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Fun Facts About Scandinavia

Norway and Sweden map and compass

Impress your family and friends at the next quiz night with these fascinating Scandinavia facts.

Welcome to Northern Europe! It’s on the bucket list of many international travellers, and with good reason. But how much do you really know about the region?

So, grab a cup of coffee (more on that later!) and get comfy. Hopefully, you’re about to learn something!

Scandinavia facts

1. Scandinavia consists of three countries: Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Some definitions also include Finland and Iceland, but this wider group is more commonly known as the Nordic region. The Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland also participate in Nordic cooperation initiatives via the Nordic Council.

2. Scandinavians can more or less understand each other. All three languages are closely related as children of ‘Old Norse'. That said, dialects and strong accents can complicate matters. So much so, that meetings between Danes, Norwegians and Swedes are sometimes conducted in English just to be sure there are no misunderstandings.

3. All three countries used to be in a union. The Kalmar Union ran (with a few interruptions) from 1397 until 1523. Denmark, Norway & Sweden retained their separate identity in domestic matters, but foreign and economic policy were directed by a single monarch.

Kalmar Castle in Sweden
The Kalmar union was agreed in Kalmar, Sweden

4. Football is a summer sport. In Scandinavia, football (soccer) is played in the summer, not through the winter as with the major European leagues. Well, in Sweden and Norway anyway. Denmark use the more standard summer season.

Read more: Inside Scandinavia

5. The term ‘Scandinavia’ came to be in the 18th century. Some historians say this was a time when ideas about a common heritage started to appear. The term became political later. In 1839, Hans Christian Andersen penned ‘I am a Scandinavian’ after a visit to Sweden. He was known as a proponent of political ‘Scandinavism’.

6. Scandinavian Airlines was started by the three governments. In 1946, the three governments formed a consortium to cooperate on transatlantic operations for their national airlines. Five years later, the individual airlines merged to form SAS. Things have changed now though, as the Norwegian government recently sold all its shares.

SAS airliner flying

7. The Scandinavian mountains are more than 1,700km long. The range runs right through the Scandinavian peninsular. At 2,469 metres high, Norway’s Galdhøpiggen in Jotunheimen National Park is the highest peak in mainland Northern Europe.

8. The region is coffee-obsessed. Nordic coffee culture is not the secret it used to be. Five Nordic countries place in the world’s six biggest coffee consumers. The highest Scandinavian country is Norway, which has a per capita consumption average of 9.9kg every year. in particular is known for its lighter roasts that are starting to catch on elsewhere.

Read more: Facts About Oslo, Norway

9. All three countries use the Nordic cross. Fun with flags! The flags of Denmark, Norway & Sweden all share a similar off-centre cross design. The colours are different of course, and the Norwegian flag has a slightly more complex design. However, I sometimes see the flags of Denmark and Norway muddled up in YouTube videos and the like!

The Scandinavian flags

10. A 1,630km-long EU border splits Norway and Sweden. Sweden is an EU member, Norway is not. Despite this, several of the border crossings in the sparsely populated areas are unattended. The agreement between the EU and Norway means that Norway is connected to the EU common market.

11. Swedish kids do Halloween at Easter. They don’t dress up as ghosts or ghouls, rather witches!

Children dress up as Easter witches; clad in discarded clothes, gaily coloured headscarves and red-painted cheeks, they go from house to house in the neighbourhood and present the occupants with paintings and drawings in the hope of getting sweets in return – Sweden.se

12. Copenhagen is the region’s busiest airport. More than 30 million passengers used CPH in 2018. It is a hub for SAS and Norwegian, and offers long-haul flights to Asia and the USA. Oslo Airport (OSL) ranks second with 28.5m passengers, with Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) ranked third.

Cycling in Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark

13. A French Army officer became a Scandinavian King. The man behind the title Karl XIV Johan, who took the Swedish throne, was actually a Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. The Frenchman was a career soldier whose life took an unexpected turn due to the Napoleonic Wars, the decline of Swedish power in the Baltic, and the unexpected early death of a Danish prince.

14. Scandinavia is the world’s happiest region. Along with their Nordic neighbours, the three countries consistently rank high in the UN’s World Happiness Report. But not everyone agrees. These American expats believe ‘contentment’ is a better description.

Read more: Fascinating Facts About Svalbard

15. Swedes are big on recycling. Only a few percent of household waste ends up in landfill. The country runs a big waste-to-energy program to generate heat for homes. The problem is the country burns more waste than it produces, so much so, that it started importing waste from Norway!

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

1 Comment

  1. Sorry, David, I must take exception with your first point. While Finland is most certainly not a Scandinavian country, Iceland is. The modern Icelandic language has, like Norsk, Svensk and Dansk, its origins in Old Norse. In fact, the language Icelanders speak today is much closer to Old Norse than those of the other three countries. Furthermore, most Icelanders’ ancestors came from Norway. Many people mistakenly call Finland a Scandinavian country because of its proximity to Norway and Sweden. I think, perhaps, the reverse mistake is being made here because of Iceland’s distance from the other three.

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