Scandinavia or Europe? Ah, what’s the difference…???



An incredibly bothersome issue for me is american people’s (I’m sorry, but I mostly experience this with Americans…) inability to distinguish countries in our part of the world, or the part not consisting of their own corner of the globe. There is too often talk about Europe as if it were one big country, or Scandinavia as if we all ran around up here in the north all the same with the same capital, same language, and same culture.


The other day I read a blog post, which had me dwelling on  this annoying element once more. In this post there was a mention of “Scandinavian Crime Stories” and I sat dumbstruck wondering – is he referring to Swedish, Danish or Norweigan? Or might he even refer to Finnish? Because in my world they are completely different. The Swedish ones are incredibly boring, and Danish movies are generally better than Swedish ones (even Crime Stories  – IMO), but Finnish – I have not a clue, my experience with Finnish movies is extremely limited, due to whatever reason I’m not aware of.


What is so difficult to understand about the fact we are separate countries? Separate countries with different laws and different nationalities? And different citizens? And different languages, although most of us can understand eachother without too big of an effort. Except the Finnish people then. The ones who don’t speak Swedish, who are by the way a minority in their country.


I’ve often ran across restaurant signs in Thailand, or all over the world for that matter, advertising their “European food”, which always makes me wonder whether they’re serving “black soup” (a north Swedish dish made of animal blood, which is not a particularly regular dish for the rest of us Swedes) or feta cheese in there. Or maybe even frog legs which is something all Europeans eat… right? The variety between European food is enormous, and can be as different as the ones mentioned above, although they might be extremes.


As we Swedes all know, or as we Europeans all know, there is not such a thing as a European thing, but there are Swedish things, and there are Greek things, and there are even German things, and it’s not particularly often we’re sitting nibbling on bratwursts for lunch and dinner back here in Sweden, even if it might seem the countries are only a small distance apart. We don’t even understand each other once we open up our yaps!


Are we in Europe so unimportant in the eyes of the rest of the world they don’t even have to bother remembering which countries belong to our continent or what is it really about?


Even Rihanna apparantly dedicated “Redemption Song” in honour of “our” tragedy: The massacre at Utöya (Norway) during her concert on the “Peace & Love” festival in Borlänge, Sweden. Of course, we Swedes too suffered on the Norwegian people’s behalf, it was a tragedy, no question about that, but we’re still not the same country! Something she obviously was extremely confused about… Simply high or just clueless?


So, is it ok for me to treat USA and Canada the same – North America is always North America, right? We should just confuse them up too…


I do believe this would stir some uproar; is there anything more offensive for an American being labelled as a Canadian? Or the other way around?


So if it’s easy to understand the above confusion, then you might even understand the frustration in constantly hearing you’re from the country Sweden where the capital’s name is Denmark (it’s a country, for frack’s sake), or Norway where the capital is Stockholm.


So, here’s a message to the world, it’s time to wake up and realise Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland isn’t one big happy country named Scandinavia, BUT in fact independent countries with separate languages and separate cultures! Google it! And the European Union isn’t a country named Europe; the union includes several different countries where ALL have different cultures! And different languages! And definitely different food! Thank God!!!


Is it really that difficult??? Geography, people!!!


5 thoughts on “Scandinavia or Europe? Ah, what’s the difference…???

  1. Charnette, I meant exactly that – Scandinavian. As in Scandinavian Airlines. Crime stories of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and even Iceland, as much as they are available in English (or German), have a prevailing sense of gloom and are actually very violent. It is of course a generalization, that’s why I mentioned it as a cliché. And the Danish television series Forbrydelsen is no exception (notice that I used the attribute “Danish” in my post?). But you are, of course, right, when you point out the geographic ignorance of many Americans. There are many reasons for that and not enough room in a comment. Perhaps you should look at this:


    1. Hi Michael

      Sorry for the late reply, just discovered your comment ended up in the spam folder. 😦 Thank you for your comment, and thank you for the link, as well. Those maps were hilarious. However, I would like to point out in regards of your post. I did notice you wrote “Danish” in your post, your post wasn’t at all offensive to me in this matter, or disturbing, or annoying. It just made me think about this “attitude” or whatever to call it once more, and gave me an idea to write about it. And furthermore I like your blog very much, read it often, which is why I linked to it. And now I’m somewhat proud you managed to find me and read the post. 😛 In Scandinavian countries we of course use the word Scandinavia, as you say – Scandinavian Airlines for instance. It’s just that an enormous amount of people seem to think it’s a country, as is the case with “Yurop” 🙂 Of course I’m generalising too. In all of my posts. It wouldn’t be particularly fun pointing out annoying behaviour in people if one were not, right? 😀


  2. While it’s true that in my American mind Europe is an amorphous blob on the other side of the globe, I can identify all the countries on a map and I’ve traveled to most of them. Although I can’t differentiate between any of the Scandinavian languages I can, however, differentiate all the Spanish accents (Mexican, Central American, South American) because that’s what I’m exposed to in Los Angeles. It’s all about one’s Point of Reference. I’d never hold you to that standard so why would you want to hold me to yours? Law of Jante much?

    Aside from the Quebecois, the only way you can tell an American from a Canadian is to ask them to spell “flavor.” If they spell “flavour” you’ve got a Canadian. Why would Americans be pissed if you called us Canadian when most of us were passing ourselves off as them when Bush was president? Americans might correct you for the sake of accuracy, but we wouldn’t be offended. We really don’t care about that kind of stuff.

    IMO, Swedish film kicks ass. Bergman was a genius that no other Scandinavian country has matched. His films aren’t even of my generation, but Wild Strawberries still blows my fucking mind. And Summer with Monika… the visual images in that film- particularly the sequence at the end- are seared into my memory with powerful chiaroscuro precision. Bergman was a film god and he was a Swede. (shrugs) It happens 😉

    You know Rihanna is Bahamian and not American? Have you ever been to the Bahamas? Fantastic place! I was there in March and touched paradise. Do you think the Bahamians spend any time caring if the rest of the world can find them on a map? Or worry about being confused with Trinidad and Tobago? Not based on my experience. Damn girl, you remind me of my Swedish grandma, but that’s cool.

    From a ¼ Swedish American


    1. Thanks for your comments; very enlightening indeed. 🙂

      I must say I’m probably a very, hm I don’t seem to find the right word for this type of person (or maybe I don’t want to), but I get hung up on small things like this. It’s not really that I get offended by this matter or being called European. The fact of the matter is I am indeed a European, too. The thing annoying me is the unwillingness to even bother to understand Europe is not a country, and European – well what is that really?

      I understand the language issues you’re referring to, but that wasn’t really my point. To me there isn’t that much difference between Canadian and American accents; British and Americans – now that’s a completely different story. Sometimes it’s even hard to hear what language people are speaking, I’m definitely not a lingustic genius (nor am I a geography one). But I’m willing to at least try.

      I was under the impression Americans and Canadians had a kind of a ”grudge thing” going on, that’s why I made the comparison, although quite seriously I doubt anyone (not even Swedes) gets offended having their nationality mixed up. For real I mean. 😛

      I do know Rihanna is from Bahamas too (I enjoy getting those tiny details right); she only made it into my post due to her horrible lines, drunkily (is that even a word?) mixing up Sweden and Norway. 😉 And I have been to Trinidad and Tobago many times, but not Bahamas, so I couldn’t really speak about their worrying about being mistaken for Trinidad and Tobagians although I know the other way around isn’t too popular. 😉

      Swedish grandma you say? Maybe I know her… 😉


Comments are closed.