Scandinavia

In view of an impending trip to Helsinki next week. I have begun pondering over the meaning of ‘Scandinavia’. What geographical and cultural areas does this term actually encompass? Apart from an association with blonde hair, blue eyes and liberal (lack of prudishness) attitudes to nudity, it seems there are no real official borders in using this term. Lingistically, it seems to encompass areas where Old Norse was spoken and where the North Germanic languages are now dominant. Thus in addition to the three kingdoms, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, Scandinavia also includes Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The name Scandinavia could actually mean “dangerous island”, which is considered to be a reference to the treacherous sandbanks surrounding Scania.

However despite obvious linguistic differences, many sources also include Finland under the Scandinavian umbrella. Furthermore, Åland (an autonomus province of Finland since 1920), Jan Mayen (an integrated geographical body of Norway), Svalbard (under Norwegian sovereignty since 1920) and the vast continent of Greenland ( self governing Danish territory since 1979). Until now, some of these are places I have never heard of.

Despite extensive web searching and investigations, there is no real conclusion on ‘Scandinavia’ and what it encompasses. It could be, and its my suggestion, that it is a term invented by settlers and immigrants that traveled to distant lands. Dislocated from a usual familiarity, they united together as ‘Scandinavians’ to gain a sense of home. The small differences between Nordic relatives that were normally the brunt of jokes back in the homeland didn’t matter anymore to the lonely settlers out on the vast frontier.

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