Strange, Silly and Superb Scandinavian Facts
Scandinavia is usually associated with fjords, winter sports and a countryside of tall, statuesque blondes. Yet there is so much more to these Northern countries. We’ve compiled a list of the interesting, obscure and truly bizarre facts about Scandinavia. Take a look!
Would it surprise you to find out that Scandinavian Vikings didn’t actually have horns on their hats? Or that the famous Trafalgar Square Christmas tree comes from Oslo? Find out what else you might be surprised to discover about the Scandinavian countries*:
*We’re only covering: Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark because of our direct travels. Someday we’ll see Iceland. Grin.
The Finnish are pretty crazy about a few things, but some of the most interesting facts about Finland are:
- Finnish people drink more coffee than anyone else, worldwide.
- Pregnant women get a starter kit to help them with the initial baby costs.
- Finns are crazy about odd championships. They have had competitions for: mobile phone throwing; playing air guitar; and sitting on an ants’ nest. Seriously.
- Your traffic ticket depends on how much you earn (what you net). The richer you are, the more you pay for speeding.
- Finland celebrates an ‘International Day of Failure’ on October 13th. It was started in 2010 and has spread to 17 countries so far. The day is to learn from your mistakes. Want to join in? Send in a sefie ‘fail.’
- The country of Finland is the shape of a woman’s body. Before World War II, she was fuller-figured.
- Famous Finns include director Renni Harlin, actress Vampira and author Tove Jansson. Finnish inventions: ice skates, Angry Birds and Nokia, of course. As far as saunas go, the Finns and the Swedes have an ongoing argument about the origins.
For some reason, Sweden’s got a quiet reputation. They aren’t without their wonderful quirks or great logic, though:
- Swedish people recycle so much that the Waste-to-Power plants actually import waste from Norway.
- Good drivers can take part in a lottery funded by bad driving fines.
- Companies that downsize are required by law to follow first-in-last-one-out process of firing.
- Swedish students pay a fee to a student union, but NO tuition and still end up in debt. Strangely, American textbooks are cheaper to buy in Sweden.
- The Swedish Midsummer celebration involves playing leapfrog of sorts around the Maypole.
- The rust-colored villages are traditional. Nearby copper mines had an excess of waste and the Swedes discovered a way to make paint. It’s durable, easy to coat and easy to remove.
- In 1628, the Swedish nation was so proud it created a huge warship (the Vasa) to reflect the country’s power. The boat sank a mile from shore within 20 minutes.
- Snus (snoose) is incredibly popular in Sweden. The trendier brands come in something which looks like a teabag to tuck into your mouth.
- Men in Sweden are strongly encouraged to take 2 months of (paid) paternity leave. Daycare is based on a family’s income.
- Swedish meatballs do come from Sweden.
- Famous Swedes include actress Greta Garbo, tennis player Bjorn Borg and inventor Alfred Nobel (of the Nobel prize). Interesting Swedish inventions are dynamite, the Celsius thermometer and the pacemaker.
Considering that there are as many Norwegian offspring in the U.S. as there are Norwegians in Norway, you’d think some of these facts would be well known.
- The minimum wage is between $20-25.
- Norway is one of the largest oil exporters in the world, yet has one of the highest prices of gasoline ($9.79/gallon as of this writing).
- It’s illegal to buy sex, but it’s ok to sell it in Norway.
- Many Norwegians claim Leif Erikson as their explorer, although he was actually born in Greenland.
- Norway has spent millions on a ‘Doomsday Vault’ on an island that is designed as a seed preserve for plants from all over the world. International millionaires have also donated funds to support it.
- A non-working pregnant woman’s entitlement money runs at about $5,500-6,500.
- Police stations run on office hours and are often closed for the weekend.
- Norway’s current Prince married a single mother with a dodgy past.
- The border trade between Norway and Sweden (Sweden’s much, much cheaper for basics like meat and milk products) is around $2 billion a year.
- You can be put in prison for speeding in Norway. Just ten miles over the speed limit can cost you $500+. Compare that to being caught with heroin: $250 fine or so.
- If you want to upset a Norwegian, ask them about whale hunting. It’s an insult to their heritage.
- Famous Norwegians include playwrite Henrik Ibsen, DJ Boom Jinx and artist Edvard Munch. They’re also behind the beta invention of the spray can and the cheese slicer (not paperclips).
Of course, many people think of one of the most famous Danes thanks to Shakespeare, Hamlet. Did you realize he was based on the myth of Prince Amled? Read on for more:
- Denmark has one of the lowest inequality incomes in the world. They also have the lowest unemployment rate in Europe.
- Danish pastries aren’t Danish, but Viennese.
- There’s a 100% tax on gasoline in Denmark.
- It’s illegal to burn any foreign flag, but it’s ok to burn a Danish flag.
- Students receive roughly $900/month AND free tuition, with nothing to repay. Ever.
- Dane Niels Bohr won the Nobel Prize in 1922 and to reward him, the Carlsberg Brewery bought him a house with a direct pipeline into the brewery.
- Copenhagen is one of the world’s happiest cities.
- Denmark’s highest mountain is a paltry 170m.
- Legos were invented in Denmark as was the fiberscope. The drummer Lars Ulrich, the actor Mads Mikkleson and author Hans Christian Andersen are a few famous Danes.
Some facts hold true for more than one country, which is why we’ve included Scandinavia facts here:
- Scandinavian countries take Eurovision extremely seriously.
- Scandinavians skied over 6,000 years ago, and also worshiped a ski god: Ullr.
- They believe most in evolution and they also publish more books (per capita) yearly than any other area.
- Krakens, trolls, dwarves, elves and ‘Nisse’ (the trickster version of Santa Claus) are very much a part of Scandinavian cultures.
- Two awkward words for English speakers in some Scandinavian countries might be: ‘slut,’ which means ‘end’ and ‘fart’ which means speed.
- Lutefisk is a popular fish but beware: it’s slightly rotted and then put into lye (used in soaps and such) to cure it.
That’s it for our list so far. Have anything to add? Did we get something wrong? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.