Tommy L. wants me to write about the culture of vikings. Tommy L. is awesome. Here goes.
There never was a viking culture and there never were any vikings. Vikings as we know them– villains wearing horned helmets who sacked dark-age Europe– were just a name and a story told by people who weren’t vikings. To the northmen, no one was a viking unless he or she was on a viking, which is what they called their raids. In general use, viking was an exonym: a named used by people outside the group. Among themselves, the vikings were known as the Northmen or the Norsemen– not to be confused with the Normans, whom we’ll discuss below.
Norsemen were the people of the Nordic countries. At some point in the 8th century of the Common Era, the Norsemen decided to go sailing and bust some heads. They were a bustling culture already, but advances in art, technology, and specifically seafaring were what spurred the Viking Era.