Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Top 10 Reasons for Quality of Life in Scandinavia

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Top 10 Reasons for Quality of Life in Scandinavia

Nobel Museum in Stockholm
Scandinavian trolls...in Norway
Bill and I got a taste of life in Scandinavia for almost a month in May and June this year. It is comprised of Norway, Denmark and Sweden and can also include Iceland and Finland. In previous blog posts, I cited the interesting sights of each country. This post is about what I found common, shared, and loved in the region. First are the folkloric trolls, supernatural beings in Norse mythology, which we found everywhere. Second, I went gaga over the rows and tows of tulips in all colors, as well as wild lupines of Iceland that covered the geologic island masterpiece. What a fascinating place!

lovely tulips abound in Scandinavia
At a lecture of the Enrichment Voyage we attended, the professor flashed two comparative lists of country indicators, quality of life, democracy, gender gap, happiness and over all human development, leaving the headings blank. When asked where we would choose to live, majority of us (Americans) raised our hands for the country on the left, only to find out that was Norway! The other, sadly, was the US. It would have been quite revealing had a third country been included, the Philippines!

That the Euro is stronger than the US dollar should have already been a hint to us. And so number three is that, year after year, Scandinavia has continually scored the highest marks in all categories, garnering the top 4 or 5 usually. No wonder the Nobel awards are given by Oslo and Stockholm, two cities who best know how to live well. We had visited both centers.

offshore wind turbines in Copenhagen
light and heavy flushes
Fourth, the region’s success is due in part to its wealth in natural resources. Oil, forest and aquatic resources abound. Wood is used extensively and seafood is a hallmark of Scandinavian cuisine. Wind turbines are quite a sight to see off the coasts of Copenhagen, and the North Sea abounds with oil rigs.  Fifth, efficiency in energy use is a primordial principle. Commodes have two flushes, one for light, another heavy. Bicycles are as common as small (and dreamy like my Mini Cooper!!!) compact cars. And public transport systems are excellent and enviable. We always had a choice of trams, buses, trains, or subway systems to go from one place to another. Thus Scandinavia’s carbon footprint is lower than the US.

third largest restored Viking ship is in Norway
street sign in Helsinki
Sixth, Its success can also be attributed to homogeneity. The vast majority of Scandinavians are descended from Germanic tribes in what is now northern Germany, who spoke a Germanic language that evolved into Old Norse. The Vikings sprang from Norse culture and their influence is seen heavily throughout the region. In fact, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish are related languages, considered mutually intelligible with one another, although Danish is considered much closer to Norwegian. Finnish is entirely unrelated to the Scandinavian languages, yet Swedish is required as a language in Finnish schools. All street signs in Finland have their counterparts in Swedish. And everyone we met spoke English in Sweden; it is required at all school levels.

color in Helsinki International Airport
HTL check-in
Seventh, I was even more impressed that Scandinavian products are imbued with excellence in design and innovation. Arabia, not at all pertaining to the Middle East, is a design district in Helsinki, the Design Capital of the World, where elegant products are tops in both form and function. Almost everyone that is starting a home in America must have come across IKEA, a Swedish icon in home furnishings. Soon that may also be true of HTL. It is the hotel we stayed in Sweden where the nonsense is taken out of hotels. There are no closets, just cute hangers everywhere, self check-in and and other innovations. Whether it is fences and roofs of old, modern minimalist furniture, exquisite tableware, or even airports that come alive with color, I was very impressed with everything Scandinavian.

