What Are the Weirdest Facts About Scandinavian Countries?
To foreigners, Scandinavia seems to be a land of natural beauty, magical tales and jolly citizens. Still, there’s more to this area than meets the eye, and plenty of untapped strangeness exists in the Nordic countries.
From weird customs to fascinating habits to odd laws, these locations are host to a variety of unique phenomena that are a part of their citizens' everyday lives. These are a few fascinating facts that set Nordic countries apart.
Ordinary Citizens Are Expected to Save Lives
While most people in the U.S. wait for ambulances during medical crises, Sweden is dependent on its citizens to be superheroes during moments of medical distress. The country has an optional texting service that citizens can sign up for that texts them when someone nearby has suffered a heart attack and needs assistance.
Ideally, citizens near the affected person can get to them before EMS services and perform CPR or provide other assistance until trained medical professionals arrive. Since the program's implementation, nearly half of heart attack sufferers have been helped by bystanders before paramedics.
Denmark Has the Oldest Amusement Park
While Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens may have inspired Disney World, Denmark has a much cooler amusement park tucked away near the capital. The park is called Dyrehavsbakken ("The Animal Park's Hill") and has been open for business since 1583. This makes Dyrehavsbakken the oldest theme park on Earth...and it's still functioning.
Of course, there have been some updates to the park since its initial creation, including new rides, booths, games and amenities. Dyrehavsbakken is open from April to August, but the Danish government leaves the gates open year-round so people can wander through the empty park during the winter season.
Finnish People Don't Make Small Talk
Awkward silences aren't a problem in Finnish conversations. From a young age, Finnish children are not taught about the concept of "small talk" unless they’re studying English. They see no necessity to speak simply to fill the air. If they don't have anything important to say, they won't say anything at all.
The conversation niceties that many other countries practice aren't seen as necessary for fostering relationships in Finland. In fact, many Finnish citizens find the idea of small talk to be more discomforting than lulls in conversations.
Iceland Doesn't Have Mosquitoes
Ready to get jealous? The world's peskiest (and deadliest) insect — the mosquito — doesn't exist in Iceland. Icelandic citizens don't need to worry about getting covered in itchy welts from these bugs (even if they do have to worry about frostbite). Why is the country free of mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes need access to large bodies of water to breed, and Iceland doesn't have any lakes that support their reproductive habits. Additionally, these insects require warm temperatures to live into adulthood. Iceland freezes over too often to allow mosquitoes time to mature into the obnoxious adult bugs they become.
Children Trick-or-Treat During Easter
In many countries, Easter is marked by colorful eggs, candy and the Easter bunny, making Sweden's annual Easter tradition a puzzling phenomenon. Rather than conducting Easter egg hunts, Swedish children spend every Easter getting into costume and trick-or-treating like it’s Halloween.
Where did this unique cultural event begin? It's written into Swedish folklore. Supposedly, offerings to "witches" help ward off evil spirits on Easter. Children bring Easter artwork or presents to the houses they receive candy from in order to contribute to the defense against evilness on the beloved holiday.
The Norwegian Government Supports Authors
Publishing can be a ruthless industry, yet the Norwegian government ensures that, once your book hits shelves, citizens across the globe have a chance to read it. When you publish a book in Norway, the government prints between 1,000 and 1,500 copies (based on genre) and distributes it to libraries across the country.
In addition, the government makes an effort to distribute these books to libraries in universities and academic spaces around the world for international students to read. Why are they so eager to promote citizens' books? They’re hopeful that it’ll help solidify the strength and relevance of Norwegian literature.
Denmark Has Strict Baby-naming Laws
Who knew that naming a newborn could be so complicated? In Denmark, the government exercises strict control over the naming of a newborn, including choosing an acceptable name. Parents can't go rogue on naming; they have to pick from a list of 22,000 girl names, 18,000 approved boy names and 1,000 approved unisex names.
Additionally, if a child doesn't have a first and middle name by the time they're six months old, the parents can face a hefty fine. While this all sounds strict, Denmark hopes to ensure that children won’t be outcasts because of their names.
