7 signs you are watching Nordic television
Let’s play a fantasy game: imagine turning on your TV set and browsing through the available channels. The tricky part is that you can’t see the TV stations’ logos at the top nor you can hear what is being said. No sound.
The chances are that you wouldn’t know which TV station you watch or where it comes from. You could only guess. But how guess when it doesn’t have sound? All the clues are visual. What you see is what you get, and you must guess which country the TV station comes from. Fun, right?
Well, in most cases, you would find it extremely hard to guess, unless it’s about the Nordic countries. They have a very special selection of themes, topics and shows they broadcast.
Given that, it’s fairly easy to identify the clues and go bingo!
Below you can discover the 7 most common things you can watch on television in the Nordics.
In some cultures, talking about the weather is a popular topic for small talk.
– It’s going to rain today, huh?
– Yes, indeed.
Apart from the fact that this kind of conversation can break the ice (although in a boring way), the weather is much more than that in the Nordics. It’s something that affects people’s lives deeply. Especially in winter or let’s say between September and May.
Summer is excluded as it’s the time of the year (although sometimes particularly cloudy and rainy, perhaps chilly, too) when most people enjoy the outdoors, have vacations and spend time outside with their loved ones.
During the other 9 months though and especially between November and April perhaps, the weather is of particular importance. Changes are very frequent, even during the same day. From cloudy skies to torrential rain and snowstorms.
This is why all channels in the Nordics allocate more than enough time to the weather forecast and also feature regular news about the weather.
Sometimes (quite often we’d say), the weather is the top headline in the primetime news. The storm has come, flooding or landslides may be on the menu, too. People need to know and change their schedules accordingly, for maximum safety.
It’s not about the cold, though. They are used to it, so unless an unusual cold front approaches, it’s mostly about the weather phenomena and not the cold.
Nowadays, with the climate crisis, unfortunately, the weather gets higher and higher on the news agenda.
So, if you watch television and notice a quite intense interest in the weather, it must be from the Nordics.
Unusual sports & women in sports
It may be Sunday afternoon and while in many other countries and cultures one would expect men’s football matches, in the Nordics this might be the time for unusual sports.
Sports like handball or ice hockey are super popular in the Nordics. Sometimes, curling games are in the TV schedule, too. You know, the sport where the players slide a heavy round thing on the ice with the goal of hitting the smaller round targets ahead.
Of course, during the winter season, no doubt that skiing and all other winter sports take up a lot of air time in the Nordic television channels, especially Norway (that got officially crowned as the Queen of all winter sports recently, after slaying it at the 2022 Winter Olympics), Sweden and Finland.
Denmark is more of a handball fan, we reckon.
Also, something else that may seem unusual to people from other countries is the number of matches in women’s sports that are broadcast on TV. In the Nordics, famous for their devotion to gender equality, this is ever so normal.
Why wouldn’t you be interested in the women’s handball championship match after all? The sport is fast and entertaining. No reason why men’s matches should be more interesting than women’s.
So, remember next time. If you notice strange sports and a lot of women’s sports matches on TV, it must be Nordic.
Kings & queens
3 out of 6 Nordic countries are monarchies: Norway, Denmark, Sweden. Finland and the insular Nordic countries (Iceland and the Faroe Islands) are not into kings and queens.
Therefore, it’s very common to watch all things royal on TV.
From the speeches of their kings and queens to where they went, what they visited, whom they talked to and other everyday royal life events.
Nordic people have a kind of love and hate relationship with their monarchies. They do not believe in monarchy per se, but most people love or at least feel close to their royals.
A royal wedding may be the even of the year, just as it was the case in Sweden in 2017, with the marriage of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia.
Also, newborn royals are top of the list in the news, as well as birthdays and other royal occasions like the Danish queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which is the 50th anniversary of getting the throne.
There is quite often an attempt to portray their royals’ lives on TV so you may catch a documentary about a crown prince’s life or their volunteering and philanthropic actions.
And yes, everybody tunes in to the national TV stations to watch the annual royal speech on New Year’s Eve. It’s like a tradition. A signal that yes, the new year is now officially in, with a royal stamp on it!
Although the Nordic countries are for many historical and cultural reasons very close to the American culture (they looove American series and movies), there is no doubt Nordic noir is closest to their hearts.
After all, they have invented the genre and they are proud of it.
Inspired by the dark stories of the local authors, production companies saw an opportunity for a new unique genre that encapsulates all the essentials of Nordic lifestyle and culture and mixes it with fiction.
It has become super popular across the world with series like The Bridge or The Killing becoming worldwide sensations. With the rise of the streaming platforms, that need a constant flow of new content, Nordic noir has been taken to greater heights.
Nordic TV features many Nordic noir series, as most of them are local productions, even by the TV channels themselves.
You may also notice that in some of them (if not many), there is usually a blend of nordic characters and places. For instance, The Bridge takes place in both Denmark and Sweden. Or you can find Finnish characters in a Swedish production, a Norwegian in a key role in a Danish series or Swedes taking an active role in a Norwegian movie’s plot.
You may also hear more than one Nordic language in the series as some of the actors may come from another Scandinavian country or Finland.
The Nordics like to blend with each other and they do it flawlessly!
Next time you watch TV and you are not sure which country the channels come from, search for signs of Nordic noir, with NO SUBTITLES as most of the Nordic languages are almost mutually intelligible (i.e. they understand each other more or less) with the exception of Finnish that comes from a whole different group of languages.
Instead of presenting many different themes and bits and bytes of everything, Slow TV focuses on one topic and takes it to the extreme. It is actually a “marathon” show broadcast live on TV and the internet, showing things as they happen.
But hey, it is not about a royal wedding or a spectacular celebration from somewhere in the world. It is a slow-paced video exploring a topic in real-time. This topic or theme is shown and analysed in a relaxed way. Often there are people explaining or talking about its history or how to do it.
It all began in 2009 in Norway. The public broadcaster, NRK, aired a live 7-hour long train journey from Oslo to Bergen, perhaps one of the most iconic train journeys in the country!
Cameras were put inside and outside the train to capture and broadcast the view from the train as it passed from towns and villages, through amazing valleys and on top of snowy mountains. In between, when the train would pass through dark tunnels, there were archival clips from the railway line’s 100-year old history shown.
Boring? At least 1 in 4 Norwegians watched it! This broadcast was such a success that has been called the world’s first iconic Slow TV. And it also gained international attention from all around the world. A new TV genre was born.
The next one is a 9-day (!) long Slow TV broadcast from Norway’s Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Up for it?
OK, that’s a very long story but we can condense it to this: the Nordic people love music and Eurovision is a great opportunity for them to celebrate it.
Needless to say that Sweden is the most hardcore fan and the Swedes organize the famous Melodifestivalen every year to select their artist and song to represent Sweden in the contest.
The other countries also have national finals and they slowly expand them to the standards of the Swedish selection process.
Some say that the Nordic people’s love for Eurovision comes not only from their love for music (note: Sweden is the world’s 3rd biggest music exporter, only behind the US and the UK).
It also comes from good timing. It’s during that part of the year (winter mainly) where people are mostly indoors, because of the cold and snow. So, watching the heats and voting for their personal favourite songs sounds like a good way to spend the time in the house, right?
If you watch Nordic TV from January to March you will notice quite a lot of shows around Eurovision and the countries’ selection processes. Music makes winter more tolerable.
Plus, it’s their Nordic fair play: which country will do better than the others? There is also a separate bet about which Nordic country will end up higher than the others each year.
Eurovision and the Nordics are a close match. And a pleasure to the ears and eyes.
For the record, Sweden has already won 6 times, only 2nd in the ranking behind Ireland with 7 wins in the contest. Denmark and Norway did it 3 times each while Finland has won once. Iceland is yet to win the contest (although it has come very close -2nd- twice) and the Faroe Islands do not participate in the contest.
Special broadcasts on holidays
If you happen to be in the Nordics during the festive seasons of the year (like Christmas, New Year and Easter), you will most certainly notice there are a few specific TV traditions that almost no one can (or want to) escape from.
During those days, for example before Christmas or on New Year’s Eve, there are specific shows that are broadcast on television, reminding everyone (whether they like them or not) that the holidays are upon them.
In Denmark, there is a 24-episode Christmas series every year and the country’s two main channels take turns in premiering a new one. One year it’s DR’s turn, next year it’s TV2. When the channel does not air a new series (because it’s not its turn), they play a previous one they produced years ago. So, every year, the Danes get to watch a new and an old one.
And guess why every series has 24 episodes? Because it starts on the 1st of December all the way through Christmas Eve on the 24th.
In Sweden, there is another TV tradition on New Year’s Eve. For decades now, the Swedes have been gathering in front of their TV sets at exactly 19.45 and watching the movie “Dinner for one”. It’s a short black and white film in English recorded by German television back in 1963.
The phrase “Same procedure as every year” from the movie has become a very popular catchphrase in English.
Similar traditions across the other Nordics call for people to watch old Donald Duck (Kalle Anka as they call him) shows on TV on Christmas Eve.
Whatever is on the menu is certainly a pleasure to watch together with your loved ones. After all, holidays are all about togetherness, right?