The thing I’ve enjoyed the most about rafting in Iceland has been the opportunity to meet people from all over Europe. We take a regular mix of Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Danish, Dutch, English, and Spanish aside from the Icelanders that make up roughly sixty percent of the business. I’d have to say I’ve enjoyed meeting the Scandinavians and Dutch the most, probably because the communication barrier doesn’t really exist. I’ve found these nationalities to be friendly and have an incredible mastery of English. By the time kids are in high school they are fluent in conversational English and young adults rarely need to search for the appropriate word to fill their thought. It’s getting to the point where young Scandinavians hardly even have accents. Swedes and Dutch are quick to start up a conversation and seem genuinely inquisitive. Whatever they are doing in their school systems is working. They do, however, also swear like Nepalese raft guides.
A group of 13 year Swedish girls spent most of their trip shouting “oh my fucking God.” My favorite was a Dutch family; mom, dad, and their 12 and 13 year old sons. You can imagine my surprise when upon tripping into the raft at the starting point the youngest boy belts out a hearty “oh fuck”. My ears perk up and I flash the mom an apprehensive glance.
“What did he just say?” I ask.
“I think he said ‘oh fuck,'” says mom with a look that acknowledges my curiosity regarding his choice of words. She doesn’t seem too concerned and during the course of the trip drops a couple “oh shits” and f-bombs herself.
One of the keys to Northern Europe’s mastery of English comes from the fact that they don’t dub over English movies so they have endless opportunity to practice listening. The point I’ve only recently considered is that our Hollywood titles are so littered with expletives that this manner of speech seems normal to non-native speakers. So basically “fuck yeah Scandinavians speak great English.”