Nordic countries Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland have a long history of deep cultural ties — but what other countries are part of the Nordics?
Understanding the heritage and geographical distinctions between this region can be invaluable for business owners who want to expand into new markets. Whether you're looking for potential customers in Northern Europe or considering setting up operations overseas, learning more about which countries belong to the Nordics and Scandinavia can help you make informed decisions about how best to grow your enterprise.
Keep reading to find out which nations make up these two distinct groups of northern European countries!
Which countries are part of the Nordics?
- Faroe Islands (self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark)
- Greenland (self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark)
- Åland (autonomous region within Finland)
These countries share a common historical and cultural heritage, as well as similar social and political structures.
They are located in Northern Europe and are characterized by beautiful landscapes, including forests, mountains, and fjords. The Nordic countries are known for their high standard of living, strong welfare systems, and commitment to environmental sustainability.
They also have a long tradition of cooperation and integration, both within the region and with other countries.
- Population: Approximately 5.8 million
- Language: Danish
- GDP per capita: Around $60,000 (USD)
- Major Import Sectors: Machinery, industrial equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs, and petroleum.
- Business Culture: Denmark has a well-developed business culture characterized by transparency, trust, and strong work ethics.
- Contextual Country: Denmark is considered a low-context culture, emphasizing trust, cooperation, and social welfare.
- Landscape: Denmark is a low-lying country with a mix of flat and gently rolling landscapes. It has a coastline with many islands and a rich agricultural landscape.
- Population: Approximately 5.4 million
- Language: Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk)
- GDP per capita: Around $75,000 (USD)
- Major Import Sectors: Machinery and equipment, chemicals, vehicles, and foodstuffs.
- Business Culture: Norway has a strong focus on egalitarianism, trust, and collaboration in business.
- Contextual Country: Norway is considered a low-context culture with a strong emphasis on social welfare and equality.
- Landscape: Norway is known for its stunning fjords, mountains, and rugged terrain, with a diverse and breathtaking natural landscape.
- Population: Approximately 5.5 million
- Language: Finnish and Swedish (official languages)
- GDP per capita: Around $47,000 (USD)
- Major Import Sectors: Machinery, vehicles, mineral fuels, chemicals, and foodstuffs.
- Business Culture: Finland emphasizes consensus, trust, and innovation in business relationships.
- Contextual Country: Finland is often considered a low-context culture with a focus on consensus and social equality.
- Landscape: Finland is characterized by vast forests, numerous lakes, and a relatively flat terrain, with a coastline along the Baltic Sea.
- Population: Approximately 10.4 million
- Language: Swedish
- GDP per capita: Around $52,000 (USD)
- Major Import Sectors: Machinery and equipment, vehicles, chemicals, mineral fuels, and foodstuffs.
- Business Culture: Sweden's business culture values innovation, teamwork, and sustainability.
- Contextual Country: Sweden is another low-context culture with a strong social welfare system and a focus on equality.
- Landscape: Sweden features a diverse landscape with forests, lakes, and a long coastline, along with some mountainous areas in the north.
- Population: Approximately 356,991 (as of 2021)
- Language: Icelandic
- GDP per capita: Around $52,000 (USD)
- Major Import Sectors: Iceland imports machinery and equipment, mineral fuels, foodstuffs, vehicles, and chemicals.
- Business Culture: Iceland has a business culture that emphasizes direct communication, egalitarianism, and a strong work ethic.
- Contextual Country: Iceland is considered a low-context culture in some aspects, but it also values open and direct communication.
- Landscape: Iceland has a unique and diverse natural landscape, including volcanoes, glaciers, geysers, and rugged terrain.
Åland (autonomous region within Finland)
- Population: Approximately 30,000
- Language: Swedish
- GDP per capita: Approximately $40,000 (USD)
- Major Import Sectors: Åland's imports primarily consist of machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, and vehicles.
- Business Culture: Åland shares some cultural traits with Sweden and Finland, emphasizing trust and cooperation.
- Contextual Country: Åland is part of Finland and is influenced by its cultural context.
- Landscape: Åland consists of many islands and is known for its picturesque archipelago and maritime culture.
Faroe Islands (autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark)
- Population: Approximately 52,000
- Language: Faroese and Danish
- GDP per capita: Approximately $50,000 (USD)
- Major Import Sectors: Imports to the Faroe Islands include machinery, equipment, foodstuffs, and petroleum products.
- Business Culture: The Faroe Islands have their own cultural identity but are part of the Kingdom of Denmark, which influences business culture.
- Contextual Country: The Faroe Islands have a distinct cultural identity but are part of the Kingdom of Denmark.
- Landscape: The Faroe Islands are rugged and mountainous, with steep cliffs and a maritime climate.
