Facts about Scandinavia: Everything you need to know (and more…)
Scandinavia is the place to be.
A group of some of the most beautiful countries in the world, Scandinavia doesn’t just offer amazing travel opportunities. This incredible location is packed full of unforgettable culture, awe-inspiring landscapes, and unique heritage. What’s more, the Scandinavian countries are consistently rated among the happiest locations in the world.
Around the world, there seems to be a growing love affair forming with the Scandinavian people and their unique way of life. Aside from countless television shows and reports giving us a peak behind the curtain into Scandi experiences, there are also various reports that seem to highlight the value of a Scandinavian lifestyle.
So, what makes this region so special?
Ultimately, there’s a lot more to the Scandinavian peninsula than Ikea, minimalist designs, and breathtaking fashion. Today, we’re going to take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of the place on everyone’s bucket list.
Exploring the Scandinavia region: Countries in Scandinavia
First, let’s get to grips with the countries in Scandinavia.
There’s a little bit of controversy here, as different people seem to hold their own opinions about whether certain countries should be featured in the Scandinavian peninsula. Typically, when you’re talking about Scandinavia, you’re looking at Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.
The word “Scandinavia” arose in the early eighteenth century as a result of Swedish and Danish universities, which championed the shared arts, mythology, and history of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. It’s worth keeping in mind that Sweden and Norway were part of the same kingdom until 1814 — so they have a particularly close relationship.
So, where does the controversy about Scandinavian countries come in?
Well, some people have started to use the terms “Nordic” and “Scandinavian” somewhat interchangeably. Part of the reason for this is that the two regions share a very similar way of life. Because of this, descriptions of the Scandinavian region have started to include places like Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and even Iceland.
If you look exclusively at the original 3 countries in Scandinavia, then the region covers about 358,325 square miles and is home to approximately 21 million people. That means that the population density is pretty low — equaling out at 60 people per square mile.
A closer look at Scandinavian countries
The Scandinavian peninsula is geographically the largest in Europe, extending from the Baltic Sea to the Arctic Circle.
Since the Scandinavian region comes with a bit of confusion attached to it, let’s look at each of the countries in Scandinavia a little more closely.
Located in the Scandinavian region between the Northern Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, Norway covers around 125,020 square miles of landscape. The Scandinavian nature in Norway is diverse, with glacial mountain ranges, fertile plains, and rugged coastline all pulled together into a single space. Usually, the climate in Norway is relatively cold and wet, but it’s still home to around 5,353,363 people.
Sweden is bordered by Finland to the east, and Norway to the west, sitting on the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea. Sweden covers around 173,860 square miles and has 1,999 miles of coastline too. Known for its rolling lowlands and beautiful mountains; Sweden is a temperate location with a population of 9,960,095 people. The largest city in Sweden is Stockholm, which is located on the eastern coast of the country.
The last of the three “original” countries in Scandinavia, Denmark, is bordered by Germany on the North and occupies the Jutland peninsula. The coastlines in Denmark cover 4,545 miles, and the total land area is 16,638 square miles. Denmark is brimming with low and flat planes, and the temperature is cool, with humid summers and mild winters. Denmark is home to approximately 5,747,830 people as of the 2018 census.
What About Finland and Iceland?
If you include Finland and Iceland in the Scandinavian Peninsula, they add even more diversity to the landscape. Finland is located between Russia and Sweden, to the south of Norway. Finland covers about 130,558 square miles of land, and it’s got plenty of beautiful lakes to visit. The population of Finland is around 5,542,517 people — making it a relatively small country.
On the other hand, Iceland is found just west of Ireland and southeast of Greenland, just below the Arctic Circle. The country is very small, covering only 39,768 square miles. The population of the nation is 337,780, which would make it the smallest of all the Scandinavian countries. However, Iceland has one of the most varied landscapes, with waterfalls, canyons, sulphur beds, lava fields, and hot springs.
Scandinavian people: Traits and culture
The varied and beautiful countries in Scandinavia make it an incredible place to visit or to live in. However, it’s fair to say that it’s the Scandinavian people that really capture the attention of the media.
Year after year, Scandinavian countries earn the top spot on the United Nation’s list of the happiest countries in the world. The region is famous not just for its incredible per-capita income, but also its low cost of living, fantastic government support, and amazing healthcare. People in Scandinavia don’t have to pay to get assistance from a doctor, and there are benefits available if you can’t find work. There’s very little to worry about when living in Scandinavia.
Without getting into obvious stereotypes — like assuming that all Scandinavian people have blond hair and blue eyes, there are some common traits to consider too. Many of the people in Scandinavian countries are defined as compassionate and accommodating. People would never abandon a fellow man in need, and the majority of citizens are extremely generous. They’d pick someone up on the side of the road if they were lost, and they frequently donate a lot to charitable organisations.
