Thyra Dane

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

There are plenty of ways to die here in Scandinavia. Most of them are the same ways people die in other countries but the Scandinavian edition of Mother Nature does have something special in store for those of us living in – or visiting – this cold corner of the world.

Warning: Do not read this if any of your loved ones died in Scandinavia or if you’re not comfortable with death as a part of life. I am not going to treat death with any kind of respect in this blog post.

How can you die in Scandinavia?

How can you die in Scandinavia?

Animals that kill

Some countries have sharks, alligators and crocodiles, venomous snakes and spiders (yikes) and even jellyfish that can kill you (yes, I’m looking at you, Australia).

Luckily it’s too cold for any of those animals to live in Scandinavia. Yes, we do have sharks but they’re about the size of a dachshund and not really very scary. Yes, we also have venomous snakes but they can probably, maybe, if you’re really unlucky, kill said dachshund if your vet is more than 24 hours away. Humans are safe.

So what kind of animals kill people here in Scandinavia?

Is it this guy?

Wolves don't kill people.

Wolves don’t kill people.

Nope. Wolves may kill sheep–and may be killed by angry sheep farmers–but they do not kill people. Not even tourists.

Is it this girl?

Bears do not kill people.

Bears do not kill people – at least not very often.

Nope. Bears also like to snack on sheep and they can kill people. But it’s been a long-long time since they killed anyone in Scandinavia. If you’re not between a mother bear and her cubs, you’re probably safe. Polar bears are very dangerous but the only place in Scandinavia where you’ll find polar bears is on Svalbard. On Svalbard it’s mandatory to carry a rifle because of potential polar bear attacks.

Svalbard is pretty far to the north and far from mainland Scandinavia so polar bears are not really a danger to most Scandinavians

Svalbard is pretty far to the north and far from mainland Scandinavia so polar bears are not really a danger to most Scandinavians

So which mammal (apart from homo sapiens) kills most people in Scandinavia? Any guesses?

It’s this guy:

Moose don't kill people. People in cars kills moose ... and themselves

Moose don’t kill people. People in cars kill moose … and themselves

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Swedes and Norwegians are hurt or killed every year because they drive into a moose. Danes are safe because there are no moose in Denmark.

A moose is a very heavy animal with very thin legs. This means that if a car hits the poor moose, its huge body will land on the windshield or on top of the car and the passengers of the car will be crushed by the weight of it.

Other ways to die

Did you think Mother Nature wasn’t cruel enough to Scandinavians and tourists visiting us? A moose and that’s it? Ah, you’re forgetting something. Mother Nature has more than a couple of moose up her sleeve.

  1. Hypothermia. Did you know that more people in Norway die from hypothermia than from being murdered. Yes, part of the answer here is that Norwegians aren’t very blood thirsty–they don’t go around and murder each other to the same degree as people do in most countries–but cold weather does kill quite a few people each year. Most of the people who die from hypothermia in Scandinavia do so in Norway due to a combination of Norway’s colder weather and the fact that Norwegians are the most outdoorsy people in Scandinavia.
    Ice bathing or comiting suicide?

    Ice bathing or commiting suicide?

    Unfortunately quite a few of the people dying from hypothermia are tourists. Bad weather can sneak up on you–be prepared.

  2. Falling off cliffs. It’s not as if Scandinavians don’t fall off cliffs–or need to be rescued after having fallen down part of the cliff–but according to the Norwegian police more and more tourists do this:
    Don't do this!

    Don’t do this!

    or this:

    because they want some cool pictures to bring home with them. Unfortunately, not all of these tourists get to go home because Mother Nature can be mean sometimes. But hey, she wants respect not selfies.

  3. Drowning. People drown everywhere, you say, and you’re quite right. But the Scandinavian version of Mother Nature is a bit sneaky. She’ll make Danish beaches look like this:
    Danish beaches don't kill people. Oh okay, maybe they do.

    Danish beaches don’t kill people. Oh okay, maybe they do.

    And then she will tempt tourists with these:

    Do not use these in Scandinavia!

    Do not use these in Scandinavia!

