After 6-10 months of snow, sleet and rain, something strange makes Scandinavians stare at the sky. A big yellow ball not only brightens up the day (and night) – it sends heat to our cold corner of the world.
What is that weird ball in the sky?
So what do we do when we’re no longer the place where the sun doesn’t shine?
1, We go outside
Scandinavians tend to be at our most creative when the sun shines and we really should be at work or school. We’ll work at home (= sit outside with the laptop and do absolutely nothing work-related), take long lunches (= sit outside with some food and try to chew as slowly as possible to avoid going back inside) and study for our exams at the local park (= fall asleep at the park while hoping we’ll somehow manage to remember everything we read in the cold winter months).
Everyone wants to be outside when the sun shines
In July nobody works. Do not call a Scandinavian work place and expect people to actually help you out. They may have one person on duty but he or she can only tell you to call back in August. It’s summer – you expect us to work?!?
Some of us – actually 60-70% of us – are lucky enough to have a cabin in the family. We’ll go to that cabin every weekend when the weather is nice. Which results in the roads out of our cities looking like this on Friday afternoon:
Get in line to get to the cabin
It’s all about getting some fresh air.
Scandinavia is known for our generous benefits for people who get sick. You can take time off from work with full pay (you’ll need your doctor to sign some documents if you’re sick for extended periods of time) or almost full pay if you get sick. A common cold or cancer – you have a right to keep your job and to keep your monthly income.
One would think that this was something new. You know – crazy Scandinavians and our welfare state – but actually it’s not. I found an article that referred to the first mentioning of sick pay. Guess when that was? Around year 1000. Go Vikings! (no, not the football Vikings – the real ones).
King Magnus Lagabøte’s (1238-80) law. Not the first law that addresses sick pay.
Did you ever wonder how IKEA finds name for all the furniture they sell? They have Kramfors, Imfors, Håbol, Leksvik, Hemnes, Sandnes, Roskilde, Björkudden, Kaustby, Helmer, Elmrik and many thousand more.
Well, wonder no more – it has been revealed. And Denmark is considering going to war with Sweden over it (not really, of course, but it`s been added to the list Swedish insults to Denmark).
Scandinavia and the World
IKEA`s name rules
These are the rules IKEA uses when the company finds names for new products:
- Places in Sweden: Couches, low tables, storage boxes
- Places in Norway: Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture
- Places in Denmark: Rugs, mats
- Places in Finland: Tables, chairs
- Old male names: Pedestals on wheels
- Urban male names: Office chairs
- Islands, lakes, waters: Shelves, bathroom closets
- Adjectives: Drawer interiors
- Animals (their Swedish names): Products for kids
Denmark = a rug???
The reactions to this have mainly been Danish. Denmark is a rug? Denmark is something you walk on? Denmark is a doormat?
The official reply from IKEA to this is very diplomatic: We felt that Denmark is strong enough to carry us all. Those Swedes … cute as ever 🙂
Is this Denmark?
IKEA has 9,500 different products and I have to add that there are exceptions to these rules, like the bookcase Billy (the name sounds very much like “billig”, which means cheap, and I suspect this is the reason for the name).
Read more about IKEA`s product names. (in Swedish).
Did you ever wonder what the fox say? I mean, we all know what dogs and cats and cows say (even if there seems to be some national differences) but what does a fox say?
This is the question Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis are asking us all in this funny video:
I know they have me wondering now.
Ylvis are the two brothers from Bergen, Norway, Bård Ylvisåker and Vegard Ylvisåker, and they have a show on Norwegian television. They aren`t always very funny (I must admit that I usually catch the funnier bits on YouTube as I can`t be bothered to watch the whole show) but because of their musical talent, their music videos are usually hilarious. They make fun of everything from dubstep to Scandinavian “dansband” music.
Here are a couple of their songs:
I have been contacted by more than one person wanting to date Scandinavian people or even marry one of us. My reply? Tough luck! Because Scandinavians don’t date. We hardly even have a word for it. The Scandinavian word for ‘date’ is really old-fashioned and one my grandmother might have used but probably didn’t because I don’t think she dated either. So the few times we have to use the word ‘date’ (usually to describe something foreigners do) we use the English word for it.
And we very rarely get married.
So how do we figure on top of these lists of “happiest people in the world,” you wonder? And how do we procreate if we don’t date and don’t marry?
From the amazing online cartoon series Scandinavia and the World.
A few years ago I wrote a fanfiction called Highway to Hell about road rage on a European highway. It described how the heroine was stuck behind a truck and had the hero of the story flashing his lights to get past her, much to her annoyance.
But this summer I drove 6400 kilometers in nine different US states and I realized how strange my story must have been to you Americans (at least if the traffic in your state is anything like the traffic I met). The highways we drove on were like a train ride: Everyone was going around the same speed and you were just cruising along. No one breathing down your neck and honking the horn to get past you and no one driving like snails and turtles, stopping all traffic. The traffic was nothing like my story – it was so nice and cozy that 6400 kilometers felt like a … well, vacation 🙂 .
Yesterday I was driving home from Denmark, through Sweden, and let me tell you – the traffic in Sweden is nothing like a train ride. You are allowed to go 110 km/h or 120 km/h on the Swedish highways but people will be going at anything from 70 to 170. With two lanes it means you have to dodge the slow traffic in the inner lane (and sometimes in the outer lane because the bus going 80 *must* go past the bus going 70) and the blinking, honking fast travelers in the outer lane. So if my story Highway to Hell confused you when you read it, it`s unfortunately a correct description of how things are here. And if it scared you, you should probably think twice about driving on Swedish highways.
It`s not just in Sweden people drive like crazy but Swedes have been known to believe they are invincible in their so-very-safe Volvos. And they have a reason to feel safe because less people are killed in road accidents. Unfortunately, the people who are killed are now no longer sitting in their cars (they are safe there). It`s the pedestrians and the two-wheelers who are killed – probably by people driving safe cars, and driving too fast because they feel so safe.
So one could blame Volvo for making their cars too safe but really, that would be silly. Especially when Volvo makes cool adds like this one. I could forgive Volvo anything after I saw the add yesterda. It made me chuckle – but then I truly hate German techno 🙂
(Are you tired of German techno? Try some Swedish metal!)
Yes, I do prefer metal to techno!
Public transportation is very important here in Scandinavia. A lot of Scandinavians take the bus, tram, subway, train or boat to work every day. Watching this Danish commercial makes one look forward to taking the bus tomorrow morning :-).