Scandinavia includes Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Flags

The national flag of Denmark, Dannebrog (“Danish cloth”) , is red with a white cross that extends to the edges of the flag. The cross design of the Danish flag was adopted by the other Scandinavian countries except Greenland, that was until very recently part of Denmark. During the Danish-Norwegian personal union, Dannebrog was also the flag of Norway and continued to be, with slight modifications, until Norway adopted its current flag in 1821. Dannebrog is the oldest state flag in the world still in use by an independent nation. In Denmark, the Dannebrog is a symbol of happiness that people use to display, it is widely used for birthdays, Christmas or to welcome people at the airport…

Language

Until I came here, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Finnish were just the same to me. I thought their language was close and they could mutually understand each other. In fact that is wrong, first of all because Finnish is not a Scandinavian language at all but belongs to the Uralic family of languages (from the Ural chain of mountains) and is actually close to Estonian. There are actually two official languages in Norway: Bokmål (“book language”) that is close to Danish and Nynorsk (“new Norwegian”). Nynorsk was created during the 1800s to provide an alternative to the Bokmål that is the most similar to Danish so as to create a Norwegian identity. Note that Norway is not part of the European Union.To me, even though Swedish and Danish are close languages in writing, the sounds are quite different. Swedish sounds like Italian, and Danish sounds more like German.

Here is more information of the understanding of the spoken and written Scandinavian languages

  • Understanding of spoken language

Norwegians understand 88% of spoken Swedish and 73% of spoken Danish.

Swedes understand 48% of spoken Norwegian and 23% of spoken Danish.

Danes understand 69% of spoken Norwegian and 43% of spoken Swedish.

  • Understanding of written language

Norwegians understand 89% of written Swedish and 93% of written Danish.

Swedes understand 86% of written Norwegian and 69% of written Danish.

Danes understand 89% of written Norwegian and 69% of written Swedish.

Danish and Norwegian uses the Latin alphabet plus æ, ø, å

Swedish uses the Latin alphabet and å, ä, ö

People

The vikings originally came from Denmark and created Scandinavia, they conquered Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe islands among other places. I have learned that there is some kind of competition between the Danes and the Swedes, they are hereditary enemies since their nations have made wars during centuries, but it is really just akin to brotherly rivalry. I have learned that most Scandinavians consider the Danes as the ‘Latins of the North’, weird idea to me… The Swedes see the Danes as food and life lovers, alcohol drinkers and smokers. Danes can be considered as laid back and sometimes unreliable from their point of view (I suggest they try to work with Italians or French so as to get an alternative perspective). The Scandinavians see the Norwegians as very innocent and childish in their way of speaking (because of Norwegian grammar and simple sentences specific to the language. The Finnish are seen as suicidal and unhappy. I have heard from a couple of Norwegian-Finnish friends that Swedes are seen as snobbish showoffs.

To me they are still not so different one from the other. For instance, as a first intercultural experience, I have discovered that the rudest thing you could do to a Scandinavian is being late. You would have to call up the person which whom you have an appointment in order to warn him that you will be 5 minutes late…

Interesting links:

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/North_Germanic_languages

http://goscandinavia.about.com/od/scandinaviatripplanning/p/scanlangs.htm

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