30 Jun 2010

That’s the way I do it!

In purpose to crown the end of my study I have organized the bicycle tour throughout Norway. My goal was to see Kjeragbolten, which a big rock that has fallen into a crack in the mountain and there it has been wedged into the crack. Kjeragbolten is located near Stavanger, but I was in Oslo, so I wanted to make my tour more exciting and that’s why I decided to arrange a bicycle tour. I invited my friend Lukasz who is as adventurous as I am and together we climbed Rysy (2 499 m above sea level, the highest Polish peak) last year. Wikipedia says that bicycle touring is a form of cycling where rider travel long distances and he prioritizes pleasure and endurance over utility or speed. That’s what I expected from my tour – pleasure and endurance. 

However, we had a limit of time and resource such as food and money, so my tour became a real project to deal with and I was promoted to project manager. We have chosen the cheapest form of bicycle touring – self-supporting touring i.e. apart from two bicycles carrying everything we need including:

-       two bike bags 35l.
-       bicycle tools in case of emergency such as hex keys, pump, cone wrench, peanut butter wrench, spare tubes etc.
-       clothing such as cycling shirts, helmet, shorts, jacket, sunglasses etc.
-       lightweight tent and sleeping bags
-       food such as Kaviar, brunost, crispy bread, pate, pølse, chocolate, energetic bars and vitamins  etc.
-       accessories such as map, camera, credit cards, insurance policy, lighter etc.

Bicycle touring has almost 150 years history and it’s started in 1869 when John Mayall with Charles Spencer and Rowley Turner rode on their velocipedes from Trafalgar Square, London to Brighton in 15 hours for 85,30 km. Since that tour many daredevils was setting off from places around the world enhancing the potential distance of the bicycle tour. John Foster Fraser, Edward Lunn and F.H. Lowe were the first who set off round the world on safety bicycles in July 1896. They rode 30 958,95 km through 17 countries in two years and two months. An interesting is story of Jaques Sirat who felt very proud riding round the world for five years – until the met an Australian who had been on the road for 27 years. Nowadays bicycle touring can be of any distance and time. One famous German Heinz Stücke who left his job as a die-maker in North Rhine-Westphalia in 1962 when he was 22. He has never been home since. By 2006 he had cycled more than 539 000 km and visited 192 countries. He pays his way by selling photographs to magazines.

My and my friend’s bicycle tour started in my Studenthouse’s cellar Oslo on 19 June 2010 at around 7 am. First we had prepare our bicycles for a long journey i.e. install two bike bags and fulfill them with all the heavy staff necessary to survive. We set off around 11 am and since that we continuously cycling for next 10 days with several stops for nature and landscapes contemplating. Each day was different not only because of places we saw and slopes we dealt with but also because of food we ate, kilometers we made and weather conditions we experienced. Places are displayed on the map, the most beautiful in my opinion was fjord near Larvik. 
The coast on this fjord was covered by huge rocks and the water transparently clean and terribly cold. We were experiencing for our bivouacs such places usually close to water (fjords, lakes, rivers and sea) due to beautiful views and hygienic reasons. Twice we rent a place on the camping, because of heavy rain that wet us to the skin and deprived us from hot meal and tea. We were diversifying everyday food, but breakfasts usually were similar – crispy bread with Kaviar, brunost or paté. We always were waiting for dinner under pressure and we always ate it in the evening after setting up a bivouac. We took a disposable grill or light a bonfire and cooked a salmon, chicken or other meat. 
The weather conditions are difficult in Norway. During nights it was cold and during the sunny day it was rather hot, but the worst was heavy rain that we met in the mountains. More obstacles with had to cope with include bloodthirsty midges, fatigue, muscle & ass pain, sunburn on the hands, knees and ears, thirst & hunger and high exposure of the roads.

I’m not going to describe my tour in details, just have a glimpse at the movie I made.

To sum up, we rode 750 km and enjoyed Kjeragbolten. The average speed was 22 km/h, hence the maximum was around 72 km/h and the average distance per day we made was 83 km. This bicycle tour as my previous  experiences just  strengthened my desire for more spectacular adventures. 

11 Jun 2010

Time to sum up…

It took exactly 6 months since I had posted first time on this blog. I have just written my last exam and before I leave Oslo I want to say thank you and goodbye to You, my reader.

This 6 months was extremely amazing time that I will remember for the rest of my life. I met wonderful people, visited gorgeous places and experienced a fantastic time here, in Norway. For sure I will keep in touch with my friends found here and for sure I will come back sooner then I expect. Well, answering for the question if Norway is the best to live, there is no clear answer. I personally believe that the best place to live wherever I am, because my happiness depends mainly on me. In case of Norway I am sure that with respect of social life, health care system and education benefits this country is absolutely the best place to live for Norwegians, who really love their king and their country.

