What are the Nordic countries? Exploring the Nordic region

What are the Nordic countries? The term Nordic appears quite often when discussing Northern Europe and the Scandinavian peninsula.

However, few people seem to know how to separate the true Nordic countries from the rest. Being in Northern Europe doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in one of the Nordic nations.

For many, the Nordic region is a place rich in mystery, beauty, and incredible sights.

From the stunning seaside towns of Denmark, to the Fjords of Norway, the Nordic landscape is appealing to travellers for a wide variety of reasons.

To help you better understand how to define what it means to be Nordic, we’re going to answer the question: “What countries are considered Nordic?” We’ll also be looking at why certain spaces are called Nordic, and more.

Let’s jump in.

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Where are the Nordic countries? Identifying Nordic nations

The Nordic and Scandinavian regions are very closely connected — though they’re not exactly the same. This can make it difficult to pinpoint which are the Nordic nations unless you have a map of Nordic countries to help you.

According to experts, the Nordic nations are a selection of five countries, including Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. Greenland and the Aland Islands aren’t countries in their own right, but they often appear in reference to the Nordic region.

As a geographical and cultural region, the Nordics are often referred to as “Norden”, and they cover a portion of Northern Europe and the Atlantic. Interestingly, to appear as a Nordic country, destinations must have the right cultural and geographical connections.

For instance, the Northern Isles of Scotland share various ethnic and cultural ties with the Nordic nations, but they don’t belong to the same “Norden” group.

What is the largest Nordic country?

The largest country in the Nordic region is Sweden, with a massive land coverage of 625 thousand square km. Sweden also has the largest population of around 10.23 million people as of 2019. The second largest country in population is Denmark.

Sweden is also part of the Scandinavian region, and Scandinavians make up the largest portion of the Nordic’s population. Throughout the Nordics, you’ll find people speaking a host of languages, from Icelandic and Swedish, to Norwegian, Danish and Faroese.

While Nordic countries share a similar geographical location, they also have a common history, way of life, and social structure. The locations in the Nordic region have many close relationships and political regions.

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A brief history of the Nordic region

Defining a Nordic country can be a complicated process for those who don’t know much about the Nordic landscape, the Nordic Model, and the Nordic council.

The first thing you need to know is that at present, the Nordic countries cover a combined area of around 3,425,804 km2, which is a massive cluster of space across Northern Europe, and the North Atlantic.

Though there are many unique elements to each Nordic country in the landscape, it’s worth noting that Nordic countries often rank towards the top of the scales in various global metrics.

Not only are Nordic countries some of the happiest in the world, but they also have leading outcomes in quality of life, human development, civil liberties, economic competitiveness, and education.

The Nordic region emerged after the fall of the “Kalmar Union” in the 16th century. The Kalmar Union was a union in Scandinavia that combined the monarchies of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

When the Kalmar Union disappeared, movements began to discover a new way of joining the Nordic countries, which shared a similar religion, life, history, and social structure.

The integration of the early kingdoms of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway had an important influence on the later development of the Nordic region.

Similarities in the administrative and judicial systems for the five Nordic states were deemed essential, as they assisted in the running of the original Kalmar Union.

The edges of the Nordic region that we know today originally began taking shape during the European wars between 1789 and 1815.

However, the Nordic landscape continues to evolve to this day. Notably, the development of Nordic cooperation hasn’t always been as smooth as it seems. At times, ambitious strategies for defense and economic cooperation have led to failure.

In 2016, mobility in the Nordic region faced the challenge of a new re-imposition of border controls. Nordic cooperate at the same time had begun to extend into new fields for defense and security.

Representatives of Nordic countries engage in cooperative conversations with the United Nations, the USA, and other groups.

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Which countries are considered Nordic?

There are five main Nordic countries according to regional experts. However, if you asked someone, “What is the best Nordic country?” it would be hard to get a consistent answer.

While the Nordic countries have many things in common, they also have unique differences too. The only true way to decide which Nordic country is best is to visit each of them.

Here are some facts about the Nordic countries to get you started.

Is Denmark a Nordic country?

Denmark is the southernmost country in the Nordic region, which may lead some people to question, “Is Denmark Nordic?”. This compact country features a peninsula and a series of small and large islands.

Though it’s small, Denmark is densely populated and packed full of amazing things to do and see. It’s one of the most popular destinations for Nordic tourists.

Denmark is the second largest Nordic country in terms of population, with around 5.8 million inhabitants. Over 1.3 million people live in the Capital city of Copenhagen alone.

In Denmark, you’ll find a total land area of around 42,962 km2, which the locals take full advantage of. Wherever you go, you’ll see people cycling through the streets and enjoying nature.

Denmark is popular for its Viking history, commitment to the concept of Hygge, and wide variety of historical locations to explore.

Is Finland a Nordic country?

