The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life

I really wanted to like this book, but it was like a jackhammer in my brain. She uses the phrase “From a Nordic perspective” no less than 6 times and repeats the same mantra over and over: Finland is better than the U.S. in a lot of ways. It’s the obvious perks/life necessities where those Nordic nations excel: health care, child care, elder care, education, work/life balance.

There were a few things I gained from that “Nordic perspective,” namely that people coming to the U.S. from other developed nations feel a stark contrast, that overwhelming feeling that you are on your own, no one is going to help you out. She details a few examples, like signing up for cable TV and not being able to get the real price out of the salesperson.

It was all part of a way of doing things in the United States that, as I would gradually realize, forced you to be constantly on guard, constantly worried that whatever amount of money you had or earned would never be enough, and constantly anxious about navigating the complex and mysterious fine print thrown at you from every direction by corporations that had somehow managed to evade even the bare minimum of protections for consumers.

There was a confirmation of a sneaking suspicion that I had about how people treat their children in America, “that somehow the children were taking over their parents’ lives.” In this case, she points the blame on how shakily society is set up, that parents need their kids to do well in school so that they have a fair chance to succeed in life. But also, “I was surprised by how frequently I heard even grown adults in the United States say that their parents were their best friends. This level of dependency among older children on their parents was almost unheard of back in Nordic countries.”

Back in Finland (which, didja hear? Is one of the best countries on Earth!), parents don’t pressure their kids and firmly believe that “childhood should be childhood.” I am thankful to have grown up in a time when this was the case. I do not think I would have survived growing up in early 21st century America.

I loved this call-out as well, in response to hear hearing over and over how grateful Americans should be for their freedoms (like at all public events, baseball games, rodeos, speeches, etc.): “It’s almost as if Americans don’t realize that there are many, many other nations in the world where citizens enjoy exactly the same freedoms that Americans do, and where not as much fuss is made about them. Moreover, Americans don’t seem to realize that there are citizens in other parts of the world, like the Nordic regions, who have acquired other kinds of freedoms that Americans lack” (emphasis mine).

The United States today puts people, even people who are doing well, into an intensely stressful logistical nightmare that is exhausting.

Amen.