What is the difference between Scandinavia and the Nordics?

The Deutsch, who are German, are neither Danish, Dutch, Scandinavian nor Nordic. The Dutch, who hail from the Netherlands, also commonly called Holland, are neither Danish, nor do they speak Danish.  This is despite a number of similarities including elements of the language, culture, and social behavior which are very close to those found across the Nordic and Scandinavian peoples.  Not only are the Dutch not Danish, they also fall outside of both the Scandinavian and Nordic categories. Also, while less common, it is important to recall that the Swiss are not the Swedes as they hail from Switzerland, which is not remotely near Sweden and also falls well outside the Nordic and Scandinavian regions.

So. Now that we’ve got THAT out of the way let’s tackle one of the most common questions I’ve heard and discussed. That is the difference between Scandinavia and the Nordics. For many, and perhaps with good reason, Scandinavia is thought of as a country and comes as part of the assumption that the Scandinavian people and by extension the Nordics are essentially all more or less one and the same. Before I re-located to Scandinavia, the distinct character of the various Scandinavian countries and the sharp contrasts between their Nordic siblings was something I found deeply confusing. Luckily, I’ve had a chance to learn a bit more about them. I’d like to share those thoughts with you.

Danish National Museum in Copenhagen

Scandinavia vs. the Nordics

The term Scandinavia encompasses the two countries that make up the near-majority of the Scandinavian peninsula and Denmark which consists of 400+ islands and the majority of the Jutland peninsula (Cimbrian Peninsula). Though Finland arguably shares the base of the Scandinavian peninsula with Norway and Sweden it is not considered a Scandinavian country.  Finland also tends to be excluded because, while they do share many behavioral traits, the Finnish language and much of the Finnish cultural heritage differs widely from those of the relatively homogeneous Scandinavian countries.

Cameron Trading Post – Weekly Travel Photo

The sound of sun-scorched Arizona soil crunching beneath your boots is a unique one. There’s just something about how millennium of sweltering heat, clay, sandstone, and tumbleweed roots come together to give it that special sound. It’s no coincidence that when the time comes to prepare for the next mission to Mars or shoot a space odyssey all directors turn to the same part of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah for testing and filming

Danish Bike Culture Is Even More Amazing Than You Thought

Over the last few years Copenhagen has become world famous for its incredible biking culture. It is no secret that there are a LOT of bikes in Copenhagen. The most commonly cited statistic is that more than 50% of Copenhageners bike daily to work or school. That, in and of itself, is pretty spectacular – but it is also just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing bike-centered things going on in Copenhagen. After a somewhat rocky roll out, last year’s big announcement introduced Copenhagen’s new and heavily updated city bike program which replaced the recently retired free bike program.  While the reception has been luke-warm to the new bikes due to their cost and the fact that they are no longer free, the updated bikes possess GPS, electric engines, electronic maps and a plethora of perks for the price of about $4 an hour.

Copenhagen in June

The city of Copenhagen has also undertaken and recently completed a number of expanded bike lanes many of which are now roughly the same size as traditional car lanes.  Other projects include cycle superhighways, bike-only stop lights, lean-rails for bikers waiting at lights, and proposals for built in street-based notifications to help bicyclists time their speed to avoid red lights and delays.  The latest of these safety innovations was introduced September 4th (in Danish) and focuses on tackling an emergent problem – the collision of Copenhageners exiting public buses and bicyclists who, while technically required to stop and yield to those disembarking from buses, don’t always remember to stop.  Copenhagen’s solution?  An innovating plan to build lights into the bicycle paths which will direct bikers to stop when a bus is present and unloading passengers.  In effect, this is a modern and updated take on the old school-bus “STOP” sign.  It’s precisely because of initiatives like this that bike-usage in Copenhagen is continuing to grow. Biking is safe, incredibly good for you, convenient and a priority across all levels of society.

A 7 Day Road Trip Through Rural Scotland – From Ullapool Northward

The Scotland Road Trip Map
The route, color coded by day, I took during my road trip through the Highlands.

In Part I and Part II of this series I shared with you the adventures and experiences of my first three days on the road. This included the trip from Edinburgh through Glen Coe to Ratagan before outlining my second day which was dedicated completely to the Isle of Skye. The third day documented the voyage from Skye up along the western coast to the small town of Ullapool.  In this post we pick up where I left off as I leave Ullapool and continue my exploration of the jagged, and largely empty, north western coast of Scotland.

Five Danish Life Lessons For The Rest of Us

After three years living and working with the Danes, what insights and life lessons have I learned?

Hygge is a very rich community oriented social concept which can roughly be translated as coziness and is at the heart of Danish culture. Embracing it, Danes take the negatives of winter and with a highly practical realism convert them into a celebration of companionship, warmth, and comfort. In so-doing they take one of Denmark’s worst attributes and redefine it as part of what defines Danish culture.

Open Roads and Changing Aspen – Weekly Travel Photo

With one arm resting half-in, half-out of the diver’s side window of  our white Chevy Crew Cab pickup truck the wind raced over my skin, cooling it, while tugging gently at my arm hairs. A periodic errant gust would collide with my skin before diverting inward to tickle my face and fill my ears with the sound of the fresh black tarmac whizzing by beneath rugged truck tires. My eyes locked forward on the road, one hand on the wheel casually navigating the high mountain two-lane highway that threaded through the passes near Silverton in south-western Colorado.

Nordic Conversations Are Different

Silence. It is something Americans hate. In your typical American conversation you’ll rarely find such a thing as a comfortable silence, a reflective silence, or a natural silence.  For the average American in a normal conversation there’s really only one type of silence and that is awkward silence. A type of silence that we’re taught from childhood to avoid at all costs. This stems in large part from the American conversational approach which I think can best be described as conversational layering with each person quickly layering on new overlapping information in rapid succession. Add in the fast-paced rapid-fire approach to speaking common among most Americans and you’ve got a recipe for frustration and perceived arrogance when talking to Nordics / Scandinavians (and other internationals). 

Absolute Control – Weekly Travel Photo

Heads turned upwards towards the sky, we watched as three airplanes flew in formation above us. They cut across the airspace over Copenhagen before lazily looping back around for a second pass.  This time we looked on with baited breath as a small dot separated from the lead aircraft and plunged towards us. A few brief seconds passed before the familiar sight of a precision parachute blossomed behind the dot which was quickly taking the shape of a man.  After enjoying a few lazy spirals he positioned himself roughly over the portion of the Norrebro lakes which had been transformed into a wet-water splashdown zone replete with white targeting buoy and two lines of floating landing zone markers.