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13 replies
Trip to Scandinavia?
Shadowzoid
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How should I approach a trip to Scandinavia? Should I travel around it, or should I just hit one place, like Stockholm or something?

My impression of Scandinavia as a tourist is that it is boring and bland. That it has very few attractions compared to southern European countries and that the culture is pretty generic (well, I would say rational, as in they adhere to rational, progressive values rather than arbitrary traditions). On the other hand, my impression of Scandinavia as a resident is that it is ideal, especially with it’s politics. Of course, I know these are all baseless generalizations that might be rooted in ignorance.

I’m interested in the social-democratic welfare state, and that is why I want to visit. However, as a tourist i don’t know how to access this information. I figure I would just do generic tourist things. idk.

Long story short, is Scandinavia a good place to visit? Where should I go? What should I do? Have you been there?

THANKS!

oldlady
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Long answer short: yes it’s a great place to visit.

The major tourist cities are architecturally interesting and generally have a unique “old town” separate from the sleek, new, modern part, which I like better than the hodgepodge of styles that makes many big cities “just another mega-city.” There’s interesting scenery if you want to look for it, interesting museums and interesting history that isn’t covered very well in Western Civ 101. It’s generally easy to talk to people (like about politics) as they’re friendly, most speak English, and many speak English at a level where you could discuss the welfare state (assuming you’re polite and don’t do the ugly American thing of lecturing Swedes about what’s wrong with Sweden or what’s “better” about the US.)

I’d hit the capitals (Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen) and Bergan, Norway if you’re interested in the scenic Fjords. I also like Helsinki if you have time and budget to get to Finland — and it’s a 2 hour ferry hop from there to Tallinn, Estonia which is the picture postcard for what’s right with Scandinavian cities.

Shadowzoid
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Freaking Oldlady, ur like the eurotrip master. You’re on every thread. Seriously, how do you afford to go to all these places? haha.

Thanks for the info!

Shadowzoid
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Also, I know this isn’t the working section, but that section isn’t really frequented by people. Does anyone here know any companies to look at for student internships in Sweden? I assume I’d have to look for a transnational organization since their medium of comm will be English (or are there Swedish companies that use, or will accomodate, English?). Any help would be great.

oldlady
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I’m old — I’ve had a lot of time to travel and a lot of good fortune when it comes to opportunities for relatively cheap travel.

If you don’t get any answers to your work question you might send a PM to Don. I think he worked in Sweden some years ago. There’s also been some discussion of this in the past, so page through the old posts in the working forum.

Don
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Scandinavia is expensive—on par with Switzerland and London—but it can be done within a budget if you plan well. My favorites for a “taste” are Bergen and Norway in a Nutshell-type trips between Bergen and Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and archipeligo, and north Jutland in summer.

I worked in Norway and Denmark for 7 years. I had several American colleagues who worked in Sweden. In a nutshell, you need a job offer from a company in the country where you wish to work. This is hard enough if you’re completely fluent at a high level—in Norwegian, Danish, or Swedish. If not, then even harder. Jobs must be offered first to qualified citizens of their own country, then to qualified EU labour pool, then to everyone else—in that order. If you have a specialized qualification in high demand, then that could make it easier.

One thing that quickly struck me is my old thinking that “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Sure, minimum wage in these countries is probably highest in the world; but, you also have some of the world’s highest living expenses, and taxation. College and university are “free;” health care is “free;” but nothing is truly “free” like my Scandinavia colleagues used to boast; they pay dearly in the form of some of the highest personal income and asset taxes in the world, and some of the highest VATs (sales taxes) in the world; how about 25% tax on every item or service you buy?! Or 38-55% personal income taxes? With very high rents, utilities, petrol ($9+ per gallon), car prices (double the US price for same car), road taxes, TV taxes, taxes on savings, etc. etc. nothing is truly “free.” They all come at a very high cost.

From Oct-April, you can go in 3 week periods of not seeing the sun at all. It’s grey, and it’s dreary, and the weather is soupy, and it’s cold. But it can be nice for about 3 weeks each summer.

