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Thread: How living in Scandinavia changed the way I think about success and money

  1. #1
    Administrator Dr. Who's Avatar
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    How living in Scandinavia changed the way I think about success and money

    All those buzzy Scandinavian trends are really all about learning to appreciate the simple stuff.

    I moved to Sweden from the U.K. after being offered my dream first job there, despite knowing very little about the country or its culture at the time. I lucked out, as it’s an amazing place to live and work — but one big adjustment was that it’s far more expensive than my home country. Eating out, and especially drinking, are treats I have to budget for carefully, rent in the capital city is high, and there have been extra expenses like trips home to see family to factor in.

    But after nearly three years here, alongside an addiction to cinnamon buns, I’ve developed a better quality of life and a healthier attitude towards money and goal-setting. These are some of the Scandinavian buzzwords that helped me get there.

    This term comes from a Danish book from the 1930s and refers to the ten rules of a fictional town, usually summed up as “You are not to think you’re better than us.” These days, it’s often used to refer to the unwritten codes of Scandinavian society: prizing humbleness over ego, and conformity over standing out. Some people say it’s an unwelcoming philosophy that makes people fear individuality rather than celebrating it. And yet Scandinavia is home to so much innovation, from pop music to environmentally-friendly tech and much more. I interpret Jante as a reminder that individual success doesn’t make you superior to anyone else, and that was a really welcome perspective for me.

    Throughout university and in the early days of my career, I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed in every way I could, from the amount of money I earned to how I looked. It’s an easy but destructive cycle to get drawn into — comparing yourself to peers and setting countless targets to try to “win” at life. I still aim to do my job well and progress in my career, but the feeling of being part of a community where everyone plays a different but equal role helps me slow down and feel good about where I am, rather than racing to the next milestone.

    The word “death-cleaning” is a combination of two things I usually try to avoid thinking about, but the idea behind it is surprisingly sweet. It was coined by a Swedish grandma who rather bluntly says she sorts through her belongings as an act of love so that her family isn’t left with piles of junk to go through when she dies. It’s less extreme than the kind of minimalism I’d read about before — this is definitely not about owning only one set of cutlery and sleeping on the floor, but rather getting rid of anything you don’t love or use.

    The idea of looking at every object in terms of its role over your lifespan has been useful to me. I’ve moved house nine times in the past five years, which makes decluttering a practical necessity.


    This often crops up in lists of “untranslatable” words, but it roughly means “in moderation”: not too much and not too little. How much milk do you want in your coffee? Lagom milk. How’s the weather? Lagom-warm. How was your weekend? Oh, lagom.

    I’m instinctively an all-or-nothing type of person. If I wanted to get fit, I’d buy a ton of workout clothes and sign up for three different classes (then inevitably give up six weeks in); if I decided to start saving more, I’d go cold turkey on buying alcohol, new clothes and takeaway coffee (and inevitably give up six weeks in). And moving to a new city, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and try to burn the candle at every possible end to “make the most” of your time there — which is what I did during my year studying abroad in college. But it meant paying a lot of money for food, drink and entry fees for every event I could fit into my schedule, much of which I was too exhausted to even enjoy.

    Now after three years in the land of lagom, the idea has started to seep into my psyche. Saying “no” to invitations I’m not really excited by leaves more time and money to say “yes” to the things I really want to do. Rather than being boring or mundane as I first thought it was, lagom is about keeping balance in your life.

    Anyway, it's a fairly long article, but it makes a great point. People, especially today, feel compelled to run around like chickens with their head cut off whenever they have any spare time as if just chilling with the family is a waste of time or taking a walk with a friend in the park means that you have somehow missed a dynamic opportunity to network with people who you frankly can't stand. As a society we have somehow decided that kids can't just play outside and self-exercise and that adults can't take a staycation because what a waste of time off when you could be spending scads of money on a European vacation and seeing 10 cities in 10 days. My favorite vacations have been spent chilling with people that I enjoy, not running around like a lunatic as if someone was going to grade my vacation in terms of how many new things I saw.

    We are equally obsessed with buying things that we really don't need because we are brainwashed to think that our primary role in life is to be a good consumer and keep up with the trends.

    I think that the Skandinavians have figured out that what is really important is not material possessions, but peace of mind. The odd really expensive vacation is nice, but it shouldn't be the rule. Buy things that you really like and who cares what anyone else thinks. Get out and smell the roses.
    "The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” Mahatma Gandhi

  2. #2
    Senior Member Crepitus's Avatar
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    That is a fascinating and unique outlook. It's a part of the world I've never spent any time in and now I hope I get the opportunity someday.
    Retreating? Hell no, I'm just attacking in a different direction!

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