Furthermore, the claim of UNDP that Norway is the best country to live depends on the instrument they used – HDI index. This index has been criticized on a number of grounds, including:

-       failure to include any ecological considerations (which of course not worsen Norway’s position),
-       focusing exclusively on national performance and ranking, and not paying much attention to development from a global perspective,
-       having inappropriate treatment of income
-       lacking year-to-year comparability,
-       assessing development differently in different groups of countries,
-       it is redundant measure that adds little to the value of the individual measures composing it i.e. means to provide legitimacy to arbitrary weighting of a few aspects of social development,
-       the scores on each of the three included in the HDI (GDP per capita, life expectancy, and education) are bounded between 0 and 1 and they are equally weighted,
-       it should embrace both material and moral development, e.g. a high suicide rate would bring the index down.

1 Jun 2010

Are there any problems in Norway?

Norway is often referred to as among the world’s wealthiest, and the best place to live, but let’s consider some demerits and problems appearing in this “pink” country. First of all, Norwegian industry and actually whole economy is dependent on oil and gas. What if oil and gas will be gone? The country income from that source is a lot higher than the national budget. The excess money Norwegians keep in Oljefundet to save money for future generations when the oil won’t last anymore. On the other hand, a lot of the jobs and services are currently related to the offshore industry, what about them?

Next point is the perfect Health Care System I have described recently. It is free for everyone, but this commonness makes problems with cutbacks. There is never-ending waiting list for non-emergent operations and some hospitals have to little capacity and are forced to place patients in the corridors. Furthermore, there is a sickness absence among Norwegian employees. Recently the rate of absence due to sickness has been very high in Norway. Almost 10% of the total work force was absent due to sickness last year.

Maybe this absence is not caused by convenient Health Care benefits, but by mentally illness. It is said that 25% of the adult population in Norway falls mentally ill every year. Norway seems to be offering libing proof that money can’t buy happiness. Maybe this horrible sickness such as depression happens due to long, dark winters or just living without a social network.

Fourth problem raised in Norway recently is integration of immigrants. This occurs not only between Norwegians and immigrants, but also between immigrants themselves. Try to image Palestinians and Israelis living together in the same street or even building. That tensions are the soil for social malaise and protests.

One Norwegian told me that the cruise tourism causes a lot of pollution in fjords and cities. He concluded that there is a lot of black smoke coming out from the chimneys and leaving a haze around the whole area as the mountains block it from getting out. Well, I haven’t seen any haze, but I saw the movie and pictures from the BP catastrophe and that makes a difference. 

31 May 2010

Health Care System in Norway

All Norwegians are insured by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). This is a universal, tax-funded, single-payer health system. Compared to Poland, France, Italy, Spain and Japan, Norway has the most centralized system and all citizens and residents are covered.

The NIS is funded by general tax revenues. There is no earmarked tax for health care. The Norwegian tax burden is 45% of GDP. The government sets a global budget limiting overall health expenditures and capital investment. However, Norwegians can opt out of the government system and pay out-of-pocket. Many pay ou-of-pocket and travel to a foreign country for medical care when waiting lists are long. There are significant waiting times for many procedures. Many Norwegians go abroad for medical treatments. Also, care can be denied if it is not deemed to be cost-effective.

To conclude, Norwegian Health Care System is very generous. The program also provides sick pay and may even pay for “spa treatments” in some cases.

24 May 2010

Social life in Norway

To continue previous post, let’s concentrate on the facts. The Norwegian Welfare State is being kept by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service (NAV) handling unemployment benefit, national insurance pensions, family benefits and a range of other social insurance benefits. All persons working and paying taxes in Norway are automatically members of the social insurance scheme. Premiums are paid as part of tax deductions and amount to 7.8% of tax deducted. The employer deducts employer’s premium from his salary. What is more, persons who are not working in Norway, but who hold a residence permit for a year or more are also automatically covered by the social insurance scheme. The benefits of social insurance include retirement pension, disability pension, rehabilitation, occupational injury compensation, single parent benefit, child benefit and paid maternity leave etc. Family related benefits consist of:

(1) Pregnancy, birth and adoption:
- pregnancy benefit – for healthy pregnant women who are unable to continue at work during pregnancy because this might cause risk of injury to the unborn child,
- parental benefit on birth – is paying until children reach the age of 3 years,
- parental benefit on adoption.

(2) Child benefit and cash benefit:
- child benefit – NOK 970 once a month per child,
- cash benefit for parents of infants – is paid for infant from the birth (NOK 3 303 monthly) up to the age of 32 (NOK 661 monthly),
- child benefit and cash benefit for foreign employees in Norway.