    Which is a baaaad combination considering the temperature in the water. Quite a few tourists have found themselves half way to Great Britain and that is really not where you want to be on that thing.
    We also have people fall into wild rivers and people drowning in cold lakes. But most of the people who drown in Scandinavia fall from small boats. They are found with their fly open. It’s a sad and ironic fact that Mother Nature kills men when they answer the call of nature.

  4. Avalanches and glaciers. People on skis are often hit by avalanches, especially in the spring when the snow is melting and freezing and melting and freezing.
    people also fall into glaciers. Luckily, this does not happen often since you need to have glacier guides with you when you cross a glacier.
    But did you know that people are also hit by glaciers? Most of the People killed by glaciers falling on them are tourist who do not respect the warning signs.
    After a family was killed by a glacier this summer in Norway there was a huge debate whether or not the warning signs should be bigger since tourists don’t seem to respect the small signs. The general consensus seemed to be that if they don’t respect the signs, they have to pay the price. Harsh, I agree.

    Glaciers kill people!

    Glaciers kill people!


You’re welcome but be careful

If I went to a country with venomous snakes or spiders, I would have absolutely no idea about how to avoid them (apart from running away screaming if I ever saw anything move). The same goes for tourists here in Scandinavia. So many of them don’t know how not to die from hypothermia, how to spot a moose in the forest while driving 100 km/h, how to avoid falling down from cliffs and how to respect warning signs.

So my only advice before you visit Scandinavia is this: Be careful!

Sooooo, can we Scandinavians get a little respect from all of you guys living in areas with dangerous animals? Please? Pretty please?

20 thoughts on “How to die in Scandinavia

  1. Joona Vainio says:

    You forgot killer ticks carrying nice fatal greetings usually from east or south.

    And yes, believe or not, more Finns die of heatstroke than hypothermia. Heatwaves are so rare nobody ever prepares for those. Especially if they happen to be dogs with an idiot car owner gone shopping in the summer.

    Electrocution is also pretty popular. Not for the multitude of trash/doom/black/death/battle… metal bands with wirings fixed with jesus tape, but cos every Finnish male considers himself a born electrician (well, I am still alive, tho). Dunno bout you other Nords.

    Mushrooms. Mushrooms are VERY plenty in Nordic forests. Both in varieties and sheer amounts (except this is the shittiest shroom autumn in my lifetime, meaning 4,5 decades). Although only half a dozen or so are guaranteed fatal without immediate medical aid, dozens will give you serious damage and well over half are just inedible unless you don’t mind bad taste and stomach pains.

    But the shrooms point concerns mostly foreigners… and morons.

    1. thyra10 says:

      How could I forget the mushrooms? They kill plenty of people every year.

      Yeah, Finland has heat waves coming from Russia but you keep them to yourselves you heat greedy people! We don’t die from heatstrokes here – it’s just not hot enough.

      The latest in science says that ticks aren’t really that bad so I left them out. Apparently, people are hypocondriacs if they complain about tick bites. Yup, that’s Norwegian medical science for you…

      1. Joona Vainio says:

        Usually ticks are as harmless as any skeeter or flea. But especially the ones in Ahvenanmaa (no I will NOT say Åland – it is OURS, Perkele!) tended to carry borreliosis.

        And lately the bastards have spread to the south mainland, too.

        BTW. This summer was the coldest in ages here.

  2. Joona Vainio says:

    Erm… To be a little more lenient to foreign friends. If you love hiking and especially do it late summer our autumn, you most likely will be enticed to pick some abundant, delicious looking shrooms.

    Even if armed with the best guide you can buy DON’T unless you have a local guaranteed to have been shroom hunting since a kid.

    One of the worst killers is exceptionally a spring mushroom that likes to grow in broken terrain. Like among felled trees (either naturally or harvested openings). False morel. It looks just like the morel especially the French consider a delicacy next only to truffels. We consider the false morel a delicacy, too, but there is a catch.

    If eaten without thorough parboiling several times, the poison will destroy your liver and kidneys within hours. Even a quick trip to the emergency ward will likely leave them more or less permanently damaged.

