On Happy Danes, Morose Finns and Liberal Swedes

Since attempting to explain the differences in personality between Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Finns to my Greek flat mate in Lund last night I have not been able to drop the concept of geography and personality.

Naturally this is an old and distinguished discussion including such greats as Montesquieu and Hegel – so I will not go into an argument with these guys!

Montesquieu posited (in Esprit des Lois) that since the laws are a based upon the ways in which people live their lives and the way in which people live their lives “has as much to do with geography as with climate”. Therefore both law and personality are part of a complex function of nature, geography & climate. Of course Montesquieu believed that geography and climate are constant (no global warming back then!) and therefore do not play a part in social change. Hegel also followed the same ideas

The unchangeableness of climate, of the whole character of the country in which a nation has its permanent abode, contributes to the unchangeablness of the national character. A desert, proximity to the sea or remoteness from it, all these circumstances can have an influence on the national character (Hegel – Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Part III; Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind).

But what I wanted to add was this.

Not only are people different in different locations but also I behave differently in different locations. But is this just a coincidence? Is my behavior in Lund and Göteborg conditioned somehow by climate? Or is my personality changed by distance from my well-known surroundings? And how important is the fact that I am (literally) surrounded by good espresso houses in Lund affect my behavior? If I could transfer Lund physically to Göteborg (or vice versa) would behaviors (my own and others) change?

If the answer is yes then would that mean if we could physically transfer the northern Finnish town (of slightly depressive people) Sodankylä (67°22′ N, 26°38′ E) to coastal region Denmark (57°22′ N, 9°42′ E – the present location of the happy people of Løkken) that the people would all become extroverted and jovial?

Am I on to something or have I just had too much strong coffee on a Wednesday morning?

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