in Spain for a while and I always found it really difficult to participate in any conversations because people would never hear me out. As for being loud, there is no excuse for letting the whole train know about your personal business. Remember, it’s never a good idea to annoy people who haven’t had their morning coffee yet.
What to do in order to fully enjoy Scandi life:
- Make people feel special for all their great deeds and hard work
- They might not initiate small talk, but you are welcome to do it. Most people actually like it – as long as they don’t have to talk about themselves!
- Acknowledge the fact that the desire for equality is generally strong
- Don’t interrupt people when they talk
- Don’t be too loud and pushy
- Don’t hug strangers (this might not be applicable for Stockholm).
- Don’t ever jump the queue!