I have been in Norway for two months now and during that time some things just attracted my attention. So what I want to do in this blog is to reflect on some typical Norwegian things:
First – Many Norwegian women knit all the time. It doesn’t matter when or where, they just do it all the time. So did the women in the Opera, June and Linda at Småbarnstreff while we were waiting for people to show up, visitors at the språkkafè and so on. Now I join a knitting group myself – seems like this behavior really gets to you, but I only knit during these two hours (that is really enough) and actually I do not really knit, I crochet. But Barbara is really into it, you won’t meet here without wool and pins anymore :D And what I forgot to mention: These women do a great job. It is amazing what you can do out of woolly balls…trust me!
Second – Praise, praise and even more praise. You will get it for everything. Just everything. Even if you did nothing. It doesn’t matter if you just made a good coffee, put candles on a table (Norwegians love that!) or used a Norwegian word, they will appreciate it so much. This Tuesday I just started making the food on my own in the canteen because the others were busy and they were so full of praise that I almost started laughing. I mean, it wasn’t difficult, I knew what to do because I did it before and it was my job, wasn’t it? So why was that so special? Sometimes it is just funny, sometimes I think it is ridiculous. Sure, it is really nice of them to thank you, but it is just over the top, even if they really mean it. When Almudena was still here we wondered if they think we are stupid (even if they tell us that we are so smart) because they were so freaking pleased about our help – especially when we hosted an event in the Opera – and told us many times that they could not have done it without us; and they could have, seriously. But we figured out that it is just their way of being. The problem about that is that Norwegians never criticize you, even if you did something stupid – and they cannot take criticism themselves, what’s the worst.
Third – Norwegians can be as polite as they want to, their language just isn’t. They don’t address people formally at all, even if it is the prime minister. I took me a long time to get used to that because in Germany we are very strict about it. Moreover you just say “Ha?” in Norway if you did not understand something, which is comparable with the German “Hä?”. You won’t hear something like “Excuse me?”, “Sorry?” or “Pardon?”, so just stick to the common “Ha?”. Seldomly I hear “please” too. For example if you want to have a glass of water you say in Norwegian: “Eg må ha eit glas vatn.” Literally translated that would be “I must have a glass of water” in English (instead of “Could I have a glass of water please?”), in German “Ich muss ein Glas Wasser haben”(instead of “Könnte ich bitte ein Glas Wasser haben?”). You see, it is a very rude language and in addition it is very common to chew chewing gum all the time – and that quite obvious. But Norwegians have a really cute way of saying “yes”. Because they breathe in (don’t ask me why they do so) while saying “ja”, it sounds like they are about to faint in an instant. It irritated me so much at the beginning, but meanwhile I got used to it :D
Fourth – We have already been through the way of cooking – needs no comment.
Fifth - Norwegians love the nature. Many of them own several little cabins in the mountains or near the water to spend their weekends out in nowhere to go hiking, fishing, skiing or whatever. That is the reason why towns are deserted and you feel a bit awkward on those empty roads.
Sixth – Work has a less high importance than in Germany. The job is just a source of income to finance the freetime activities. That means no meeting after four o'clock in the afternoon. To finish work on time is a must! The training will start soon… Maybe that is the reason why many Norwegians already wear their sports clothing at school and work (and dress up for private parties instead). In this sense, Norwegians will ask you about your plans for the weekend first than about your work.
Seventh – It is all about relaxing. Norwegians never put you under pressure. Always take it easy. If you cannot finish it today, then do it tomorrow…or next week. No problem. That is why everything moves forward so slowly; at school, in the office or in the Norwegian class. I am completely not used to that decrease in speed in my life, so that I am really struggling with it. Honestly, I am always torn between enjoying this easygoing lifestyle and getting annoyed about the fact that we volunteers as well as the Norwegians are working, but not really working, and that nothing ever seems to be finished. Personally I feel like I can work under pressure, and sometimes I even like it because then I am concentrating and can really move on, but Norwegians… Dear me! You don’t want to experience that. It is a huge mess and many of them really get stressed out. And they get stressed out so easily because just one more task (like an unexpected phone call they have to make) can overstrain them immediately. And it needs a whole day to go back to normal. Sometimes this is really exhausting – just to see it – you don’t even have to be involved. It is simply frustrating that it could be solved so easily and many Norwegians just make the biggest problem on earth out of it. There the expression “make a mountain out of a molehill” (German: “aus einer Mücke einen Elefanten machen”) fits to one hundred percent…
Eighth – This relaxing attitude of the Norwegians is reflected on the roads. Driving in Norway is actually really nice (except for the narrow and winding roads to remote places). Nobody is driving faster than the prescribed speed (maximum speed of 80 km/h on Norwegian roads except for a few highways with a maximum of 100 km/h) and everybody takes care of each other. The Australian guys I met two weeks ago mentioned that too. They were a bit worried about driving in Norway because they are used to the left side of the road, but they were doing just fine in between those relaxed drivers. Take your time and have a nice trip :)
Ninth – Norwegians love to travel to warm places when it gets cold. Terje told me last weekend that he and his wife are going to fly to Madeira, June to Greece and Agnar and Aud, the house owners, are on Gran Canary right now. But what Norwegians enjoy the most is to travel in their own country (because they just love it – Norwegians are real patriots) or at least in Scandinavian countries. That is why they all have their nice little vacation cabins :)
Tenth – Equality is really important. The expression ‘Janteloven‘ describes a code of conduct about the interaction of Norwegians/Scandinavians among each other. It says that you should not consider yourself smarter than others. In this sense, don’t try to get into focus or you will be ill-reputed as a show-off. In some way I like it because it eliminates hierarchical structures, but it has its disadvantages too. For example, there is no separation in a secondary school with regard to the abilities of students till the tenth grade. In my opinion this stops some from their personal development. I guess this Janteloven thing is connected to the fact that Norwegians cannot take criticism as well. But the modesty avoids envy and ensures the success of the collective. You can really feel that in Norway or at least in my place, but as I said, it has its pros and cons.
To sum up – Norway is a beautiful country with really nice people, you just have to get used to their way of life if you are going to stay for some time. But I guess that is the same in every country :)
Ha det bra!