Norway Has a Doomsday Seed Vault
In the case of a doomsday event, most people won't be thinking about the impact of a climate disaster on the world's crops. Fortunately, Norway has us all covered on that front. The country built the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, an underground seed bank on an island called Spitsbergen.
The vault contains millions of seeds from more than 930,000 different kinds of food crops. It’s one of the most agriculturally diverse spots on Earth, despite the crops still being in pre-plant form. If there's a global catastrophe that wipes out crops, Norway is prepared to produce the next wave of food.
Sweden Supports the Right to Roam
Across the globe, it's not uncommon for gorgeous, preserved spots of nature to be regulated by government authorities or agencies. Often, it even costs money to enter more famous parks or nature sites. However, Sweden believes that access to nature should be a human right — so much so that they wrote it into their constitution.
Legally, all Swedish citizens are entitled to allemansrätten (the Right of Public Access), or the right to roam the Swedish countryside via bicycling, hiking or walking without any limitations or restrictions. If the land isn't close to a home or private garden, feel free to pitch a tent, too.
Iceland Has Heated Walkways
Winters in Iceland can be fairly brutal in terms of weather. How do the cities within this Scandinavian country cope with the chilly climate? Heated sidewalks! Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, spends springs and summers harvesting thermal energy to heat the sidewalks in winter.
Snow-melting thermal strips are planted under the sidewalks and heat the concrete up from beneath the walkways. Without these heated sidewalks, many paths would certainly freeze over and make it difficult to get from place to place. Who needs a plow when you can just melt the snow away?
Finnish Babies Sleep Outside
Although many babies take naps in nurseries, Finnish citizens don't see anything positive about keeping kids indoors. As a result, many babies in Finland take their naps outside in prams or strollers. This phenomenon is true both at home and in public; many parents leave their kids outside of stores in their strollers to sleep.
While some parents may worry about the safety of their children, Finnish parents only see benefits in letting their kids take naps outside. Considering the low crime rate in Finland and the positive impact of fresh air, outdoor naps are highly encouraged.
A Chimp Became a Great Swedish Painter
In the practical joke of the 20th century, a Swedish zoo had an entire country convinced that a chimpanzee was a fine artist. In 1964, Pierre Brassau became a familiar painter in Sweden's art world. While his work was unconventional, critics praised Brasseau for the emotional quality of his art.
Still, many reviewers felt that the work was childish, messy and animalistic...and, in many ways, it was. The work of Pierre Brassau wasn't created by a person at all. Rather, a 4-year-old African chimpanzee named Peter — a resident of Sweden's Boras Zoo — was the ape behind the art.
Finland Sends Mothers Maternity Packages
Finland takes care of its parents! The government provides the same amount of maternity/paternity leave days to newborns' mothers and fathers: 164 days of their choice, or approximately seven months. In addition, expecting mothers in Finland each receive a helpful package of baby-centric goods in the mail.
In these packages, Finnish mothers-to-be are given several outfits (for all seasons), books, toys, cloth diapers, hygiene products and other useful items. Although the parcels contain pricey items, they’re completely free to mothers and covered by Finnish tax dollars.
They’re All Addicted to Coffee
Although you may be a major coffee-lover, you can't comprehend how much Scandinavian citizens adore the caffeinated beverage. The five main Nordic countries place in the top five slots of the six biggest coffee consumers worldwide.
Of all Nordic countries, Finland is the most significant, with residents drinking more coffee per capita than any other country on Earth. Believe it or not, it’s common for Finnish citizens to consume nine cups of coffee daily, with a number of people drinking 30 cups per day. A recipe for a heart attack? In Finland, it's the norm.
Norwegian Police Take It Easy
If you want police reliability, Norway may not be the best spot to move to. Instead of being available by phone 24/7, cops in Norway are, like non-crisis professionals, only reachable during their office hours. In addition, the stations often shut down during weekends to give officers a break.
This isn't as reckless as it sounds. Officers are on duty 24/7; they just aren't often in the office to pick up calls. Fortunately, dialing 112 is still a surefire way to connect you to a police dispatcher, who can hopefully get citizens in touch with emergency services.
Denmark Is the Happiest Place in the World
Worldwide, Scandinavia is known for its almost-euphoric atmosphere. Its citizens seem to feel the joyful energy, too. The World Happiness Report has found the central Nordic countries to be the happiest places to live for the past decade, with Denmark leading the charge.
What makes Denmark such a happy place to reside? Danish culture has a strong focus on family time, advocates for fair workplaces and encourages a connection with nature. Citizens there are generally more kind and trusting than in other countries. By encouraging positive, mindful lifestyles and supportive communities, Denmark fosters an environment of goodwill and joy.
The Finnish Have Bizarre Contests
There’s nothing that Finland enjoys more than a good competition! The country is host to all sorts of bizarre contests throughout the year, from phone-throwing to wife-carrying to farting championships. Finland also invented the first air guitar competition, which has become a popular "sport" across the globe.
Why is Finland so obsessed with conducting the craziest contests? In addition to being a fun pastime for citizens, it's likely that these wacky competitions help attract and entertain foreigners who come through the eccentric country. Not a bad source of tourism!
The Swedes Knew About Chernobyl First
The 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine horrified people across the world. Although the USSR tried to censor the event, it was difficult to keep the impacts of nuclear radiation from being uncovered. Because of this, an unlucky Swede was the first man to find out about the disaster.
When radiation detectors went off at the Forsmark Power Plant in Sweden, a confused worker went outside to investigate possible radiation sources. To his surprise, a rain shower that had come through had destroyed the grass beyond the complex...poisoned by the radioactivity from Chernobyl 800 miles away.
Iceland Has an Anti-incest App
While this would get a good laugh out of citizens in larger countries, it's an essential program for Iceland. Iceland has an anti-incest dating app to keep unknowing relatives from accidentally hooking up. In such a small country, it's necessary to take precautions to ensure that this awkward scenario is avoided.
The app allows citizens to "bump" phones with the person they’re planning on sleeping with. If they’re distantly related, the app emits an alarm, letting them know to cut things off. What's the app's witty slogan? "Bump the app before you bump in bed."
Sweden Held a Unique Lottery
Speeding tickets are no laughing matter, but in Stockholm, Sweden, they put a smile on a few lucky faces. The Swedish government tested out a concept called the "Speed Camera Lottery," which rewarded safe drivers by entering them into a contest to win money from the fines of drivers who sped in the previous year.
While reckless drivers may have hated this unique initiative, a handful of lucky law-abiding drivers reaped the rewards of their safe-driving endeavors. Additionally, this consequence-reward system temporarily improved the driving behaviors of many motorists on Swedish roads.
The Norwegian Army Knighted a Penguin
While plenty of strange people have been knighted across the centuries, this Norwegian creature is certainly the first penguin to be given the honor. The penguin, who is formally known as Brigadier Sir Nils Olav, was knighted by King Harald V in 2008.
What earned the penguin his title? He was the official mascot of the king's guard. The king thought it appropriate to promote him to the status of a knight. Three more penguins have claimed the same title and knighting status across the years, with the current holder, Brigadier Sir Nils Olav III, living at Edinburgh Zoo.
They Produced a Daredevil Explorer
In terms of history's famous explorers, Göran Kropp is as hardcore as they come. In 1996, this Swedish adventurer hopped on his bicycle, rode from Sweden to Nepal and decided to hike Mount Everest for fun. Besides his lengthy bike ride, what made this feat so daring?
He hiked the mountain without a bit of protective gear, bottled oxygen or a sherpa or heavy coat. Once he hiked up and down the peak, he jumped back on his bicycle as if he had merely made a trip to the store and biked back home to Sweden.
