The Scandinavian airline SAS has suffered backlash for an advertisement intended to highlight the role of travel, immigration and cultural diversity in forging the Scandinavian identity. The advert video asked what is truly Scandinavian and answered that everything is copied and nothing is absolutely Scandinavian. For instance, the video points out that Swedish meatballs are from Turkey.

Anti-immigration groups have decried the campaign and said that it was disrespectful of Scandinavian culture. Detractors of the campaign have even commented that the video is suggestive of the flag carrier’s self-hatred. Separately, the Danish advertising agency had also received a bomb threat by email and a street in central Copenhagen was briefly shut down.

Read the full article on The Guardian: ‘What is truly Scandinavian? Nothing’ Airline clarifies ad after far-right criticism


Is it self-hating and disrespectful of a particular culture to suggest that it has been influenced by many other diverse cultures? Furthermore, in today’s age of massive globalisation, how many national cultures can claim to be free of any borrowings or influence from other cultures?

The flight carrier sought to clarify that it was making the point that the experiences that we bring back from our travels inspire us as individuals, and thus enrich our society. However, nationalist cultures have taken great issue with the carrier’s message that everything is copied.

While we can appreciate the airline’s messages about how inspiring our travels can be, perhaps they have taken a step too far by saying that nothing is truly Scandinavian. While it may be true that certain elements have been borrowed from other cultures, the Scandinavians have made it their own. These cultural landmarks deserve to be celebrated in their own right.

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. What is truly Singaporean? Is everything copied? What makes something part of Singapore’s cultural landscape?
  2. How do you think travel enriches us as individuals and as a society? What aspects of travelling enriches you the most?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘backlash’: a strong negative reaction by a large number of people, especially to a social or political development
  2. ‘nationalist’: a person who strongly identifies with their own nation and vigorously supports its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations