Skip to content

“Scandinavian”, meaning…?

Many of us perfectly recognize this term – we assign it to different brands, behaviors, culture. In all cases, these are positive associations, they fit into our perception of quality, balance, the hygge ideology. Symbols such as the Moomins, sauna, and the characters created by H.C Andersen are our idea of this region of the world. However, do we know which countries are really the Scandinavian ones?…

How to distinguish the Scandinavian countries from the Nordics?

Let’s start with the fact that not all nations inhabiting the countries of northern Europe are Scandinavian countries. They include countries located on this peninsula, i.e., Sweden and Norway. Denmark is also attributed to this concept, due to its very close cultural and historical ties. It is a misconception that Finland is also part ofthe list of these countries. Apart from the cross in the flag, it differs a lot from the Scandinavian countries, including the fact that it is closer to the Estonians than to the Vikings.

The Nordic countries include Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland as well as the Faroe Islands, the Åland Islands and Greenland. The very name “Nordic” comes from the word “nord” meaning north, so it literally means the countries of the north.

All these countries are brought together by the Nordic Council. In recent years, Estonia has aspired to join this organization.

Common history, culture, and religion.

The Scandinavian countries have a very strong historical link – a common ruler or monetary union. The name “Scandinavia” comes from the region of Sweden – Skåne, that previously was the domain of Denmark. The Scandinavian connection is also reflected in the modern economy, an example being the creation of SAS (Scandinavian Airlines), as a combination of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian airlines.

Culturally, Scandinavians also share a common heritage. The languages spoken by the inhabitants of these countries are different, but they can easily understand each other due to the same roots. The predominant religion in each of these countries is Lutheranism. Everyone emphasizes that they feel Scandinavian and in each of these countries they feel like in their own.

Do they have a common language?

The languages of individual countries belong to the group of North Germanic languages, meaning they have a common core however they differ from each other:

  • The Danes, because of the way the Danish language is pronounced (a mixture of German and Dutch), are the object of jokes.
  • Thanks to the fact that Iceland is so isolated, most of the Old Norse has been preserved in their language. Apparently, Icelanders can read the runes of from two thousand of years ago, without major obstacles.
  • The most melodic and singing languages are Swedish and Norwegian, they also have a similar phonetics.
  • Finnish is not a Nordic or even Germanic language. It is closest to… Hungarian.

We can only use the term Scandinavian countries for three countries: Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. They have very similar languages, a common culture and history. The rest of the nations located in the north of Europe, are the Nordic countries. They differ significantly from Scandinavian culture and do not really have much in common with them, apart from their geographical location. It is worth knowing how and why to distinguish these matters!