You might’ve noticed that Nordic countries tend to rank really well when countries are compared by happiness, education, innovation, sustainability, etc. Whatever it is we do up here in the north, something seems to be working. So if you’re curious how you can live a more Scandinavian life, here are 17 everyday tips that will get you on the right track.
I realize all of these tips might not be possible for everyone, and certain ways of life are possible in the Nordic region but much more challenging in other places (anything related to cold weather, the Nordic welfare state, etc.).
That said, I’ve tried to make these as general and achievable as possible, so hopefully there is something that you can take with you and utilize to “Scandinavianize” your everyday life.
17 Tips To Live a More Nordic Life:
Embrace the Concept of Lagom (Not Too Much, Not Too Little)
If you’re not familiar with the word lagom, it essentially means just the right amount of something, or the optimal point on a spectrum. Some say it stems from the phrase “laget om” which means “enough for everyone”, while others claim it stems from the word “lag” which would then mean “according to law”.
Wherever it comes from, this concept of just right flows through most of Nordic society and culture, from the law of Jante which promotes fitting in over standing out to Scandinavian minimalism in fashion and interior design.
Set Aside Time For Getting Cozy (With Others or Alone)
Call it Mys or Hygge, it means the same thing: getting cozy either on your own or with your close ones.
An example from the Nordics is the so-called Fredagsmys; when you get the family together on a Friday night, watch a movie together, and “get cozy” with blankets, pillows, chips, popcorn, etc.
Another example is to counteract a cold winter morning by brewing yourself a warm cup of coffee, putting on your warmest, comfiest sweater, and then proceeding to curl up in your favorite spot to enjoy a good book (or let’s get real: your phone) whilst watching the snow and/or rain come down with a fury outside your window.
The idea is to achieve a feeling of coziness by any means necessary and to do it as often as you can.
Take Care of the Environment (Live a Greener Life)
Nordic minimalism isn’t just about design, but about having a minimal impact on our eco system. Reduce, reuse, recycle — in any way you can.
- Throw away less stuff and try to get most out of every single item of clothing, furniture, toy, or car.
- Choose renewable and natural products over plastics that won’t get recycled properly.
- Recycle consumables even if it is a little bit more inconvenient.
There are plenty of reasons to care for and preserve Nordic nature and wildlife, and we take it pretty seriously too. It’s gone so far that Sweden is even importing trash in order to recycle it for energy production.
It’s likely that you’ll find a “recycling nook” in most Nordic homes; a corner or closet filled with cardboard, plastic containers, metal cans, etc. — waiting to get brought out to the recycling bins. IKEA even sells full modules for your kitchen and cleaning closets to help you keep recycling tidy and efficient.
Ok, so maybe these small efforts are dwarfed by how much big corporations around the world pollute the environment, and maybe it won’t make much of a difference in a larger perspective. But at least you can feel good about minimizing your own footprint, and hopefully promote businesses that do the same.
Bike Everywhere (For a Green & Healthy Commute)
Biking is the main way people get around in many Scandinavian cities, and if it is something you can do, it is a win all around. It’s usually more convenient to not have to worry about traffic or parking, it’s good for your health, and it improves city environments by reducing car traffic.
And although it isn’t something everyone can do, it’s an easy choice if it can lengthen and make your life easier, all while still getting you to work or school in about the same amount of time.
Here’s a look at which countries have the most bicycles per capita, with Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway all featured in the top:
Focus on Work-Life Balance (If You Can)
A big part of the well-known Nordic happiness phenomenon is the overall philosophy of balancing your work and free time.
Not only is it possible to work hard, innovate, excel and be ambitious — all while prioritising and giving time to other, similarly important, human needs every now and then (rest, family, friends, etc.). Turns out it can even produce better results in many areas.
If you are able to, try to work shorter days and take regular breaks in your day to sit down and have a cup of joe one your own, or with your co-workers. I don’t mean that you should slack off, but perhaps you can work in a more efficient manner with these breaks.
Show that you are willing to work hard and be loyal to your workplace, but also make it clear that you need to prioritize family or friends every now and then. If that’s not the culture at your job, it might be time to look elsewhere (or start your own business!).
