Screen shot 2012-07-10 at 12.24.47

The Nordic Cool – Social Media

My other half is a true believer of the power of technology and the freedom of information sharing. I am more like the in-betweener: a modern technology adopter (spending a considerable amount of time on Four Square/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Weibo), but a cultural dinosaur at heart (I love to collect beautifully designed books and I even still do magazine article cuttings!). But somehow we find our compromise during our trip.

Here are two examples of how social media has changed our travel experience.



Travel tips – Four Square check-in

With free wifi in most places in the Scandinavian cities, we were tempted to ‘check-in’ online everywhere we go. Lots of people thought the Four Square check-in is more like a vanity game – you get different sorts of virtual badges as a recognition of how many places you have been to, and so did I. However, when we checked in this time around, be it a museum, restaurant/cafe or a tourist attraction, Four Square showed us a list of recommended places near by, some of which have even been visited by our friends!

Those tips and location maps come handy when you walk around like a headless chicken in a strange place. It is also more personal comparing to travel guide as some of them are written by your friends. That’s probably why Tripadvisor has now encouraged more and more people to sign in with their Facebook account so that you can see your friends’ comments on the places you are going to visit.

You can find our travel tips on the Four Square list HERE.


Weibo Strangers = Followers 

The day we stayed in Copenhagen was Sankt Hans Night (the Danish Midsummer’s Eve) – the longest day of the year. When I posted a picture of our blue sky night in Copenhagen on the Chinese social media Weibo, instantly I got a comment from a stranger – another Chinese traveller in Copenhagen!! Later on we exchanged some tips on interesting places to visit in the city.


You probably have heard of the Chinese word Guan Xi (which means networks or connections), often in the analysis on Chinese Business Culture, because it’s interpreted as one of the major dynamics in the Chinese society. By obtaining the right Guan Xi, you are more likely to minimise the risks, frustrations and disappointment when doing business in China. Perhaps the Chinese concept can be equally applied for the tourism sector. We are constantly looking for the right connections when we search in an alien place. Thanks to the active social network we are connected through the social media, which has revolutionised the way we consume information, built our network, and ultimately formed a surprisingly pleasant travel experience.





The Nordic Cool – the Welfare State

Travelling is an emotional experience, and different places evoke different emotions.


As an inquisitive traveller I’m always curious about the different culture via work and play, and our Scandinavian holiday is of no exception.

To understand a person you have to understand where he/she is from. Indeed, you need to understand the place where one comes from to be able to understand one’s perspective.

I think every Asian who grew up in an over populated urban city (or like me growing up in Beijing, a city lacking in natural water) would somehow experience a shock coming to the peaceful Nordic countries, and perhaps vice versa, for the Scandinavians heading to the other way. Left me wondering if what you see is just an illusion?


The Welfare State

In China, Scandinavian countries are always portrayed as an ultimate contemporary version of the Welfare State – a nation in which everyone ranks equally – the concept that Karl Max popularised in China at the beginning of the century. Even the UK has a Swede Dream and the PM David Cameron recently went on a policy shopping trip to Stockholm.

We saw numerous young couples with children, in particular at the area where we stayed (Vasapaken) going for coffee in the morning. Apparently they are locally known as the ‘Latte Mums‘ (a Nordic version of the UK yummy mummy…) who are likely to be enjoying their 14 month maternity leave!

By taking a boat to explore the endless archipelago away from the city, we saw some beautiful holiday villages on the islands. The rough, unpainted wooden fronts, small, barred windows and turf-clad roofs of the houses make a very antiquated impression. However, far from being a ancient shelter or anything of that kind, this is a modern holiday home. The building materials have been chosen specially for their environmental friendliness, with an ultra-modern Scandinavian stylish interior design inside.

We were there during the AF Offshore Race 2012, an annual sailing race between Stockholm and Gothenburg. Towards the end of the day, all visitors, families and friends of the sailors are gathered on the docks, drinking beers by the boat. There are music gigs and BBQ stalls in the background. It seems to be a typical chilled out Scandinavian summer night, and yet I can imagine how atypical the lifestyle can be for a continental Chinese! The ‘Summer Sailing, Winter Skiing’ lifestyle has been introduced to China recently with the rise of the emerging middle class. But without the cultural tradition, the core roots seem somehow got lost. Here it is (or appears to be) accessible to all – whilst in China it has become a showoff for the urban elite.


The Nordic Cool

There is an old Chinese saying (宁为太平犬,不做离乱人) – the translation might sound funny – “I would rather be a dog living in peace, rather than a human in the midst of movement and chaos.” The Nordic countries don’t seem to have experienced as much destructions (wars) as the Chinese did in the past hundred years.

A country with fascinating history, in reality, people often lead a miserable life. A country with an uneventful history, in reality, people enjoy a peaceful and content life.

I envy the Nordic seagulls – the cool and free life they lead in the northern end of the globe.