(3) Single mother/father:
- benefit for single mother/father – for unmarried, divorced or separated parent to ensure sufficient income to cover living expenses for single mothers/fathers who are the sole carer of a child
- transitional benefit – is granted for a limited period and varies according to the child’s age and needs, currently full transitional benefit is NOK 11 965 a month,
- child care benefit – to help a single parent pay for child minding so they can work, actively seek work or study, currently NOK 3 324 a month per child,
- educational benefit – for single parent who is taking necessary education or training e.g. NOK 54 590 for university studies,
- relocation grant – to help cover relocation costs if parent has to move to find work.
(4) Child support/advance support payment:
- advance support payment – to ensure that children receive money from state each month if the non-custodial parent does not pay enough child support ,
- appeals in maintenance support cases.
I’ve mentioned generally about the family related benefits that are many more of them e.g. children pension, benefits for surviving spouse etc.

17 May 2010

A day off on May 17th, guess why?

May 17th is the National Day of Norway and the day is referred to simply as syttende mai, meaning May Seventeenth. In the small municipality Eidsvoll, there the meeting of Norwegian patriots to draft and sign the Constitution of Norway on 17 May 1814. This constitution declared Norway to be an independent nation. This fact caused the wide celebration spontaneously among students and others from early on. However, Norway was at that time under Swedish rule and for some years Karl Johan, king of Sweden, was reluctant to allow the celebrations. After the Battle of the Square in 1829, an incident that resulted in such a commotion that Karl had to allow it. Indeed, Norway became independent nation in 1905.

A noteworthy aspect of the Norwegian Constitution Day is its very non-military nature. All over Norway, children’s parades with an abundance of flags and shouting “hip hip, hurray, hurray, hurray!” During the parade a marching band play and children sing lyrics about the celebration of the National Day, blowing whistles and shaking rattles. The parade concludes with the stationary singing of the national anthem “Ja, vi elsker dette landet” (in English “Yes, we love this country”) written by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. This year I was an observer of the parade in Oslo and that was the longest parade I’ve ever seen. Parade was led by marching bands and children from schools and local choirs and music bands. In addition to flags, people typically wear red, white and blue ribbons. Although a long-standing tradition, it has lately become more popular for men, women, and children to wear traditional outfits, called bunad. This outfit is itching, makes people to look fat and is terribly expensive (approximately NOK 20 000). The parade took place in the morning throughout Karl Johan’s Gate and finished just in front of the Royal Palace, where king Harald V and his wife were waving to crowds.

10 May 2010

Social life origins and a piece of contemporary history of Norway

Norway had undoubtedly one of the best welfare systems in the world, making sure that people who are sick and unable to work, or who are unemployed for whatever reason are not left out in the cold, but are given support so that they are able to live with dignity. Norwegian values are rooted as in Sweden in egalitarian ideals. At the beginning of the 20th century, they began enacting fairly radical welfare laws, culminating in the post-war years sweeping reforms that turned Norway into the progressive welfare state it is today. The welfare state is still the ideal for most Norwegian, not least because it seems to be doing quite well.

Well, sounds interesting? Let’s come back to the beginning of the process of building welfare. Norway declared its independence in 1905 when the union with Sweden was dissolved. The period from 1905 to 1914 was characterized by rapid economic expansion in Norway. The development of the merchant fleet, which begun in previous century, continued, and at the outbreak of World War I Norway’s merchant navy was the fourth largest in the world. From about beginning of the 20th century Norway’s immense resources of waterpower provided a base for great industrial expansion. By 1906 three-fourth of all developed waterpower in Norway was owned by foreign concerns. Norwegian Labour Party (DNA) pressed for legislation to protect the natural resources of the country. By reforms in 1907 and 1913 the vote was extended to women. Once consequence of industrialization and the introduction of universal suffrage was the growing influence of the DNA. A number of social reforms were enacted: a factory act, which included  protection for women and children, accident insurance for seafaring men, health insurance, a 10-hour working (in 1915) and a 48 workweek (in 1919). A 40-hour workweek was introduced in 1977.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Norway, like Sweden and Denmark, issued a declaration of neutrality, but it was badly hurt by the war at sea by about half of Norwegian merchant shipping being lost. After the war the main aim during the 1920s was to guide the currency (the krone) back to its former value. Norway received only an insignificant share in improved world market conditions, and by 1927 the unemployment figures were as high as one-fifth of the workforce. The Great Depression in the early 1930s increased unemployment still further, and by 1933 at least one-third of the workforce, including many civil servants, was unemployed. Despite economic difficulties, the high rate of unemployment, and the many labour conflicts, the interwar years were a period of vigorous expansion, and the country’s industrial production was increased by 75% during the years 1913-38. With the second outbreak of hostilities in 1929, Norway again declared itself neutral. On April 9, 1940,German troops invaded the country and quickly occupied Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik, despite being supported by Polish soldiers. Vidkun Quisling, a traitor and leader of the small Norwegian National Socialist party, proclaimed a “national government”, which aroused such strong resistance of Norwegians.

