Thyra Dane

Author of Romance. Blogs about Scandinavia, Vikings and books.

I found this incredibly interesting article which links the current good economy in Scandinavia all the way back to the Vikings. No, we do not still live off the gold and silver stolen from churches and monasteries by hordes of Vikings back in the days. The reason for our current high GNP is apparently the fact that we trust each other. Others would call it our being so blond and naive.

All the way back to the Viking age Scandinavians have trusted one another. The Vikings from Denmark and Norway would go on well planned attacks on England, Scotland and Ireland with over 50 longships with no central power controlling them. They all came from different places and all trusted one another to keep to their agreements and risk their lives on the attacks.

The Vikings would also send goods far away – from Denmark to Iceland or from Gotland and far down the Volga river –  and not expect payment until the boats came back months later. They trusted the recipient to pay the the goods.

Scandinavians in the USA
From 1170 they used a group of peers instead of police officers and detectives. If there was no proof or evidence the accused could have 12 (in more serious cases 36) of his peers stand up for him and declare that he could never have done the crime he was accused of and the accused would go free. That kind of justice would take a special kind of trust in your fellow man.

Apparently they`ve also tested (and don`t ask me how) how much Americans with different ancestry trust one another and Scandinavian-Americans came right up there on the top as the people who truly trust one another (and no, I do not want to buy some land in the swamps 😉 ). This means, according to the article, that Scandinavians trusted one another even 150 years ago – given that this was the time most Scandinavians left their mother country and settled across the Atlantic.

Trust is important in the welfare state we have today. If we didn`t trust the state to spend the money we pay through our taxes well, we would never have accepted the highest tax level in the world. And if we didn`t trust our neighbors not to take advantage of that welfare system, we would not have built it.

Apparently, economists also think that trust is the main reason for our current financial success in a world of financial crisis. We have progress because we trust each other enough to start businesses with them.

Blond and stupid?

I believe trust is an important factor in our society today but I think it`s taking it a bit far that the Vikings are used as one of the reasons for our current wealth. After all, we haven`t been rich since the Vikings explored the world. There`s been hunger and poverty in Scandinavia as there has been in most countries in the world. But since I love everything Viking, I`ll buy the theory even if I don`t believe in it 🙂

What did stick with me was whether the trust Scandinavians apparently have had in their fellow human beings throughout the centuries is the reason why blonds are considered naive and stupid? After all we`re often pretty blond – and we trust people. And the rest of the world seems to think that trust is pretty dumb.

This is the article about Scandinavians and trust (it`s in Danish)

11 thoughts on “Blond, naive and rich – because of the Vikings?

  1. ReefChic7 says:

    I wonder if the dumb blonde jokes will ever die, I am so over them. :/

    1. thyra10 says:

      I died my hair brown in the last wave of blonde jokes. I was so annoyed with them 🙁
      (I did not suit brown hair, though, so the joke was on me)

  2. Alison Griffiths says:

    Okay so what about me? I was blonde until my treatment made my hair fall out, it came back brown (grr) but I don’t think my IQ improved. What does educate me are your great posts, Scandinavia interests me so much, from the perspective of its influence on us in Britain in the past, to our differences and similarities in the future. For instance, I’m sure you know that other Europeans see Scandinavia as more efficient, more cultured and, somehow, more cool, than other places on the Continent.

    Like the old chestnut of Swedish girls being blonde, hot and kinky. Racial stereotypes are very interesting to me.

    I learn something new every time I come here.

    1. thyra10 says:

      Did you start trusting people any less with the change of your hair color? 😉
      I`m not sure anyone sees us as more cool or cultured. Savages, more likely 🙂 We are fairly efficient, though. Studies show that even with our high wages (and the high taxes here), we can compete with other countries. We`re understaffed compared to so many countries and we still make it work.

  3. Alison Griffiths says:

    I sent you a PM on ffnet, but this post reminds me of something I am currently trying to learn about. The St. Bryce’s Day Massacre, as you know I’m sure, when Ethelred ordered all Danes killed. The Danes took sanctuary in a Church, trusting that the English would respect the religion and the sanctity of the place. Maybe assuming Ethelred was as honourable as they. Of course the church was burnt to the ground and they were all murdered. I think that shows what trust they placed in the supposed sanctuary, and attitudes of their enemies.