Why would people move there? Well, it’s very safe—generally speaking. They’re very honest societies; corruption is extremely rare. They’re very law-and-order. Equality for women and men has been “normal” for years—in work and in life. Violence is not tolerated. Everyone can have a say. These are nice ideals, but there’s always 2 sides to every coin….

I enjoyed living there—I enjoyed the differences. I chose to have an attitude of “let’s have fun with this!” and that—attitude—makes all the difference.

Need any travel specifics?

Shadowzoid
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Actually, ya I have that mentality too, which is why I want to spend some time there to see if I get disillusioned. Some of the things you mentioned I have no problem with; I prefer the cold and I don’t care about the car thing because one of my goals in life is to live without owning a car. I somewhat consider myself a socialist (a mother once told her son: if you arent a socialist when you are 20, I will disown you. If you are still a socialist when you are 25, I will disown you), so I perceive that I will enjoy the life time, but of course, it’s always greener…

Also while I’m here, how do you think Scandinavians perceive their country? Like most studies say they are the happiest, but you never really see Scandinavian nationalism, and from I’ve heard (from a small pool), Scandinavians want to leave their country because they see it as a dark place (I heard this most recently when Anthony Bourdain went to Finland).

Travel-specific, what are good places to hit? How is travel between the different places? If I plan to stay a week, should I just hit 1 country then tour the major cities and nature (with camping)?

Shadowzoid
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Also how much do you think travelling will set me back? I went to Japan for a week last summer and it set me back about 4k (excluding plane tickets). I never want to spend that much on a trip again…

Don
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If you don’t mind paying more than half of what you earn and own into a system that you will never fully benefit from, then I guess would be right up your alley. Smile I’d only want to camp there in summer, though.

Unless you prefer smaller cities, I don’t think they’re worth special trips. Sure, if you’re taking the ferry from Kristiansand to Hirtshals, and train down through Jutland, then it’s worth a 1-2 hour stroll through Aalborg for the architecture in the old town—since it stops there anyway—but otherwise, with only a week and limited budget, I would focus more on Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Bergen. Note I did not say Oslo, which I think is very boring overall. Bergen and western fjords are what people usually think of when they think of “Norway.” The train trip between Oslo and Bergen during daylight hours is absolutely worth it, though.

I lived without a car for 3 years in Copenhagen. It was just as normal to bike 6km to Ikea to pick up some stuff as it would have been to get in the car and go in the States. Bicycle is the way to go there. And if the weather’s bad, then metro, train, and busses are frequent and reliable. (A downside: getting insurance again when you move back home. In my case, I’d been 8 years without US insurance, which meant rates were like those of a brand new driver. I had to push hard to make my case that I was indeed a good driver, very low risk, driving under very strictly-enforced traffic regs. in NO and DK)

When do you plan on going? Camping isn’t a terrible option in summer; just realise that camping sites are usually out of town, and busses stopping near campsites are maybe only once per hour, and probably only in summer. But you might find some exceptions.

Also, what’s your budget for 1 week? Where will you start and end — if you already know? I mean will it be a special trip only for Scandinavian countries? Or is it in addition to a trip already planned for Europe?

Shadowzoid
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I’m only in the planning phase right now. I figure 1000 for a week? And ya, it will be exclusively Scandinavian.

Why will I not benefit from the welfare system? Are non-citizen residents not able to get benefits?

Ya I plan to camp. I don’t think I’ll need to go to campsites since I can just camp anywhere I want as per Sweden’s Allemansrätten rule.

Don
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If you somehow snagged a job before you go (because you can’t enter as a tourist and then seek employment), then I’d assume you already had sufficient education to qualify for a specialised high-demand job, and I’d assume you’re already relatively healthy. That would mean you really couldn’t take advantage of two of the main “free” benefits of being there (which you’ll pay dearly for)—education and health care. Further ed. will also require you qualify via test-in; how’s your Swedish/Norwegian/Danish? In addition, you most likely won’t qualify for retirement contributions in country, either, without citizenship. You’d need to go more for the experience, and not for financial reasons.

Norway also has “every man’s right” to camp pretty much anywhere—with conditions; you need to be completely out of sight, leave no trace, etc. etc. Not sure about Denmark.

