How to spot Nordic friends - Monocolumn | Monocle


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28 August 2012

It’s good for small countries to stick together. Now everyone thinks I am going to start going on about the European Union – whereas I actually want to talk about the smaller union of Nordic countries that was already formed decades before European integration became a hot topic.

Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland allowed Nordic citizens to move and settle freely as long as 60 years ago. It is kind of a shame that all this Nordic stuff has been slightly neglected now that everyone is so consumed with the EU.

But something still remains about the Nordic connection. The small northern countries have been sticking together in many things and trying to stick up for themselves against the larger countries of the EU. But what I find most important about Nordic co-operation is something more personal.

Sometimes the Nordic embassies are housed in the same building complexes; often they help the citizens of neighbouring countries, making everyone’s life a bit easier.

I spent the other night with a couple of Danes. I got a reminder of how much more beneficial this idea of supporting each other can be. Years ago, one of my Danish acquaintance’s mother was working in Spain when there was a disastrous bus accident – nine Finnish tourists lost their lives.

When this happened it was not just the Finnish community in Spain but also Danes, Swedes and Norwegians that started furiously working to locate and support the Finns who had been on the bus. The passengers would have been in a state shock after the accident, some of them injured and spread around hospitals in southern Spain. In a moment of crisis there was help on hand due to solidarity, not for obligational reasons.

There is something that Nordic people share, regardless of which country in the north they happen to come from – it’s a similar approach to the world after having looked at it from the northern, rather isolated angle for years. There’s a need for space, and high levels of appreciation for weird cuisines such as salted liquorice. Crayfish and vodka shots quickly melt all the language differences away and we can then start laughing at all the stupid stereotypes that we have of each other. It’s comforting to know that there are people around you who think the same way.

Sometimes when I get bored I entertain myself by heading to one of the busiest market streets in London and trying to spot Nordic citizens. Be it blonde looks, language or socks in sandals, I feel I am not so far away from home.


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