The Nordic countries are well known for having some of the happiest citizens in the world; they regularly rank right at the top of happiness reports, beating bigger countries like the USA and Russia by quite a margin. But what is the secret to their happiness? Many people will point to higher taxes enabling better healthcare, parental leave and education provision but there are also a lot of cultural markers that enable Nordic people to lead happier lives. Here we’ll take a look at how to have fun in a uniquely Nordic way, ranging from game playing, to getting out and about in the great outdoors, to cosying up in the home.
The Great Outdoors
If there’s one thing we all recognise about the Nordic countries, it’s that they can get some pretty extreme winter weather. There’s a reason why skiing, ice hockey, fishing and hunting are all popular pastimes in the north – and that’s the guaranteed high levels of snow fall and ice that come each wintertime. If you’re going to be confronted with such intense weather each year then you may as well have fun with it!
Nordic people are generally an active lot, but they excel when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors. Hiking, cycling, Nordic walking, skiing and even ice bathing are all well-loved activities across the board and show that, even when it’s dark and dismal outside, you can still enjoy the environment you live in and all of nature’s bounty. This connection with nature and the ability to stay motivated during the cold winter months is part of why Nordic people remain so cheerful.
When you’re after an activity that everybody can join in with, regardless of fitness level, then it’s good to have a few gaming ideas up your sleeve. Outdoor games unique to the Nordic countries include things like Kubb or Mölkky/Finska. Both are, ostensibly, lawn games much like the English bowls or the European skittles. The aim of both games is to knock over wooden pins in order to score points, similar to skittles but with variations on layout and scoring.
Retreating back inside, those from the Nordic countries love to play board games. Hnefatafl, or tafl, was a popular Viking board game that closely resembled chess, so there is a long history of these types of pastimes in this part of the world. Popular indoor games in more modern times do include chess but have branched out into the virtual world as well. It just shows that, these days, you need nothing more than an internet connection and mobile device to stay entertained; platforms like PokerStars Casino, Minecraft and MindGames provide a great way to get your gaming fix with minimal effort required.
Speaking of retreating inside, Nordic culture really knows how to appreciate the best things about being at home. By now you’ve probably heard the buzz words ‘fika’ and ‘hygge’ but you still might not be 100% sure on their meaning.
Fika is basically an observed coffee break, meant to offer respite from work and offer an opportunity to catch up with friends, colleagues and loved ones. The perfect fika involves expertly brewed coffee, a sweet treat, and a group of people to enjoy it with. This is not the quick coffee break of American office culture, involving instant coffee and perhaps a stale donut. Instead, it is an essential part of Scandinavian culture that demands respect.
Hygge is a Danish idea built around cosiness and enjoying the simpler things in life. There is no one particular way of observing it, but rather people are encouraged to find what brings them the feeling of cosiness, peace, intimacy and soothing that is essential to creating hygge. It’s easy to create a sense of hygge in your own home with the help of a soft blanket, candlelight, unobtrusive music and gentle conversation. This ability to appreciate the simpler things in life is credited with bringing Nordic people much happiness and wellbeing.
Finally, there is the celebratory aspect of Nordic existence. From the heights of Midsummer celebrations to the cosy, hygge-like traditions of Christmas Eve, there is a celebration to be had at every time of the year. Midsummer is perhaps the most famous Scandinavia-specific festival and it celebrates the summer solstice on 21st June. Traditional aspects involve food like fresh fruit and smoked fish, flower decorations, bonfires, a midsummer pole (like the English may pole), and a national holiday for everyone. Almost exactly 6 months later is Christmas Eve, when many Nordic people will celebrate with a big feast, Christmas tree decorations, the exchange of gifts, and a party with their nearest and dearest. It is planned celebrations like these that honour the tradition and rich history of their respective countries that keep Nordic people connected to their past and each other.