    I took this one as the unfortunate example, as a bit over a decade ago a French tourist bought them from the supermarket where commonly available. They were even then required to have warning instructions in Finnish (who know anyway), Swedish, and English. But the poor bastard didn’t know any of them. He survived, barely. But dialysis is a bitch.

    There are many more “disguised” killers as well. Not to scare anyone. Just seriously warning to have a pro along. Or the idyllic hike in pristine Finnish nature can easily lead to the less than idyllic perpetually pissed off Finnish nurses (even the Finnish unisex nurse uniform sucks).

  3. fffbone says:

    It’s a good thing I don’t like mushrooms. I wouldn’t be hanging off a cliff either. Well, actually I wouldn’t be doing any of those things. My luck I would get hit by a car that tried to get away from the moose.

    1. thyra10 says:

      I love mushrooms but I never pick them myself. And I don’t hang off cliffs either – that would mean that I was on top of that cliff and that rarely happens.
      But I’ve had quite a few moose scares. Driving in the twilight and suddenly there’s a moose trying to cross the road. Yikes, that’ll get your heart pumping!
      I have several friends who have run into moose. They all survived but one of them had to stay in the hospital for almost a year. It’s scary! The poor moose died, either instantaneously or because the vet killed them.

      1. fffbone says:

        OMG ! that’s horrible. More out east from me is Deer crossing. Years ago my BIL was riding his motorcycle. A Deer ran across the road a car tried to get out of the way of the deer and went in the other lane into my brother in law. He was in the hospital for awhile. Major shit broken etc. But life is funny, because of that, that’s when they found out he had leukemia. Saved his life.

      2. thyra10 says:

        Oh, it is but it’s also part of life since our fast life doesn’t fit with the wild life.

        I’m so glad to hear about your BIL. Imagine that! And talk about a silver lining!

  4. Joona Vainio says:

    A few more interesting ways to get violently killed in certain Nordic countries…

    Wear a Tre Kronor shirt in May anywhere in Finland in certain pubs. Telltale warning is a giant screen on the wall.
    Vice versa, wear a Leijonat shirt in any such pub in Sweden. Only the pansies will not dare attack you unless you’re outnumbered 10 to one, but will piss in your beer while you’re taking a leak yourself.

    Play in the jukebox Swedish eighties “metal” anywhere in Norway or Finland in a pub where people wear all black leather. That is: in all of them. Do it in karaoke, you will be tarred and feathered and only then killed.
    Vice versa, play or sing Finnish pop iskelmä tunes just about anywhere in the world you will be killed unless the audience doesn’t die of second hand embarrassment first.

    Talk to Finn about Swedish sauna.
    Start an argument are meatballs Finnish or Swedish. Fair fight, even odds. Both prolly die of exhaustion.
    Tell a Swede or a Norwegian they should have adhered to the EU snus ban.

    Be any of the Nordics and tell any of the others Yulebuck (Santa) really lives in your country (or colony).

    Interestingly enough, if you diss Finnish F1 drivers, prepare to die. But if you diss Ronnie Petterson (Swede who died tragically) the Finn will kill you for him.

    Get all together and beat up a Russian together. Hiding behind the Finn, of course.

    1. thyra10 says:

      Don’t blame Mother Nature. This is Homo Sapiens – and doesn’t count. People are dangerous everywhere….

      1. Joona Vainio says:

        Er… I exactly was NOT blaming Nature, but making crude fun of Nordic human stereotypes. And isn’t that contradicting the next sentence?

        Whatever, it was supposed to be amusing SATW or Nemi kinda material anyway. Not meaning I wanna turn your thread to a parody fest.

        But come to think of it, in vast majority of untimely deaths in (or by) nature are cause of if not sheer human stupidity, then gross carelessness, negligence, or just a damn unlucky clusterfuck. Like cliffhanging, not dressing properly for the weather, not preparing for this and that… An yeah, this climate offers plenty of its own kinda opportunities for more civilly put “cascade failures”.

        Others have their own specialties.

      2. thyra10 says:

        Of course, one could argue that people are also part of what Mother Nature has to offer–stupidity and all–but I kind of figure that we’re her big regret.