There’s a lot more to Scandinavian people traits than a Viking or model physique and a great sense of fashion. Many of the Scandinavian countries are becoming increasingly diverse — but they remain to be some of the safest places on the planet. For instance, Scandinavian people could leave a baby stroller on the street outside of a store, and they wouldn’t be worried that something would happen to it. Additionally, unlike many cultures around the world, Scandinavian people will avoid arguments at all costs.
It’s not in Scandinavian culture to hold grudges or seek out arguments. These are the people that are happy to let people have their own opinions and continue with life as normal — without a debate. What’s more, according to some insights into Scandinavian culture, the countries are also far more committed to health, fitness, and wellness than other regions.
What can we learn from Scandinavian culture?
So, what can we learn from Scandinavian people?
After all, they must be doing something right to continually appear in the lists of the happiest nations on earth. Ultimately, the reason that Scandinavian culture is so effective isn’t 100% certain. If you asked ten different Scandinavian people why they’re so happy, you’d probably get ten different answers. One thing that’s particularly interesting when you look at Scandinavian culture facts is the way that these people approach work.
For instance, there’s a genuine sense of equality in Scandinavian workplaces. A Danish CEO has no problem cleaning out coffee cups after work, so a custodian doesn’t have to. This atmosphere comes from a concept in the Scandinavian culture called “Jantelov,” which basically means that everyone thinks of themselves as being no better or worse than the rest of the community.
The idea of Jantelov isn’t to see yourself as any less than you are — but to recognise the inherent value of every individual person. There’s something to be gained from this mindset — particularly in the work environment. In Scandinavian regions, everyone expects everyone else to perform to the same standard. People trust that you’re doing your job well, and things just work.
Additionally, rather than having to earn the trust and respect of their employers, employees already have those things when they join the team. This makes the workplace environment feel more opened and relaxed. On top of that, there’s a common practice among Scandinavian people to say what you mean and mean what you say. That means that employees aren’t always trying to figure out the hidden meaning behind co-worker jibes.
Because the Scandinavian people bring fewer politics into their workplace, the environment feels freer and more comfortable. What’s more, now that surveys around the world suggest that people are having difficulties balancing their work and personal life, the Scandinavian culture is becoming even more appealing. Throughout America and England, many employees feel as though they need to be connected to their phone and email 24/7, just in case.
However, in Scandinavian countries, when you leave work, you can go home and focus on your personal life — it’s that simple. People don’t expect you to put in overtime. They know that you’ll do your best when you’re on the job, and then leave work behind you when you return home. It’s about giving more balance back to the employment world.
Scandinavian climate & weather
Often, when people imagine the Scandinavian peninsula, they get images of touring mountains and icy cold plains in their mind. However, Scandinavia isn’t always as frozen as it may seem. In general, the weather is a combination of mild and pleasant — with far less rain than you would get in the UK and other parts of Europe.
The Scandinavian climate varies depending on exactly where you are — of course. For instance, the weather in Denmark typically follows a climate for the marine west coast — that’s pretty common for its location. Additionally, the same is true for the southern areas in Sweden. If you’re visiting the west coast of Norway, you’ll experience a slightly colder coastal climate — depending on the time of year.
Within the central parts of Scandinavia, around Stockholm and Oslo, you can expect a slightly more continental and humid climate. This means hotter summer and longer days. On the other hand, further north, there’s a more subarctic climate similar to the weather you’d find in Finland.
So, when’s the best time to visit to get the most out of the Scandinavian weather?
For Norway and Sweden visit between June and September, when the days are longer, and the weather is slightly warmer. This will help you to find more time to go out hiking and sightseeing — which is essential given the beautiful landscapes available to explore. For Denmark, you’re looking at May to August, when the temperatures are mild, and the countryside is gorgeous. Spring and Autumn months are definitely best for bird watching.
Although many visitors prefer to seek out warmer Scandinavian weather when they can, there’s a magic to the countries in winter too. There’s nothing quite like a chilly night watching the snow in Norway or Denmark, for instance.
If you’re looking for more of a winter wonderland, the colder weather in Scandinavia runs between December and March. Keep in mind that it’s quite chilly, but you can expect slightly warmer temperatures if you move closer towards the inland.If you’re looking for more of a winter wonderland, the colder weather in Scandinavia runs between December and March. Keep in mind that it’s quite chilly, but you can expect slightly warmer temperatures if you move closer towards the inland.
Scandinavian landscapes and nature: Sights to see
The Scandinavian peninsula won’t give you the sunny beaches and warm weather that you can expect from locations like Morocco or Spain. However, it offers a very different kind of appeal that makes it a must-see for anyone with a passion for beauty.
