When Scandinavia is mentioned our thoughts go towards camping and outdoor activities, but should they go to dollar signs and bank managers instead?
A love of nature, to a British ear, brings about thoughts of the ramblers association – the largest walkers’ rights association in Britain – and, to be frank, people who chain themselves to trees. But, in Northern Europe, it is a different image entirely.
Sweden and Norway are world-renowned for “allemansratt” which gives you the right to roam the countryside in “perfect peace and quiet” – allowing you to stay anywhere, as long as the land on which you are intending to stay is not cultivated or part of a dwelling, pick up anything from the forest and swim and catch fish in almost all lakes and along the entire coastline.
The difference between the seemingly conservative approach to nature and the Scandinavian-liberal one is stark and jarring. As one expat put it:
Paradise and parking-lots comes to mind as well as a strong urge to endorse these kinds of rights in other countries around the world. But I am curious as to what is the causal factor in this natural nurture of nature – a sincere love of the breath-taking nature that surrounds Swedes and Norweigens, or something else.
There seems to be a rule of thumb in Norway and Sweden, if you dig a little deeper you get different answers. Using this on the question of the Swedish and Norwegian love of nature does seem to muddy the waters.
It is often seen as a question of genetics – that those with viking relatives will automatically hear the call of the wild and yearn to build their own cabin in the woods to escape from it all. It is also often written with a slightly incomprehensible and preachy tone to it:
(emphasis my own)
That could be fair enough, but the advice that follows this stataement consists of glorified versions of:
2)walk around the forest,
4) if you do decide to venture into a town bring your student ID and go to Asian restaurants.
I am pretty sure most people when they look at the prices in Scandinavia automatically consider these sort of things, but it is just not what people want to do. It seems like the article was written by someone who became annoyed at people calling their country expensive – it is! If your advice for avoiding the expense is “nature is always free” then you are not proving your point – but it might just be proving mine.
While on the point of nature being free it has to be mentioned that the best spots in Norway – i.e Preikestolen will require you to either get a bus and a ferry (320NOK) or driving there (ferry also) and parking which can be closer to 500NOK. This is assuming that you are staying in and around Stavanger, of course, which is the closest city/town by far.
Would it not be correct to suggest that at least some of those nature lovers from Sweden and Norway cannot afford to – regularly – do anything different in their native countries? Let’s have a look and find out.
Full cost of living list 10 SEK = 1.2 USD / 1 Euro / 0.94 GBP
Unsurprisingly costs are higher, especially when you consider that some terms are not very well defined, such as “budget” and “inexpensive” – as well as the different systems used for renting properties that could leave you with a lot longer trip to work – which involves expensive commuting costs.
Is Sweden expensive? Yes. Is Norway expensive? Yes. Are they expensive for their own citizens?
“The median income in Norway came out at just under 120,000 kroner per year ($19,300), according to Gallup, well ahead of a typical income of $18,630 in Sweden, the next highest earning country.”
“Even in relatively ‘rich’ European Union countries such as France and the United Kingdom the median salaries were $12,445, and $12,339 respectively, well below the Nordic countries”
Sweden – While Sweden’s average household net-adjusted disposable income was calculated at $26,242 a year, more than the $2,000 above the OECD average, the organization nonetheless noted a considerable wage gap on the income scale.
“”There is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20 percent of the population earn more than four times as much as the bottom 20 percent,” the summary said.”
You then have the issue of taxes, which are notoriously high in both of these countries. There won’t be a breakdown of them here but links will be provided for Sweden and for Norway. An “average” income will have an income tax on it of around 26-31% – that is excluding things like pension contributions etc..
So even if you are from these countries – on an average wage – it would not be easy to have what most people would consider a “normal” holiday in these countries – by which I mean staying in a hotel each night, averaging one meal out a day – with some snacks and entrance fees and other such items.
If we take Norway as an example, and use the figures given to us before and presume that you go for a weekend break, a stay in a “mid-range” hotel and having only one meal out per day means that you are already looking at 5000NOK without eating any other meals, renting a car, paying for petrol, entering any museums or attractions or actually flying there in the first place. Sweden is slightly cheaper, but it’s the same sort of problem.
That’s 5000NOK on a weekend from a gross income of 120,000NOK with a high tax rate as well as all of the other costs that come from getting to and from work etc..To my mind it is not a question of Swedes and Norweigens (on average) choosing to go camping – otherwise wouldn’t we see them in all of the campsites around the UK and the other countries that they fly away to? – but that it is the best option all things considered.
To put that into context we managed to drive to Bucharest from Poland and back again staying in medium quality hotels and having a night out per day – with everything else was roughly the same amount.
By the way, camping is at it’s absolute cheapest 30 euros per night – if you want a decent quality spot that has facilities (a shower and somewhere to cook etc.). You would also expect there to be a severe shortage of them as well if there were so many Scandinavians who loved the free outdoors, but there are at least 533 in Sweden and 482 in Norway.
So yes, Norway and Sweden are expensive if you want to go on a normal holiday and you are a normal person. Fact. If you want to go camping and lose all contact with the world then fine, but let’s not pretend that’s what most people want.
Have you been to Sweden and Norway? What did you think of the prices there? Let us know in the comments below!