Common misconceptions about the Nordics

Travel fanatics know too well how expectations and thoughts about a destination can just lie. For instance, most people having serious plans to travel to or live in the Nordics ordinarily make all efforts to read stories, watch videos, join diaspora groups just to have an idea. People always try to prepare themselves well ahead of time before actually moving to a new country and the Nordics is no exception. One thing about the Nordics is that the countries there have a common history which means they are almost similar in their systems and cultures. Some of the things you will read or hear about the Nordics may turn out to be mere misconceptions. We point out some of the misconceptions about the Nordics to inform expats.  

An expat needs to know that moving to the Nordics isn’t a vanity at al. The Nordics has countries ranking high on the global happiness index. The emblem of the Nordics is well functioning and efficient welfare states.

About social benefits in the Nordics 

One thing that comes out clearly about the Nordics is the great social structure that takes care of even the least privilege. Everyone who qualifies for social welfare schemes in the Nordics stand a chance of receiving child benefits, house allowance, free or subsidized public healthcare and more. But one thing should come out clearly to an expat moving to the Nordics.

The social benefits given isn’t a cover for laziness, or given whimsically. A strict criteria applies in deciding who qualifies for certain aspects of social care. Actually, a good number of the benefits including unemployment benefit only provide a stop gap as the beneficiary seeks out gainful employment. 

Functioning of the Nordic economies

An expat in the Nordics planning to start a business or just looking for employment must be attentive to the workings of the local economy. Remember the economies of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark are stable because of a generally good political environment as well as working government. So, this could be the general outlook of the economies where business ought to thrive. This would turn out to be a fallacy once you set foot in the Nordics.

The Nordic countries come out as highly interventionist and high on regulations. You will be surprised why foreign businesses opt out of the Nordic countries until you start your own and realize that taxes and regulations required are way too many. Yes, it is possible to start and operate a business in the Nordics but must only plan with growing in the long term. No possibilities of making crazy profits overnight in the Nordics. A business must at all times play by the set strict rules or get at a cross with the authority.

Racial awareness and interactions

Highly sensitive expats moving to the Nordics would prioritize knowing how race works in the region. For a long time, word out there has been that some races experience hostility in the hands of white supremacists. Of course, like anywhere, you may not miss a few spoiled brats who still judge people based on the colour or their skin, religion or affiliations. A few still exist in the Nordics but have so far been outnumbered by a forward thinking majority. The common trend today remain that people get judged by content of character and nothing else. 

The reality is that the spirit of hygge and Janteloven reign supreme. As much as some may have the temptation and urge to be expressly racist, most of the Nordics come out as generally calm. You will never know whether someone holds racist opinions about you since they hold back so much not to appear confrontational even when the situation ordinarily requires abrasiveness. 

There exists an element of islamophobia especially based on terrorist attacks experienced in Europe but then the public will not go out of their way to attack  a Muslim. It is the police who may stop you a couple of times just to confirm your civility. 

In fact, the Finnish  come out as more introverted at first. Small talk isn’t common in Finland and local residents are unlikely to chat to people they don’t know. They also place high value on personal space and don’t like to bother strangers in public areas. Unfortunately almost 40% of expats were unhappy with their social life in Finland  which over 30 percent had no personal support network there.

Misconceptions about Sweden

Sweden doesn’t miss out among Nordic countries in terms of the misconceptions. In Sweden negative politeness reigns supreme. Swedes abide by a social code of conduct called ‘lagom’ that has no direct translation, but can be loosely taken as’ just enough’ in moderation or ‘appropriately’ without displaying emotion in a way that might cause conflict. 

It is a unique aspect of Swedish culture that people who enjoy overt friendliness on a basic social level may find this apparent lack of regard for others. In Sweden, giving people their space is considered a mark of politeness and respect especially in public.

In the same vein , the concept of “small talk” or talking to bridge an awkward silence is strange to Sweden. The direct , “if you don’t have anything to say don’t say anything at all ” mentality is key in Sweden and comes out as a mark of respect towards not wasting the other party’s time . Time is of great essence. If anything, the Swedes practice the adage that time is money which may often make them appear as being in unnecessary rush at all times. 

Troubles settling in Denmark as an Expat 

There has been plenty of discussion on the expats’ wellbeing in Denmark. In the eyes of an expat, Denmark is one of the best countries in the world to have a family with great options for children. It’s very safe, highly digitized and provides an amazing balance between work and leisure. On an absolutely different extreme it is the worst country when it comes to personal happiness, feeling at home, friendliness and finding friends.

To many, Denmark is a haven which should be a great destination to live in with great happiness and satisfaction. But a reality check and actual expat experience will show that Denmark is among the hardest countries to settle in globally 

Integration and segregation about the Nordic

Overall, ‘hate crime ‘ is on the rise in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Far-right movement associated rising crime with immigration and mainly target non-white people population . An example is Finland, among European countries with the highest rate of racial violence and harassment against people of African descent.

As an emphasis, racial violence isn’t so common and will not likely happen to a person who is just going about own business diligently. So, for someone who has a plan of moving to the Nordics, do not be put off by negative news about the region. Just note that settling in the  Nordics can be a lot more difficult than elsewhere, especially for someone who has no idea about the local languages. It is highly recommended that you take time to learn your expat country’s language , or at least its basis to facilitate job search and integration.

The unbearable cold climate in the Nordics

To start with, an expat needs to clearly know that the Nordics have some of the extremely cold winters and off season low temperatures. House heating systems installed in each house comes in handy to take care of the negative temperatures common in winter. 

A common misconception about Scandinavia is that the weather is very cold and unbearable. But the reality is that while the temperatures can be so low, it is bearable. The mere fact that people live there testifies that the cold temperatures can actually be tolerated. All you need is to put on the correct clothing, keep indoors heated and in winter, only be outside when necessary lest you catch a cold or a snow bite. Another reality is that the specific temperature range experienced depends very much on the geographic location (i.e. county and city in the case of Norway and Sweden), whereas Denmark has a mainly temperate climate.

Nordic socialism myth you must know about

The Nordic economic model relies significantly on social-democratic politics, but is by no means Communism as some wrongly assume. This is nothing more but a mere myth stemming from certain individuals’ biased political point of view regarding the economic model of the Scandinavian states. The Scandinavian economic model comes from correctly implemented social-democratic measures in terms of education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc..

An expatriate needs to  keep it in mind that all three Scandinavian states  also practice  constitutional monarchy. The Nordic economic model is highly efficient according to a wide variety of economic indicators. However, there will always be pros and cons on the implementation of social-democratic policies in general, evidently depending on one’s political stance.