Go Outside A Lot (No Matter the Weather)
Every Nordic child has learned to live with the weather, no matter how crappy it gets, as preschools across the region insist on spending time outside no matter the weather. There is no such thing as bad weather, they say, only bad clothes.
So take a brisk morning walk, bring your kids to a local playground, or do something sporty — even if the rain is coming down like there’s no tomorrow. Even if it’s windy as heck. Even when it’s colder than the polar circle.
Be Considerate of Others in Society (We Instead of Me)
Don’t get me wrong, competition is healthy and the real world isn’t always nice to you. But whenever you can, reconsider living life with sharp elbows and viewing every event as a competitive zero-sum game.
Try instead to expand your area of interest from yourself to society as a whole. What’s the right thing to do here? What would my family think if they saw me?
This includes being respectful in stores, to wait your turn, offer polite gestures to strangers. Respect personal space. Follow the unwritten rules. These are things Nordic societies in general accept as the norm (though from experience there are certainly local exceptions in the bigger cities).
At this point, you might think these sound like principles that many religions around the world subscribe to, and that’s definitely true! Most Swedes aren’t very religious though, and are generally very accepting of alternative lifestyles and perspectives.
Work Towards Equality For All (Not the Same, But Equal)
Nordic societies are generally at the forefront of the fight for equal rights among all humans, no matter their sex, preferences, or background. This doesn’t mean that people aren’t discriminated against at all in the Nordic region, but it does mean the generally accepted view is to strive towards an equal society.
So shake of dusty layers of conservative preconceptions, and embrace equality for all across as many aspects of your life as possible. This can be as simple and basic as taking parental leave as a dad, and feeling good about your choice. Or gunning for leadership positions as a woman despite feeling that the odds are against you.
Try to treat everyone in your daily life as equals, and focus on leveling any male-dominated playing fields whenever possible. That doesn’t mean hire more female fire-fighters when there are better suited male candidates, but it could mean encouraging more men to become preschool teachers, or pushing for more female board members.
Here’s an overview of how gender equality looks around the world (based on the GII), with darker green meaning more equal:
Drink Lots of Coffee (Or Tea)
Nordic people are always among those who drink the most coffee in the world per capita, so if you want to live a more Nordic life this is an easy one. Simply drink lots of coffee, whether it’s at work or in your free time.
If you need some help, this is how Nordic people end up drinking so much coffee:
- Whenever you have someone come by your home or office, offer them a cup of coffee and sit down for a one-on-one over a cup of joe.
- When you have people over for dinner, it is customary in the Nordics to offer everyone a cup of coffee or tea after everyone’s finished eating.
- Nordic people take coffee breaks throughout the day in most professions, with everyone in the workplace usually sitting together.
- Instead of expensive takeaway espresso, Nordic people generally drink more inexpensive drip coffee, enabling you to drink more for less!
So exactly how much coffee do Nordic people drink? Well, here is a list of the countries that drink the most coffee per person:
|Coffee Consumed Per Capita
|1. Netherlands 🇳🇱
|2. Finland 🇫🇮
|3. Sweden 🇸🇪
|4. Norway 🇳🇴
|5. Canada 🇨🇦
|6. Lebanon 🇱🇧
|7. Germany 🇩🇪
|8. Brazil 🇧🇷
|9. Qatar 🇶🇦
|10. Switzerland 🇨🇭
|11. Italy 🇮🇹
|12. Estonia 🇪🇪
|13. Portugal 🇵🇹
|14. USA 🇺🇸
|15. France 🇫🇷
Travel the World (And Embrace New Cultures)
Expand your horizons and see the world. Don’t take yourself too seriously when you’re abroad, and try to dive head-first into and embrace local cultures and customs.
Scandinavians seriously love to travel (both in the past and present), and tend to use up their mandated paid time off exploring warmer latitudes whilst filling up on Vitamin D.
If you’re curious where Scandinavians travel when they do go abroad, I’ve written an article where I present up-to-date statistics on where each nationality wants to go and where they actually end up going.
Eat Tons of Berries (For Those Antioxidants)
Nordic people love to eat berries, mostly because they are delicious and there’s a ton of them growing in the wild up here in the deep north.
Then there are the health effects, with tons of antioxidants, fibers, and nutrients to help you live stronger and longer.
