There is something about existences in Scandinavia that make it the place from which stems a whole domain of such words so palpable in the charm of their feel that drives us to experience what they encompass, with just their very mention. Think for instance the Danish hygge, that warm cozy feeling that awashes over you once in a while and that today is a word that arouses a volley of emotions all across the globe. Or the first euphoria of love that you feel, forelsket in Norwegian and is just the most romantic word you would ever have encountered. Think also the Swedish fika, a term that refers to a coffee and sweet break but not just in the conventional manner of its occurrence. In lexicon such as these, that are so in sync with universal feelings and convey exactly the innermost emotions, no wonder the Scandinavian countries are magical wonderlands in their own might.
And not just the vocabulary, each of the countries in this region of the world namely Denmark, Sweden and Norway are also as breathtaking premises of beauty as they are charming worlds of the poesy. Visualise the snowy terrains of Sweden or the many pines and fjords of Norway or the colorful cities in Denmark and you will know the many aesthetics that these countries also remains steeped in. In existences such as these that is a heady mix of utopic charm and real feels, it is not difficult to envision where from stems such luxurious Scandinavian concepts that find resonance in just about every human being in the world.
Surprisingly for a region that experiences the harshest of winters, life in Scandinavia resides in a warmth emanating perhaps from the conditioning of the mind. Particularly in Norway where winters are the bleakest of all, existence should have been trudgery and tedious but not in the land of the vikings where every life seems to reside in a bliss of their own. And at play again is yet another metonym of sorts, this time one celebrating the many charms of nature, rooted in a manifestation understood as friluftsliv.
Loosely translated, friluftsliv means free air life, thereby bringing to mind a concept of the outdoor life all of us have been craving so bad in 2020. But while the outdoors continue to hold their pastoral charm even after years of concrete modernity as evident in such aesthetic lifestyle movements like Cottagecore particularly prevalent in the current times, what is most striking about this one concept that stems from the Norwegians is that the bliss of the outdoors do not cease to beckon an entire country of people even during its unbelievably harsh winters. Winters in Scandinavia are no matter of joke- knee deep snow and icy cold winds as well as extended periods of darkness that even has Sweden mandating to keep headlights of the car on as a traffic rule, no matter what time of the day you are driving, means that existence through those dark and dreary days of biting chill is no less than any adventure out there in the open. And yet, Norway has been living their best life outdoors every winter, and persists at it with such fondness that now has the whole nation take lessons in winter survival from them.
Outdoor activities are in fact a major part of the encompassment of winters in Scandinavian countries. Skiing in particular is a much indulged pastime, and indeed why should it not be? For an adventure sport that which draws its etymology in Norway, the fun whish across the snow shapes winter experiences in this cold land. In such a country so fascinated with exploring the wintry endowings of plentiful snow and prettiness, friluftsliv seems only but natural a way of life. But this concept of spending time in nature is one more rooted in the feeling of oneness with it and is not exclusively concerned with any adventurous pursuit. Sure, hiking or skiing can sure be such routes that guide you to be friluftsliv but in its most basic form, this magical word derives also from the most simplest of amblings along a natural path. Whether it be some time that you take out from your busy life to enjoy a stroll amidst the many beckonings of nature or the simple pleasure of sitting somewhere in the wide open meadows, gazing at nature nearby and far into the distance, living in the moment with no qualms and worries to constantly have you on alert, friluftsliv is essentially a connection that humans have always harboured with the nature from where he stems.
As a concept that is deeply ingrained in the country’s heritage, Norway sees a large chunk of its population continuously embrace life in the outdoors. Ironically somewhat, friluftsliv dwells in an essence that is almost the exact opposite of what the very popular hygge tends to be associated with. While hygge essentially is that feeling of cosy comfort that characterises and stems as well from well being, the term- and its encompassing feel have more been interpreted as something more dreamy. For the worldly spirits of today, hygge calls for cosy indoor curlings in the lap of winters, with fuzzy blankets and candles seeking to deliver this consumeristic notion of what is otherwise one of the purest feelings to encounter. Friluftsliv on the other hand sees winters in a different light, that which beckons all to venture outdoors even in its cold and chill and dwell instead in the true spirit of life- up and about and present, no matter what the circumstances.
But even as such a matter of heritage, friluftsliv isn’t very ancient a ‘tradition’ in the Norwegian existence. Not as a term, at least. With origins that trace back to 1859, friluftsliv as a concept gained prevalence with Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s poem “On the Heights,” that which recounts a farmer’s yearlong trek through the wilderness that has him shunning civilization one and for all in favor of an open air life. In its origins therefore, the term and its ingrained concept isn’t even one concerned with the many adventurous pursuits that finds deep expression in nature. It rather is more philosophical a concept, a way of life rooted in healing of weary souls even when not explicitly stated thus. The modern day practises of nature therapy are totally aligned with this idea of friluftsliv even without any knowledge of its existence as a concept, a term or otherwise. Because nature has a mysterious way of calming the soul down and helping it heal and therefore augmenting happiness, it is no any a surprise that Norway, or even the two other Scandinavian countries for that matter, are continually ranked among the happiest in the world. As baffling as it might be for the rest of the world residing in sunny climes with bright skies, vibrant vibes and colorful premises that still fail to make it count when it is the quality of life that comes into consideration, it isn’t really the blues of winter that have us feeling forlorn and subdued during those days when the chill and cold makes us all the more miserable. Winter is but a state of weather, made more ravaging by the winters in our mind. And the Norwegians sure have embraced this truth way better than the rest of us as evident in their residing in their favorite adage- “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing!”. In its rhyming sequence even in the Norwegian dialect, the point of the matter is clear- the winters there might be rough, but the descendants of the Vikings are way tougher than its ravages.
For a land so indulgent in its exploration of the outdoors in all its beauty, friluftsliv however isn’t the only term that celebrates nature, or at least activities in nature. Utepils for instance is a word that that literally translates to ‘outdoors lager’ and describes that perfect breezy experience of getting to enjoy your beer out there in the open on a sunny day. Or even a cuppa coffee on a winter afternoon if you so wish, but without any exact corresponding nomenclature of it. Another concept that is a fairly prevalent norm through all of Scandinavia is a phrase that which is interpreted as ‘everyman’s right’. With land being expansive and population scarce, this part of the world recognises the right of every inhabitant to tread through the wilderness without of course disrupting and disturbing its sanctity. In such residings that so value the zest of the outdoors and the numerous ways to not just explore but also live fully through its mindfulness, these countries that experience an existence that should have been ravaged by the dreariness of winters instead have come to embrace it in so welcoming a warmth that drives away all winter blues the exact way it would have set in. In being so full of life and light even in its darkness, it’s almost as if the Scandivanian countries are teaching us a way of life that is just as cosily convivial as the apparent washes of hygge.