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How to spot a Scandinavian in the wild

February 15, 2018 | Leave a comment


How to spot a Scandinavian in the wild

A calm creature at heart, the Scandinavian often blend in perfectly in the surroundings, adapting to local customs with ease. But with this guide, you too can learn to spot one in the wild.

The look

Often classed as a cliché and urban myth – but of course there are some factors that can be indicative of a Scandinavian:

Wearing all black, including a massive oversized scarf, hair in messy bun on top of head (or guys may be sporting a beard worthy of 2010 Hackney Central) – Danish

Trousers worn just that little too tight, with pointy shoes and slicked back hair (the male species) or white converse shoes (or similar flats) and rather hair straightened middle parting hair (females) – Swedish

All-weather practical jacket in bright colours, a practical back pack (containing one orange and a Kvikklunsj chocolate bar) – Norwegian

Queue behaviour

Scandinavians are not great at small talk, so if you spot one in a queue you can often confirm sighting if they keep a minimum of 1,5 metres away from you and look the other way. Spot 5-6 people standing with distance between then, you may have spotted a flock – especially rare in the wild.

In shops, Swedes especially can often be found looking for ticket machines (those that were popular in UK supermarkets deli counters in the 80’s).

Upon entry to any house

The Scandinavian will remove his or her shoes and leave them in the hallway, without being asked.

In their homes

Apartment with white walls, white floors, white skirting boards and white bed linen and all white kitchen with black counter top? You’ve likely spotted one. There may be some grey tones, too. No curtains? It’s a Dane. Overall, expect no carpets anywhere and a whole host of very practical storage solutions.

The Décor

All will have an animal skin of some sort draped over a well designed chair. Reindeer, sheep or kitten.

Just joking about the kitten. But did you know a kitten is called a Killing in Danish? A Killing in Swedish means baby goat. See? You learn stuff every day.

Ps if you are planning to get a reindeer skin for a chair: don’t. They shed hairs, like ALL the time, forever. They are not good on chairs or floors, only on walls. You’ve been warned.

The bathroom

No sinks will have two separate taps and the bath has likely been exchanged for a practical walk-in shower for two. The toilet will have water-saving flush on it. It will all be white. You may experience very crappy toilet paper (“it’s better for the environment”).

In the fridge

The Dane will have an old tube of remoulade dressing and some rye bread.
The Swede will have an old tube of Kalles Kaviar and some crispbread.
The Norwegian will have some brown cheese and some Mills.

All of them will have a bar of Marabou/Freia and some salty liquorice in the cupboard for emergencies.

Comfort food

Spaghetti with ketchup? Bingo. Other comfort foods include hotdogs with a lot of toppings, open sandwiches of all kinds and fish balls.

At work

The Scandinavian will be at work early because back home, he will start before 8 am. By 9:30 it is time for a coffee break where he will place his mouth under the spout of the office espresso machine and press ‘double shot’ several times (Repeat at 2 pm for afternoon fika).


You can spot him because by 11:30, it is lunch time and he starts to feel it. Packed lunch, with mellemlagningspapir (middle layer paper). Norwegians and Danes are especially fond of packed lunches with sweaty cheese and soggy cucumber. The Swedes, being more sophisticated, can be harder to spot as they happily blend in the hot-lunch crowd.

Leaving work

If you spot someone in your office who is always out the door at 16:31, he or she may be Scandinavian. It is perfectly natural to do this back home, as anyone who stays late is often considered to be a negative influence in the work place. Also known as a ‘morakker’ (you don’t want to be THAT guy).

Drawing by Jenny K Blake/Ikke sant.

Friday Evening

A Scandinavian will automatically reach for a share bag of crisps on a Friday night. There is probably also a bowl of holiday flavoured dip on the side. Holiday is a flavour in Scandinavia where you can get many things flavoured like your last holiday (?!)


Someone who eats half a kilo of pick’n’mix on a Saturday without a hint of shame? Yes, a Scandinavian. It’s called Lördagsgodis and it is always allowed on Saturdays. No other days, though. He or she will have a light dinner, because, well, Lagom.

