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Stereotypes

I grew up in a family that, on my mother’s side, was rather strongly Scandinavian, and throughout my childhood, I vaguely sensed some strain between the various nationalities, a tension between the Norwegians and the Swedes (we had nothing to do with those Danes, and the Finns — completely beyond the pale). Now, at last, the stereotypes are illustrated for me in this strange webcomic, Scandinavia and the World.

Teresa at Making Light explains it well.

Basically, it’s about national stereotypes as seen from Denmark, with lots of explanatory comments and a fair amount of yaoi action. Iceland is sparkly and conceited. Finland is a semi-mute knife-wielding depressive in a Jayne hat. Germany lives in a funk of perpetual guilt. Denmark is laid back, constantly horny, a clueless racist, and phobic about nature, and has a beer bottle glued to one hand. Netherlands is much like Denmark — tolerant, easygoing, polymorphously perverse, and crazy about bicycles — but has a joint rather than a beer bottle. The Baltic States are like the Bronte Sisters on a really bad day. The United States is clueless, bullying, and wears Canada as a hat. And so forth.

I read a bunch of the strips tonight, and now I’m feeling like a traitor: I identified with the cartoon Finn the most.

Also, the one about the fish reminds me of Christmas.

Comments

  1. claw says

    This reminds me of Hetalia: Axis Powers and other such manga silliness. personifications of nations via cute stereotypes of their culture.

  2. says

    Hate to correct you, because you’re right about so many thing – and in general know so much more than I do – but (you knew that was coming, didn’t you) Finns aren’t Scandinavians. Neither are Icelanders or the Faroese. Scandinavians are only Swedes, Norwegians and Danes. Finns, coming from a wholly different language family (Finno-Ugaritic) aren’t related linguistically to the Scandinavians. They’re related to other Baltic states more closely. The Icelanders and Faroese speak Old Norse, the mother of the Scandinavian languages, and don’t usually consider themselves as Scandinavians. Finland, Iceland, and Faroe Islands are all part of Norden. The Sami people, also part of the mix, also have a seat at the Nordic council.

    Anyway, just a minor quibble on a subject that’s near and dear to my heart and my research.

  3. Brother Yam says

    Here in Minnesota we have our share of Scandinavians and I have some in my family tree. Here’s a joke my Grampa told me when I was young:

    “D’ja hear about the Norwegian who went into town to get a pair of loafers? Came back with two Swedes.”

    And don’t get started on Ole and Lena jokes…

  4. F says

    Finns aren’t Scandinavians. Neither are Icelanders or the Faroese.

    What’s really weird is that the United States and it’s spiffy hat, Canada are not Scandinavian, either. (I don’t see anywhere it is implied that Finns, or anyone, are Scandinavians. YMMV.)

    But yeah, the Finno-Ugric family is isn’t Indo-European, for that matter. Interesting stuff. What subjects does your research involve?

    Random aside: Today found out that “sisko” means “sister” from a card-carrying* linguist from Finland in a forum thread.

    *Discordian Pope card

  5. dexitroboper says

    I identified with the cartoon Finn the most.

    The one who gets his kink on with sister Sweden? Hmmm.

  6. Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says

    Scandinavia and *the World* kind of implies it will include non-Scandinavians.
    I started reading it from the beginning, and when I got to the bit where they go Viking on England, I laughed so hard I woke my DH. America’s general cluelessness works well.

  7. julian says

    When America started turning brown – fucking golden.

    “Oh my God I’m turning black!”

    “Actually you look more hispanic…”

    “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”

    Eat it you self-aggrandized twit.

  8. Teshi says

    Hey, Canada is not just America’s hat in this comic. There are a number of them where Canada is a brown-haired bearded dude.

  9. colubridae says

    “The Irish don’t know what they want, but are willing to fight to the death for it.

    The Welsh pray on their knees and on their neighbours.

    The Scottish keep the Sabbath and anything else they can get their hands on.

    The English are a race of self-made men, thus relieving the almighty of a grave responsibility.”

    Can’t remember who said it. Sounds like Oscar Wilde.

  10. redwood says

    I dunno–the crosses on their shirts make them all look like weird priests. Finland would make a great priest of hooligans, though.

