It is made up of the mainland of Norway, the mainland of Sweden, the northwestern part of Finland, and a part of Northwest Russia.

The Scandinavian Peninsula is about 1,850 kilometers long, 370–805 kilometers wide, and covers roughly 750,000 square kilometers.

In the north, it is enclosed by the Barents Sea of the Arctic Ocean. In the south, it is bounded by the Kattegat and Skagerrak Seas.

In the west, it is enclosed by the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea, and in the east, it is bounded by the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Bothnia, and the Bay of Bothnia.

The Scandinavian mountain range

The border between Sweden and Norway is set at the Scandinavian mountain range. The mountains reach the coastline in Norway, which is full of deep fjords. The eastern side of the mountain range is located in Sweden, and it is home to lush forests and a number of lakes. 

It gets its name from the term Scandinavia, which most often refers to the cultural region of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. 

In turn, that name hails from the name Scania, a region at the furthest southern point of the peninsula, which was historically a part of Denmark for a long time. It is considered the ancestral home of the Danes, but today, it is a part of Sweden. 

Scandinavia vs. the Scandinavian Peninsula

This region in Northern Europe has strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. If we observe the name used in the English language, Scandinavia can refer to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, or more broadly, also include the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Finland.

When it comes to Finland, there is a slight debate whether it is part of Scandinavia. However, when it comes to geography – Finland is not on the Scandinavian peninsula, and Finnish does not belong to the same group of languages as the Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish languages. 

On the other hand, Swedish is the second official language in Finland, and there are areas on the coast and the archipelago in Finland where Swedish is spoken.

The Scandinavian Peninsula is the largest peninsula in Europe. Its mountain range roughly defines the border between Norway and Sweden. Photo: Arvid Høidahl / Unsplash

People on the Scandinavian Peninsula

The first inhabitants of the peninsula were the Norwegians, on the western coast of Norway, the Danes in today's western and southern Sweden and south-eastern Norway, the Svear on today's eastern coast of Sweden, and the Geats in West Gothland and East Gothland, which are provinces in Sweden. 

They all spoke dialects of Old Norse, an Indo-European language. The descendants of these people are still dominant populations in the peninsula, despite political changes.

Nordic vs. Scandinavian

Some people use the words "Nordic" and "Scandinavian" as (almost) synonyms, while others insist on a clear difference between the two. 

There is at least one difference - when we use the word "Nordic," it marks the geographic and political region of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Finland. 

The political systems in all the countries mentioned are very similar, but not the same; holidays and traditions are also very similar, and when it comes to welfare models and other social policies, we can again see considerable similarities – in this sense using the words "Scandinavian" or "Nordic" can denote the same thing.

Scandinavian culture

Scandinavian design has become very popular worldwide because of its high functionality and aesthetics. In that sense, when talking about Scandinavian design and culture, people usually have in mind a minimalist, highly functional design. Some Finnish designers are important representatives of this type of design. 

Another notion that is considered typically Scandinavian is the concept of "hygge." This word, which is difficult to translate to the English language in only one word, means "surrounding yourself with everything that makes you feel good" – security, friendship, and also more palpable things like warmth, good food, drinks, nice lighting, etc. 

The rest of the world seems to want to copy it – nowadays, there are books written and social media full of atmospheric pictures, in an attempt to show non-Scandinavians how to hygge.

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