my favorite shrimp open-faced sandwich
and Bill's salmon sandwich in Oslo
hamburger place in Iceland
Eighth, for people who care that the table is graced with well-designed tableware, it is no wonder that Scandinavian cuisine, built around seafood as already mentioned above, is also excellent. The shrimp open-faced sandwich I had at a Norwegian cafĂ© was unforgettably so good! So were the many versions of salmon Bill ordered. Swedish meatballs and German sausages are now mainstays of kitchens around the world.  However food there is very expensive. As a result, McDonalds outlets have long lines and many other examples of American fast food are to be found everywhere. But not as common as Middle Eastern pizzas! Yes, they are having a wave of immigration from those countries/

a beach sauna in Helsinki
the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik
Ninth, the climate was not as cold as I thought it would be, despite being in the high latitudes and many northern places even touching the Arctic Circle. Summers go as high as low 70s Fahrenheit while winters are mild in coastal regions (20-30s) due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. In Helsinki and Stockholm beaches are dotted with small sauna cottages that are separated from the main homes. A common practice is to have a sauna, plunge into the cold water, then return to the saunas again! In Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is the prime hot medicinal bath and tourist attraction. But Open Air Museums are top attractions in each of the major cities even though they are unusable for almost half of the year.

Amalienborg in Copenhagen
Oresund Bridge
Tenth, architecture and engineering are fascinating in the region. Except for Iceland, each country has great medieval castles, just like every country in the rest of Europe. The big engineering feat is, of course, the spectacular 5-mile Oresund Bridge which we saw from the deck of MV Explorer. It connects Stockholm to an artificial island after which a 2.5–mile tunnel connects it to Copenhagen, the largest combined road and rail bridge in Europe. It also seems there is a silent competition to have the most prominent, most awe-inspiring Opera House among Scandinavian countries. 

Reykjavik Opera House
Congratulations are certainly in order to all Scandinavians for a great example of good life! But I still would not live there! The United States is friendlier to tropical me!


20 comments:

  1. Ok, glad that Bill is not the Troll! That opera house is pretty amazing, but the pic with you in the flowers is really nice.

    Very interesting overview of that part of your trip, makes me want to know more.

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  2. I loved my time in Norway as an exchange student many years ago. As wealthy as it is, the social network there, however, is currently challenged by the needs and demands of an increasingly diverse population. It will be interesting to observe how they cope with issues that they've avoided until recently.

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    1. You are right! I am quite confident they will be able to handke it quite well!

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  3. What a great rundown of all the aspects of your trip. I would love to have two glorious months to explore this part of the world - in summer when the days are long.
    I agree with Betsy and wonder what will happen when the culture becomes less homogeneous. I also wonder how much successful business people like living here because of the high taxes. How many end up leaving the country? Interesting to contemplate their lifestyle and commitment to social justice and the environment.

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    1. Agree with you both. But I just read about how restrictive and controlled migration into Scandinavias is such that irregukar migrants are just 0.5%, well under Europe's average of 1%. Also if you look at happiness index Scandinavian countries rank at top 5! Safe to say a great majority is committed to their successful system!

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  4. Everything sounds and looks so beautiful, interesting and delicious! I must get there soon!

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  5. Great stuff! We are going to Sweden and Norway next month. Very excited!

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    1. Wow...enjoy yourselves!!! It's one special place!

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  6. We have stopped at several cruise ports in Sweden, Finland and Denmark and although the visits were brief, were similarly impressed.

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  7. I've never been to this part of Europe but it looks fascinating - trolls and all!

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  8. I enjoyed your romp through Scandinavia, though I have never been. However, I have been to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, a country that definitely has a lot of Scandinavian influence.

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    1. Iceland is a geologic masterpiece! But the rest of Scandinavia is also fascinating!

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  9. Thanks for the armchair tour through these amazingly beautiful and interesting countries. We’re tropical people like you and totally cannot fathom why someone would heat up in a sauna, dip into freezing water and then repeat the process!

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    1. You are most welcome! They believe it is healthy to do so actually.

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  10. After visiting Sweden last month I can not wait to explore more of Scandinavia. I loved the architecture, I thought the people were friendly and I was so very happy not to see a single stray animal in 9 days! Personally, I think the United States could learn a little from them. I'm glad to hear in your post that I most probably will not be disappointed with anywhere else in Scandinavia

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    1. They share so many things and each one is tops in many indicators.

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