First, you need to know that dating isn’t really a thing. And now, in the days of Tinder, even less so because the rules are always changing. Second, the Scandinavian behavioural codes differ slightly. Those little cultural differences, from each of the three countries, come into play much more when you spend that time with someone, getting to know them in a more intimate and romantic way. Let’s pretend we’re in the pre-Tinder era and you are actually looking to hook up with someone in the more old-fashioned way, less swiping left and right. Here’s a short guide to the big stuff:
We don’t date
Of course, we have watched the movies and we know how it’s done, so it is likely your new love interest will humour you and go on a date. Sure, it’s nice to have someone open the door or take you to dinner, but those are the exception rather than the norm. There are no big-pressure first dates. Dating is parading, not getting to know someone. It’s not what is usually done – unless you meet for a fika date, in which case, it is just coffee and nobody needs to have their hair done.
We don’t talk to strangers
Ever tried to talk to a Scandi person at a bus stop? That will give you an idea of what talking to strangers is like in any sober situation in Scandinavia. It’s a wonder we ever meet any new people at all, really, and we thank the heavens for the invention of strong alcohol. Actually getting a Scandinavian person to talk to you could well be hurdle number one.
Flirting isn’t something we’re very good at (unless we’re drunk)
Both men and women in Scandinavia need some Dutch courage to flirt. We are not natural flirts. Considering the social codes say ‘don’t talk to strangers anywhere, ever’, flirting is tough. Add alcohol. On the flipside, while we might not be good at doing it, we are reasonably good at receiving it. Be prepared to be laughed at and get a comment such as ‘Wow, you’re full of it!’ because if you go over the top, the response will be brutal.
Dealing with the directness
If you can’t deal with directness, don’t go near a Scandi. It is not a rude thing, it is a cultural thing. Scandinavians in general do not beat around the bush. A spade is a spade. Your love interest will reply ‘no’ or ‘yes’ and will never add ‘sorry’. No need to be sorry about it – it’s a question and you got a reply. The directness should be seen as a help rather than a hindrance. Imagine, you never have to worry about ‘Does she like me?’ again because she will tell you. If you cannot deal with the directness and you take offence easily, this is where you get off the train, because this relationship isn’t likely to go further.
Dinner is quite a big thing
Who wants to sit there for several hours with someone they don’t know and then pay for it? Awkward. Do something else instead and save the dinner for the third date. Eating in restaurants is expensive in Scandinavia, too expensive for first dates.
Split the bill
Nobody ever expects one person to pay for everything: it’s all too expensive. Split the bill. If your date insists, make a judgement call. But most likely it is safer to split it half and half. Male, female, it matters not ... pay for yourself.
Everybody takes the initiative
If you like someone, take the initiative. This is completely normal, so don’t be put off by any forwardness. Forwardness is direct and it lessens complications.
Sex is sex
Perhaps one of the main myths about Scandinavians is that they readily have sex with everyone. This is where some non-Scandinavians go wrong and make huge faux pas. Scandinavians are not ‘easy’, they are comfortable with their own bodies in general, comfortable talking about sex, about what they like and do not like. Again, directness finds the path to much pleasure in relationships with Scandinavian people. But this is not the same as ‘easy’ and it is incredibly offensive that other cultures view this happiness about our own sexual interests as something others can and should take advantage of. Again, no is a no and just do not – ever – cross that line.
We date exclusively
Bar a few voyeurs, most Scandinavian people don’t tend to be expected to have ‘the conversation’ about dating exclusively. It’s usually a given that it’s monogamous if you are seeing someone regularly. If you are concerned whether or not this is the case, a simple ‘Are we sleeping with other people?’ will suffice. You will likely get a frank ‘yes’ or ‘no’ reply.
We take a long time
Scandinavians, both men and women, marry late. We take a long time to form that marrying kind of relationship. There is no ‘I love you even though we only met yesterday’ nonsense – everything is much more long-term and considered.
I love you
To say ‘I love you’ in Scandinavia is a huge thing. Massive. Actually, not said very often at all. Before ‘I love you’ comes forelsket – this means more than fancy, less than I love you. You can be forelsket in someone without loving them. If you just like someone, you are not forelsket. It’s pre-love. It’s being in love, but before the I love you. Confused?
How to know if it’s working
Ask him or her.
How long to wait before he or she calls?
Who cares, you make the call.
Article extracted from Nørth: How to live Scandinavian by Brontë Aurell.
Like her viking ancestors before her, Brontë Aurell left Denmark to explore the world beyond home shores and in her travels has come to understand the fascination with her kinfolk, as well as seeing the idiosyncrasies of the Scandinavian lifestyle that locals take for granted. Whether you want your apartment to look like it belongs in Copenhagen, to workout like a Norwegian or to make cinnamon buns like a Swede, this is the ultimate insider’s guide to the countries of the north. Full of inspiration and ideas, how-tos and recipes to help you experience the very best of Scandinavian design, philosophy, cookery and culture. With a signature wit and a keen eye for detail, travel alongside Brontë through fjords and mountains, farmlands and cities to better understand these three nations and what makes each one so unique. So get outdoors, learn the life lesson that there's no such thing as bad weather (only bad clothing) and you may discover your inner Scandi sooner than you think.
Published by Aurum Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group. Available to buy here.