After World War II the liberation of Norway was followed by trials of collaborators, 25 Norwegians, including Quisling were sentenced to death and executed, and some 19 000 received prison sentenced. By a strict policy that gave priority to the reconstruction of productive capacity in preference to consumer goods, Norway quickly succeeded in repairing the ravages left by the war. By 1949 the merchant fleet had attained its pre-war size, and the figures for both industrial production and housing were greater than in the 1930s. Until the 1980s Norway had full or nearly full employment and swift rising standard of living.

Since the 1970s a central issue in Norway has been the exploitation of the rich natural gas and petroleum deposits in the Norwegian part of the North Sea. As the Norwegian petroleum industry grew in importance, the country became increasingly affected by fluctuations in the world petroleum market, but in the late 20th and early 21st centuries oil revenues played the dominant role in fueling a prosperous Norwegian economy and providing Norwegians with one of the world’s highest per capita incomes. The government, prudently preparing for a time when petroleum profits might not be so lucrative, began reinvesting those profits in the Government Pension Fund that I have already described in recent post. The Norwegians rejected membership of the Europan Economic Community in 1972, and of the European Union in1994,despite being urged by their governments to vote “yes”. Norway’ annual oil revenue amounts to around $40bn and more than half of its exports come from this sector. To counter inflation, there is cross-party agreement to restrict spending of oil revenue. Even as much of the rest of the world struggled in the wake of the international financial crisis that began in 2008, Norway continued to prosper, though the international holdings of the Government Pension Fund weakened. In recent decades, Norway has forged a stronger role for itself in international politics. It has mediated between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and from 2000 to 2009 was the chief mediator in the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil separatists.

The egalitarian values which are at the root of the welfare state also manifest themselves throughout Norwegian society in many ways e.g. in the field of gender equality. Because of this, and active government support of gender equality, women have been steadily climbing in standing over the past fifty years. Still, the goal of total equality remains a long way off: while forty percent of representatives on Parliament are female, only one in every ten company directors are women. But, on the other hand, gender equality changed the Norwegian male’s role as a father. Norway has a paternity leave quota, so that fathers can also take extended time off to be with their children. This has helped make the mixing of careers and family a lot easier. In Norway, it is more common for mothers of young children to be employed than in many Western European countries. With the large amount of young mothers in the workplace, it becomes necessary to deal with the issues of maternity leave. The government has therefore created a system meant to care for the families as they care for a new baby. Parents are allowed to choice of either taking 43 weeks off between themselves with full wage compensation, or 53 weeks off with 80% compensation. If they wish, the mother may take up to 12 weeks of their parental leave prior to the birth, so they can prepare for the baby or give themselves rest. 9 weeks of leave must be used by the mother, and 5 weeks by the father. The remaining weeks can be divided between the parents as they wish. In addition, in the case that a child must stay home sick from school when they reach school age, the state grants each parent 10 days of leave per year to spend taking care of the child. 

3 May 2010

The next story about adventures of famous Koala!

Do you remember the famous Koala? I've heard another funny joke about him recently:

The Koala walks into a pub reads a menu above the table:
"Sandwich 2$
Beer 5$
Hand job 4$"

After that the Koala comes to the hot woman behind the table. The girl was very hot, more beautiful than the prostitute. The Koala asks her - Excuse me, are you the one who does the hand job?
She smiles at him and answers - Yes!
Then the Koala replies - Can you wash your hands? I'd like to buy a ham sandwich, please.

30 Apr 2010

Bergen – the gateway to fjords

Bergen is the kingdom’s second largest city and just after Oslo is the most important, with over 250 000 inhabitants only! Bergen is situated at the west coast of Norway where the Norwegian Sea meets the North Sea. The year of the foundation is estimated to be 1070 and it is a World Heritage Site listed by UNESCO. What is characteristic for Bergen? Rain! Almost 220 days in a year it is raining here. Once, I heard, it was raining continually from February to May. That's why in this city one set first in the world the umbrellas’ machine.

