What We Can Learn from Scandinavian Culture


Having visited Finland, Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden, and Copenhagen, I?ˆ™ve learned a lot about Scandinavian culture, and I’ve often pondered what the world?ˆ™s happiest countries can teach us about happy living.

Related post: 3 Days in Stockholm

According to the World Happiness Report, the five Scandinavian countries consistently rank in the top 10 happiest countries every year. I believe the answer lies in those Scandinavian countries having cultural philosophies that promote healthy living and the presence of high-functioning institutions, including governments that provide basic safety nets, such as free and high-quality education and healthcare, to all citizens.

Preschool to university education is either low-cost or free as is healthcare. As a result, Scandinavians don’t have to go into financial debt to pay for the cost of education and healthcare. They can take better care of themselves and their families, which results in longevity and better health outcomes.

Not only that but people in those countries work fewer hours than Americans and are allotted and take more vacation days. Some countries, such as Sweden, have implemented a six-hour work day, which provides even more flexibility to workers.

Beautiful street - Scandinavian culture

Social Norms in Scandinavian Culture

Lagom, sisu, and hygge are three Nordic philosophies from Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, respectively. These philosophies are based on living in moderation in the present moment; being active and courageous; and emotionally connecting with people and things that comfort you. These norms are often reflected the atmosphere of how Scandinavians hang out and converse with friends over a warm fire or a glass of wine.

The lifestyle practices found in Scandinavian culture offer ways of living that should be considered globally, especially in the US. Making time to see family and friends on a frequent basis has been proven by numerous studies to be good for your health. Additionally, doing things in moderation, such as eating and tech time, is not only good for our health but also for the environment.

In Sweden, I participated in my own fika, and it reminded me of a Spanish siesta but for socializing.

Scandinavian culture embodies appreciating the things you have and never taking them for granted. From a structural standpoint, most societies don’t afford everyone the opportunity to focus on things that matter to them or even to take time off from work!

There is a lot of opportunity for individual countries to implement public policies at the cross-section of health, equality, and social justice. If governments and society further prioritize health and wellness on a systemic level, it would lead to widespread adoption and potentially change health outcomes for all and making those countries happier countries, too.

Have you visited Scandinavia before? What aspects of Scandinavian culture do you admire?

About author

Taryn White

With 75+ countries and all 50 U.S. states crossed off her list, Taryn's wanderlust continues to grow! She loves historic places, family travel, and beautiful beaches. Follow her pursuits on Instagram (@taryntraveler).

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