Welcome to Nordic Month!
We are kicking off the new year with a full month dedicated to All Things Nordics!
I thought of this idea a few months back when I was reminiscing about my time in Iceland. We haven't done a themed month here on the blog and I thought this would be a great way to start 2022. Before we jump into who and what the Nordic culture is take a look at this month's post lineup.
Who are the Nordics?
I was first introduced to the Nordic culture back in April 2019 when I flew internationally for the first time landing in Reykjavik, Iceland. Because I'd never flown internationally before, let alone experienced a change in culture, I thought I'd fall into the trap of culture shock. Instead, I found myself comforted by the warm welcome by all who lived on the island along with how they lived.
Nordic culture doesn't just span across Iceland, but includes four other countries including Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark which are known as 'Norden' when spoken about collectively. Demark still lays claim to Greenland and The Faroe Islands, but these often aren't considered when speaking of the five main Nordic countries.
The Nordic countries are known as the happiest in the world with most, if not all, landing in the top 10 happiest countries to live every year. Researchers believe it's due to the trust between citizens, safety, democracy and political rights, lack of corruption, and gender equality. Because of this, there has been a large influx of tourists (Iceland with 2.3 million each year) and foreigners moving into those countries for the last several years (Norway having the most potential for growth).
When I think of the Nordic countries I always think of winter (one of the reasons why I'm having Nordic Month during January!). This is because the winters are long, dark, and severely cold. During the winter months, the countries experience what is called polar night where darkness lasts longer than 24 hours. This is due to their northern location placing them in the polar circle where temperatures are much cooler than those European countries found more latterly south. This means average temperatures range from -25 degrees to 32 degrees depending on the country. You can see people wearing clothing made out of wool farmed from the local sheep to keep themselves warm during those times.
The one to two nice summer months still lean toward the mild side when compared to other countries around the world as seen with the average 60 degree weather (I don't know about you, but this sounds wonderful). What is your perfect year-round temperature if you could choose?
Due to the weather, this leaves only a few months for farmers to utilize the land for harvesting. Because of this, most often times food is imported and methods such as curing, smoking, and pickling, which were used by the Vikings, are still used to this day.
Since the five countries span such a large area, they aren't known for having a specific cuisine such as France or Italy. Instead, they rely on the ocean for seafood (in Iceland they eat fermented shark) which they eat fresh daily. They are also fond of berries, lingonberries and bilberries to be exact, and other food such as potatoes, cabbage, pork, and rye bread.
Derived from the Old Norse language the Vikings spoke, the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish languages overlap in their translations and often times can understand each other even with the Swedish language being more commonly used. This is due to the fact these three countries were considered 'Scandia' back in the Middle Ages and ruled Iceland and Finland up until the early 1940's. Even with the political hold, Iceland and Finland were able to form their own languages. With the uprise in the English language and large intake of tourists the Icelandic tongue has started to become known as a dying language as it is used less often.
As mentioned above, the Norden are the happiest countries in the world due to many variables including politics. Even though ran slightly different, with Denmark, Norway, and Sweden with a monarchy, while Finland and Iceland with presidents, they all follow the Nordic Model. Coined in 1930, The Nordic Model lets the residents of those countries receive top-quality services such as free education, healthcare, and guaranteed pension, to name a few, all paid for with the high tax rates. Many foreigners moved to these countries based on this model.
Most often times, when speaking of Nordic Culture, religion is what people are most fascinated by especially the Old Norse religion. During the Viking Age, Old Norse was created after separating from Christianity. Kings or chiefs, along with their followers, sacrificed offers to gods and goddesses, with Odin and Thor being most commonly known. The Old Norse religion also believed in giants, dwarfs, and elves but these beliefs didn't last long as Christianity took over as the main religion throughout the Nordic countries come the 12th century.
When speaking of the Nordic countries it seems the Vikings are often brought up. Due to modern society romanticizing their culture, the Vikings are often made out to be brave faring people when in fact they often raided, pirated, and traded the goods and slaves they captured between the 8th to 11th century. They were able to do this as they sailed the seas throughout Northern Europe where they eventually created many settlements which grew into large kingdoms now known as modern-day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
Researchers believe Vikings started their sailing adventures in hopes to find wives as they were known to be polygamous.
I loved reading up on the Nordic culture and encourage you to read more about them as well. I narrowed down a few main topics, but if you're wanting to find out more, I suggest going to Google Scholar and searching 'Nordic Culture' where you can read scientific journals and papers on the matter.
Have you been to any of the Nordic countries before? If so, how was your experience and what do you recommend for people also wanting to visit? Tell me in the comments below and remember to set your alarm for next Monday at 9 a.m. when I talk about my experience in Iceland... it's a fun one I promise!
Lane, Jan-Erik, and Svante Ersson. "The Nordic Countries." Political institutions in Europe (2002): 245.
Martela, Frank, et al. "The Nordic exceptionalism: what explains why the Nordic Countries are constantly among the happiest in the world." JF Helliwell et. al., R. Layard, JD Sachs, & JE De Neve (Eds.), World Happiness Report (2020): 128-145.