I have visited Bergen with my beloved fiancé in May and it strikes me more than Oslo. First of all, Bergen is full of history and tradition of an international city with charming and small town atmosphere. Heritages such as Bryggen (Norwegian for the Wharf) or Bergen Fish Market and the possibility of trip to the fjords attract tourist, especially from Spain. I don’t know why, but I met many Spaniards there and there are many Spanish clerks in souvenirs shops. Furthermore, in Bergen nature blends with culture and city life is thrilling – every evening parties in the seaport lasting till morning. In May, there was light even at midnight, so the climate is specific, as it would be evening all the time. During the day, it is worth to see Bryggen, which is also displayed in the top of my blog, it is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings lining the eastern side of the fjord.Bryggen was built thanks to the merchants from the Hanseatic League, who arrived here around 1360 and developed the town into an import ant trading centre. These warehouses were filled with foods such as fish from Norway and wheat from Europe (including Poland). Apart from Bryggen, I also recommend to do unusual shopping in the Torget i Bergen (Fishmarket In Bergen), where you can fresh seafood and seafish every morning. Furthermore, numerous wooden houses all-around the city from the 18th century and many amazing museums are the must-sees. Amongst many of the museums, the Old Bergen Museum is a place with more than 40 wooden buildings constructed in the style of the architecture of Bergen from the 18th and 19th century. Moreover, in this museum a beautiful guide will tell you interesting stories about the past inhabitants of these colourful houses. The latest attraction, we visited, is the Bergen Science Centre Vilvite. Vilvite is a centre of science and technology for tourists, where you can embark on a journey with almost 100 different instruments, perform experiments, to feel the force of gravity while riding in a large circle, to make a rig for oil, to stand behind the stairs of the ship or submarine or see yourself jumping very slowly as below.

As I mentioned in the title of this post, Bergen is truly a gateway to fjords. From here you can choose amongst many tours offers a unique experience both for those who have time only for short visit, and those who want to know precisely the region. We have chosen a short 4-hours trip to the closest fjord by MS White Lady and the views were breathtaking. If you want to see more spectacular landscapes from Norway I personally recommend a journey from Bergen to Oslo by train. In various rankings railway lines from Oslo to Bergen are considered the most beautiful and exciting route in the world. The American journalist-explorer Gary Warner writing for a newspaper The Chicago Tribune put in on his list of favourites rail routes. I have added as well! As a tittle-tattle I can tell you that it is possible to see snow on this route even in May, because its highest point is in the Finse peak 1222 meters above sea level. The whole journey takes approximately 7 hours, but it is absolutely pleasure to deal with it.

27 Apr 2010

Can you name any famous Norwegian?

It is surprising that such small country with nearly 5 million population and only 200 years history of independence would be a womb of 11 geniuses awarded by Nobel Prize Committee, huh? My country is famous from intelligent people and truly it is a womb of many geniuses, but many of them or their ancestors unfortunately left Poland and their output contributed in foreign countries e.g. physicians such as Józef Rotblat and Georges Charpak, chemists such as Maria Curie-Skłodowska, and Roald Hoffmann, biochemists such as Andrew Schally and Tadeusz Reichstein, writers such as Isaac Bashevis Singer, biologists such as Jack W. Szostak and Stanisław Kaczmarczyk, who recently invented a method to restrain cancer cells in our bodies and many many other brilliant people, who left my country for better life. Anyway, the topic of this post is to introduce the most famous Norwegians who had or have a significant impact on human thought within Norway as well as globally. To begin with, Nobel Prize Winners, they have an impact for sure.


1903 - Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (Literature). Bjørnson is celebrated for his lyrics to the Norwegian National Anthem, "Ja, vi elsker dette landet", which means "Yes, we love this country".
1920 - Knut Hamsun (Literature) – awarded for the epic “Growth of the soil”.
1921 - Christian Lous Lange (Peace Prize) – a noted pacifist.
1922 - Fridtjof Nansen (Peace Prize) - for his work as a League of Nations High Commissioner.
1928 - Sigrid Undset (Literature) - experimented with modernist tropes such as stream of consciousness in her novel.
1968 - Lars Onsager (Chemistry) – as many genius he went to the USA.
1969 - Odd Hassel (Chemistry) – he investigated the structure of charge-transfer compounds and set up rules for the geometry of this kind of compound.
1969 - Ragnar Frisch (Economics) – He was known for econometrics and formalized production theory.
1973 - Ivar Giaever (Physics) - for his discoveries regarding tunnelling phenomena in solids.
1989 - Trygve Haavelmo (Economics) – known from probability approach in econometrics and balanced budget multiplier.
2004 - Finn Erling Kydland (Economics) - for his contributions to dynamic macroeconomics: the time consistency of economic policy and the driving forces behind business cycles.

Three Nobel Prizes in Economics Sciences!? I’m impressed. Furthermore, those who study economics should know Veblen’s goods, so their inventor - Thorstein Bunde Veblen had Norwegian roots.

