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The Almost Nearly Perfect People

Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia

By Michael Booth
15-minute read
Audio available
The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth

In The Almost Nearly Perfect People (2014), Danish resident Michael Booth takes us on a journey through the continent (and beyond) in an attempt to deconstruct and understand the popular belief that Scandinavia is some sort of cultural utopia – albeit a very cold one. Since the turn of the century, the influence and popularity of Scandinavian culture has cropped up almost everywhere, from books and TV to IKEA and Spotify.

  • Those with an anthropological interest in Scandinavia
  • History buffs interested in the lesser-known stories of Scandinavian history
  • Anyone who has been bitten by the Nordic bug

Michael Booth, an award-winning English journalist and author, contributes to many British and foreign magazines and newspapers and has written several books. He has lived on and off in Scandinavia for the last few decades and now lives in Denmark with his wife and children.

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The Almost Nearly Perfect People

Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia

By Michael Booth
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth
Synopsis

In The Almost Nearly Perfect People (2014), Danish resident Michael Booth takes us on a journey through the continent (and beyond) in an attempt to deconstruct and understand the popular belief that Scandinavia is some sort of cultural utopia – albeit a very cold one. Since the turn of the century, the influence and popularity of Scandinavian culture has cropped up almost everywhere, from books and TV to IKEA and Spotify.

Key idea 1 of 9

The Nordic countries have some of the best wealth and gender equality in the world.

Did you know that the first-ever parliament was founded in Iceland? Or that Finnish has no gender, and Denmark is basically one big middle class? Could it be that the Scandinavian region is one of the most equal places in the world?

Well, according to the Gini coefficient, it is!

The Gini coefficient, developed in 1921 by Italian statistician Corrado Gini, is a statistical method that measures the wealth distribution of a nation. It records the range of income differences from the richest to the poorest, with the smallest divergences indicating higher equality. And although the rankings change every year, the five Nordic countries, along with Japan, almost always place in the top six. In other words, the income differences in these countries are some of the smallest in the world.

The author believes that this even economic playing field might be an inheritance from Scandinavians’ Viking ancestors, who, when they weren’t butchering and pillaging, were supposedly some of the most egalitarian people in history.

But Scandinavians aren’t only remarkable for their wealth distribution; they also have some of the greatest gender equality in the world.

Back in 2010, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark were all ranked by the nonprofit organization Save the Children in the top five “best places to be a mother.” In addition, in 2011, Newsweek also ranked Iceland and Sweden as the top two places to be in a woman in the world.

In fact, Swedish men are supposedly the least chauvinistic in the world, to the point that one former Miss Sweden controversially said that they were all “nappy-changing sissies.”

Meanwhile, Finnish women won the right to vote in 1906, making them the first women in Europe to be granted suffrage. Today, it is quite normal for half of their parliament to be female, and women have served as both prime minister and president of Finland.

So it seems that Scandinavians enjoy almost unparalleled equality. But is there more than meets the eye?

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