Sweden Imports Trash From Norway
Swedish citizens are more likely to recycle than any other people on Earth. While this may be great for the planet, it's not always super when it comes to the country's power source. Much of Sweden is dependent on waste-to-power plants for electrical energy.
How do they cope with the lack of garbage? Sweden's waste-to-power plants are forced to resort to shipping in waste from other parts of Scandinavia. In fact, the country imports 80,000 tons of trash every year from Norway to convert into Swedish energy. Norway gets rid of garbage, Sweden gets power and everyone wins!
Denmark Is Home to LEGO
One of the most popular toys in history (and the most painful to step on) got its start in the earth's jolliest country! The LEGO Group was started by inventor/craftsman Ole Kirk Christiansen from Billund, Denmark. Christiansen was once savvy at creating ladders and other wooden fixtures, yet his shop burned down during an accidental fire.
After the disaster, Christiansen began to rebuild and started to practice toy-making in 1932. He became a successful wooden toymaker, and, in 1947, he used plastic to create the first "Automatic Binding Brick." The rest, of course, is history!
Swedish Citizens Celebrate "Midsummer"
If you were a fan of the popular horror film Midsommar, this fact might disturb you more than excite you. Fortunately, there's nothing so dramatic as the events of the movie in this sweet celebration. Founded during Pagan times, present-day Swedish Midsummer celebrates the longest day of the year.
The celebration places a strong emphasis on community, love, music and living in the moment. In addition to wearing flower crowns and spending days connecting with nature, the holiday's most popular event is dancing around the maypole. The holiday runs from June 20 to June 25 annually.
Sweden Tried to Elect Donald Duck
For many years, Swedish voters reluctant to vote for any political parties in their country would vote for Donald Duck or The Donald Duck Party instead of casting a vote for an actual politician. This became popular throughout Sweden, with thousands of people casting their ballots for the Disney character every election.
In 2006, a new law was put into place to ban voting for fictional people, putting an end to the voters' fun. However, Donald Duck is still a staple of Swedish culture, with the cartoon being an essential part of Christmas traditions and cultural celebrations.
Denmark Was Once a Murderous Country
As of 2017, Denmark had one of the lowest homicide rates in the world (1.2 out of every 100,000). This wasn't always the case. Back in the 18th century, Denmark was all violence, all the time. Why was the country so bloodthirsty? The citizens thought it would get them into Heaven.
Suicidal citizens of Denmark were taught that killing themselves would send them to Hell. As a result, they murdered their fellow Danish people, instead, hoping they would be executed for their crimes. Ideally, they could repent for their sins before their slaughter and go to Heaven.
Finnish Children Read to Animals
Ready to have your heart melted? In Finland, schoolchildren take the time to read to animals like dogs and cows in order to boost their own self-confidence. How does reading to these animals help empower the children?
For kids who struggle to be confident in front of their teachers, parents and peers, "reading animals" are a useful tool to practice reading aloud without the pressure of a human's ears — or their judgment. This is particularly useful for children who struggle with reading, spelling or pronunciation, as animals don't judge when they make mistakes.
Sweden Texts Blood Donors When They've Saved a Life
Who doesn't want to know they helped save a life? If you donate blood in Sweden, not only can you feel great about your contribution, but hospitals also let you know whenever your blood has been given to a patient. The unique initiative began with the Swedish blood donation service Blodcentralen.
The organization was hopeful that connecting with citizens through texts could help increase donor turnout (specifically among young people) and help urge former donors to donate again. Whether it works or not is up for debate, but it certainly puts a smile on donors' faces.
Icelandic Citizens Believe in Elves
This goes way beyond an interest in fantastical creatures. Iceland genuinely believes that elves exist and that their values impact the way that the citizens — and the government — behave. How do these beliefs impact the way that they interact with their land?
Icelandic people do their best not to unsettle any possible elf colonies. They’re wary of interacting with areas that might be occupied by elves. They also avoid building near sites that they suspect might be home to elf colonies. Sometimes, they call in mystics to help encourage the elves to move off of valuable properties.