Written by Elle Pollicott
Predominantly made up of Norway, Sweden and Denmark (with Finland and Iceland also considered Scandinavia); Scandinavia is located in Northern Europe and is my favourite place in the whole world! It’s relatively undiscovered and as such, a mysterious place, mainly known for its long, dark winters and masses of trees, lakes and elks (Finland boasts more than 188,000 lakes!). Scandinavia is actually a pretty amazing place – have a look at these facts and see for yourself!
1. The most popular souvenir from Sweden is a ‘moose crossing’ sign, with thousands stolen off the road sides each year.
2. In Denmark, if you’re not married by the age of 30 you get a pepper shaker as a gift; with the men called Pepper Men (“pebersvend") and women called Pepper Maid (“pebermø")... the logic behind this has yet to be determined!
3. The Finns are obsessed with saunas, and with 2.2million available, that’s one sauna for every 2.5 people! A word of warning though, if you decide to visit one of the saunas: it’s considered completely normal to be naked.
4. During Midsummer, the Swedes dance around a maypole and sing songs where they pretend to be frogs, pigs, horses... ridiculously catchy too, if you’re lucky enough to get to experience this, you’ll be humming the songs for the rest of your holiday – I should know!
5. The Danes were recently crowned as the happiest people in the world, although in contrast, Finland has previously won the title of the highest suicidal rates in the whole of Europe.
6. Many Icelanders believe in elves – so much so that certain roads have been re-routed so as not to disturb areas where elves are thought to live.
7. The Swedes recycle so much of their waste, that they have to import it from Norway so they can fuel their energy programmes.
8. In 2008, Norway knighted a penguin! The penguin in question is called Nils Olav and prior to his knighthood, was promoted to Colonel in Chief of the Norwegian Army.
9. The Danes eat more pasta than any other country in the world.
10. Finland holds the world record for hosting the most number of world record championships – this includes wife carrying, mobile phone throwing, mosquito catching and boot throwing.
Travelling through Scandinavia over the past few weeks, I’ve come to make some observations myself; and disprove some of the misconceptions clouding these countries... factual or not, here are some things I’ve come to discover about my favourite place in the world!
1. Scandinavia isn't that expensive
Everyone always goes on about how much everything costs in Scandinavia, and whilst it’s true that Oslo is the most expensive European city to live in, it’s not too dissimilar to English prices, the only apparent difference being in the alcohol. In Norway and Sweden, you can only buy alcohol from state shops (‘Vinmonopolet’ in Norway and ‘Systembolaget’ in Sweden). Expect to pay about £20 for a 350ml bottle of vodka, and the same price for a cocktail at a nice bar. But don’t let that put you off... pay a trip to Angst Bar or Aku Aku at hipster Grünerløkka in Oslo and you’ll see that’s it’s totally worth it!
2. Scandinavian’s are taller than the Brits
This wasn’t noticed so much in Finland and Sweden, but at 5ft9, I tower over most of the women (and men!) in England; so walking through the streets of Norway, I definitely fit in there! At the average UK female height at 5ft3 on the other hand, you’re definitely going to feel short.
3. Fashion styles vary a lot
I am a huge fan of the Scandi-cool look consisting of blacks, whites and greys with a colour pop of white blonde hair. Whilst not everyone was dressed as off-duty models; it became apparent in Norway that if you wore anything other than muted shades, you were instantly sussed to be a tourist, and you were subjected to curious glances (especially in Northern Norway). At the opposite end of the scale, anything seems to go in Finland, so embrace whatever look you’re going for because nobody minds!