What are the culture shocks foreigners experience in North Europe?

As an American of Nordic heritage, I have spent some time visiting those countries and have spent time in Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. There are different surprises in the different places, but none of them brought me into full-form culture shock:

  • Paying $35.00 for a hamburger in Oslo was a bit of a surprise; so was ordering a ragout made of whale.
  • Swimming in the heated pools like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland despite rather frigid air was a unique experience. So were very short days and very long nights and the black ocean.
  • Eating raw fish in northern Finland alongside reindeer meet that was cured by hanging outside from the peak of a garage was memorable.
  • Going north of the Arctic Circle and discovering scores of relatives, many of whom were aware of their American cousins was a surprise.
  • Taking the night ferry from Stockholm to Turku or Helsinki is a shock when it becomes obvious that the trip is all about buying tax free alcohol in huge quantities to circumvent the Systembolaget and its monopoly on spirits.
  • Getting to know distant cousins who are still reindeer herders put an interesting spin on the family history. Although the Finns avoid any talk of Sami blood, Ancestry.com cheek swabs do reveal Sami blood in the family line.

Okay, I'll talk about my trips to Sweden and Denmark only. I'll never forget the plane landing on a snow-covered runway through the (snow) storm.

  • Sun goes down real quick according to the season (even though not really cultural I admit). But consequently, lots of people leave office at 3 or 4pm.
  • People endure cold climate and very high taxes, but yet seem very happy
  • MANY people actually speak great English.
  • Although it is also common thing in France (where I'm from), it can be strange for other people but you'll be expected to remove your shoes before entering home.
  • You can actually leave your bike or trolley outside the store without being afraid of it getting stolen.
  • Lots of people ride bicycles, even though weather can be extremely cold.
  • Those countries can be very expensive to live in.
  • You don't really mention what you do for a living straight away.
  • Food is not really varied, and it is expensive.
  • People won't interact easily with you; they're more reserved at a social level. Plus, don't expect your work fellows to be your private friends (maybe as an expat)
  • DON'T be Late !
They're quite flexible and relaxed countries.
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