If you camp, then $1000/wk once you’re there should be no problem at all. Consider a Scanrail Pass (or whatever they call it now) only if you know for sure you’ll want to connect very long distances. Otherwise, buying train tickets one-by-one is probably better. The Oslo-Bergen train, for example, sometimes is on “minipris” special around 229 NOK one-way; see NSB.no. Stockholm-Copenhagen train is often 600 SEK or less. Here’s a couple wild-cards: consider overnight ferry between Copenhagen and Oslo; or come down (or up?) Norway’s west coast to connect Bergen and Kristiansand via Stavanger*, then take a fast ferry over to Hirtshals.

Bergen-Stavanger with Flaggruten fast ferry (4 hours?); Stavanger-Kristiansand (some decent scenery on this route) with train; then fast ferry over to Denmark. *From Stavanger, you can take a ferry to Tau+bus to Prekestolen. Kjerag is another famous nearby hike. (I lived in Stavanger)

Alcohol is very expensive in Norway, expensive in Sweden, and pretty high in Denmark. Some folks could probably drink $1000/wk there. Reigning that in is another way to save money there.

Of course the typical budget travel tips… use supermarkets instead of restaurants, look for late lunch specials at ethnic restaurants, buy beers at supermarkets to “pre-party” before going out, use local transport discounts and not pay the cash price each time, etc.

Swedelady
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Dreaming about taking a back-pack trip around Europe, I came upon this web site. The word Scandinavia caught my eye and it has been most interesting to read about what you think about us and our part of the world since I am Swedish, living in Stockholm.
Now, I don´t know if Shadowzoid has been to Scandinavia yet but I do hope he/she had/will have a great time as I´m very proud of my country.
Last year the world Jamboree for scouts were held in Sweden and as a parent of two scouts I had the opportunity to welcome teenage scouts from Taiwan and scout leaders from Zimbabwe in my home. A few weeks later people from Spain visited us and I can asure you that neither one from the three countries wanted to leave Stockholm and wished they´d had more days to explore it.
It is just a matter of finding the right places that YOU enjoy and have a positive and open mind.
For me it would be impossible to experience the whole Scandinavia in one week and I live here!
Smile

Lidia
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The whole of Scandinavia is amazing. Indeed all countries are quite expensive, but the landscapes are indescribable, the towns charming and people are the most civilized!! Whether you travel to Sweden, Norway or Finland, you will love it!

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Shadowzoid wrote:
My impression of Scandinavia as a tourist is that it is boring and bland. That it has very few attractions compared to southern European countries and that the culture is pretty generic (well, I would say rational, as in they adhere to rational, progressive values rather than arbitrary traditions).

This is a pretty old thread by now, but I was taken back by these comments. Yes, these are horrible misconceptions of Nordic Europe. Yes, they have rational and progressive laws, politics, and economics, but that doesn’t mean there’s “no culture” or no “arbitrary traditions”. This is a bit of an insult both to Scandinavians and to the rest of Europe who you’re basically calling “irrational” for hanging on to ancient traditions, even if those traditions have lost their original meaning are are nowadays just for fun. Scandinavia is no different than the rest of Europe in this regard. Scandinavians have their holidays and traditions just as the Germans and Spaniards and Greeks and Russians and Britons do. Europeans as a whole are very proud and protective of their heritage, as opposed to…say…Americans who profusely deny any hint of “ethnic-ness” in their culture (or that they even have a culture) and insist that their civilization is solely based on a political revolution (even though they have perfectly “ethnic” traditions like Thanksgiving and Halloween), or Saudi Arabia where any cultural tradition that hints at pre-Islamic heritage is disdained and strongly discouraged…or even any departure from the Saudi monarchy’s interpretation of Islam is disdained, instead of celebrating the many facets Saudi heritage.

As for the “social democratic welfare state”…well you’re not going to get a taste of it just by visiting. If you’re still a student, you should consider maybe a study-abroad program there. As for the darkness…well, that’s offset by very long days in the summer time.

P.S. When Scandinavians travel, they do so for climate reasons, not for hours of sunlight. In the summer, Southern Europe is a huge destination, despite getting slightly less sunlight than Nordic Europe during the summer months.


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