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Stereotypes About Nordic Men

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How much do you know about men in northern Europe? And is that knowledge based on truth or myth, or something in between? Let's find out.

We all know stereotypes about men from different countries. The French are good cooks, the Italians are good lovers, the Germans are punctual…

Nordic man hiking in the mountains.

Oftentimes these stereotypes are based on a kernel of truth, such as a common Scandinavian stereotype that everyone has blond hair and blue eyes. But they can also be based on common misconceptions, or exaggerations more akin to a caricature than to a true portrait.

Want to sort truth from fiction when it comes to stereotypes about Nordic men? You’ve come to the right place. Join us as we give our verdict on 11 common stereotypes about Nordic men.

Do bear in mind: these are stereotypes we are talking about. Regardless of whether we define them as true or not, no rule is absolute and there will always be counterexamples.

Nordic men are all rich

Expensive interior design, luxury electric cars, extravagant vacations… Nordic men do like spending money.

But are they truly rich? It can be a little tricky to answer that because wealth is relative. The average salary tends to be higher in the Nordic countries than it is in most other Western countries.

That being said, taxes are significant and the cost of certain essentials (housing, for instance) can be eye-watering. As we said, wealth is relative. When everyone’s income is a bit higher, prices will follow, which limits spending power.

Wealthy Norwegian man concept

The exception to that rule of course is when the Nordic income is spent abroad. Given the high prices they are accustomed to, they see everything as cheap, no matter where they go.

This may partly explain why Nordic men are seen as rich by people from other countries; spending sprees while on vacation because “everything seems so cheap”.

Another factor to consider in our evaluation is wealth inequality. The higher the wealth inequality index in a given country, the more likely it is to encounter absurdly rich people.

Wealth inequality is measured by the Gini index. A score of 0 represents perfect equality and 100 is the maximum possible inequality.

On that index, all the Nordic countries (Norway 27.6, Sweden 30, Finland 27.3, Denmark 28.2 and Iceland 26.1) beat the US (41.4), Canada (33.3) the UK (35.1) and Australia (34.4).

Our verdict: Partly true

Nordic men are rich… kinda. This is tempered by the high cost of living in their respective countries, and by a comparatively low wealth inequality.

Nordic men all ski

Skiing is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors. Whether it’s cross-country skiing or downhill, the sport is extremely popular. While Nordic men may not all ski, it is safe to say that most of them have at least dabbled in the sport at one point or another.

A close-up of a cross-country skier in Norway

The share of people engaging in skiing is at 18% or above in all Nordic countries except Denmark (which stands at 12%, perhaps understandably given its milder climate and flat terrain).

Our verdict: True

This one is true. You will find Nordic men who don’t like skiing of course, but if you’re looking for people who enjoy the activity, the Nordic countries are a good place to look.

Nordic men have beards

We have all seen images of the archetypal bearded Viking raider. But does the stereotype extend to Nordic men today?

Beards are certainly common in the Nordic countries today, and they are a more frequent sight than they were just two decades ago. In that sense, it seems that the hipster trend that started at the end of the 2000s is still with us (albeit perhaps on its tail end).

Our verdict: Partly true

Beards are relatively common in the Nordic countries, but not necessarily more so than in other countries – and before the hipster wave, they were actually not that common. Our conclusion is that this one is true-ish.

Nordic men are tall

Height is influenced by genetics, but also by diet. The Nordic countries seem to have what it takes on both counts, because they are near the top of the list on average height for males.

While the top country for average male height is the Netherlands, the Nordic countries are not too far behind.

CountryPositionAverage male height (cm)
Iceland5182.10
Denmark6181.89
Finland16180.57
Norway17180.48
Sweden18180.46
Australia29178.77
Canada30178.75
United Kingdom39178.21
United States47176.94

Our verdict: True

The numbers don’t lie. This one is true.

Nordic men have blond hair

Nothing seems more Nordic than a head of natural, platinum blond hair. And there is a reason for this: although there are blond people in Oceania and Asia, the highest concentration of the hair colour occurs around the Baltic sea.

Blond Scandinavian man in nature

Not all Nordic men are blond though. And although blond children are quite common, the colour often tends to darken as they enter adulthood.

Our verdict: True

Not all men in the Nordic countries are blond, but the highest concentration of the hair colour is certainly found in and around the Nordic countries.

Nordic men have blue eyes

If you have ever been to any of the Nordic countries, you probably already know the answer to this one. Not only are blue eyes quite common in the area: they seem bluer than blue eyes in other countries.

The overlap between the prevalence of blond hair and blue eyes is quite significant. That’s not to say that people with dark or black hair and blue eyes don’t exist. But blue eyes are most common in the same areas as blond hair is most prevalent.

Our verdict: True

If you want to observe men with blue eyes in their natural environment, the Nordic countries are a great place to look.

