Stuff Scandinavians do that baffle other nations

Posted by Scandinavian (Bee) | Fun stuff, Scandi Life


“Announcing when you need to pee”

Scandinavians, but Swedes especially, announce when they need to pee. Jag måste kissa, the Swedes will say – happily in the middle of a business meeting: I need to pee. Not “where’s the loo’ but I NEED TO PEE.


Salty Liquorice

“Seriously, what’s up with that? Salty, tar-like substance that makes your face scrunch into something resembling a bum hole? How can you eat it? It’s not a SWEET”.

We love it. Don’t mess with our liquorice and we will keep trying to make you love it, too.



Drinking a glass of milk with your dinner. What are you, five years old?

Scandinavians love drinking milk. And we don’t think it’s just for the young kids, either- we will happily have a large class of milk with our dinner. Is it weird? It IS?

Off –milk and other odd dairy products

“Filmjolk, Afil and A38… Basically, sour yoghurts. Not even thick ones, but runny. Is it a drink or a yoghurt? How do you eat it? Why are you so obsessed with it? It’s SOUR. And don’t get started on the sour buttermilk.”

All true. But it’s good for your belly and it tastes really nice. Go on, have some, and then maybe some Skyr (which is also sour and is actually a cheese…)


(illustration by Jenny K Blake)

The Sandwich Rules

So, our open sandwiches are nice, most people agree. But all our rules? Don’t add fish with meat, only add remoulade with certain things. Asier is only for pork. Prawn is on white bread, but egg and prawn is on rye bread. How are people supposed to learn all these rules? What do you mean, herring first, always? What, eat with a knife and fork only? Really?

Maybe we should write these things down… Wait, where’s the fun in that?


Oh, please, not another cup of coffee.

Our coffee is so strong, too strong for most. We drink more coffee than the Italians. Our filter coffee makes your veins pulsate like a Basshunter song. It will keep any tired poor sod awake for an extra hour and invoke insomnia to the unsuspecting. On top of that, we are happy to drink 2-3 cups in a row. It’s no wonder we’re very effective in our lives and always on the go.


What’s up with all the OUTDOORS stuff?

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” – said all Scandinavian mothers, everywhere.

Okay, we like to be outside – a lot. Hike, walk, ski, run. Outside, in minus -20 degree and preferably with snow/rain/sleet/sun/ice age. Get outside.


Candle obsession with cosy feelings

We do like candles. We also love cosy. Yes, maybe we do go a bit overboard sometimes. Like when we put 50 candles in the room, turn all the lights off and ask each other if we’re feeling really ‘hyggelige’. No, it’s not some sort of Satanic ritual.


Jam and Cheese

No, it’s not a universal thing – it’s pretty much a Scandi thing. That sandwich with a slice of cheese and a dollop of raspberry or strawberry jam. Yes, we know its lovely, but its still odd, in the eyes of other people.


Our directness

Okay, we know you mean something, but you don’t have to SAY it, do you?

As in:

Non-Scandi: Would you like to come for dinner at mine tomorrow?

Scandi person: No.

Apparently, the correct response is: Ohhh, thanks for the invite, I may consider it. (Or something…then ignore it and conveniently forget to call back).


The lack of a proper word for please.

We do forget to say it. We do. We don’t have a direct translation. We don’t mean to be rude. We really don’t. The closest thing we have is along the lines of ‘if you wouldn’t mind being so kind as to” and it’s too long.

Obsession with Cheez Doodles

In Sweden especially, no Friday night’s “Fredagsmys” (Cosy Friday) is complete without a bowl of dusty corn covered snacks by our sides. We love them so much we probably think we invented them (we didn’t). No, Wotsits will not do: Not the same.

We’d probably bathe in them if you let us.

Lack of greeting cards

What’s with the lack of Christmas cards, birthday cards, moving-house card, and thank you cards?

We don’t write many cards. We don’t have shops that just sell cards. We’d like to say it is because we’re saving the forests, but really, it’s just because we don’t see the need in writing a card to your neighbour when they live next door and you just pop over and talk to them. We do learn, eventually, once we have been abroad for long enough and are feeling ignored.



Tobacco, squashed into little balls and stuffed under your top lip. Yes, other people can see it, too. It’s a Scandi thing others will probably never understand. Here’s to you, Fat Lip Snuser.


Father Christmas comes to your house

“He turns up, at your house, when you are AWAKE?!”

Actually, no, he doesn’t, The Tomte/Nisse turns up. Father Christmas is an American thing, we have our own Christmas elves. They all look just like our dads.


Our obsessiveness about the slicing of cheese

“It’s a piece of cheese, what’s the big deal if I use a knife to slice it?”

Look, we know some nations don’t appreciate this obsessiveness about the slicing of the cheese, but just DON’T slice it the wrong way and we can be friends. We invented cheese slicers for a reason, guys. It makes sense. Don’t make a ski-slope on our cheese block. Please. We beg you. You will invoke all kids of OCD and we just cannot forgive and forget.

We once wrote a blog post about a British food stylist who cut our cheese wrong and it made the Swedish newspaper. It really did. We take this very seriously.

Okay, it’s weird.


Stuff in tubes

So, in Sweden especially, we’ve realised that good things can be stuffed into handy tubes for easy consumption. It’s like buying food for your journey into space, except you are in your local ICA Maxi and not going on a trip to Mars.


Donald Duck

There is not Christmas without a re-run of the Donald Duck Show from 1976.

Okay, maybe a bit weird.



You may laugh at us. Do go on. But we still watch it. And often win it, too. More often than other… ahem.



Laughing at people trying to pronounce our weird guttural sounds

“Trying to get me to say rødgrød all the time. Even after I’ve learned how to say it, it’s still apparently knee-slappingly hilarious.”

Hmmm… this is true. Maybe we need to stop this. It’s a Danish thing. Wait, have you tried it? Go on, try it… Repeat after me…. Rødgrød med Fløde… Go on, just once….

Drinking something that is 38% alcohol at 9 am in the morning.

Okay, to be fair, this is mainly the Danes and we need to blame them on this one. There is this drink called Gammel Dansk – it’s a bit like a bad version of Fernet Branca. Drink a few shots in the morning with your Danish pastries and you’re all set for the day.


The obsession with singing ‘Snaps Visor” and “skål”

Most people get the enjoyment of having a shot of aquavit with your herring (sort of – most actually, in reality, think it tastes gross but nobody would be so impolite as to tell us).

But singing a song every time we raise our glasses? That’s a bit… Ehh… different.

Also, you have to ‘Skål’ in style. There are rules about how to do it. Best learn.

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