Here are some of the most commonly eaten berries that are native to the Scandinavian region:
- Blueberries *
- Cloudberries *
- Raspberries *
- Gooseberries *
- Black currants
- Red currants
- Strawberries *
- Rose hips
- Elderberries *
- Blue Raspberries (“Salmbär”)
* Also available in North America
Stop Wearing Shoes Inside Your Home (Still OK at Work)
Scandinavians stopped wearing shoes inside in the 1930s after a massive campaign launched to improve the cleanliness and hygiene in homes.
There are plenty of good reasons to avoid wearing shoes inside your own and other peoples homes, and you’ll be asking yourself why you are after seeing the three main ones:
- It’s more hygienic: less bacteria & toxins from feces, pesticides, herbacides, etc. means less disease
- It’s cleaner: Less dirt, oil, and other contaminants found under soles will save you cleaning time
- It’s better for your floors and carpets: Less wear and tear and longer floor life saves you money
So take off those shoes at the door and enjoy a cleaner home, better health, and happier life.
Take a Sauna and/or an Ice-Dip (Trust Me)
Look, I get it. The idea of throwing yourself in an ice-cold lake followed by a long session locked into a steaming hot wooden room surrounded by your naked friends or family may seem crazy to most people.
But there are good reasons for doing this, I promise!
See, taking your body to extreme temperatures can not only feel phenomenal but also lead to many proven health benefits, including a strengthened immune system.
I’d also argue it brings you closer to your friends and family. You’ll enjoy the cleansing act together, usually over a few beers and whilst having the deepest of conversations.
Nordic people learn the sauna ways early in life, especially Finns and Swedes who grow up sharing saunas in communal showers after sports activities and P.E. classes.
There are also saunas available next to the showers in both swimming pools, gyms, and sports centers, so you get used to sitting butt-naked next to friends and strangers alike on a regular basis throughout your life.
Understandably this is something most Americans won’t feel very comfortable doing. If this is the case it’s totally fine to cover yourself with a towel (not the same one you dry yourself with though!) and still reap the health and social benefits!
Add Butter to All the Food (Yes, Really)
This one might sound counterintuitive but Nordic people add butter to literally every type of food, believing it is healthier than margarine and vegetable oils.
The Nordic diet differs from the North American one in one important aspects: bread and butter.
Open-faced sandwiches are a local delicacy where you’ll eat bread, butter, and loads of other goodies on top, either as a breakfast or lunch food.
I can’t say if you are actually going to see any health benefits from this tip, but you will definitely live a more Nordic life and see some positive results.
After all, eating loads of yummy food is enough to make most people happy.
Plan Casual Fika Dates (With Friends & Family)
Setup casual and regular daytime (coffee) and evening (beer) “dates” with your close ones, where you just sit down and chat, catch up on life, and enjoy each other’s company for a bit.
In Sweden it’s called having a “fika”, and it is without a doubt considered an essential part of everyone’s daily life.
The frequencies of “fika” goes up during weekends and when one takes out parental leave, having spawned the so-called “latte dads” who sit in cafes with friends and their babies next to them in a stroller.
Enjoy the Sunshine (And Prioritize It Above Everything Else)
The Nordic people do not see the sun as much (or at all) in the winter, so when it peeks out and spreads its warm rays we literally run out to greet it.
The Nordic sun motto is: Whenever the sun is out, you should be out too (when you are able to of course).
Sunny on a workday? Take an outdoor lunch or coffee in the park.
Sunny on the weekend? Call your friends and meet at the nearest beach/sun-soaking spot.
Sunny on a snowy day? Go out and ski and soak up the sun from the slopes.
Embrace More Neutral Colors (And Achieve Balance)
Whether it is your home interior or your clothes, focus on neutral colors such as white, grey, black, beige, etc. for a more balanced and less obtrusive environment.
Especially the light colors are important in the dark northern parts of Europe, as when the winter days grow shorter and shorter you need every bit of help you can get to brighten things up.
Almost all newly produced Nordic homes and offices are painted primarily white as it reflects more light and makes the rooms brighter (which will also make them appear larger).
- Nordic Coffee Culture Explained: From Fika to Kask
- Can You Get By With English Only In the Nordic Countries?
- English in Sweden: How Well Swedes Speak & Understand English
- Nordic and Scandinavian Languages Explained and Ranked