Greenland (autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark)
- Population: Approximately 56,000
- Language: Greenlandic and Danish
- GDP per capita: Approximately $37,000 (USD)
- Major Import Sectors: Greenland imports machinery, equipment, foodstuffs, and petroleum products.
- Business Culture: Greenland has its own cultural identity but is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, which influences business practices.
- Contextual Country: Greenland has its own cultural context, influenced by its unique indigenous culture and Danish administration.
- Landscape: Greenland is known for its vast ice sheets, fjords, and arctic tundra, with a dramatic and remote natural environment.
Scandinavia refers to a specific geographic and cultural region in Northern Europe, and it includes only three countries: Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
These are the core Scandinavian countries.
Finland and Iceland, while located in the broader Nordic region, are not considered part of Scandinavia. Finland has a distinct culture and language, Finnish, and is part of the broader Nordic region. Iceland, on the other hand, is an island nation with a unique culture and language, Icelandic, and is also not part of Scandinavia.
Åland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland are autonomous regions associated with other countries within the Nordic region (Åland with Finland, the Faroe Islands with Denmark, and Greenland with Denmark). They are not considered part of Scandinavia but are part of the Nordic family of nations.
However, the distinction between Scandinavia and the Nordic countries can sometimes be blurred, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
What is the Nordic Passport Union?
The Nordic Passport Union is an agreement between several Nordic countries that allows citizens of these countries to travel freely within the region using only their national identification card or passport, without the need for additional border controls.
The countries that are part of the Nordic Passport Union are Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The agreement was signed in 1952, and it is one of the oldest examples of the free movement of people in the world.
The Nordic Passport Union is based on the principles of the Schengen Agreement, which established a similar free travel area between many European countries.
However, the Nordic countries were able to establish their passport union several decades before the Schengen Agreement was signed. The Nordic Passport Union is seen as an important example of regional cooperation and integration, and it has been used as a model for other free travel areas around the world.
Is Estonia a Nordic country?
Estonia is not traditionally considered a Nordic country, but it is sometimes included in the broader concept of the Nordic-Baltic region.
The Nordic countries include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, while the Baltic countries are Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These countries share some cultural, historical, and geographical ties, as well as a common interest in regional cooperation and integration.
Estonia has been influenced by Nordic culture and values, and it has established close ties with many Nordic countries in areas such as trade, education, and culture.
Estonia is also a member of the Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB8) cooperation forum, which brings together the Nordic and Baltic countries for political dialogue and practical cooperation. While Estonia is not formally part of the Nordic Passport Union, its citizens enjoy visa-free travel to the Nordic countries, as well as other benefits of regional cooperation.
Which Nordic countries belong to the EU?
Three Nordic countries are members of the European Union (EU): Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.
Denmark joined the EU in 1973, followed by Sweden and Finland in 1995. The EU membership has brought these countries closer to other European countries in terms of economic and political cooperation, and they have become important players in the EU decision-making processes.
Norway and Iceland are not members of the EU but they are part of the European Economic Area (EEA), which allows them to participate in the EU's single market. The EEA agreement also covers other areas of cooperation, such as environmental protection, research and development, and social policy.
The Faroe Islands and Greenland, which are both self-governing territories within the Kingdom of Denmark, are not part of the EU or the EEA.
Are you thinking about exporting to the Nordics?
Exporting to the Nordic countries can be a good opportunity for businesses looking to expand into new markets.
However, there are several factors that you should consider when thinking about exporting to the Nordics:
- Cultural differences: The Nordic countries have their own unique cultures and business practices that may differ from those in your home country. It is important to research and understand these differences to avoid any misunderstandings or cultural faux pas.
- Market size: While the Nordic countries have relatively small populations, they are wealthy and have high purchasing power. However, this also means that competition can be intense in some sectors, so it is important to carefully assess the market potential for your product or service.
- Regulatory environment: Each Nordic country has its own regulatory framework that businesses must comply with. This can include product safety standards, labeling requirements, and import/export regulations.
- Language: Although many people in the Nordic countries speak English, it is still important to have some knowledge of the local language to communicate effectively with customers and suppliers. Also, every Nordic country has its own language.
- Logistics: The Nordic countries are geographically spread out, which can make logistics and distribution a challenge. It is important to carefully plan your logistics strategy to ensure timely delivery of goods and minimize costs.
- Partnership opportunities: It may be beneficial to look for local partners or distributors to help navigate the local market and establish connections with potential customers.
- Sustainability: The Nordic countries are known for their strong commitment to environmental sustainability. Businesses that can demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility may be more successful in this market.
Study each of your target countries closely and separately, noting the pros and cons until you find the best fit for your brand and products.
How should you localize your products for the Nordic markets?