Scandinavian Success: Why the Nordics Are Winning Culture
WORDS BY HOLLY BERCKELMAN
Minimalism, style, bicycles, pickled herring — all concepts which come to mind when imagining Scandinavia. And after living in Denmark’s capital for 6 months, it’s honestly pretty accurate. The Scandinavians are amongst the happiest people in the world, so in the wake of this year’s World Happiness Report, with Finland in the lead, what is it about Scandinavia that makes its people so happy? Here are four fun things about the beloved Nordics, which show they’re doing better than the rest of the world, guaranteed to give you a different kind of Stockholm Syndrome.
1. In love with their countries
As Sydney Siders, I’m sure we are all familiar with the lamenting phrase “god I hate Sydney”. Whether it’s the nightlife, the traffic, or the price, there’s always something to whinge about. In Scandinavia, you’d never hear such blasphemy. They love their countries, evident in albeit small things like diligent and strict recycling, but also larger things like dedication to ‘clean’ technology and renewable energy, and trust in their governments. This patriotism is also seen through their use of bikes rather than cars. The cities belong to the people, not engines, and as these blonde Amazons glide past, no sweat in sight, it’s easy to see how much they adore their countries.
2. Economically really good!
Scandinavia has mastered the art of “enough”. Not too much, not too little: everyone is comfortable, and the gap between the rich and the poor is small. Take Denmark, a aptly labelled Nordic economy, where the tax rate is a steep 60% – enough to make your everyday RM-sporting capitalist physically ill. Yet in Denmark, and across Scandinavia, the money is used to improve their countries – and they actually do it. Free education, free healthcare, little unemployment, high pay – pretty much a dream. You wouldn’t find a badly-constructed, half-finished eyesore of a light rail in Copenhagen, that’s for sure. As Meik Wiking from the World Happiness Institute puts it, “we are not paying taxes, we are investing in our society. We are purchasing quality of life.” And given Denmark’s firm place in the top 5 of the happiest countries, it seems to be working.
3. Actual Equality
It sounds almost impossible for the term “equality” to be truly embodied in every form, yet in Scandinavia they almost manage it. Men are feminists, gay rights are not only legal but celebrated, women must occupy at least 40% on all boards, men and women are both between 99-100% literate. Lonely Planet uses the term “inclusive” to describe Scandinavia, and it couldn’t be more apt. Everyone is welcome, evident through the way the cities are built: accessible and liveable, whether you’re young, old, gay, straight, handicapped, able-bodied, male or female. It’s a country bereft of traditional mainstream vitriol, and it is echoed throughout the Nordic countries.
4. Real Trust
This sounds like a category in a sub-par relationship quiz, but it’s the cornerstone of an ideal society. There’s trust that their governments will do what is right with their money. There is also trust amongst the citizens of Scandinavia, shown through low levels of crime, recidivism and aggression. If leaving your baby and stroller outside on the street while you go inside for a hyggeligt coffee isn’t an indicator of the trust in the Nordics, I don’t know what is. Just don’t leave your bike unlocked!
[Disclaimer that this is NOT just another way for me to talk about how I went on exchange.]