  11. Esa Riihonen says

    carlisaacson:

    Finns, coming from a wholly different language family (Finno-Ugaritic) aren’t related linguistically to the Scandinavians. They’re related to other Baltic states more closely.”

    While we are nitpicking: of the languages of the Baltic states only Estonian is linguistically related to Finnish. Latvian and Lithuanian are Indo-European languages.

  12. Mikko says

    I’m a gay male Finn writing this in Finland. When I grow up (past thirty already…) I want to be Åland of the SatW characters, and marry a cute blond Swede. I live in Turku (nearest major town on the continent to Åland islands) and work in a predominantly Swedish-speaking institution (I come from a completely Finnish-speaking family), but somehow it doesn’t seem like I’m getting closer to realizing my dream. I’m sure that all of this makes me a traitor.

    Btw. the village idiot member of the Finnish parliament just yesterday proposed as a “joke” that homosexuals and immigrants (= Somali refugees in this context) should be relocated to the Åland islands so they could build their model society there. The MP, who shall remain nameless, is a barely literate lumberjack who somehow got elected to the parliament in April in the True Finns boom. In the few short months since then he’s made a career of homophobic and xenophobic utterances, some of which were made under the influence of various liquids, and gained distinction as the MP who was caught passing out at a restaurant table. Do I need to tell you that the Finn stereotype in the comic is so, so wrong?

  13. jose says

    I don’t know why America is always depicted as clueless when most of the best universities on the planet are over there. It should be the most enlightened nation.

  14. Minnie The Finn, avec de cèpes de Bordeaux says

    “Finland is a semi-mute knife-wielding depressive in a Jayne hat.”

    That is so close to the truth that it’s scary. Funny scary. And no, I’m not putting down my compatriots, only giggling at myself.

    Re nitpicking about linguistics:

    Way cool: a recent documentary stated that genetically, us Finns are closer to, say, Navajos than Southern Swedish – although Finnish females have a more mixed DNA than males. The statistic watershed of the European/Mongol gene spread runs northwest to southeast, eerily close to the border settled by the Nöteborg Treaty in 1323 between Sweden and Novgorod. Theory goes that while men tended to stick to their respective sides of the border, women, being chattel, were more easily moved across, thus the greater variety in mitochondrial DNA (I hope I got my science right here).

    Always wanted to be a Navaho. Or a Lakota Sioux. Are there applications to fill in on the net?

  15. Nerdette says

    Hey, Canada is not just America’s hat in this comic. There are a number of them where Canada is a brown-haired bearded dude.

    Yes, Canada is represented as a hairy guy – that America wears as a hat: http://satwcomic.com/merry-christmas

    I figured you’d eventually come across SatW when you posted the Mother Earth comic hugging her damned little human progeny; same artist, Humon.

  16. Aztec says

    Being a Finn, and a Swedish speaking Finn on top of it all, these comics were amusing.

    And as many have already said, Finland is not technically a Scandinavian country despite many often count it as one. Geographically the Scandinavian Peninsula consists of Norway and Sweden. Only the most northern part of Finland is part of this peninsula. Culturally the Scandinavian countries are Norway, Denmark and Sweden. This has to do with their languages, which are pretty much the same in all countries, and their shared history. Finland only gets to be a part of the in-group if we talk about the Nordic countries.

    Talking about languages, Finnish truly is far off from the other neighbouring languages. Swedish, Norwegian, Danish belong to the Germanic languages together with English, German and Dutch. These further belong to the larger Indo-European language family. Belonging to this language family are also the Balto-Slavic languages with Russian being one of them.

    Finnish on the other hand belongs to a whole different language family, the Uralic languages. Under this is a sub-family called the Finno-Ugric languages to which Finnish belongs. The point is that the neighbouring languages to Finland; Swedish, Norwegian and Russian, are more closely related to each other than what Finnish is to any of them. When many native English speakers hear Finnish they think it’s related to Russian. But in fact Russian is more closely related to English than it is to Finnish.