If you’re wondering, “Is Finland Nordic?” the answer is a resounding yes. Finland is best-known around the world for its beautiful forests and lakes, which cover a large portion of the country.

Although Finland often gets left out when people speak of the Scandinavian region, it is an official part of the Nordic landscape.

Finland is famous for its incredible wildlife. There are tons of natural landscapes to explore, and the country’s five and a half million citizens take full advantage of this.

You can find Elk and reindeer in Finland, as well as bears and wolverines, for those willing to watch from a distance.

Finland also has a wide selection of unique food and drink options for visitors to explore, from smoked fish, to delicious candy. Finland even competes with leaders like Russia for some of the best vodka in the world.

Is Iceland a Nordic country?

Iceland is a stunning volcanic island that’s actually geographically distanced from the four other major locations in the Nordic region. However, ask any professional, “Is Iceland Nordic?” and they’re sure to say “yes”.

The country of Iceland has a relatively small population, because most of the stunning landscape isn’t inhabitable. However, the lava fields and incredible glaciers attract visitors from all over the world.

Iceland is one of the most interesting places in the world, home to incredible sights like the Northern Lights, and unique experiences, like ice hotels and volcanic hot springs.

Although Iceland is two and a half times the size of Denmark geographically, most of the landscape has no human inhabitants. Currently, only around 356,991 people are living in Iceland.

One fun fact about Iceland is that although it’s not a member of the European Union, it does sign onto the EEA agreement, which means that it is part of the European Economic Area.

Is Norway a Nordic country?

Norway is probably one of the Nordic countries that most people think of first when looking at a Nordic countries map. Norway is famous throughout the world for its access to oil and its wonderful fjords, which attract visitors from across the globe.

Norway is also a country of vast forests and mountains, with dramatic scenery wherever you look.

From a population perspective, Norway is home to a similar number of people as Denmark, with around 5.3 million citizens. About 1.2 million of those citizens live in and around the capital city of Oslo.

The region has many other places to visit though, including Bergen, one of the most historic mountain cities in the country.

If you’ve heard of Norway, then you probably associate it with things like incredible Viking tales and massive amounts of salmon. The region is also famous for its wonderful artwork, which includes pieces like “The Scream” from Edvard Munch.

Is Sweden a Nordic country?

Now we’ve covered the question, “Is Norway Nordic?” let’s move onto the largest Nordic country in the landscape, based on both population and physical side.

Sweden is the most industrialised country in the Nordic nations, known for its production of vast amounts of iron, steel, and even cars.

Of course, there’s a lot more to Sweden than it’s industrial stature.

Sweden has dozens of amazing landscapes to explore, from the artistic Gothenburg, to the diverse city of Malmö. Inland rivers and lakes cover about 10% of the country’s land mass.

Despite the wide range of forests in Sweden, there’s still a lot of liveable land available.

Sweden shares borders with Norway and Finland, and is famous for everything from pop music (Abba) to its design innovations, and gorgeous outdoor greenery.

With more than 10 million inhabitants, Sweden is a diverse place where you’re sure to learn plenty about Scandinavian culture and discover a thing or two about the Nordics too.

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Are there other Nordic nations?

Aside from the top five Nordic countries mentioned above, there are also a handful of other territories that fall within the definition of “Nordic.” The Faroe Islands, for instance, is an archipelago in the North Atlantic that acts as an autonomous territory within Denmark.

The Faroe Islands are made up of 18 islands of varying sizes connected by ferries and tunnels.

Many experts regard the Faroe Islands is part of the Nordic region, although they’re not technically a country. Of the three autonomous territories in the Nordic region, the Faroe Islands are the smallest, covering about 1,400 km2 and housing about 49,864 people.

Almost half of the Faroe Islands’ citizens live within the capital city.

Alongside the Faroe Island, Greenland is another autonomous territory belonging to Denmark, which also belongs to the Nordic nations. Greenland is an enormous land mass, but it’s mostly covered in ice, meaning that there are only around 56,000 inhabitants in the space.

Interestingly, from a geographical perspective, Greenland belongs to the North American region. However, from a political and cultural point of view, Greenland has existed within the Nordic territories for over 1000 years.

Though the Faroe Islands are the smallest of the autonomous islands in the Nordic region, the Aland Islands are probably lesser known.

The Aland islands belong to Finland, although much of the territory speaks Swedish.

Overall, the Aland space consists of over 6,700 islands located between Finland and Sweden. Here, you’ll find plenty of pine forests, heathlands, cliffs, and more.

With only around 30,000 inhabitants, the Aland islands are the smallest Nordic region in terms of population. The location is a member of the European Union, and it operate as a fully independent nation from Finland.

Why are they called Nordic countries?

The Nordic region can be difficult to define without a little guidance. This collection of countries shares a lot of things, from political ties, to history and geographical location.

