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Stylish, composed, Scandinavian
Stylish, composed, Scandinavian | © Luke Pamer / Unsplash
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11 Things Only a Scandinavian Would Do

Picture of Danai Christopoulou
Updated: 26 March 2018
How can you tell you’re in the presence of a Scandi? An elegant “black with brown and grey” dress code, along with a Viking/model physique, were good indications until now. But as Scandinavian societies become more and more diverse (it’s about time), the safest bet would be to focus on their quirky, cultural habits. We’ve listed below the unique behavior that make someone a true Scandinavian. Pay attention.

Leave a baby stroller outside

There are two things happening here. One, Scandi societies are safe(r). People here don’t partake in the rest of the Western world’s paranoia that, if you leave your baby’s stroller unattended for a second, someone will probably steal it – so they’ll routinely just leave it on the pavement while entering a store for some quick shopping. The second thing is rooted in the belief that cold is good for you; leaving babies out in the cold is good for their immune system, and for getting used to the climate. Can’t argue with old folk wisdom…

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A baby stroller outside in Stockholm | @ Micael Widell / Unsplash

Take off their shoes at dinner parties

Did your guest just leave their shoes at the door and enter your party with their Daffy Duck socks? You’ll have to excuse them, they’re Scandinavians – they are adamant about their “no shoes inside” policy. Coming from a rainy or snowy environment, your shoes are probably a wet mess, so it’s definitely healthier for your feet not to carry all that inside the house. (Plus, most houses have floor heating.) And ultimately, taking your shoes off when coming home, or when visiting a friend’s home, signifies that it’s time to get your hygge on. Your guest is showing you respect. Don’t shame their socks.

Eat fish for breakfast

“Breakfast should not taste like dessert”, every Scandinavian out there will tell you while you’re munching on your croissant. You should listen to them: Scandis understand the importance of fueling up to face the day. And because fatty fish = best fuel ever, you should really try not to eye-roll (or pinch your nose) when you see them piling up slices of salmon, tuna, or even sardines and mackerel on their toast while you’re trying to sip your morning coffee. You’ll know why, about three hours later, when you will be feeling exhausted and ready for lunch while they’ll be still full and energetic.

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Fish? For breakfast? How very Scandinavian of you. | @ Monstruo Estudio / Unsplash

Assume you’ll stop your car/bus/truck for them

In Scandinavian countries, pedestrians come first. It’s as simple as that: as long as a pedestrian is crossing the street on a marked pedestrian crossing, it doesn’t even matter if there’s a green light or not – vehicles are obliged to slow down, and let them pass. So if you have a Scandi friend currently vacationing in a non-Scandi country… kindly grab them by the hand before they try to cross the street mid-traffic and acquaint themselves with the trunk of some furious taxi driving by.

Put a piece of tobacco in their mouth and leave it there

This is more of a Norwegian/Swedish thing, but you’ll encounter it across Scandinavia: people taking a mysterious, round box out of the fridge or freezer and popping some of its contents under their upper lip. This habit is called “snusing” – and it has nothing to do with the alarm on your phone. Snus, a kind of dipping tobacco mixed with salt and sodium carbonate, was first produced in Sweden in the 19th century as a more elegant way to get a nicotine fix (as it doesn’t require spitting like American dipping tobacco). Nowadays, snus is more popular than actual cigarettes and, since it’s definitely less damaging to the user and to people surrounding them than smoking, we’d say let them snus.

Snus is basically tobacco that you place directly on your gums | © Camila Jacques/Unsplash
Snus is basically tobacco that you place directly on your gums | © Camila Jacques/Unsplash

Avoid arguments at all costs

Literally the basic premise of Scandinavian film culture is people repressing their emotions and sitting quietly by the fireplace – that’s how little Scandinavians love arguing. What an American, or a Southern European may consider a “lively debate”, a Scandi will probably consider “an awful fight” and think you’re not friends anymore. So cut them some slack and don’t force them to pick sides on a subject when they don’t feel comfortable doing so. Or, if you’re that desperate to know what they really think, get them drunk first.

Make licorice-flavored everything

Licorice chocolate. Licorice snus (see above). Licorice ice cream. Where will this madness end? Scandinavians just can’t seem to realise that licorice is, ahem, an acquired taste for most people around the world. So they will offer it to you in every shape or form, from hard candy to yogurt. They will be full of pride and certain you will love it. Well, you might love it. But chances are you’ll have to keep a very strong poker face.

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You can get some version of licorice ice cream all around Scandinavia (if you’re so inclined) | @ Toa Heftiba / Unsplash

Cross their country’s borders for alcohol

In Scandinavia, borders are more of a fluid concept. If you’re crossing from Sweden to Norway with your car, for example, nobody will stop you or demand to see your papers – although there are cameras that monitor suspicious behavior. Everything is so close by, and everyone mostly understands what the other person is saying (what with Scandi languages being mutually intelligible and all) so people just move around all the time. Besides commuting for work (if you’re living in South Sweden, for instance, it’s just half an hour to Copenhagen), Scandis will routinely cross the borders to buy booze in cheaper prices, go grocery shopping, or even go on a date.

Stop working because of Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics is a huge thing in Scandinavia – especially Norway. You don’t want to get between a Norwegian and the screen, when the screen is showing a Norwegian athlete. If you’re working with them, and they’re watching the game at the office, just nod sympathetically and get back to them later about those annual reports.

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The big screen outside Oslo Sentralstasjon, set for the Winter Olympics | @Didrick Stenersen/Courtesy of Visit Oslo

Call themselves Vikings on their dating profile

If you could have a dollar for every self-proclaimed “Viking” you met on Tinder, you could probably buy Tinder. Although there’s nothing wrong with one honoring one’s heritage – and Vikings were not the war-crazed savages they are often portrayed to be – at some point all these men need to stop and think two things. One, if all women wanted was to date a medieval warrior, then probably the feminist movement wouldn’t have made quite such strides. And two, if an actual Viking saw them, they would laugh and call them soft. And then proceed to smashing their phones.

…Swipe right?
…Swipe right? | ©Hans Splinter / Flickr

Turn humble-bragging into an art form

Scandinavians have been raised knowing it’s not okay to brag. So they’ve gotten creative about it: Scandinavians, mostly Swedes, excel in “humble-bragging”. If you don’t believe us, check this video on how Swedes (among other nationalities) help the Finnish master this very important art.