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Scandinavian Countries: Compare and Contrast

First, I have to thank Nancy - I don't have time to write a long post on mythology as I wanted to do today, and I couldn't come up with something good yet short. So Nancy's comment inspired me: "I hope to visit Sweden someday - where my ancestors came from. So, maybe it will be similar?"

This question can be answered in multiple ways, mainly because of the "interesting" relationship between Norway and Sweden, which is filled with jokes about one country being smart and the other stupid (the smart one being whoever is speaking, of course!) Since Norway was under Sweden for almost 100 years until 1905, there was for a long time a sense of being the little brother. Sweden was also richer for a long time, until Norway found oil and got all "I am better than you now, big brother!"

The jokes are usually pretty innocent, and the interesting thing is that they always involve Denmark too. Denmark is cast as the not-quite-as-stupid as Sweden act, or the not-quite-as-stupid as Norway, depending on who is telling the joke of course. So here is an example (or you can scroll down if you prefer to hear the real answer to the question):

A Swede, a Norwegian and a Dane were arrested in France during the French revolution. They each got to choose which way they would die. The Norwegian chose the guillotine, because he saw it as the latest fashion. His head went under, but the blade stopped 1 inch from his neck. The French saw this as a sign from God or something and decided to let him go. The same thing happened to the Dane. Then they asked the Swede how he wanted to die. "I think I'll die by hanging, that guillotine doesn't work anyway," he said.

Here is one that just makes fun of the Swedes:
Q: What does it say at the bottom of Swedish Beer Bottles?
A: Open At Other End.

And now to the real answer to Nancy's question: Yes, there are definite similarities, although they are some big differences too:
Sweden has better cities. Stockholm is prettier, cooler, and bigger than Oslo.
Norway's nature is much more dramatic, with deep fjords and tall mountains. Sweden is beautiful but has more rolling hills, lakes, and calmer coast line.
Norway is very much a seafaring nation and the coast is very important - most people live within 30 kilometers of the coast.
People go to Norway mainly for nature: fjords, mountains, the coasts, the islands.
Sweden is famous for its gorgeous capital, the beautiful islands along the coast, and its many nice lakes.

As far as people go, the two are quite similar. Swedes are seen as slightly more formal and more cosmopolitan, while the Norwegians are seen as slightly more rebellious and country bumpkin-like. The food traditions are also similar, although Swedes eat a lot more herring!

Hope this helped!!

Comments (8)

The jokes are very funny.
Great post, Choiocciola. Thanks.

Barb Cabot:

Love these posts.


I really enjoyed the insights in this post. You know, we told those jokes too, though different ethnic groups.

Fascinating post! And the jokes are great too. I didn't know that Norway had such a close and important coastline. After reading this, I think I'd choose Norway over Sweden, though I imagine that most travelers end up doing all of Scandanavia on the same trip, maybe.

Have a great weekend!

I'm enjoying reading these posts! I know next to nothing about Scandanavian countries, so it's a good education for me, as well as an enjoyable read.

Great jokes!! Interesting differences. Loving your posts on Norway!


Oh my gosh, I am so excited that you wrote about Sweden vs. Norway because of my comment yesterday!

Thank you so much for doing that, Chiocciola. I have learned a lot from your posts the last two days!


Interesting post, Chiocciola. I imagine people in the Scandinavian countries must get tired of all being lumped together -- kind of the way Canadians resent being seen as identical to all other North Americans (ie the U.S.) Nothing personal, everyone simply appreciates their own nationality!

I was struck by the gorgeous scenery shot in Norway when Nicolo visited from Italy in the film Best of Youth -- it looked stunning and had such an impact on the young man.

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