All five Nordic countries, along with the Aland and Faroe Islands, also share a similar flag.

If you look at the Nordic country flags, you’ll notice that many feature an off-centre cross which sometimes has a thin border. This is known as the Nordic Cross, and it’s a design that appears in locations all over the globe — not just the Nordic region.

Aside from a shared flag, and a similar location globally, the Nordic countries are also a part of something called the Nordic Council. This is a forum which facilitates cooperation across the Nordic nations.

The council members in the Nordic nations aren’t directly elected, they’re members in parliament that receive nominations from party groups.

Unlike the European Union or United Nations, the full Council of ministers for the Nordic countries only meets twice per year.

During these meetings, politicians make decisions about issues in the region, but they’re not binding choices. The Nordic governments need to individually decide whether to implement any new rules suggested.

Currently, the Nordic council has a Secretary-General in Copenhagen. Each of the Nordic countries maintains its own social and economic models, although many have similarities. The “Nordic Model” is the term that describes the social and political policies of most Nordic nations. Today, it usually refers to the introduction of market reforms and public sector flexibility.

The Nordic model uses a market economy combined with universalist welfare and strong labor unions often influenced and financed by high taxes. There’s a high amount of income redistribution in the region, which often leads to minimal social unrest.

The Nordic model promotes social mobility and individual autonomy for the locals.

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What is the difference between Scandinavian and Nordic?

Much of the Nordic region is made up of Scandinavian countries, however, the Nordic and Scandinavian region isn’t one and the same. The Scandinavian region includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and sometimes Finland.

Nordic countries include Finland, Iceland, and the associated territories of Nordic countries, like Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Aland islands.

Like the Scandinavian region, however, there are many similarities between countries in the Nordic region that tighten their bond.

The languages spoken across the Nordic region are mostly Scandinavian, including Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Iceland, and Faroese. Most of the languages in the Nordic nations come from Old Norse and Germanic roots.

Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian are the most common languages across all regions. Swedish is mandatory in Finnish schools, for instance, and Danish is a mandatory language in Greenlandic and Faroese schools to ensure universal language access across the Nordic region.

The Nordic countries are also deeply connected on a basis of political cooperation. While aspirations to develop a pan-Scandinavian state disappeared in the 1800s, they were succeeded by the desire to create a Nordic group.

The foundation of the Nordic Council in 1952 supported the establishment of a common Nordic labor market and passport, as well as consistent social security unions.

Facts about the Nordic countries

Interestingly, the Nordic countries preceded a variety of social developments in the European Union by many decades. Agreements among Nordic countries, and the cooperation between the regions also facilitate regular migration between the Nordic landscapes.

Today, the Nordic region is home to some of the most successful countries in the world, measured on metrics like social growth, quality of life, and economic performance. Perhaps we could all do with learning a thing or two from the Nordic way of life.

A few other facts about Nordic countries include:

  • The climate throughout the Nordic region is usually surprisingly mild despite the Northern location of the nations. Usually, climate in each country comes from a combination of geographical location, and the vicinity of the nation to the Gulf stream.
  • In terms of topography, the Nordic region is mainly flat. All of Finland and Denmark are situated below 200m. Though there are many Scandinavian mountains and fjords to consider, the majority of the Nordics is easy to travel, with various flat planes.
  • Nordic parliaments are all built on a single chamber system. Although the Norwegian parliament operated on two chambers in the past, this changed in 2009. The Icelandic Althing is currently the oldest working parliament in the world.
  • The Nordic passport union allows citizens of all Nordic countries, including the Faroe Islands, but not Greenland, to move between Nordic locations freely. Other citizens can travel between borders but must have a form of identification.
  • Most of the Nordic countries have a common policy on memberships with things like thee EU and NATO. Iceland and Norway are the only Nordic regions not included in the EU. Both of these countries are members of the EFTA instead. Sweden and Finland are not members of NATO. Denmark is the only country participating in both organizations.
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What are the Nordic countries?

The Nordic region or Nordic nations are a collection of countries in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic. These locations, consisting largely of Scandinavian countries, share a similar location, but they have many other commonalities.

Nordic nations have a similar political background, and often use the “Nordic model” to guide economic and social models.

Nordic countries also have their council, called the Nordic council, which assists in making decisions about governance for Nordic countries.

On top of that, the Nordic nations in the landscape today share many similarities when it comes to things like historical background, quality of life, and values. This allows for excellent cooperation between the regions.

There’s more to the long-standing connection between the Nordic countries than the presence of a flag with a similar cross. Today, the Nordic countries stand out as a beacon of geographical and political compatibility, and a unique way of life.

Hopefully, this guide has given you an insight into the reality of the Nordic identity, and what it means to be part of the Nordic region.

To learn more about the individual Nordic countries mentioned above, or the autonomous regions in the Nordics, check out our other articles.

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