  17. Realee says

    Speaking only as an American with Great-Grandparents who immigrated from Norway on my dad’s side and a Grandfather who immigrated Finland on my Mom’s side. I can say that my mother’s grandmother and father certainly considered themselves Scandinavian. As well as many immigrants that settled in the Western U.S. in my area (Parts of Oregon). Locals who have Finish ancestry believe so and participate in community wide Scandinavian festivals to this day. While yes there are linguistic and geographic (peninsula end defining) aspects that provide arguments… and I certainly only carry their beliefs without having had the privilege of traveling there… I can say members of my family considered not being called Scandinavian on those lines a considerable insult. True or not there are Finish immigrants at least who claim that title. Just some familial two cents.

  18. pj says

    How wonderful that you have finally found satwcomic. Curiously, I found it through Pharyngula last spring – someone linked to the same strip as ‘Tis Himself above.

    If identfying with Finland worries you, I can tell you he seems to be one of the best loved characters judging from the comments :D. He is downright adorable…

    @Minnie the Finn

    Do you remember which documentary that was?

  19. tine says

    I can’t enjoy this output by humon because of the other comic they publish on DeviantArt :( Am I a bad skeptic now?

  20. peterh says

    Glen, The “Let’s take Canada” thing has been tried – look up Blackhawk Party.

    As for the US having some of the world’s best universities, we have a counterbalance in having some of the world’s nuttiest evangelists.

  21. Erp says

    I should point out that though Finnish is not a Scandinavian language, Finland does have a recognized Swedish speaking minority (about 5%) and the predominate church is Lutheran as it is also for Sweden and Norway.

  22. David says

    I’m an American currently living in Japan, who has through some weird quirky coincidences ended up befriending seven Swedes, and one Finnish girl. And I gotta say, all the stereotypes in this comic? Spot on! Personally, I really like the one where they were trying to teach the American how to speak their respective languages (yup, been there, done that).

  23. MAtheist says

    Being an American of Irish, English, and Sweedish decent, I got a kick out of this one. No Ireland in it though, but according to Humon he just sits around and does nothing anyways. :)

    ‘Tis Himself, OM beat me to the God hates Sweden one. Classic.

    But, all in all, it’s sad that the US is seen as an ignorant religious bully by a lot of the world.

  24. Minnie The Finn, avec de cèpes de Bordeaux says

    pj@33:

    It was on on YLE Teema some months ago; named Mitä rotua suomalaiset ovat? (What race are Finns?). AFAIK, it was made by their science staff. Might still be available in Areena, but unless you speak the lingo, it wouldn’t do you much good =)

  25. larrylyons says

    They always get Canada wrong. Its not the US’s hat. Rather its the opposite. The US is Canada’s (dirty) pants.

  26. Praetor says

    As a Finn, I’m here to tell you Finnish people have been annoyed for centuries about not being called Scandinavia. That’s why we’re all posting here to clarify the issue. :d It wouldn’t really be an issue either, except most of the world knows the Nordic states simply as Scandinavia and if Finland isn’t part of that, then what is it a part of exactly?

    It’s true that the language is very close to that what you hear in Estonia, but after that the closest language is Hungarian, which doesn’t even sound alike anymore. At least not to me. The whole language group is just rather small and not especially related to any big languages to the east or the west.

    Though, if you asked a Finn about this, they just wouldn’t care about the language issue, since it doesn’t mean anything in real life. We’ve been following in Sweden’s footsteps in everything relating to government and public life for as long as anyone can remember. This is largely due to us being the ‘right half’ of Sweden for around 500 years before we abdicated to Russia for a century because they promised us self-governance. Back then Swedish was the language all educated Finnish people spoke and only people in the countryside even used Finnish. Hence Finnish didn’t even have a written language until a priest decided to write it down in the 1500s!

    During the 1800s we had a huge language clash and with all things national it became ‘cool’ to speak Finnish instead of Swedish. Regardless we still have Swedish as our second national language and every Finn is required to learn it in school. (There’s always been a lot of griping about this, personally I think it’s because people are lazy and just want to watch American soaps on tv.)

    Nevertheless the place really looks a Lot more like Scandinavia and Sweden than anything in the Baltics or in Russia. We’ve always resented all things Russian and there’s still a certain amount of anger against Russians for all the fighting we’ve done against them. I think this is one of the roots as to why we hate being bunched up with them or the Baltic States so much. There’s a thriving joke here that Estonia is ‘a store where Finns go buy cheap liquor’, since the prices in the Baltic states are so much lower. I don’t think anyone is especially proud of it, but we do tend to look down on them.

