The Nordic countries comprise Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and some other regional territories. The countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are called Scandinavian societies because of their cultural similarities. So, these Scandinavian countries are parts of the Nordic region. The term “Scandinavian” also refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, which includes mainland Norway, Sweden, and Finland’s northwest corner.

Nordic low-contact cultures

Researchers found several cultural features of communication styles in Nordic countries, which characterize the ways in which they express emotions (see for review, Karandashev, 2021a). 

People in those cultures (e.g., Sweden and Finland) tend to be inhibited in their expression of emotions, while people in other European cultures (e.g., Ireland and Italy) are inclined to express their emotions openly. Nordic people are somber while Latins are hot-tempered (Karandashev, 2019, 2022; McCrae & Terracciano, 2006).

Nordic societies are low-contact cultures, in which regard they differ from Mediterranean, Arab, and Latin American societies, which are high-contact cultures. People limit the number of interpersonal contacts and maintain more distance in communication. They are reserved in their expression of emotions. They tend to be less emotionally expressive in their interpersonal relationships. Nordic people display less liveliness in their body movements and laugh and smile less frequently than people in high-contact cultures.

The Cold, Nordic Climate Can Contribute to the Reserved Temperament of their People.

Some researchers attribute these differences to the climate. People in Nordic countries live at high latitudes in cooler climates, whereas people in the Mediterranean, Arab, and Latin American societies live closer to the equator in warmer climates (Vrij & Winkel, 1991).

Many people in Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland) are typically reserved. Their cultural legacy is centered on twin implicit ethics: “Don’t think you’re so special” and “Keep to yourself” (Erickson, 2005, p. 642).

The Nordic People Appreciate Personal Autonomy and Privacy

As previously stated, people in Nordic countries place a high value on personal autonomy and privacy. In this regard, many Americans believe that shy people are less intelligent, less competent, and socially desirable, thus considering shyness a negative trait. People from Nordic countries think another way. They believe that shyness is a positive emotional trait. They consider shy people to be sensitive, reflective, and nonpushy (Daun, 1995; Erickson, 2005). In addition to this, Americans emphasize the value of personal pride, while people from Nordic countries emphasize the value of personal modesty.

Even though others may interpret such behavior as introversion, withdrawal, rejection, and anxiety, the people of Nordic countries themselves attribute it to being less verbal, vocal, and intrusive. People tend to avoid meddling questions and deep and elaborate discussions with people outside of their close relationships. They may seem passive in conversation.

Nordic Values of Emotional Control and Moderation

Their social norms endorse emotional control and moderation in the expression of emotions (Midelfort & Midelfort, 1982; Pennebaker et al., 1996; Rodnick, 1955). Individuals in those cultures appear more emotionally inhibited than in other European cultures. In Norway, for example, people prefer to reduce the expression of certain negative emotions (e.g., “excessive” anger) because “expressing them would interfere with neighborly relationships” (Midelfort & Midelfort, 1982; Rodnick, 1955, p. 14). Norwegians tend to minimize the experience of pleasure and other positive emotions (Erickson & Simon, 1996).

It is interesting that Scandinavian languages do not contain a rich vocabulary of aggressive words. This can reflect the avoidance of conflict, holding back aggressiveness and preferring practical solutions instead. However, in the case of a loss and unresolved grief, the lack of expressiveness can have negative consequences: the person can be susceptible to developing physical or psychological symptoms (Erickson, 2005).

The Finish Style of Emotional Expression

Finland represents the typical example of the Scandinavian expressive style. Finns communicate silently and monologuously, with slow-moving turns of speech and relatively long pauses. Finish speakers do not like being interrupted with verbal exclamations, applause, or other superficial external feedback. They listen to a speaker without any external evidence that they are paying attention. Yet this is the most attentive way of listening (Nishimura, Nevgi, & Tella, 2008; Tella, 2005). Finns are characterized by lower levels of fearfulness and other negative emotions, but higher positive emotions and emotional control compared to Americans (Gaias et al., 2012).

The Danish “hygge” and Swedish “lagom” – the cultural ways of emotional experience

The two Scandinavian words reflecting their cultural values and character have become internationally known in recent years: the Danish “hygge” and the Swedish “lagom.”

The popular Danish cultural term “hygge” reflects the national emotional culture of Danes. They tend to foster in their minds and situations around them, the feelings of peace, warmth, coziness, and emotional well-being. They are disposed to enjoy the simple pleasures of being in the moment (e.g., Johansen, 2017; Levisen, 2014; Søderberg, 2016).

The popular Swedish term “lagom” reflects the tendency of Swedes to live in spaces, moments, and ways that are relatively balanced. They wish that everything in life would be in moderation: not too little, not too much, but just right. They are inclined to balance the pressures of everyday life and nurture emotional pleasure, well-being, and happiness (e.g., Akerstrom, 2017; Barinaga,1999; Dunne, 2017).

Victor Karandashev

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