Culture City: A Scandinavian Experience In Your Backyard

In this installment of Culture City, we visited an international hotspot for Nordic culture and got our Scandinavian fix, no passport needed.

Scandinavian culture has heavily influenced many traditions here in the United States, from design to food and everything in between. About 3 million Scandinavians immigrated to the U.S. between 1825 and 1925, settling across the country with high concentrations in the Midwest.

Popular manifestations of this cultural influence include IKEA and Volvo, but there are celebrations of Nordic culture in the U.S. outside of these. A notable example is the Scandinavia House, built in New York City in October 2000 by the American-Scandinavian Foundation (ASF).

The Babbel content team took a trip to Scandinavia House to learn more about Nordic traditions, languages, cuisine, upbringing and more. The five-story building houses a plethora of cultural and functional spaces, starting with a shopping area and restaurant on the ground level.

Scandinavia House in New York City

The restaurant, Smörgås Chef, specializes in authentic Scandinavian dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, including cured gravlaks, Swedish meatballs and their famed Swedish Princess Cake.

Exploring the rest of the House will bring you to a library, a children’s center, a concert hall, a large rental space and an exhibition gallery. The Experimental Self, the exhibit on display during our visit, gave visitors a personal view into the life of painter Edvard Munch.

In addition to the building itself and its many attractions, Scandinavia House, along with ASF, provides support to those in Scandinavian communities through fellowships, internships, training and grants for those of Nordic descent, both in the U.S. and in Scandinavian countries.

Fun Facts About Nordic Culture:

  • Scandinavian musical artists are very popular in the United States. You’ve more than likely heard of Avicii and Zara Larsson!
  • Authentic Scandinavian souvenirs include lingonberry jam, cozy wool goods, painted horses and books about design.
  • Scandinavian countries (including Iceland, Denmark and Sweden) have consistently ranked in the top 5 of the most livable countries in the world.
  • Almost 30 percent of city Swedes cycle to and from work on a regular basis.
  • More than 780 million customers worldwide visit IKEA stores every year!
The Children’s Center at Scandinavia House. Independent play, risk-taking, gentle discipline and spending a lot of time outdoors are a few principles of Scandinavian parenting.

All in all, Scandinavia House is a multidisciplinary approach to bringing Nordic culture to the United States, specifically in New York City. If you’re ever in the area and want to experience authentic Nordic culture from a holistic point of view, definitely carve out some time for a visit.

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