The Scandinavian landscape is unlike anything else in the world, offering views that you simply can’t find anywhere else. Whether you’re exploring the frozen fjords or hiking along one of Denmark’s incredible nature paths, the opportunities for breath-taking scenery are endless. In fact, when it comes to Scandinavian nature, there are a handful of things that you simply have to add to your bucket list.
1. Finland’s Northern Lights
If you include Finland and Iceland in your map of the Scandinavian countries, then you should always make time to check out the Aurora Borealis. There’s no guarantee that it will show on any given night — but the colourful lights are visible about 200 nights each year. You can view the incredible sparkling of the sky from countless locations across Finland, Iceland, and other locations in Scandinavia. There’s the option to stay in hotels with glass ceilings, or your own personal igloo. Norway is also an excellent destination to visit if you’re interested in seeing the northern lights.
2. Iceland’s Blue Lagoon
One of the best reasons to include Iceland in the Scandinavian region is that it offers some of the most impressive sights in the world. The Reykjanes peninsula is best known for its hot springs and lava fields, but it’s also home to one of National Geographic’s 25 wonders of the world — the Blue Lagoon. This warm, mineral-rich pool sits in the middle of an 800-year-old lava field.
3. The archipelago in Sweden, Stockholm
Located just a short distance away from Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city, this cluster of amazing islands and rocky cliffs is a must-see. Probably one of the most impressive examples of Scandinavian nature, the archipelago is a diverse and beautiful landscape that you’ll spend days exploring. As well as offering plenty of unique cultures and stores to explore, the region is also packed full of great food too.
4. Mons Klint in Denmark
The white cliffs of Mons Klint in Denmark is easily one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s the only place in the country where you’ll see an amazing range of flora and fauna, as well as stunning high chalk cliffs and clear blue water. The region offers plenty of rare plants and places to discover, as well as one of the most incredible beaches you’ll ever see. Speaking of beaches, don’t forget to visit the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen if you decide to go to the country’s capital.
5. The fjords in Norway
Finally, the fjord region of western Norway will give you a Scandinavian landscape sure to stay in your dreams for years to come. Waterfalls cascade across mountainsides while the glaciers stand firm, offering an amazing insight into the sheer power of nature. There are plenty of places you can visit to get a closer look at the fjords, including Sognefjord, Geirangerfjord and more.
Scandinavian foods and traditional meals
We couldn’t bring an end to this Scandinavian facts guide without giving you an insight into some of the incredible food you’ll find in the region.
After all, if you’re familiar with facts about Scandinavia, then you’ll know that all of the countries in the peninsula love their food. Although many of the dishes are basic, they’re also packed full of amazing fresh and natural ingredients — making them highly healthy and nutritious. Some of the main staples of traditional Scandinavian food include:
Fish: Easily one of the main staples of Scandinavian food, fish is a go-to cuisine for any local. With such a huge fishing industry available, it only makes sense. Fresh and delicious fish is available in virtually any Scandinavian restaurant, with options ranging from shellfish to salmon.
Gravlax: A traditional Scandinavian food made from raw salmon cured with dill, salt and sugar. This meal is often eaten with mustard and bread and may come with a side of potatoes. There are many different restaurants that serve this across the Scandinavian region.
Meatballs: One of the ultimate Scandinavian foods, meatballs in the region often differ from the ones you’ll find elsewhere in the world. They’re generally much smaller than UK or US meatballs and made with a range of fresh ingredients, including veal and pork. Denmark usually servers its meatballs with potatoes, beetroot, and pickled cabbage.
Berries: Another common staple of Scandinavian food, berries come in both savoury and sweet dishes. Scandinavia is often best-known for its cloudberries, which are used in juice and jam, and lingonberries, which are often eaten with porridge and toast.
Pancakes: You might not think of pancakes as a common Scandinavian dish — but you’d be surprised. Usually, pancakes are eaten later in the day, as most Scandinavian people don’t believe that breakfast should be sweet. If you are eating these for breakfast, the chances are you’ll be having potato pancakes, rather than the ones covered in berries and whipped cream.
Exploring the incredible Scandinavia region
Scandinavian countries aren’t always at the top of a person’s wish list when it comes to vacations. That’s usually because they don’t have the same sun, sea, and sand to offer. However, when you really get to know the Scandinavian peninsula, you’ll discover that there’s more to the region than you thought.
Countries in Scandinavia are packed full of incredible culture, amazing sights, and unforgettable experiences that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Not only does Scandinavia have some of the happiest people on the planet, but it also has some of the most appealing landscapes too.
As a source of inspiration, beauty, and opportunity, Scandinavia is a truly unique space and one that anyone should consider visiting.