In my discussion with family and friends regarding my move to Denmark, there seemed to be general confusion surrounding the term “Scandinavia”. As you’ll soon see, there is some reason behind this confusion so I thought I would try to clarify things.
In its truest sense, Scandinavia comprises the countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. If you talk to people in these countries, they will tell you that it is their shared cultural, historic and linguistic ties which form the basis of Scandinavia. Despite being previously under Swedish rule, Finland is not considered to be part of Scandinavia given its distinct history and language.
Things are different if you approach the question from a geological perspective. The Scandinavian peninsula spans Norway, Sweden and northern Finland. Denmark, with its physical connection to Germany by way of the Jutland peninsula, is left “out in the cold”, so to speak.
Pleasantly unaware of these issues, most North Americans lump all of these countries together and sometimes throw in Iceland and Greenland for good measure. Despite being part of the North American continent, Greenland is a Danish protectorate while Iceland is included because of their linguistic ties.
So, what is the correct answer surrounding the term “Scandinavia”? Well, as is always the case, it is nuanced. To be entirely proper, Scandinavia should only be used when referring to Denmark, Norway and Sweden, although it is unlikely any Scandinavian will be terribly offended if you include Finns, Greenlanders or Icelanders into the mix. However, it is more proper to use the term “Nordic” when referring to these additional countries/regions. After all, the one unifying feature of these 5 countries (and the Faroe Islands) is their use of the Nordic cross in their national flags!