What can we Learn from Scandinavia?
Workshop Report contributed by Ray Eberling
This session was led by Phil Campbell, Gevene Hertz and Sherif Soliman. While both Phil and Sherif had previously lived in Sweden, Gevene (as well as John, who was also in attendance) is a long-time resident of Denmark. Sadly, we had no one to represent Norway, although those knowledgeable shared some insights on that country as well. In general, while it was noted that all three countries share some common attributes, all have unique features and identities as well.
Topics ranged from the banning of spanking children in Sweden, to how medical emergencies are handled and, by extension, the socialized medicine in the Scandinavian countries, to day-to-day life in each country. Gevene noted that Denmark is a very egalitarian country where one learns to accept his or her role in society, but that the downside of this equality is the attempt to keep people down so they are no better than anyone else. She noted that this was changing, but some of it is pretty ingrained, at least in older people. One of the most interesting observations of the session was that in Denmark, children are assigned to the same class and same teacher for nine years, so as a child advances from grade to grade, he/she can expect to be with the same group of students and the same teacher throughout those years. There were exceptions to this, of course, should families move or request their child be put into another class.
The American stereotype of Scandinavian socialism was discussed, as well as the that of alcoholism in Sweden, which may indeed be a stereotype, but where designated drivers are common. Another observation was that both Danes and Norwegians tend to be more relaxed than Swedes (another stereotype?) and that Norwegians tended to be more religious than Danes and Swedes; although, that is relatively speaking in a region where, despite official state religions, secularism seems to be the order of the day. Religious tolerance in the three countries was also discussed, especially in the context of the migration of large numbers of immigrants from Muslim countries since the 1970s. All in all it was an interesting and at times lively discussion.
Editors note: Locals usually refer to Denmark Norway and Sweden as Scandinavia, and include Finland and Iceland in the larger Nordic Countries group. Many English speaking sources use the word Scandinavia to refer to the broader region. For further disambiguation please refer to Wikipedia.