Nordic Trust Project

Why is «trust» also called «gold» in the Nordic countries? Let us find the answer to this question.

Nordic Trust Project

During the Nordic Trust project five teams made up of three members whose goal was to shine the light on the nature of trust and happiness in the Nordic societies.

The project took place at the end of February this year, just before the majority of countries closed their borders to the outside world. Members of the Danish Culture Institute met a group of Higher School of Economics students and challenged them with a thought-provoking presentation about cultural norms and customs in the Nordic countries. Naturally, those countries have their own history and national characteristics which come together to form a certain set of values. Using that assumption as a springboard, the HSE students decided to launch a new research-project during which they would immerse themselves in the intriguing stories of life in Swedish, Finnish, Danish and Norwegian society.

Time to begin the journey

Approaches differed from team to team. What impressed the most was the number of ways to test to what extent Nordic national institutions encapsulate the concept of “trust”. The team responsible for research on Finnish cultural values discovered that the family was one of the main binding elements in that society. All matters big and small in Finland are somehow influenced by and benefit both small family units and larger groups wanting to feel part of a big family tree. However, in Danish society it was discovered that “there is a certain balance between personal freedom and personal responsibility. People should be responsible for themselves and each other” said the Director of the Danish Culture Institute, Henritte Borg Reinholdt. Common cases involving left-open cars and houses, infant babies in strollers on the streets and many others are already well-known examples of everyday trust on display in the Nordic countries.

Secondly, one of the most noticeable characteristics in Nordic countries - Denmark and Sweden especially - is the balance people are able to strike between work and home that relieves stress and ensures people do not become overwhelmed with unnecessary extra problems on both the personal and professional level. This well-proportioned lifestyle may be a reason colleagues trust each other more with work matters or why a mother feels she can count on her child’s father to take paternity leave when it is necessary. Feel the difference, they say. The Nordic countries are societies, whereas "global leader" America functions like a country-wide business.

Thirdly, the equality found in the Nordic societies may be yet another reason for the prevalence of trust. According to the United Nations Development Programme, the gender inequality index in the Nordic countries is the lowest in the world. There is not only equality between men and women, however, but also between social classes, ensuring everyone has equal opportunities in life for self-improvement. Whether you are rich or poor, have one or two parents, live downtown or in a village, with a bit of initiative and hard work you can reach almost any goal you set yourself.

Moreover, trusting relationships in Nordic communities may be the result of the active involvement in political life of all people in society from the young to the elderly. Why is that the case? If the government becomes corrupt, then the people in the country will grow displeased and stop trusting the regime they are living under. Knowing where the taxes people pay and are invested makes their huge financial sacrifices feel justifiable. Besides that, every Finn, for example, has the opportunity to participate in decision-making in their local municipality, making their opinions genuinely matter.

It is appropriate to mention the attitude of Nordic citizens towards the Covid-19 pandemic. Our studies have taught us how the great power of will and desire in the Nordic countries to stay strong in spite of everything has brought their societies together even further during this tough and unpredictable year. A group of Harley-Davidson motorcyclists even made several circles around a hospital in Tampere to salute the work of the nurses and doctors there.

The next step was storytelling. A decent knowledge in storytelling is a great soft skill. Nowadays it may be used in marketing, education and even music. By stories such as the one that Lani Pixels created for LEGO’s 80-th anniversary. 17-minutes long video dedicated to the story of the Dutch company impressed viewers. By taking glimpse behind the scenes people feel the connection between them and the company. This is one of many wonderful stories which were told by businesses to build trust between them and people all around the globe.
Stories that my colleagues presented were taken from various fields. There were fairy tales, news that were presented in a story format and different events from the Nordic countries’ history. Well-organized meeting took place in a blended format which has probably became our new reality. The studio is situated in the center of Saint Petersburg. The recording was an unexpected step, but it was worth the time and force.

"There is a certain balance between personal freedom and personal responsibility. People should be responsible for themselves and each other” - Henritte Borg Reinholdt

What is next?

In the future our online conversations with students from the Nordic countries will continue in order to discuss and share our ideas as to how to create a better society. Someday the borders will be open again and a real-life meeting will take place to resume our international dialogue. That will be the time when everyone needs to feel free to trust one another and probably to trust in ourselves as well.

Experience everyone has received is tremendous. Being in a studio with the masks on/off is rather complicated, however the atmosphere in small students’ group was warm and supportive so the whole presentation appeared to be a dialog between different culture representatives.

As a word of thanks, a great resource has been the correspondence that have been maintained with the representatives from the Nordic countries taking part in this project. Even though there was ittle opportunity to talk to colleagues directly, the mentors regularly sent the questions back and forth and so there was a way to get feedback as well as to receive up-to-date information on current events.

Text by
Daria Gorbacheva