Is Scandinavia Better to Live in Than the USA?

A comparison of the benefits and disadvantages of living in a Scandinavian country compared to the United States of America.

Erik Engheim

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City beach in Oslo, Norway, next to an art gallery with the medieval fortress Akershus festning in the background. I captures Scandinavian emphasis on culture, public spaces and recreation.

About 20 years ago, I moved from Norway to the US with great expectations planning to settle there. I spent a year in the US before deciding it was not for me. Based on that experience and living and traveling in other countries, here is my take on this question.

It depends on you and your values and preferences. A lot comes down to the specific town you settle in and your talents. Every country will offer quite different experiences depending on the particular region you settle in. Still, we can make some generalizations.

The US is a country of extremes in almost every possible area. They have the worst poverty problems and the wealthiest people. You got the worst schools and the best. The fattest and the healthiest. You will find the dumbest people and the smartest people. American society is configured to amplify every little difference that may exist between people.

Scandinavia is the complete opposite. While Americans dream of success — making it big and getting rich — Scandinavian society is much more focused on perfecting the average life. Scandinavians tend to focus policies and practices heavily on erasing extreme differences and pulling everybody towards the middle.

This causes American and Scandinavian society to have some really stark differences. American society is really optimized for material wealth and consumerism. If you are of above average talent, then you can expect to make more money in the US, live in a bigger house, drive a fancier car, have more selection in the store you shop at, etc.

To clarify the difference, I thought I should make a caricature of American and Scandinavian life. While a generalization will never be entirely true, it will usually offer some key insights.

In your American life you got a big house with a swimming pool. Enjoy!

Your American Life

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Erik Engheim

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.