Let’s come back to the very beginning, to the Vikings’ age. One of the first Christian Norwegian, son of the Erik the Red, Leif Eriksson that became famous because of his virgin journey to the West, where he discovered a rocky and salmon-rich land, that is called nowadays Canada. According to Groenlendinga Saga he discovered the North America AD 1000. From that time for hundreds of years it has been doing nothing on the Norwegian land that was once in the Danish hands and once in the Swedish hands.

The state of inaction has been lasting in Norway until 1850 when Henrik Johan Ibsen moved to Christiania, where it was his stage debut – at Christiania Theater staged Kjæmpehøien (Tomb of the Huns). Ibsen is the most famous Norwegian dramaturg, the author od such masterpieces as Vilanden, Når vi døde Wagner or Peer Gynt. Peer Gynt contains philosophical Messager of criticism arising from the attitudes of Norwegians staring AT themselves and spirituals neuter. The title is the name of the main charakter – slothful and selfish peasant. Ibsen commisioned Grieg to compose music for Peer Gynt that Has made this work famous. Edvard Hagerup Grieg was the most famous Noregian composer, pianist and conductor with Scottish origin. Moreover, he was a founder of the Norwegian national music school. Apart from Ibsen, the next famous novelist and playwright was Jonas Lauritz Idemil Lie. In his works, Jonas Lie often sought to reflect in his writings the nature, folk life, and social spirit of the nation of Norway. Jonas is considered to have been one of the Four Greats of 19th century Norwegian literature, together with Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, and Alexander Kielland. Among Kielland’s most famous Works are the trilogy Gift, Fortuna and St. Hans Fest. In this trilogy, Kielland satirizes the hypocrisy of Norway’s clergy including debate about the hunger for Latin chich Norwegian teachers had AT this period of time.

Let’s have a look at Norwegian artists. I know at least two of them – Edvard Munch and Gustav Vigeland. Munch was creating a symbolic figure compositions, giving vent to them in expressive erotic obsessions, feelings of loneliness, depression, fear of illness and death. He became a famous painter because of his picture The Scream. On the other hand, Vigeland, sculptor, whom building of park complex in Oslo brought a fame. Works on the Vigeland’s park started in 1907 and were continued after his death until the 1940s. Gustav was actually only a designer of sculptures placed in the park – all the sculptural work was performed by his team of hired masons, foundry and blacksmiths.

Before I’ll move on to the present times, I’d like mention about Roald Amundsen, another famous Norwegian. He was a polar explorer and the first winner of the South Pole. In my opinion he was also a hero, because in 1928 he went down to help Nobile Umberto, who disappeared during a zeppelin flight Italia in Arctic. Nobile was found, but Roald was never found. Now, in scope of my favourite contemporary Norwegian musicians are Jan Garbarek, Erlend Øye from Kings of Convenience band. Garbarek is a high class Norwegian jazzman with Polish roots and he is regarded as one of the most import ant contemporary jazz musicians as well as the father of Scandinavian jazz scene. Another Norwegian I like is a film direktor Joachim Trier who received several national awards for his debut film Reprise from 2006. Meanwhile, one Norwegian I admire is Erling Kagge, a lawyer, publisher and explorer. He is among Norway’s most acclaimed polar explorers and one of the greatest adventurers of our time. Erling was the first person to surmount the three poles – North, South and the summit of Mt Everest.

For more information about famous Norwegians go to wikipedia

20 Apr 2010

Education in Norway

In Norway the education system is divided into four parts:

(1) Elementary school (Barneskole, age 6-13)
(2) Lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, age 13-16)
(3) Upper secondary school (Videregående skole, age 16-19)
(4) Higher education

First two parts are obligatory in Norway, so if upper secondary school is optional, but usually chooses by students due to recent changes to society – few jobs available for the age group. What is interesting in Norwegian education system is the lower age limit to start your school – 6 age and from this time basic English is introduced. Upper secondary school gives you a chance to apply for general studies (studiespesialisering) or a vocational studies (yrkesfag) path. Typical courses in this studies are Norwegian, mathematics, natural sciences, English, IT and social studies as well as the languages German, French and Spanish. In vocational studies there are more maths and physics. Students graduating general studies are called Russ in Norwegian. Most of them choose to celebrate with lots of parties and festivities, which, impractically, take place a few weeks before the final examinations of the final year. I blame them for making noise during the nights when it is a typical sleeping time for me! Anyway, they enjoy a lot of parties which socially accepted.

Higher education is broadly divided into:

(1) Universities, which concentrate on theoretical subjects (arts, humanities, natural science). Supplies bachelor (3 yrs), master (5 yrs) and PhD (8 yrs) titles. Universities also run a number of professional studies, including law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and psychology, but these are generally separate departments that have little to do with the rest of the university institution.
(2) University colleges (høyskole), which supply a wide range of educational choices, including university bachelor degrees, engineering degrees and professional vocations like teacher and nurse. The grade system is the same as it is for universities.
(3) Private schools, which tend to specialize in popular subjects with limited capacity in public schools, such as business management, marketing or fine arts. Private schools do not loom large on the horizon, although the fraction of students attending private schools is 10% in higher education, compared to 4% in secondary and 1.5% in primary education.

