For many Scandinavians, love is a free relationship between independent individuals. Their national cultural ideas and policies of freedom, independence, and equality in interpersonal relations encourage their culture of love. The free Scandinavian love in the countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland is in accord with the egalitarian cultural values of their societies.
The High Value of Love in Scandinavian Cultures Having a wonderful, long-term relationship or becoming a parent is important. Many Scandinavians believe that love and relationships nowadays are stronger than ever in their countries. For example, Danish sociologist Birthe Linddal Hansen, a researcher at the Copenhagen Institute of Future Studies, said that
“True love is still very popular as an ideal, and people are getting married more now than they did years ago.”
Scandinavians do not shy away from the words “I love you.” The Danish “jeg elsker dig,” the Norwegian “jeg elsker deg,” and the Swedish “jag älskar dig,” pronounced something like “yah-g el-scar d-eh” are still widely used by people in those countries. In Finnish, it sounds like “minä rakastan sinua,” or in the shortened “mä rakastan sua,” in the spoken language. Yet, men and women used these love words sparingly due to their reserved Scandinavian character. When it comes to expressing their feelings, they do so in a reserved manner. In their interpersonal relationships, they are typically less emotionally expressive than people in some other, more expressive cultures, like those in Mediterranean and Latin American societies. The Nordic people of Scandinavia tend to be less lively in their facial and body expressions. They smile and laugh in moderation.
The Swedish Example of Free Love
The Swedish book “Är svensken människa” and its English publication, The Swedish Theory of Love (Berggren & Trägårdh, 2022), present some basic cultural ideas and prototypes of Scandinavian free love. Swedish cultural policies and legislation, on the one hand, emphasize individual autonomy and, on the other hand, trust in the state. Swedish philosophy, cultural studies, and sociology focus on some basic logic and rational principles that the welfare state follows. This is the social idea that people in interpersonal relationships should be independent. Cohesive dependency and subordination cause individual inauthenticity and predicaments for true love. Swedish modern cultural values promote equality and autonomy as preconditions for sincere and authentic affection and love.
To Love or to Marry?
It appears that contemporary Scandinavians are delaying their marriage. Men and women tend to marry later in their 30s, when their education, careers, and relationships are established. Many couples choose to live together without getting married. People in the Scandinavian countries feel free to certify or not certify their marriages. “Open unions” have long been an acceptable practice in Scandinavian societies. De facto unions between spouses are common and even mainstream in today’s society. When it comes to property and inheritance, both couples have rights and duties. Government policies in Scandinavian nations actively encourage equality between the sexes in all areas of relationships.
In Scandinavian countries, legal marriage is seen as a major life milestone. However, these formal events are secondary in importance to having a loving partner, a long-term relationship or becoming a happy parent.
For many men and women, official marriage is rather a symbolic expression of love and commitment to remain together forever or for a long time. These old ideals of stability, love, and commitment, however, haven’t gone out of style, even in progressive and liberal Scandinavian societies.
Couples may officially certify their marriage later and even have a wedding. Eventually, some of these couples decide to wed, primarily to celebrate their union with a wedding ceremony and a great party. For instance, in Norwegian folklore and tradition we find wedding formulae that seem to be ancient, i.e.,
“He weds you to honor and to be the lady of the house, to half the bed and to locks and keys … under one blanket and one sheet.“Perhaps these words go far back in time.
Wedding traditions in Scandinavia are always evolving, with the changes being influenced by customs from other regions of the world. Nowadays, Norwegian weddings, for instance, have many things in common with those of other European countries. A typical bride will wear a long white dress, and her groom will wear a black tuxedo. The same fashion is in Sweden today. Bridal couples wear what we would consider traditional wedding attire: a white dress and tuxedos. Some may return to past Swedish customs, such as wearing the bridal crown. Nevertheless, traditional wedding practices are gradually waning in the modern cultural evolution of Scandinavian societies.