• Jane Churchill

8 Things I learned while living in Scandinavia

1. Lighting is everything I never imagined myself to grow into a person that was so passionate about lighting. But Denmark has changed me forever and I can no longer bear the thought of white fluorescent lighting in a home. It makes me anxious thinking about it. Lighting changes the entire mood of a space. It creates an atmosphere that impacts how you feel. It needs to be warm, with yellow undertones, and should never be bright enough to highlight that the floor needs vacuuming. There is such a thing as too much lighting. A floor lamp is enough to light a living room. A living room is supposed to be cosy. It should be dim. White lights have no space in a house. They belong in hospitals.

2. Life is better when we try and make everything feel like a special occasion I genuinely believe that the reason that the Scandinavian countries continually rate as the happiest in the world is because they understand how to appreciate everything. When I visited a friend in Stockholm, each morning for breakfast, she made an entire spread of Swedish breakfast food, we ate by candlelight, and drank some posh tea that she brewed in her fancy Swedish teapot. She even had a specific breakfast playlist. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but think that we would never do this in Australia unless it was a special occasion. But why can’t we do special things more often? Why do we have a set of fancy plates that never get used? Use the fancy plates. Light your candles. Put effort into making mundane things like eating breakfast special. Life is short, make it nice.

3. Biking Well, this one would be obvious to anyone who has visited Northern Europe, but biking really is a game changer. All the Scandinavian countries, but particularly Denmark, have invested heavily in biking infrastructure. There are designated bike lanes on every single road, making it extremely safe to bike everywhere, even in the middle of the city at rush hour. Having a bike is not only great for the environment, but it means you never need to pay for a ride home when you’ve had too many beers. Having a bike also means you can get everywhere for free, AND you will have really nice looking legs.

4. Traditions are important

Since the Scandinavian countries have a long, deep history, they also happen to have developed a fair amount of traditions. My favourites are the Norwegian Russefeiring, where Norwegian high school students spend over a year decorating a bus which they party on for two weeks straight while wearing red or blue overalls. It’s really worth googling. On 1 November in Denmark, the Tuborg Christmas beer is released and it’s pretty much a national holiday. Horse-drawn carriages and big Tuborg trucks hand out thousands of beers across the country, making it one of the biggest nights of the year for pubs and bars. On Midsommer, Swedes flock to the nearest park to make flower wreaths and eat pickled herring, all while dancing around a pole pretending to be frogs.

5. Being cold doesn’t matter when you have the right clothes It kind of bothers me when people say they would never visit certain places because of the weather. It’s almost like they aren’t aware that jackets exist. Put on a scarf and a good pair of boots and you will be just fine. You can only be cold if you’re wearing the wrong clothes. 6. The art of punctuality

Scandinavians like to plan things. In fact, they’ll often know what they are doing on any given day two months in advance. They will schedule a coffee catch up with their friend in their diary and they will never flake on you without a seriously legitimate excuse .They also like to be on time. As a punctual gal myself, I was truly in my element. For Scandinavians, being more than five minutes late is extremely disrespectful. Being late is not a personality trait, it’s simply really f**king rude.

7. Being Naked is Normal

One of my most memorable moments in Denmark was going to the local swimming pool. Although Australian’s are quite open-minded, I do think we are rather conservative when it comes to nudity. I was rather shocked to walk into the women’s change room and notice that of the 50+ women inside, not a single one was wearing clothes. It was actually prohibited in the pool to shower with your swimmers on. Although the experience was quite shocking to me, it made me reflect on why I even cared. To put it simply, Scandinavians are unfazed by nudity and I think that’s a really healthy mindset.

8. We need to improve our recycling program.

In Australia, we have two bins. A recycling bin, and a rubbish bin. In Scandinavia, there are ten bins. A paper bin, a compost bin, a hard plastic bin, a soft plastic bin, a cardboard bin, a metal bin, a glass bin, an electronic bin, a garden bin and a rubbish bin. Therefore, taking out the rubbish is a bit of an event that you have to schedule into your week. Normally, for each building, or for every few houses, there is a communal area where you are required to take your rubbish and then sort it into the corresponding bins. While it might take some time, the Scandinavian recycling programs are state of the art and mean that the amount of waste going into landfill is considerably smaller than other countries.