My school, BI Norwegian School of Management is the private university college and it was established in 1943 as a merchant school. Nowadays, it is the largest business school in Norway and the second largest in all of Europe (around 20 000 students). BI has a wide range of international activities both in Norway and abroad, this year around 300 foreign students are participating exchange studies. The School`s aim is to contribute to value creation and the growth of entrepreneurship by conducting high-quality research and offering educational programs of high quality and relevance. I can truly accept that they provide a high quality programs, especially in financial economics, which is a field I study here. I have taken a least five courses here, which is by most my colleagues here regarded as too much. However, I really appreciate the time spend with my professional teachers and good students on Multivariate Statistics and Econometrics, Applied Valuation, Multinational Financial Management, Investments and Advanced Corporate Finance. These courses give me a brilliant insight into financial economics, which is a bit different discipline from management and quantitative methods and IT systems I used to study in Poland. Fabulous teachers of these courses with their natural ability of efficient teaching encourage me to turn my career in financial direction and develop my skills through international certificates.

The things I like the most in Norwegian business studies:

(1) Professional teachers. I know I’m talking about this all the time, but this is truth. Most of the teachers in BI are foreigners with professional and academic background. Some of them are graduates from Harvard Business School.
(2) Something I call ‘Harvardian style’ of education. This means that final grade is basing not only on final or midterm exam, but also on participation in classes and what is the most time-consuming and provides the most fun – team working on cases. I’m not talking about simple and individual cases that I would solve in one or two evenings as it usually happened in my home university. First time, I experienced a real team working here and spent not hours but days together with other exchange students solving these, not really difficult, but time – consuming cases. I’d like say thank you especially for people working with me during this semester – Aminata Vanessa vel Lease, Bernadka, Carine, Citlali, Larisa and Aly, Franck, Gaspare, Michel, Marius from Germany and Marius from Ivory Coast, Sebastien, Mateusz and also for all people I met in the library during this hot period. You are very helpful and the work with you is a pleasure. Moving back on to the ‘Harvardian style’, the participation in classes is grading not for ‘airtime’, but for active attendance in discussions, which may develop your communication skills. Teachers have a habit to ‘cold call’ someone from the class and ask him some question, so every time I supposed to come prepared to the classes.
(3) Relationships between teachers and students. These are really informal and there is nothing bad or untactful if I say ‘Hallo Ulf!’, he responds me ‘Hallo Lukasz!’. Teachers are really open and always help whenever I ask about something and they treat me on the same level with Norwegian students and with themselves.
(4) Responsibility for all your activities. Every step you do in this school is depends on you, I mean I feel more responsible for my decision. The rules are clear here, so if I don’t participate in the course I may fail it. If I fail the course I will have to retake it in the next semester after fee payment. If I am late on classes I may not get inside and I will lose my presence during the course. People in Norwegian administration are very polite and helpful but restrictive, which is exactly opposite to Polish administration. So, I learnt a responsibility for my decisions easily.

The things I dislike the most in Norwegian business studies:

(1) Too much latitude among Norwegian students. In my opinion they are not serious during the classes, because they usually eat or chew snus, wear caps and place their legs wherever they want! When they have a presentation they keep their hands in the pockets and don’t restrict the rules of an excellent presentation. This was a bit shocking to me at the beginning, but later I just react with smiling, because I know that I have grown in different society and environment. Moreover, teachers never complain.
(2) Cost, cost, cost. Starting with xerocopies through cases and in books finishing. Yes, in Norway students buy books, which are very expensive (between 400 and 1000NOK). In library there are usually only three the same books including one you can borrow only for one day, ridiculous! Cases more often come from Harvard Business School, so in purpose to download them or just get an access, we are obliged to pay in dollars. At the beginning I was in even bigger shock, but finally we found an idea to share costs among team workers.
(3) Too much formalism. I’m considering mainly exams. Exams are conducted in different places located randomly in Oslo City, which is really inconvenient for exchange students, who don’t know Oslo at all. During the exam I am not allowed to use any other calculator than Texas calculator approved by BI. By the way, this calculator costs 500NOK, good luck! Finally, there aren’t retake exams, so if you fail or miss any exam, you will have to retake the whole course in the next semester, which obviously costs money.

