Scandinavia creeps up on you, it doesn’t happen overnight. For a start, it’s not the first part of the world one hears about, or aspires toward, in these noisy, globalised times. What’s more, after moving there for the love of one of its blonde offspring, I initially found Scandinavians to be a somewhat dull, unfriendly, hard to fathom population. People are closed, direct, blunt even, and they didn’t seem to go the extra mile professionally.
A spark hidden in the calm
But the Scandinavian countries regularly feature in the top of those global surveys that relate to the important things in life – innovation, clean energy, trust, democracy, quality of life, happiness. So there must be some spark hidden in the general calm. There is, but it’s not immediately visible. Indeed, when I finally began to understand the fundamental differences in their approach to life, family, community, society and nature it was ten years after I had arrived. What I belatedly realised is that they think differently about life and what’s important, but they don’t think to make a fuss about it, they just get on with it.
They weren’t given the best start – long distances, isolated communities, harsh climate, lack of sun, frozen soils, a tiny fraction of which is suitable for agriculture.
Perhaps their early response to their surroundings seeded that resilience, sense of togetherness, and quiet determination to always improve things. Fast forward to the present day and things don’t appear to have changed a lot during the decades that passed. They remain driven by making life better for all, they think less of individual gain and more of broader societal, or local community, progress.
A vision of the future
When I experience Scandinavia I see how the world can, or will, live in the future. It’s exciting to be a part of societies at the right end of human development. Societies who look less at barriers and more at opportunities, who don’t excuse their lack of population or challenging geography and instead simply get on with improving things. While there are other progressive countries that the world needs to take more notice of, nowhere else is there a region of neighbouring countries where thought overlaps to such an extent, and who share such similar progress.
Indeed, it is not politics but the general mindset of a population that is the most powerful catalyst for progress. Because the Scandinavian mindset on life is a lesson for many louder, more tribal, voices elsewhere: respecting nature and adapting to it, prioritising the community over the individual, treating others as equals and trusting strangers, finding happiness in the everyday, responsibly trying to make life better. These are timeless, universal values, they are not exclusive to any nation or individual, and they exist everywhere. They are just more typical in Scandinavia, and this is what we celebrate.
But who are we, makers of fragranced products for the home and body, to make this point? Do we have any credibility at all? Probably not. Are we simply looking to sell more products? Probably, yes. But if we, in doing so, can inspire non-Scandinavians about the benefits of a more Scandinavian approach to life, and if we can remind Scandinavians of the example they set, then we believe we are contributing to something more positive and meaningful.
The world needs to listen to quieter voices.
United Nations, World Happiness Report 2020: Finland (1st), Denmark (2nd), Iceland (4th), Norway (5th), Sweden (7th)
United Nations, Human Development Index 2019: Norway (1st), Iceland (6th), Sweden (8th), Denmark (11th), Finland (12th)
EPI, Environmental Performance Index 2020: Denmark (1st), Finland (7th), Sweden (8th), Norway (9th)
OECD Better Life Index 2020: Norway (1st), Iceland (3rd), Denmark (5th), Sweden (8th), Finland (9th)
WIPO, Global Innovation Index 2018: Sweden (3rd), Finland (7th), Denmark (8th), Norway (19th)
Economist Intelligence Unit, Democracy Index 2020: Norway (1st), Iceland (2nd), Sweden (3rd), Finland (5th), Denmark (7th)
Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2019: Denmark (1st), Finland (3rd), Sweden (4th), Norway (7th), Iceland (11th)