Nordic men cycle to work

Do you think Nordic men regularly whiz by gridlocked traffic on two wheels on their way to work?

This perception seems to be grounded in truth. All Nordic countries (with the exception of Iceland) figure on the top 10 list of countries with the most bicycles per capita.

This can be explained by several factors, among which the Nordic people’s love of the outdoors and penchant for physical activity. But another very important factor is the Nordic countries taking a page out of the Netherlands’ book, and building good infrastructure for biking.

Biking is extremely popular as a mode of transportation in Denmark, which has the mildest winters of the Nordic region.

Copenhagen
Bicycle use in Copenhagen is very high.

But even in areas of Finland, Sweden and Norway that have snowy winters, many people switch to winter tires, put on a good pair of gloves and cycle to work.

Our verdict: True

Many Nordic men bike to work. This one is true.

Nordic men are rude

The stereotype goes that Nordic men are rough around the edges and come off as distant, standoffish and sometimes outright rude. How much truth is there to this?

Nordic countries have high levels of equality, both when it comes to gender and to social class. A side-effect of this is that elaborate polite phrases are less commonly used in Nordic languages than in other ones.

You can hardly blame someone for being impolite if your criteria for politeness is the use of an expression that doesn’t even exist in their language. That being said, Nordic men (and women, for that matter) often seem standoffish to the average outsider.

Part of this is due to a desire to respect other people’s private space. On public transport, for example, a random stranger will normally mind his own business and not speak to you – not because he’s afraid or does not like you, but because he does not want to intrude.

Our verdict: False

Deeming a whole region to be rude is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence. This evidence, as far as we can tell, does not cut it.

Nordic men are trusting

Some believe the world is full of bad people. Nordic men, as the stereotype goes, believe the opposite.

A stereotypical Norwegian man.
A stereotypical Norwegian man!

It may be naive, or it may be the product of the cultural environment they grew up in, but Nordic men tend to be relatively trusting of strangers. You can see evidence of that in the many ways trust is assumed in society.

DNT, the national hiking association, has cabins open to its members, who all have a master key, and who are expected to pay for their stay and for whatever amenities they use at these unstaffed facilities.

Farmers often leave produce in a little stall by the road, with a jar of cash, for people to take produce and leave payment – though increasingly, the jar of cash is replaced by a sign with a phone number to transfer money to via a payment app.

Babies are often left in prams right outside cafes, with mom and dad are just on the other side of the window. The benefits of fresh air on baby’s sleep seem to outweigh the fear of kidnapping.

The Nordic countries strong social safety net is based on the understanding that people will use it only when needed, and not try to get more money out of it than what they are entitled to.

Our verdict: True

There is a lot of trust built in Nordic society. This one is true.

Nordic men are heavy drinkers

From the Viking age to the space age, Nordic men have the reputation of drinking heavily. How well-deserved is this reputation?

The hard data seems to contradict the stereotype. Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Norway are respectively 31st, 35th, 53rd, 54th and 80th on the List of countries by alcohol consumption per capita. By comparison, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Canada are respectively 24th, 33rd, 45th and 57th.

What is true, though, is that Nordic men tend to drink at social occasions. The total quantity over a whole year may not be that impressive, but it can be consumed in large amounts at a time.

Our verdict: Partly true

Nordic countries are not the top consumers of alcohol, but alcohol does act as a lubricant in many social interactions. This one is somewhat true.

Nordic men enjoy saunas

This stereotype is almost certainly due to the omnipresence of saunas in Finnish culture. Volcanic activity in Iceland also makes hot baths and saunas a cultural staple.

Saunas are found in the other Nordic countries as well, but there is no reason to believe that they are any more popular there than anywhere else.

Our verdict: Partly true

Saunas are not equally present in all Nordic countries, but they are extremely popular in Finland. For this reason, we deem this stereotype to be somewhat true.

What are your favourite stereotypes about Norwegian and Nordic men?

About Daniel Albert

Daniel was living a perfectly normal life as a journalist in Canada until he was swept off his feet by a Norwegian. He now lives in Trondheim where he still works in communications.

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4 thoughts on “Stereotypes About Nordic Men”

  1. Oh boy, you missed some good ones and it is a bit sad to start off with wealth because that is not where I started. And no I am not talking about the obvious. But there are so many other things. No, they rarely shout a round of drinks but gee this list could brighten up that’s for sure 😂 I am rarely critical of your wonderful articles but today, I am.

    Reply
    • You have completely misunderstood this article. It’s not intended as a list of “what all Nordic men are like”. Stereotypes are not invented by one writer, they are out there in the world. What this writer has done is to look at them to see if they’re true or not. They can’t “brighten up” a list of stereotypes by making up new ones, that isn’t how stereotypes work…

      Reply

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