Definitions of Scandinavia vary depending on the context – geopolitical, cultural, linguistic, and other factors can change the definition. The word itself, Scandinavia, comes from the name of the Swedish province Scania.

A basic definition of Scandinavia would be a group of countries in northern Europe – Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. In some cases, Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands are added to this group. 

The history of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland has a lot of connections. It is intertwined, so these countries can be referred to as Scandinavian when we talk about culture, art, design, and multiple similar political aspects, i.e., social policies (this is especially true for the general notion of the "welfare state" in these countries).

While it is true that there are numerous contrasts and distinctions among the Scandinavian countries, they still share a host of traditions and societal heritage.

Is Finland part of Scandinavia?

As previously mentioned, culturally and (in some aspects) policy-wise, Finland does belong to Scandinavia. However, when we consider languages, the situation changes. Their official language doesn't belong to the same group of languages as other countries mentioned in our previous definition. 

Finnish belongs to the Uralic group of languages, together with Hungarian and Estonian. This group of languages is not a part of the Indo-European languages. There is a minority of Swedish language speakers in Finland, so Swedish is the minority official language, and Finnish is the majority language.

What is the difference between the terms Scandinavian and Nordic?

This is another question that leads to debate among experts, and sometimes, to rather heated discussions. 

To sum it up simply, "Nordic" is the broader term. Geographically and politically, it includes Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. 

On the other hand, "Scandinavia," when taking into account geography and political similarities, includes Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the Faroe Islands. In other contexts, such as culture, art, or design, the words "Scandinavian" and "Nordic" can be used as synonyms.

Culture is often used as a common denominator of Scandinavian countries. Photo: Source: Jay Mantri / Unsplash

The Scandinavian people

Scandinavian people (the Danes in particular) are often dubbed the happiest people in the world in polls and rankings. 

Generally speaking, Scandinavians are committed to maintaining good health by leading healthy lifestyles, which include high-quality food, walking, cycling, and other outdoor activities. 

Occasional indulging in sugar, junk food, or alcohol is also part of the picture, but moderation is key. Moderation, in general, is one of the most important features found in the everyday life of the Scandinavian people.

While the concept of hygge (a sort of content, cozy, and happy feeling created by a pleasant atmosphere, warmth, nice lighting, food, etc.) has become generally popular throughout the world, there is yet another important concept in Scandinavia, called lagom. 

Lagom focuses on moderation and balancing almost all aspects of life – there shouldn't be too much or too little of anything in life. In this sense, Scandinavian work culture differs a lot from others – taking lagom into consideration, Scandinavian people will enjoy their work but will not be exposed to the risk of overworking and getting into the state of burnout.

In general, Scandinavian people believe in the goodness of others – that's why it is often possible to see children left in their strollers in front of shops or cafés while their parents are doing the shopping or having coffee with their friends. Few are afraid that something bad would happen to their children (while members of other cultures and nations may seem shocked by witnessing such scenes).

Are Scandinavian people rude?

Another often-heard stereotype associated with Scandinavian people is that they are rude - at times. 

Scandinavians may seem cold and stand-offish to people from cultures who are in general accustomed to engaging in small talk with strangers on their way to work, in shops, etc. 

In Scandinavian countries, this will rarely happen – Scandinavian people tend to "stay out of each other's way," which may give the impression that they are somewhat aloof or even rude. 

However, that is not the case – they have just mastered the concept of "minding their own business"!

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