  5. Joona Vainio says:

    Addition: Mention Stephen Elop to a Finn, and he will kill himself.

  6. Juicy says:

    Tourists are terrible, they must leave their common sense at home. I live by Yellowstone and am always amazed at the things people do. Thanks for sharing !

    1. thyra10 says:

      We’re all terrible tourists when we’re in places where we don’t know the unwritten (and not care about the written) rules. I grew up in mountain free Denmark and you can’t imagine how stupid I was when I climbed my first mountains. I’ve actually climbed a mountain in flip-flops–I kid you not! I learned when I moved to Norway and can only thank my lucky stars that I survived my own stupidity.

      People don’t use their common sense because they haven’t needed to do so. Growing up in cities may make people street smart but they are clueless when they have to deal with Mother Nature.

      1. Joona Vainio says:

        Yea, well. Sometimes it takes just a strange city or town in your own country, wrong time, wrong place, and you can get into a world of…

        I guess Finns are fortunate to have so much area it has many kinds of terrain. Except real mountains. Only puny fjelds in farthest Lapland. Our tallest “mountain” is only 1200m or so. I know Norwegian ones aren’t much taller than that, but they LOOK like mountains and not some overgrown molehills, goddammit. I always look in envy across the border when in the “arm” of Lady Finland. Terrain turns mountaineous instantly across it like some mischievous god like Loki or our Lemminkäinen had cut it right there with a giant sword.

        That is not to say Finland doesn’t have plenty of rough and very rough terrain especially far in the boonies, between the fjelds masked from cellular carriers. Go hiking alone there, break a leg a week’s healthy march from the nearest human… Well, that’s one novel way to experience a shitty and slow death. Carrying signal flares MIGHT just help if one is lucky enough to spot a wandering sightseeing chopper or small plane.

        Speaking of planes, From the air or satellite most of Finland looks like just an endless stretch of flat forest and tens of thousands of lakes (except Northernmost Lapland mentioned above). That is deceiving. The vast majority of Finnish terrain is swamp. It is just forested over, and not some highly wet mangrove type.

        Very few swamps are actually dangerous if you watch your step, but they will certainly piss you off with mosquitoes added. And especially in the ultra flat Mid-North Finland it is quite possible to get lost even if you’re proficient with a map and a compass and also have them. Endless forested swamp has no landmarks and even if there were, the forest prevents seeing them unless on top of them. So all you can do if lost is just pick a direction and hope you don’t come across a vast uncrossable bog or thicket.

        The only reason people voluntarily go wandering to swampy areas is because the highly valued lakka (cloudberry) and mesimarja (arctic bramble) grow there.

        That said, at least cellies work there.

        Of more deadly things, we’re lucky to have only one poisonous snake. It sounds scarier than it is as it is a viper. But it is of the Nordic vipera berus family which is really dangerous only to small children or are allergic to the type of poison. Which happens to be of the same type as wasps and hornets have, only stronger.

        And like all animals except for perhaps polar bears, they avoid humans if possible. And even if you accidentally corner one or step on one, they can’t bite through a hiking boot. And if you don’t have proper hiking footwear, the hell were you doing there in the first place. Berry pickers beware, tho.

        Well, this turned out more of a travel brochure than how to get killed. I’ll stop rambling now for a while.

  7. suki59 says:

    Great blog post! That video made me queasy. Those kids are just begging for a Darwin Award.

    1. thyra10 says:

      Thank you!
      Those kids make ne quesy too. One little slip and aaaaaaahhhhh.

      1. Joona Vainio says:

        Ahum… This is not from Scandinavia or Nordics, but the folks definitely are 100% Finns.

        From the time when I was so young and happy in a wonderful job with great mates. The editorial staff of Metsälehti forestry magazine. Me, the AD on left.

        Tipsy looking guy next to me walked that railing from end to end after about three champagnes and two schnapps in thin air. Yes, that is a straight drop you see on the background…

        Crazy? We? Naaah…

  8. Joona Vainio says:

    Forgot to say I have always said marketing department is a bunch of crazies. Said “heroic” railing walker chief of marketing. Still alive… I think. Maybe.

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