How are you?

You can single one out quickly simply by saying ‘how are you’? A Scandinavian – Danes especially – will tell you EXACTLY how they are feeling. With all the details. Avoid this test if in a hurry.


Swedes can be easy to spot as they have a habit of announcing to the world when they need to pee. Board meeting, family dinner – it matters not – I NEED TO PEE.


Wondering if someone is Scandi whilst you are at a brunch? Simply go up and cut the cheese in a weird angle. Most Scandinavians will follow behind you and ‘correct’ your cheese slicing crime, often in silence, using the appropriate tool. This is the Scandi contribution to the World Order.

A million candles

The sun goes down and you wonder if the person you are with is a Scandi. Do they walk around turning on many little lamps in the room? (Approximately 7 lamps per 12m2) How many candles? Scandinavians thrive in a cosy atmosphere and will always attempt to create hygge and mys in the dark.

Scented candles? Be vary of a possible imposter as Scandinavians don’t often use scented candles.

In bed

If he or she has two single duvets on the bed instead of a large double, you’ve got yourself a Scandinavian. It’s just nicer that way.

Any other things that make Scandinavians stand out? Pop your thoughts in the comments below!

Read more about Scandinavia and Scandinavians in Bronte Aurell’s book NORTH – available here. 

How to be more Scandinavian in your everyday life

March 18, 2015 | 132 Comments

Also known as: Quirky traits of the Scandinavian people.

We asked on Facebook and Twitter for your help on this. Thanks to everybody who came up with some awesome suggestions:


The slicing of cheese

It’s a thing. A big thing (especially in Sweden). Do not cut the end of the cheese if it’s a triangle, always use a cheese slicer (never a knife, sacré bleu!) – and if you make a ski-slope (i.e cutting too much of one side without correcting it) you risk being outlawed.

250px-Osthyvel_20050723_001 copy

Using the right cheese slicer

What, you didn’t think there were rules for this? Of course there are rules. This is Scandinavia. The metal cheese slicer is for harder cheeses, such as Cheddar and Västerbotten. The plastic slicer is for cheese that are slightly softer, like Havarti (aka Åseda Gräddost), Herrgårdsost, Grevé – and some brown cheeses, too. And the cheese slicer with a wire on is for Danish cheeses such as Riberhus and Gamle Ole.

Look, we know its sounds complicated, but if you use the wrong one, your cheese will be cut wrong. See ‘The slicing of cheese’.

Speaking as you breathe in

Sometimes we say things while breathing in. Like ‘ja’. Try it, you will find it most peculiar.  A point to note, however, is that it is usually done when you agree on something – affirming the point by breathing in and saying ’ja’ at the same time. The further North, the less sound is needed More here


Friday night is for tacos.

Nobody is sure when it happened, but we only eat tacos on Fridays. Don’t ask, just do.


Sweets are for Saturdays

It’s called Saturday Sweets. It’s also a thing. If you have them on Friday, then only in the evening and they its called CozyFriday. But on Saturdays, it’s Lørdagsslik or Lördagsgodis.


Our obsession with coffee breaks

You will find very few Scandi work places that don’t have the fika/kaffepause at 11am and again in the afternoon (before we leave work at 16.30, because that’s also a thing – and nobody stays late). Usually with some sort of cake. The only acceptable drink is super-strength filter coffee – so strong that it hurts your nostrils and makes all the caffeine receptors in your brain think you’re back clubbing in a field in 1993.

I’m off on holiday in week 29…

We don’t count months, we count weeks. Nobody else does, which makes for interesting conversations. First week of January is week 1 – and so it goes. Forget months and days, it is all about weeks in Scandinavia. Easter is in week 14 this year. Now you know. We have no idea when that is, either. 


Cheese & jam

It’s most certainly a thing. Toast, cheese and jam. Any kind. Even marmalade. Just embrace it. Cheddar and Strawberry jam is a thing.


