Winter can be a snowy wonderland, but its chilling wind and perpetually grey sky can also quell any urge to leave your bed — from the moment the glitter from your New Year’s Eve party settles until birds start chirping songs of hope around mid-March. But if you think the last months of winter are grim where you live, just imagine what your life would be like if you had to live through a Scandinavian winter.
Let’s say, for example, you were to take a stroll through central Trondheim (the third largest city in Norway) this very afternoon: it’s quite possible it would already be dark out and that you’d have to keep a lookout for icicles about to fall from rooftops. Help!
Despite these brutal conditions, Scandinavians survive winter each and every year. And not only do they survive, judging by the studies that cite Danes as being the happiest people in the world, Scandinavians seem to be thriving up there in their desolate and icy corner of the world.
But just how do Scandinavians maintain their livslust (Swedish for “lust for life”) during this dark time? And what might the rest of us learn from them?
To help you get through winter, we have collected a few tips from the pros. Here are the top five Scandinavian winter survival tips.
The Top 5 Scandinavian Winter Survival Secrets
1. Embrace the Swedish saying “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.”
“There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” As a Scandinavian kid too cool to wear your lovikkavantar (traditional hand-knitted mittens), this is likely a motto your grandmother would preach to you while you roll your eyes. But grandma actually has an excellent point. With a dose of optimism, two layers of long underwear, a heavy parka and one of those hats with ear flaps, no snowstorm can stop you from enjoying the day. So get out the door, lace up those ice skates and slide onto the nearest frozen lake (or local skating rink)!
2. Kick back with some Danish hygge
Try as we may, hygge is one of those words that can’t quite be translated. An approximate translation would be “coziness,” but hygge is so much more than just crackling fireplaces, cuddling on the couch or taking an aromatherapy bath. Hygge is, simply put, the warm and fuzzy feeling you experience when you enjoy something.
Traditional Danish hygge might be an intimate dinner with friends or sipping gløgg (mulled wine) in the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, but with the right attitude, you can find a sense of hygge in the most unexpected places. Can hearing your favorite heavy metal band in a packed concert hall be hyggelig? What about watching the raindrops trickle down the windowpane as you ride the bus? Well — do you feel that cozy sense of contentment when doing it? Then the answer is yes, you are experiencing hygge firsthand.
3. Forget clubbing — have Norwegian Fredagskos
Yes, Grandma definitely made a fair point about dressing weather-appropriately, but the conclusion that there is no bad weather was perhaps a tad reductive. For example: heading out for a night on the town as ice pellets hit the sidewalk and the wind turns your lips blue might feel more like a chore than an exciting adventure. This is why we suggest you abandon every ambition of maintaining a wild nightlife until spring, and go all in for Norwegian fredagskos (Friday coziness). This is a Norwegian version of hygge that, at its essence, consists of the following Friday evening ritual: enjoying a taco dinner and retiring to the sofa to watch TV while feasting on potato chips and an assortment of candy until you fall asleep. In other words: pure, indulgent bliss.
4. Keep warm with a cup of coffee, or two, or three…
While Scandinavians might enjoy a reputation for a rigorous, Protestant work ethic, the truth is that they are constantly on a coffee break.
Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway rank among the countries with the highest per capita coffee consumption in the world, and chatting by the coffee machine is an integral part of the working day. Just arrived at work and it’s still dark outside? Perfect time for a coffee break. Feeling chilly at your desk after your colleague Torbjørn opened the window? Time for another coffee break. Stayed up late last night watching Wallander and need an afternoon pick-me-up? Definitely time for that third coffee break.
But we haven’t told you the best part about Scandinavian coffee time: it usually includes baked goods such as kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls) or kladdkaka (gooey chocolate cake). Swedish even has a verb to describe the cozy ceremony of sipping your coffee, having cake and chatting with a friend: fika. You should do it more often, too.
5. There’s no place like the sauna
Warning: if you dedicate yourself to points three and four, you may eventually want to hit the gym. When doing so, we suggest you go to one that offers a quintessential Nordic amenity — a sauna.
In Finland, many apartment buildings come equipped with a communal sauna, whereas Swedes, Norwegians and Danes usually have to trek to their local swimming pool or gym to access one, thus viewing the sauna session as the well-earned reward after a workout. But the sauna isn’t just a wood-lined, enclosed space whose hot air ensures that every muscle in your body relaxes — it’s a place where you linger with your friends and talk about everything that’s going on in your lives until you’re ready to open the sauna door, leave the safe space and reenter the wintry world outside.
Take a deep breath. With these tips tucked into your (warm coat) pocket, we’re confident you’ll make it through the winter — and maybe even enjoy yourself while doing so.