Northern Europe has traditionally included Iceland, Finland, and the three Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark (including the Faroe Islands which are part of Denmark). These countries are often referred to as the Nordic countries. Scandinavia is sometimes used as a synonym for the Nordic countries, but that term more properly refers to the three monarchies of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
All these countries were influenced by Viking heritage and expansion.
Their capital cities are also major ports. Click on the images to see them in a larger format, if you want. 🙂
The Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic and Faroese languages are all rooted in Old Norse, and Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are considered mutually intelligible. Almost all elementary school children in the Nordic countries are taught English as a second language.
Most of Iceland’s inhabitants are descendants of Scandinavian Vikings. An ethnic group that lives in the region is the Sámi people.
These countries were kingdoms, and their royal families remain highly regarded members of society.
Note to our Christian viewers: The following optional video briefly mentions how Mary Donaldson encountered a “fortune teller” who read tarot cards to her (timestamp 5:58).
The colder northern climate has helped shape the cultural activities and the winter sports that are part of the region’s heritage. Peripheral isolation from the rest of Europe because of their northern location and dividing bodies of water have allowed the northern culture to be preserved for centuries and shape the societies that now exist in northern Europe.
Human rights, education, and social concerns are high priorities of the governments of northern Europe, and the quality of these elements rank highly by global comparisons. Standards of living are among the highest in Europe. In the World Happiness Report, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Sweden consistently rank in the top 10 countries. There are quite a few books that cover this subject that you may find interesting to read!
Isolation in northern Europe does create an element of economic cost, and transportation technology has been leveraged to address this.
The Øresund Bridge has been constructed across the Baltic Sea from Denmark to Sweden to increase the flow of people, goods, and materials between the Scandinavian Peninsula and mainland Europe.
Scandinavian cuisine is traditionally simple. Fish (particularly herring), meat, potatoes, and dairy products play prominent roles without many spices. In Iceland, due to the island’s climate, fruits and vegetables are not generally a component of traditional dishes, although the use of greenhouses has made them more common in contemporary food.
Some foods of the region include:
Northern Europe is known for its concern for the social welfare of its citizens. Their strong egalitarian ideals have contributed to extensive advancements in free medical care, free education, and free social services for all, regardless of nationality or minority status.
Civil rights for minorities, women, and other groups is assured and protected. Denmark doesn’t have a legal age for consumption of alcoholic beverages, though tradition sets the age at about fourteen. Culture and the arts are well developed; examples include everything from the Nobel Peace Prize to Hans Christian Anderson to the 1970s chart-topping pop group ABBA. Sweden has become a major exporter of music worldwide.
Iceland is the most remote of the Nordic countries. Its small population—less than a half-million people—is connected to Europe by sea and air transportation and communication technologies.
Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Even though it’s closer to Greenland, an island of North America, it’s generally included in Europe for geographical, historical, political, cultural, linguistic and practical reasons.
Iceland is highly geologically active with many volcanoes. With the widespread availability of geothermal power and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating, and electricity.
The climate of Iceland’s coast is subarctic, but the warm North Atlantic Current ensures generally higher annual temperatures than in most places of similar latitude in the world.
Centuries of isolation have helped to insulate the country’s Nordic culture from external influence; a prominent example is the preservation of the Icelandic language, which remains the closest to Old Norse of all modern Nordic languages.
Egalitarianism is highly valued among the people of Iceland, with income inequality being among the lowest in the world. As in other Nordic countries, equality between the sexes is very high; Iceland is consistently ranked among the top three countries in the world for women to live in.
There are more islands in this part of the world besides Iceland. The Faroe Islands belong to Denmark and are about halfway between Norway and Iceland. The name of the islands translates to “Islands of Sheep.” These islands are a group of 18 islands that are rugged and rocky with some low peaks; the coasts are mostly cliffs.
The islands are home to a notable independence movement that has seen an increase in popularity within recent decades. The following video will tell you all about these islands:
✎ Northern Europe has traditionally included Iceland, Finland, and the three Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
✎ These countries have a Viking heritage.
✎ Iceland is the most remote Nordic country known for its volcanoes.
✎ The Faroe Islands belong to Denmark, but there has been a noteable movement for independence.
Next: 6.4: Southern Europe
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Image and additional information credits:
By Peter Fitzgerald, Stefan Ertmann, Júlio Reis, User:Mjchael – File:Scandinavia regions map.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24485850
Nordic country information
Sami people map
By File:BlankMap-Europe.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53461
By Ernmuhl at lb.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15857923
Scandinavia in winter
By Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC – Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), flying aboard NASA’s Terra satellite.http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/natural_hazards_v2.php3?img_id=2611, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=111556
Stockholm rail map
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7622197
By GuoJunjun – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21634869
Oslo tram map
CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=924581
By Frankie Fouganthin – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39867193
By Anders Porter – julbord! janssons frestelse, köttbullar, sill, prinskorv och ost!, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58445797
By Photo: Philip Gabrielsen, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1220179
Danish open sandwich
By Nillerdk – Own photo. The chef is a friend of mine., CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4379942
By Aarno at English Wikibooks, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9703991
By Constantin Barbu – originally posted to Flickr as Cookies, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10324988
By Tord Dellsen – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86571828
Hot spring Iceland
By Hansueli Krapf (User:Simisa) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1023576
By Europe-Jersey.svg: *Europe-Northern_Cyprus.svg: *Europe-Serbia.svg:derivative work: Chipmunkdavis (talk)Jersey_Map.svg: Ichwan Palongengiderivative work: Chipmunkdavis (talk)derivative work: Chipmunkdavis (talk) – Europe-Jersey.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13641881
Faroe Island info
Faroe Islands map
By Oona Räisänen (Mysid) – Self-made in Inkscape by User:Mysid.Coastline, roads, place names, and summits based on File:Faroe map with villages, streets, straits, firths, ferry harbours and major moutains.png.Topography based on public domain GLOBE data from NOAA (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/topo/gltiles.html).Relief shading is an embedded PNG raster, derived from the GLOBE data using Perl.Bathymetry from NGDC ETOPO2 (low resolution raster with a “blur” property)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5812896