    So, we have a sort of love-hate relationship with Sweden as I think is demonstrated with the cartoons. We joke that Swedes are gay here, kind of like how Swedes joke Norwegians are stupid. As has been previously stated, Finnish people do tend to be more sombre than their neighbours, I don’t really know why that is. Maybe the wars or something. And I have to admit, I too have a knife, I got it when I visited Lapland as a kid and I do tend to drag it around in my bag where-ever I go. Creepy, now that I think of it. I can assure you none of my friends do this.

    In the end, if asked who we identify ourselves with it would definitely be Scandinavia. Many just want to identify themselves as Finns, and some don’t care, but I can tell you this: no one identifies themselves as Baltic here, that’s for sure.

  27. kristiningstrup says

    I’m in Sweden right now, and I would agree that these are very spot-on. Now, to ICA for some more lovely sill!

  28. Jackson says

    As an American, most of what I know about Sweden comes from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, making the “sister” comic a little bit jarring to me, since when I think “Swedish woman” I think “Lisbeth Salander”…

  29. says

    Interesting enough, the Chinese Wikipedia says that

    “German speakers do not regard Denmark as part of Scandinavia, only Norway and Sweden.

    English speakers usually regard Finland and Iceland as part of Scandinavia too.”

    However these claims are not sourced.

    But the German Wikipedia also starts out by saying “Scandinavia in the narrow sense refers to the Scandinavian peninsula which consists of Norway and Sweden.” It then goes on to say that due to cultural and political ties, Denmark is often included as well.

    And even the English Wikipedia mentions that outside of the Nordic region, Finland and Iceland are often included in the concept.

    As it’s often the case, there is no absolute right or wrong with language, it’s dependent on context and pragmatics.

  30. TomTallis says

    When my Norwegian mother was growing up in Pequot Lakes, she dated a Finn while she was in high school: until her father bodily ejected him from the house, just for being a Finn. It was that Asian ancestry, you know…

  31. Phalacrocorax, not a particularly smart avian says

    We joke that Swedes are gay here, kind of like how Swedes joke Norwegians are stupid.

    Oh, and do the Swedes joke that the Finns are homophobic idiots?

  32. pj says

    @Minnie the Finn

    I do speak the lingo ;o). I am a Finn too.

    I tend to save all documentaries which touch genetics and/or evolution, but it can take months before I get to watch them.
    I know I have this one, and now I have a motivation to watch it. The claim that we are closer relatives to some native american tribe than souther Swedes is very dubious one to me. If you want to wait for my “professional opinion” (I have a degree in genetics) watch this thread.

    Nähdään!

  33. David Utidjian says

    As something stereotypically English, I once heard an English weather reporter say:

    “Heavy fog in the channel this morning, continent isolated.”

  34. Praetor says

    @ 48

    In my opinion there are all too many men here who are overtly homophobic, above the extent people seem to generally be phobic about same-sex relationships. However I don’t think the jingle about Swedish men being gay has anything to do with homosexuality per se, it’s more like saying Swedes are sissies (because they didn’t fight in WW2 etc). It just isn’t phrased that way. And for your information, I don’t think I in any way condoned gaybashing by presenting a fact. There isn’t a Finn alive who hasn’t heard someone say Swedes are gay, it’s not meant to be offensive to gay people, it’s meant to be offensive to Swedes. Just like Swedes calling us ‘finjävels’, i.e. depressed angry violent people, is meant to be offensive to us. Perhaps you should just go and take your outrage elsewhere.

  35. octopod says

    Finland’s great, and the Beer Ghost is excessively cute, but I think my favourite part of this comic is the Lurking Nazi Past character.

  36. Sili says

    Whose Jayne, and why is that supposed to be his hat? It reminds me more of those Andes Indian ones.

    –o–

    If anyone would care to look on the Euro coins, you’ll immediately see why Denmark is considered part of Scandinavia: We’re the cum-drippings of Sweden. The wet spot of Europe, if you like.

  37. Sili says

    Incidentally, that first link at Making Light is of a Danish former journalist and comedian, now celebrity, talkshowhost and comedian, Ander Lund Madsen.

