6 things that surprised me in Scandinavia

Welcome to a new instalment in the series of things that surprised me while traveling. Having done two (Spain and Singapore), I realize that these articles are not just for you, dear readers, but are also an important point of reflection for me to exercise my powers of observation and become more aware of the lens through which I see the world and the biases and privileges I carry with me.

After spending two weeks in Scandinavia (Denmark and Sweden), it’s time to write down these impressions.

1. cycling is a way of life

I was amazed at the number of bicycles everywhere and how all the cities are built to make cycling so accessible. There is plenty of parking for bikes and well-marked bike lanes everywhere. And if you don’t have a bike? No problem, there are plenty of self-service bicycles (and scooters) and you can be sure to get everywhere on your two wheels.

2. the culinary scene is surprisingly diverse

I’ve visited Reffen, a street market in Copenhagen, and I’ve also been to Malmö, Sweden, during the annual festival, and the selection of food and cuisine was very diverse. At Reffen, the offerings weren’t limited to Europe, but ranged from Afghanistan to Morocco to Korea, while the Malmö festival had a strong global presence.

When I went looking for other cuisines in the cities I visited, I discovered that there was also a wide range of non-European options and, after trying a few, I have to say that they are really good!

3. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be.

Perhaps my privilege speaks for itself here: the privilege of converting dollars and comparing them to US dollars at my convenience. When I think of Scandinavia, I think it will be very expensive. And yes, meals can be expensive. But there are good options.

Although public transportation is more expensive than what you would pay in the US, you can certainly find meals for less than or around $15, which I found to be a very decent price.

4 – This is slow life capital

All the cities I visited were orderly, calm and organized, and people never seemed stressed or in a hurry. They chatted quietly in cafes and enjoyed sitting by the sea. A friend also told me that in Sweden it is supposedly illegal for an employer to contact an employer after hours (someone can check, but if it’s true, I could use that kind of culture).

The calmness and slowness of life became even more apparent to me when I flew to Istanbul after Stockholm and found myself in the complete opposite vibrational energy (stay tuned for a Turkey list!).

5. people will do anything for the sun

I visited several bodies of water during my stay and was surprised at how many people were sunbathing and excited about it. Coming from a country where the white sandy beaches are lined with cozy cafes and sun loungers, I thought it strange that people lay down on sloping concrete slabs to enjoy the sun. Lying on the concrete was very uncomfortable, but I understand the need to enjoy the sun when you can.

6. similarities between Nordic languages

I didn’t know much about Nordic culture and languages, but it was interesting to discover that the languages are very similar. A friend taught me some words in Norwegian, and I was surprised to discover that these words are also the same in Danish and Swedish!

Therefore, it is common for people from all three countries to understand each other.

Written by Kevin Noah