Get to Know the Nordic Countries

The Nordic countries are a region in Northern Europe consisting of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and the territories Åland, Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Many use Scandinavia as a synonym for the Nordic countries, but this term covers only Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

The word "Nordic" comes from the term "Norden," which means "the northern lands". The Nordic countries have much in common in history, lifestyle, language and social structure.

The countries vary in geography. The natural environment is made from the sea, mountains, forests, archipelago, lakes, and fjords to marshlands.

There are plenty of things to see in the Nordic countries and things to do like city life, Arctic adventures, mountain biking, camping, island hopping, road touring, or hiking in the wilderness.

See more:  What are the 3 Scandinavian countries


What is so special about the Nordics

The Nordic countries have been ranked consistently as the best countries to live in in the last ten years.

In the news, you see that they have the best work-life balance globally, the other day about the best school system, the happiest nation in the world, or the best country for women to live in.

Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden have become icons of fair societies with high economic productivity and high quality of life.

What is the secret behind this: Collaboration, not competition, is the driver behind the Nordic model. The Nordic countries have managed to create sustainable modernity thanks to an extraordinary balance of cooperation and competition - the Nordic countries illustrate the competitive advantage of collaboration.

See also: Travel guide to the Nordic countries


What is the Nordic model 

The Nordic countries have established global leaders regarding gender equality, healthcare, innovation, and environmental stewardship.

The countries are renowned for the high standard of living they offer their inhabitants. The Nordic countries are paradigms of equality, good education, female empowerment, and progressiveness. 

The Nordic countries share an economic and social model, combining a market economy with a welfare state financed by high taxes.

In the Nordic model, welfare is a central part of life of everybody. The countries have free education, healthcare has low fees in most cases, and most children go to public daycare in the Nordic countries.

The model has been successful. The countries are among the wealthiest worldwide. The Nordic countries have a very flexible labour market and use a flexicurity system where the employers can easily dismiss the workers secured by high unemployment benefits.

Read more: Famous Nordic Brands 

Read more: Why visit the Nordic countries



Nordic creativity and innovation

The Nordic countries are often at the top of international surveys regarding creativity and innovation power, and this also has its roots in the Nordic model. As parts of the business are specialized and high-tech, this allows creative and innovative skills to be developed. Investments in education and research open social security opportunities to take risks - to dare to fail, which is essential to innovation.


About nordic welfare 

In international comparisons, the Nordic countries often combine a high standard of living with equality and a large public sector. It is called the "Nordic welfare model" and builds upon the general organizational principles of Nordic social and welfare policy.

The social security net is central to the Nordic welfare model. It is rooted in the principle of universal rights, and everybody has the individual right to assistance from the public sector if they cannot look after themselves. These rights are the same for all, regardless of income and assets.

See also: When to visit the Nordic countries 


The Nordics are the happiest in the world

Finland is no. 1 in happiness. Finland is the world's happiest country and has been this for 6 years now, according to the 2023 World Happiness Report. Other top nations on the list are Denmark (no. 2) and Iceland (no.3)

The report found that all top 3 countries rank highly on all the main factors that support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.

At the "World Happiness Report 2023", 3 Nordic countries are in the top 3:

1) Finland

2) Danmark

3) Iceland

4) Israel

5) The Netherlands

Sweden is number 6, and Norway is number 7.


Nordic lifestyle

Today the Nordic capitals are some of the most eco-friendly cities in the world. Many hotels and restaurants create green solutions for their clients, and many biking and pedestrian zones are in the Nordic capitals. The Nordic countries live close to nature, and the Nordic lifestyle offers ample opportunities to lead a life that puts family and quality time outside work on par with career and work.

Of course, differences between Nordic countries show out. Still, people generally focus more and more on a healthy lifestyle, including sports and eating eco-food.


Nordic history

The Nordic Region has been a part of Europe since the Viking era. After conversion to Christianity in the 11th century, three northern kingdoms, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, emerged, and the Nordic Region became a part of Europe. 

The three kingdoms and a union (approx. 1050–1500) increased their trade in the Middle Ages. The consequence was the Nordic Region becoming integrated into Europe and Nordic society becoming increasingly continental. By the late middle ages, the Nordic Region was politically united in the loose Kalmar Union. 

See more about the Scandinavian monarchies

The Kalmar Union fell apart in the early modern period of the 1500-1800 century, and the two new states, Denmark–Norway and Sweden, were created. These two did their best to crush each other in constant wars to become the dominant power in the region. However, in the long term, both had to accept their role as small European states. 

Industrialisation, democratisation, and nationalisation, approx. 1810–1920 century created population growth, and industrialization changed Europe and the Nordic Region in the 19th century.

New social classes steered political systems towards democracy. International politics and nationalism created the preconditions for the independence of Norway, Finland, and Iceland. 

Around 1920, five welfare states represented the Nordic region globally, and state-guaranteed welfare became the guiding principle for policy in the highly industrialized Nordic Region of the 20th century.

During the two world wars and the Cold War, the five small Nordic nations were forced into severe balancing acts but retained their independence and developed peaceful democracies.

In 1952, the Nordic Council was founded. Here the Nordic countries meet and discuss intern Nordic questions, but they are also very conscious that it gives them a common Nordic platform to the rest of the world. 


Culture and Language

Cultural differences between Nordic nations are apparent. However, cultural differences between Nordic and other European countries can be surprisingly vast, but this travel guide can help here.

In Nordic countries, many people understand each other's language. Almost 80% of the population have Swedish, Norwegian, or Danish as their first language, and Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish are the most related languages and are culturally and historically related.

The northern part of Finland, Norway, and Sweden is called Lapland, and the people of these regions speak various Saami languages. In Greenland, their language belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut languages, spoken in northern Canada and Alaska. 


Membership of Schengen

Five Nordic countries are members of the Schengen Agreement, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland, including Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands.

See more: How to get a visa