    More interestingly the clip is from one of the shows he does with his brother, the brain surgeon, Peter Lund Madsen.

    Honest to cod, they’ve done two sellout shows doing humour and science. (The one I’ve seen on telly told the story of human evolution as a journey and featured Anders doing a hagfish imitation and a house negro popping up from the floor at odd moments.)

  38. chigau (亀が好きです) says

    Sili
    google: jayne cobb hat
    Then go rent the DVDs for a (cancelled) American TV show Firefly.

  39. chigau (亀が好きです) says

    … house negro popping up from the floor at odd moments …

    What on earth do you mean by “house negro”?

  40. Sili says

    In this case that they appeared kept her around for show like a tamed animal.

    As it turned out it was meant to mock pervasive racism of Denmark by reminding us that we all came out of Africa not long ago in the big scheme of things.

  41. chigau (亀が好きです) says

    Sili
    OK.
    But terms like “house negro” are best put in “quotes”.

  42. Phalacrocorax, not a particularly smart avian says

    Praetor said:

    it’s not meant to be offensive to gay people, it’s meant to be offensive to Swedes.

    I do understand it’s meant to be offensive to Swedes. However, I think you’ll agree it’s problematic to use “gay” as an insult on the same level as “stupid”, as in the original quote. Replace “gay” by another group usually discriminated against, if it helps to gain some perspective.

    I don’t think I in any way condoned gaybashing by presenting a fact.

    Don’t get me wrong, Praetor, I did not intend to imply you’re a homophobe. That’s why I decided not to mention your nyme in my comment, and directed it to “the Finns” who are (supposedly) acting idiotically.

    I was blunt, true, but that’s how I ought to act when I find a potentially harmful meme.

    Perhaps you should just go and take your outrage elsewhere.

    Indeed, perhaps I should. Goodbye, Praetor.

  43. David Marjanović, OM says

    Finno-Ugaritic

    Argh. Finno-Ugric, the latter being another form of “Hungarian”, or outright Uralic.

    Ugarit was an ancient city-state under Ras Shamra, Syria. It was destroyed shortly after 1200 BCE.

    aren’t related linguistically to the Scandinavians. They’re related to other Baltic states more closely.

    Linguistically? Only to Estonian and the almost extinct Livonian (in Latvia).

    The Icelanders and Faroese speak Old Norse

    *headdesk* No, they speak descendants of Old Norse, just like the Danes, Swedes and Norwegians do. Their languages are just more conservative (in their grammar especially) and spelled in much more conservative ways than Danish, Norwegian and (Standard) Swedish, but they’ve done things to (in particular) their sound systems that you wouldn’t believe.

    I don’t know why America is always depicted as clueless when most of the best universities on the planet are over there. It should be the most enlightened nation.

    *sigh* Those universities are there, but what about the rest of the population?

    Re nitpicking about linguistics:

    Way cool: a recent documentary stated that genetically, us Finns are closer to, say, Navajos than Southern Swedish –

    – but linguistically, that’s not the case. The Uralic and the Indo-European languages are probably fairly closely related; the Na-Dené languages (to which Navajo belongs) seem to be related to the Sino-Tibetan, Yeniseian (in central Siberia), and (North) Caucasian languages as well as to Burushaski (in northern Pakistan) and Basque.

  44. says

    Praetor,

    There isn’t a Finn alive who hasn’t heard someone say Swedes are gay, it’s not meant to be offensive to gay people, it’s meant to be offensive to Swedes.

    head -> desk

    Perhaps you should just go and take your outrage elsewhere.

    Way to be defensive. A simply apology would have sufficed.

    David,

    but linguistically, that’s not the case. The Uralic and the Indo-European languages are probably fairly closely related; the Na-Dené languages (to which Navajo belongs) seem to be related to the Sino-Tibetan, Yeniseian (in central Siberia), and (North) Caucasian languages as well as to Burushaski (in northern Pakistan) and Basque.

    Well, I seem to recall Hungarians telling me that genetically they’re most closely related to the Turkic peoples. So sometimes linguistics and genetics don’t match up, but that was clear already, I guess.

    If I see you posting here, may I ask you about another matter? Thanks.