The weirdest Nordic habits
Through hard times with sisu
Stamina, endurance, resilience, courage – simmer all of these together and you end up with sisu. With the help of sisu, the Finns claim to have built their country, survived cold winters, won hockey world championships and stood up against an invading Soviet army in WWII. Sisu is good to have during harsh times. Therefore, these days it’s not called upon as much as it was in the past.
The state of mys
The most common form of mys closes most of Sweden down at 6pm on a Friday night, when it’s time for Fredagsmys – Friday mys. This usually means stocking up on vast amounts of sweets, crisps and other snacks. A Swede might even make some tacos. Equipped with all of this, along with warm blankets and loose-fitting clothes, the mys-ers take position in front of a favourite movie on TV and relax. Mys can take many forms: mysfilm (mys movie), myshörna (mys corner), mysbyxor (mys trousers) and mystäcke (mys blanket).
Thanks for what?
If you throw a party in the Nordic countries, you might find yourself flooded with delayed thank-yous. In other cultures, thanking someone for an event days after it’s passed might seem suspicious. After you’ve left the party with a goodbye and a thank you, what reason could you have to thank the hosts again ages afterwards? It certainly raises some questions – what really happened that night that deserves multiple thanks?
Strict no-shoe policy
You might be in for a surprise when visiting your Nordic friends: your hosts will probably not be wearing shoes, shuffling around their homes in woollen socks or barefoot. This isn’t due to a strange national fetish for foot exhibitionism, but a question of practicality – apart from the fact that shoes can be supremely uncomfortable, they also get quite dirty during the rough Nordic winters, springs and autumns. Who wants muddy footprints on their white Danish designer couch? Don’t feel intimidated – we won’t judge you even if your socks have a few holes in them.
Watch out for the door
Another surprise is in store when arriving at a Finnish or Swedish home. After ringing the doorbell, the door will open... and slam you in the face. Yes, the doors in the Nordic countries open towards the visitor, which might seem a bit unwelcoming. But there are good reasons for this. In modern Sweden they claim that there’s a security aspect to this issue: in case of emergency, people inside a building can rush towards the door and quickly slam it open. But the real advantage of a door opening outwards is that less cold air, rain and snow can enter the building when welcoming in guests.
Boozing with a cause
Drinking shots of strong liquor during meals is common in many cultures. Up north these shots are called snaps and are likely to be of aquavit rather than Russian vodka, Greek ouzo or German schnapps. Drinking snaps is popular during festive meals, whether it’s a Danish Saturday lunch, a Swedish crayfish party, a Norwegian lutefisk evening or a traditional Finnish Christmas dinner. Sometimes the shot drinkers are cheered along with a traditional drinking song. Don’t forget to learn the key words: kippis (Finland), skål (Sweden, Norway and Denmark) and skál (Iceland).