At the end I want to mention about more differences between Polish and Norwegian education. In Norway it is quite popular to take a Master degree after gaining some working experience, so some students on my Master level are much older than me. In Poland it is not very popular and common, maybe because Bolonian system (distinction between Bachelor and Master level) is recent there. Grading system is absolutely different form system I know. In Norway we have grades from F (fail) through E, D, C (pass on average), B to A (excellent). There are often less courses during the semester, recommended is to take five of them, because in each course there is a hard workout. The classes last 3 hours each, which is enough to get bored ;)

12 Apr 2010

What about Stockholm?

There is a special relationship between Norway and Sweden. Sweet brothers or rather arch enemies? When I spoke to my Norwegian they answered me very similarly. They mentioned about Union with Sweden from 1814 to 1905 in which Sweden treated Norway as its tributary and during this time there was the strongest Norwegian national movement. What is holy truth, Swedes are portrayed as the dumb ones, especially in jokes. I know one blunt joke:

Swedes are on holiday with a Norwegian guy who for some reason went missing. In the police office the two Swedes are asked to describe the Norwegian. The two Swedes think long and hard, then one of them says:
- "yeah I know - he's got two holes in his ass!"
The policeman, who thinks that was a somewhat unusual description ask:
- "and how do you know that then?!"
- "Because everytime we go somewhere, people are saying: There's that Norwegian with the two assholes!"

That’s obviously the Swedish stereotype in Norway. But I wonder to know why Norwegian make Swedes idiots, hence Danes should be ones to make out to be the stupid ones. As fa as I know period under Danish yoke was the worst for Norway, even called ‘400-Year Night’. Danes are not portrayed as dumb, but still not quite up to Norwegian intellectual level. Yes, Norwegians think they are the best nation on over the world. I think Swedes presence in Norwegian jokes is because of jealousy. Sweden in twice the size Norway, it was regional superpower in Vasa-era (1521-1654) and more successful in their industry e.g. IKEA, Saab, Ericsson, Scania and recently Volvo (now is Chinese, sic!). Let’s look inside the Swedish city, which is a home of 22% of Sweden’s population, I mean Stockholm!

This city is another Scandinavian spirit unveiling. I could have touched the difference on every corner of the street in Stockholm. First of all, city is built on 14 islands (Stockholm archipelago where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea) connected by 57 bridges and on the land there are steep rocky hills just next to the beautiful, full of ships coasts. Second, Swedes are more serious, elegant and polite than Norwegians. Third, rules. In Sweden you are obliged to restrict rules even more. There is no crazy and dangerous customs to cross the street even if it is red light! You can’t buy a normal 5% alcohol beer in shop, only light 3,5%, so if you want to go drink some normal alcohol you have to be over 21 and visit rare Systembolaget in restricted hours. However, Sweden is the next vodka-drinking country and even much drinking. Stockholm is supposed to be safety city, citizens really respect police and I haven’t seen druggies and dealers on the street as I used to do in Oslo. Still, there are many immigrants, the majority of them are Croats, Albanians, Arabic, Iraqi, Assyrians, Turks, Persians, Indians, Kurdians, Africans and of course Polish (as everywhere). One of the reason such huge diversity of immigrants in this country is fact, that Sweden has a history of providing refuge to asylum seekers.

Moving back to Stockholm, over 30% of the city area is made up of waterways and another 30% is made up of parks and green spaces; in 2009, Stockholm was awarded title of first European Green Capital by the European Commission. They landscape is forcing joggers to make use of these breathtaking areas. If you ask me what was the most impressing place in Stockholm it will take much time to mentions many places. The top of the list is absolutely the Old Town (Gamla Stan) with mysterious and narrow streets, and colorful walls of old tenement houses and enormous Royal Palace. Second place is reserved for Vasa Museum. Vasa as I have been taught is not only a crunchy bread or royal Swedish dynasty, but also the only preserved seventeenth-century warship in the world! The story of this ship is ridiculous, because this was the biggest ship in the world during these times (69 meter-long) and real proud of Sweden, but it sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm in 1628. What a pity! But for Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania this history forecast a mercy during the ‘Swedish flood’ (1655-1660), because Swedish fleet was weaken by one really huge warship. So, City Hall, with its spire featuring the golden Three Crowns, is one of the most famous silhouettes in Stockholm. Every year the great Nobel banquet is also held there and this summer there will a royal wedding, Crown Princess Victoria and Mr. Daniel Westling are getting married. What is interesting, Westling is a personal trainer of the Princess and gym owner, he runs a company called Balance Training, which has three gyms in central Stockholm. Lucky guy! What is more in Stockholm that it is worth to take a boat sightseeing, visit rich museums (I recommend Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan) and taste an unique night life in one of crowded street in the city centre.

To sum up, even though Norwegians make all kind of joke about Swedes, the relationship between two nations is harmonious and friendly, greatly helped by cultural and linguistic similarities. Below my favourite Swedish commercial ;)