How Scandinavia is Handling the Pandemic

The whole world is coping with COVID-19. What does it look like in Scandinavia? Denmark and Sweden continue to manage the pandemic successfully, with extensive testing capabilities in use. To give you a glimpse into daily life here, we gathered personal perspectives on the pandemic from DIS staff.

Have you made any lasting changes to your everyday life?

“I find that I enjoy biking even more than before. It’s such a privilege to live in a city that has one of the most elaborate bike infrastructures in the world.” – Esben

As an American living abroad, what is your perception of the cultural differences in handling the pandemic?

“I think the main difference comes down to the idea of personal responsibility. The U.S. is a fairly individualistic society, paired with discrepancies in how local governments are handling the pandemic, it seems like people see it as their personal responsibility to keep themselves, and others, safe.

In contrast, in Scandinavia, there is less of a focus on personal responsibility, and a high level of trust in the government. When masks are required in indoor spaces, there is a high level of compliance.” – Ashley

How are the vaccines coming along?

“It’s no surprise that Danes are the most willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19. I fact, one problem I have teaching a course on conspiracy theories at DIS is the complete absence of any home-grown conspiracies. The main reason for this is that Denmark is one of the least corrupt countries in the world – competing with New Zealand for no. 1 position on international surveys – and it’s also the country where citizens have the highest level of trust in each other and national institutions.” – Brendan

How are tests being used? Is it easy to get tested?

“The testing system in Denmark is really fast and efficient, and both rapid tests are PCR tests are readily available and free of charge. The results come back quickly, and also feed into this clever corona passport that’s an app on my phone documenting my vaccination and test status. In Sweden too, vaccine passes are in use and functioning well – I know because my family lives there.” – Elin

What are the key Danish and Swedish words and phrases?


Samfundssind: Literally translated, samfund means ‘society’ and sind means ‘mind.’ The word describes a collective responsibility Danes have taken on since the onset of COVID-19. By looking at the virus as something that affects the society and not just the individual, Danes chip in for the greater good, whether that means helping a neighbor in need or simply keeping distance in the grocery store. This way, vulnerable populations have been protected and the spread of the virus has slowed.

Read about this unique word in the BBC’s article, How a long-forgotten word rallied a nation


“We are encouraged to do the basics: hålla avstånd (maintain distance), use handsprit (hand sanitizer) and tvätta händerna (wash hands). Everyone speaks regularly about updates from Folkhälsomyndigheten (FHM), the public health authority, and parses the words of state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, who’s become a cult-like figure, in/famous inside and outside Sweden. We speak of antikroppar (antibodies) and provtagning (tests) and who has taken korttidspermittering, the government short-time work allowance in which employees of companies affected by COVID-19 have their salaries paid by the government.” – Tina

More Perspectives on the DIS Blog

At the beginning of the pandemic, DIS faculty shared their viewpoints based on their area of expertise: