Common Culture Shock in the Nordics for Expats

Most people would really look forward to an opportunity in the Nordics. The desire has a lot to do with the Nordics having a lead in making their citizens and residents happy. This explains why the region stands out as a dream destination for many. Students, workers, researchers and so many other categories of people come into the Nordics each year. But even as everyone considers going to the Nordics, the ambitions and promises must be tempered with caution. The allure of pursuing great dreams will never take away the many shocks. Not to sound as warning anyone, newcomers must brace for culture shock in the Nordics. 

When you finally enter any of the Nordic countries, it soon dawns that culture shock is so real. One way or the other, you can almost feel it openly or subtly. To get ahead of things and overcome the shocks that await in the Nordics, know what they are. Go ahead and understand their manifestations,  management and what not. With proper information, you become well prepared to deal with whatever may betide you in the  initial stages of making the Nordics a home. 

First feelings as a foreigner arriving in the Nordics

When people talk of culture shock, those who haven’t experienced it may simply dismiss it as another exaggeration of unmet expectations. The reality remains that just like being a newbie anywhere else, first few days and months in the Nordics pretty much go for adjusting to the realities. It’s one of the most challenging phases any expat goes through. Imagine getting to learn new cultures, adjust to uncommon practices to you and many more. 

Culture shock is real

The story of culture shock for foreigners can’t be explained in a short writing but to summarize it, expect a cocktail of uncertainty, confusion, anxiety , and everything else that they come with. Remember, as an expat, one is entering into an entirely new environment with norms, traditions, language, foods, social relations et cetera that may be largely new. In the case of animals, such a new entry results in wild fights but for us humans, a lot of compromise, loneliness, and denial come teeming.

Culture shock may make you to always feel out of place

Highlights of facts on cultural shock an expat must  know

Before being particular about the common culture shocks that expats in the Nordics have reported over time, it’s a great starting point to know how the feeling gets. As a newcomer in the Nordics, culture shock may come out as rage, burnout, aloofness, homesickness and a general withdrawal from what needs to be done. 

You will most of the time find yourself questioning why just so many people smoke, public caressing and hook-up culture. It’s a whole list of things that will really trigger discomfort but at the back of your mind, always remember that you came to Rome; you don’t have to fall for what the Romans do but at least be sure that they won’t change to accommodate you either. 

Culture shock for expats in the Nordics is palpable

The feeling of culture shock will be forceful and non-assumable at the beginning.  So many times people find themselves deeply buried in questioning their choice of coming to the Nordics.  At this point, have it in mind that the possibility to give up remains high. But just give it time and everything will fall in place as you get familiar with the goings on around your new home. Be less judgemental and more accommodative to find a way out from this social confusion.

Even as expats in the Nordics come face to face with culture shocks, they also need to know that people back home will not stop to seek out for help. So, know of Best ways to send money abroad from Sweden.

To deal with culture shock in the Nordics, be positive

Experiencing culture shock isn’t unique to anybody. Maybe the well travelled guys don’t experience it as intensely as the less travelled. But, the fact remains that people will always have to face the shocks one way or another. The good news about all this is that adjustment to culture shock can get better over time.

Those who may now say they love living in Norway, Sweden, Denmark or Sweden did not have such sentiments to begin with. They faced the culture shocks head on, almost gave up at some point but as time changed things, they underwent an inward growth and an outward appreciation of their new environment.

Take time to learn the ropes of communication

It may be very challenging to establish effective communication in the Nordics. Remember, each of the countries forming the Nordics has its own national language which then summed up with the unique traditions and cultures may look chaotic to a newcomer. So, any newcomer must remain advised to acknowledge that the environment is completely new.

Accepting not to know

Accepting not to know just so much isn’t necessarily a show of stupidity as some people may perceive it. It’s only possible to learn better what you accept not to be knowing so much about. This mindset will help you in learning to interpret communications and respond appropriately. Nothing matches this milestone in the life of an expat as communication unlocks so many opportunities. 

Outstanding culture shock in the Nordics

  • Bicycles and Non-motorised transport

So many people equate happiness to having all the conveniences of life and just being in some lazy situation where things just happen without putting an effort, In fact, in some parts of the world, something like cycling comes out as archaic and show of poverty as everyone clamours to buy some second hand cars to match up to new standards.

Cycling in the Nordics is a lifestyle

Cycling in the Nordics is a little different from so many parts of the world where non-motorised transport is likened with lack. While they have the recent models of Tesla, Volkswagen, Nissan, it, they prefer to have them parked and cycle over shorter distances. In fact, car owners in the Nordics have an attached rack for mounting their bicycles for use at some point in the journey. 

Traffic rules

Even when cycling, there is another shock where every road user must operate within the set rules. For instance, respect the traffic lights, use of bicycle lanes, pedestrians and so forth. In Denmark, being watchful of soft road users (bløde trafikanter) is a priority. Non motorized transport has a deliberate blending with trams, car ways and trains at city centres around the Nordics and that is something that a foreigner planning to drive must take time to really understand. As a motorist in bigger cities in the Nordics, being extremely careful when driving is an understatement. 

  • Children are trained to be so independent.

Right from when a child is born in the Nordics, their DNA seems to be aligned towards being extremely independent or let’s say the parents do everything to reinforce it. Previously in Denmark, parents would keep their babies well wrapped in warm clothes outside. They would then walk into a restaurant to enjoy while watching from a distance. Though this has since changed and parents, the way they bring them up to interact and relate with older people may be so intimidating. If you’re coming from from countries where older people act as demigods, a lot of adjusting has take place. 

Don’t be taken aback when a child comes out to call their father by name. they do so to their teachers too at school and it doesn’t show disrespect imagine.  Not to mention that a child needs to have own room in the house and must be given enough space to control that space. So many foreign parents fail at this but then it’s all for good reason. Children raised in the Nordics are bolder, assertive and have high acuity. 

  • The pervasive laws of Janteloven

Now most foreigners starting out in the Nordics look to improve their economic and social status. There is always a palpable desire to work hard and save up to afford the best of life. Unfortunately, most people have it at the back of their minds to use such acquisitions as a show off. The Nordics will shock you with their laws of Jante. They are unwritten laws but have held the pulse of the people so long. 

You will never easily join the dots why someone who is so wealthy, has achieved so much and owns all that anyone may brag about cuts a so meek image. The best that the Nordics have in terms of human capital may never show off. You may simply dismiss someone based on the first impression only to realize that they are CEOs in a blue chip company, president of an international organization and so on. Also expect so many “please, thank you”, “ excuse me” and more

  • Punctuality for appointments and on schedules

In the Nordics, time management occupies a high position in daily life. If there is anywhere where the aphorism that time is money really finds real meaning then that is the Nordics. Efficiency and time management to the Nordics are Siamese way of life. It is all over in the transport sector, businesses, politico and even informal meetings of friends. Punctuality will be the easiest way a person in the Nordics will judge your level of seriousness. 

Expats arriving in countries  from  countries where the employers  have to be shocked a little. Most arrivals come from countries where employees don’t  provide for the welfare of the workers. Here they arrive in the Nordics with its amazing paid vacations. The holiday pay comes by different names in each of the Nordic countries. But, the aim of  such a scheme is to improve the morale and productivity of workers.

In this paid vacation scheme, employees have part of their income saved purposely for travel. At the opportune time, they can effectively draw from it and budget with such monies in their vacations. On average, the Nordic employers believe that it’s not how long employees work but how productive. Therefore, the paid vacation may seem as a waste of money but it pays back in a big way. Just pause and think of the so many Nordic corporates that continue breaking new grounds each passing day. 














Author: Fredrick