The Nordic Lifestyle

SOME REFLECTION: Kayaking downtown Trondheim after work? Oh yes, you can. © Jarle Hagen
SOME REFLECTION: Kayaking downtown Trondheim after work? Oh yes, you can. Jarle Hagen

If you’re reading this, you probably have some vague idea of what Nordic countries are like. Perhaps you’ve seen pictures of fjords – or know that our winters can be particularly cold. But how’s life here, really? What’s it like to call this place home?

Attempting to dissect culture is always a strange exercise. And there is, of course, no single story to tell that perfectly encapsulates the Nordic lifestyle. But ask enough people, and you’re likely to hear some answers more frequently than others. Together they paint a picture of what we consider the Nordic way of life, and here it is – in a nutshell.

1. We have good reason to smile

We don’t always look the part, but we are in fact the happiest people in the world. The World Happiness Report pretty consistently places four Nordic countries in the global top 5! Granted, being happy is not really a lifestyle, but it certainly can be the result of one. At the very least, our happiness is a product of the societal structures within which we thrive.

You see, Norway and its neighbours are renowned for high standards of living, progressiveness and equality. Our welfare state ensures an elaborate social safety net, free education, universal healthcare and much more.

2. Work-life balance is important

If you’re considering moving here for work (and there are plenty of reasons to!), you’ll probably be pleased to know that Norwegians value leisure. That doesn’t mean we’re not hard-working, but efficiency is certainly held in higher regard than working long hours. At the end of our typical 8 hour workday, most of us just want to return home and do whatever our hearts desire.

Oh, and quite often, what our hearts desire has got something to do with the great outdoors – which brings us to…

3. Nature has a special place in our hearts

Thousands of years of monumental glaciers slowly chiseling away at our landscape has left us with both picturesque fjords and stunning mountains – often in close proximity to each other. This is something we’re quite fond of.

Not just the scenic beauty itself, but to actively bask in it. To explore – whether it’s through hiking or skiing. Keep in mind that in Norway, almost regardless of where you decide to settle down, peace and serenity of nature is only a stroll away.

4. Volunteer work is an integral part of life

Norwegians love organized activities. Sports, marching bands, reading circles, knitting clubs. The list goes on. This may very well be your easiest way of making new friends and acquaintances outside the workplace.

But these clubs don’t run themselves, nor is there a deluge of money to go around. As such, volunteer work is crucial for the sustainability of these organized activities. And we’re happy to do it. In fact, we have our own word for it – «dugnad» – a word you might as well learn sooner rather than later.

Dugnad is defined as an unpaid, common effort to the benefit of society. This might include smaller chores, such as mowing the lawn outside your apartment building a couple of times a year, or baking cookies to raise money for your kid's local sports club. This «dugnad spirit» is highly valued in Norwegian society – and something many are quite proud of.

All in all, the Nordic lifestyle is a peace-seeking lifestyle. And it seems to be working pretty well.