Being a Scandiphile
Sunset — Göteborg’s Harbour
Falling in love with a place is never something I thought would happen to me. I was born into a mining family from a mining town in the Midlands of the United Kingdom, and it hasn’t felt like home for the latter part of my adult life. Everyone can pick faults with the place they grew up in or currently reside and many people where I am from never leave. But I have found more happiness in moving away from my mining town and closer to a city. I have also developed a chronic case of wanderlust and found myself falling deeply in love with a northern corner of this earth. My journey begins with Norway, a country I am privileged to have visited twice, once in summer and once over Christmas. I stayed with the kindest, most generous and welcoming family I have the pleasure of knowing on Borøy, Tvedestrand and this is where my life as a Scandiphile begins. This family taught me a lot about shared experiences and opening your home to new friends from abroad — something which I have done for some of my Portuguese friends already.
A few years later a fateful visit to Göteborg in Sweden solidifies this in more ways than one. I loved Norway, but as beautiful as it is I couldn’t see myself living by fjords, purely because of how remote it is. Göteborg has this perfect balance of being a city that is big enough to have everything you need and small enough to have peaceful moments, whilst being on the coast at the same time.
Since then I have also visited København in Denmark, staying in a beautiful family home in Hvidovre. Here the architecture and suburban way of life was beyond idyllic. Iceland is next on the list, and I would love to see more of Norway and Sweden, too.
No where is perfect, I am aware of this. This article gained quite a lot of attention by addressing some issues with my favourite part of the world. Though it is very tongue in cheek, and I daresay there are lots of statistics that back up my love of this beautiful corner of the world. But if you prefer a bit of comedy like I do this video is a good watch. Without getting too deep into my views on the politics I just want to highlight three simple reasons why I love Scandinavia, and why I would recommend travelling there to anyone. Beauty The landscape is breathtaking, whether you are in the mountains, by the fjords or in a city, it is always beautiful (and clean). I have seen the sunsets and the stars in Norway in the winter and with minimal light pollution it was by far the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.
In all of the cities I have been to there is an abundance of stunning architecture, bike lanes and a lot of cyclists, parks and lots of green space. Even the street lighting has something unique and beautiful about it.
Many parts of Scandinavia have fjords, lakes, archipelagos and nature reserves so you are never too far away from some nature or the water. One of my favourite photographers Stian Klo takes amazing landscape shots in the Lofoten Islands where I would love to visit some day.
The people Renowned for being reticent, people from Sweden can seem quiet, stoic or shy on the face of it. Keeping to yourself, not making a fuss and not displaying wealth or status unnecessarily is something that spreads across the nordic countries. Whilst my British tendencies make me fairly loud and invasive compared to the stereotypical Scandinavian way, I have found some great friends who are honest, kind and easy to get along with. In fact our cultural differences only make for an interesting and dynamic friendship.
What about the price of alcohol I hear you say? Well, despite this I’ve found that my nordic friends really know how to party. Whether it’s the Norwegians sailing to Denmark twice a year to stock up on affordable alcohol, or the Swede’s with their impressive selection of beers in their bars and at the alcohol monopoly, Systembolaget. Many people get around the cost with lots of house parties, but the bars are always bustling at the weekends. I can’t wait to sample the joys of Midsummer in Sweden sometime. Skål! Way of life This is the hardest thing to explain because it is something that you just feel. It’s like it is woven into the fabric of society. Everything just works, everything feels safe and there is a sense of acceptance, equality and calmness that makes being unhappy almost impossible. To give an example of some of the cultural ways of life that really appeal to me I will explain two of my favourite Swedish words. Vill du Fika? Fika — this means to have a laid back coffee break, usually with a little bit of food, you could also have tea or a cold drink but coffee is very popular in Sweden. It could be a date, with a friend or with a colleague. This four letter word encapsulates an entire cultural phenomenon that is important around the world. You get a sense of how important it is in Sweden because you can’t seem to get a really bad coffee anywhere. It’s not just the coffee either, I haven’t eaten in a single restaurant that didn’t take pride in what they do and how they do it, regardless of how expensive it is.
Ska vi mysa? Mys— (mysa, mysig) literally translated you could say ‘cosy’ but that understates the importance of this term. It can be related to a place, for example getting through the harsh winters with warmth, fires, candles and blankets. There are lots of places to have a mysig kväll (cosy evening) and why would you not want to enjoy a hot coffee outside with some blankets? It can also refer to cuddling or being affectionate with someone, hanging out with a group of people in a cosy way or just being cosy on your own, too.
There is something inherently romantic about living in a place where having Fika and being Mys is highly important.
For the record, I am not winter’s biggest fan and I dislike the cold. I am ‘nesh’, as we would say in the midlands. But if you put me in a nordic region in minus 10 degree winter, you will still find me smiling. More of my photo stories at kymellis.exposure.co.