Salty, strong liquorice

Most Nordic people embrace salty liquorice. The stronger and saltier, the better. We just do not understand that you don’t like it. How can you not? It’s strong, makes your mouth feel like its on fire and gives you a tummy ache when you over do it. We start training our children when they are young so we are sure they develop a taste for it. For Scandi ex-pats, it’s a rite of passage to make sure their overseas-born children develop the taste too (we see them at the cafe, tempting little Ingrid with salty liquorice lollipops).

The top ones are Tyrkisk Peber, Djungelvrål, and chocolate with salty liquorice centres.



Eurovision is huge. Huge. Especially in Sweden, where they have six regional heats just to find a representative winner. Even those who say they never watch it probably still do in secret. Eating tacos and Saturday sweets.


Our home style

The first time you walk into a Danish apartment, you will think the owner is an interior decorator. Second time, you wonder if the owner of the first and second flat know each other. Third time, you realise every single apartment looks the same. White walls, white doors, Arne Jacobsen dining chairs, an Eames chair in the corner with a casually thrown sheepskin, Eva Solo or Blue Flute crockery.  We all have the same cutlery and, curiously, we seem to leave the stickers on them.

In Sweden, it’s the same except it’s a lot more IKEA mixed with stuff from our country cottages by the lake.

We really do eat a lot of meatballs

But the Swedish ones are not the same as the Danish ones, and the Norwegian ones are different too. Don’t confuse things. Learn the difference or get found out.

We have rules for the Smörgåsbord

There is a strict set of rules about when you eat herring and what bread you use for prawns and salmon. And at what point you start singing and cheering with aquavit. Eat open sandwiches with your hands and be forever excluded. No, we don’t write down the rules: You just need to know them.


Look me in the eye…

When you cheer with Scandi folk, it is very impolite not to look everybody around the table in the eye before you take a sip. Skål!


How you butter your bread.

Crispbreads usually have a bubbly side and a flat side. The flat side is for every day, the bubbly side is for Sundays. Some people disagree, so there are no hard rules, for once. Rye bread that has too much butter is called ‘tandsmør’ – literally, tooth butter. Meaning the indent of your teeth can be seen.


The queuing system

In most shops – especially in Sweden – there are little ticket machines. Brits may remember these from supermarket deli counters in the 80s before they disappeared. Take a number as you enter and wait your turn. You never ever cheat. We like orderly queues, but are not very good at them, so this helps us. At bus stops there are no ticket machines, so it is your job to remember at what point you turned up. This is stressful. You know the other people will remember, so don’t mess it up.


The Scandi look

So, you want to look like one of us? Then you need to decide which one of us you want to look like. You see all us Scandis as the same, but we have very clear differences between us (as illustrated here by the brilliant Jenny Blake).

A general rule of thumb:

Danish: If you own anything not black, get rid of it. You’ll probably never need it again. Buy oversized scarves, dye your hair very blond and wear it in a messy bun if a girl – or bed-head style if you’re a guy. Viking Beard optional.

More info about looking like a Dane here from this blog.

Swedish: Very blond hair. If you’re a guy, we recommend the ‘Stockholm Stureplan Brats’ look. Maybe. Well, try it and see if it fits you. Otherwise, just grow a beard and speak with a funny accent. If you’re a girl, get yourself some skinny white jeans and white converse all stars.

Norway: Beard. Definitely eat brown cheese, have a backpack stuffed with Kvikklunsj and oranges. Buy a sheep. Bring it with you to places*.

*(Okay, the sheep comment was added by a disgruntled Swede who has since been punished and sent on a long vacation to Finland. Norwegians don’t really have pet sheep). 


But no matter who you choose to style yourself on, don’t forget to get a Fjällräven backpack.

Now, go forth and be a bit more genuinely Scandi.

If you like reading random bits about Scandinavia, sign up for our (sometimes slightly amusing) newsletter on our homepage (down at the bottom to the left) www.scandikitchen.co.uk

Love, The Kitchen People

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