    Sorry, I’ve rambled on!

    1. thyra10 says:

      Ramble away. Yes, I just read a very interesting article about the massacres on Sankt Brictiusdag (as we call it). One of the people killed in that church was Gunhild Haraldsdatter, sister of the Danish king Svend Tveskæg (Forkbeard, I think you call him), her husband and child. Svend demanded a very high payment for the death of his sister and ended up invading England and taking the English crown.

      Ramble away! This is, after all, my favorite rambling topic 😀

  4. antecessus says:

    Very interesting! I wonder though, if this trust has anything to do with family values. As far as I understand, Scandinavia was one of the last places to be Christianised (of all the places to have been converted in that area of the world), so the polytheist values may not have been wiped out as much as they have elsewhere. One of the values I see, read and hear often repeated in Norse polytheistic reconstructionism is how important family or kin are. The Odinic Rites motto, if I’m not mistaken, is Faith Folk Family.

    1. thyra10 says:

      You`re correct that Scandinavia was one of the last places in Europe to be Christianized and even after the Nordic countries were officially Christian, the old faith stayed on for centuries. Part of it was in secret and part of it was old traditions that were moved into the new faith.
      I`m not sure if this is connected to family values as such, though. Vikings were strange in a way. Honor and duty and being true to one another was important but often they would stand by their sword brothers before their birth brothers. Sometimes they could be away from their families for years and they trusted the people they fought with over the people they left behind.
      Family and kin was important, there`s no doubt about it, but when push came to shove and they had to choose, there are several examples of them choosing their new “family” over the one they were born into. There are also several examples of women choosing the new family – the family they were married into – over the family they were born into.
      I think this topic is a very interesting one and I`m going to give your suggestions a lot of thought. Sometimes it would be very interesting to have a time machine and go back and see how things really were 😀

  5. Eric Swanson says:

    I have noticed that people in the Nordic countries are more trusting of government officials. In fact, being a government employee carries more respect in the Nordic nations than I have noticed in the USA. Part of this trust is based on performance of the government in attending to social needs of the people. It is clear to me that The Nordic nations have a higher standard of living and happiness than most countries, including the USA. Part of trust may have its roots in Asatru. Breaking troth was considered a very grave transgression in Nordic society. the Havemål condemns oath breakers. A (wo)man’s word was supposed to be her / his bond. I think it can be argued that Nordic immigrants did pretty well in America. I think it is because they had a reputation for being reliable, cooperative and hard working. Americans trusted the Nordic immigrants. As well, the Nordic people trusted on another and helped each other out.

    1. thyra10 says:

      I trust government officials but then I used to be one and I know they are trustworthy 🙂

      One reason to trust the Scandinavian governments is the laws that give every citizen the right to review anything the government does. If I want to see a document some government official has sent out, I am free to do so unless that document has private information about another citizen – or unless the document would be a threat to national security (defense plans can not be viewed, for instance).

      We also have good systems of government control – and our countries are small enough for us to actually be able to reach any government official or politician we might want to.

  6. Eric Swanson says:

    I spent a lot of time living in Växjo, Småland, Sweden before family considerations altered my plans to emigrate to Sweden. in Växjo, I knew who all of the local political party leaders were or at least how to find them. National party leaders often visited Växjo for meetings and were much more approachable than in America. Most political meetings for the city were open to the public. I was amazed that there was no attendee screening for weapons or even any police on hand to maintain order. The system in Sweden is beaurocratic , but at least people are (officially – at least) treated equally in Sweden. In America one cannot, for the most part, approach a politician for help without being asked for a political contribution. Yes, Swedes are very aware of their rights and responsibilities and very sensitive to government officials abusing their power. Perhaps this is because of the history of abuse, at least in Småland that Vilhelm Moberg so passionately wrote about. Yes, I also noticed that Swedish people will not hesitate to ask a representative or government official to see a law or regulation text upon which a decision is based and expect an answer (with the restrictions Thyra mentioned). In America one often hears that response for a request for information is being delayed for lack of personnel or other resources (which may well be true). As well one must often pay for the response provided in America.

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