7 Mar 2010
Since January, when I posted about a bunch of strange and weird things about Norway, I’ve discovered more stuff like this:
(1) To begin with, social life. It is very common and socially approved that families are breaking apart, people divorce and remarry. Many live together while not married, they are called samboere (i.e. concubines). Samboere is legally equivalent to marriage. It is next prove for individualistic society: only you cont, not the group (family, friends).
(2) Studies. Much different from my school and I will develop this topic in the following posts. Good thing is, that teachers generally treat me as if I were on the same ‘level’ with them. Norwegian students seldom have and even show an awful lot of respect for their teachers. Every time when the course is finished the teacher receives a ovation. That is beautiful thing which is lacking in my country.
(3) Attitude towards foreigners. I mentioned that they are polite. It was just a first delusion. Never expect them to talk to you first, expect a lot of prejudice and ignorance about you, your country and your culture instead. That sad truth, but I have to write about it, because I experienced and witnessed many cases of Norwegian’s ignorance towards foreigners. They are ok with you when you speak Norwegian, even English is sometimes not enough. English revealed that you are temporarily in Norway and they feel like you are stealing their education or workplace. They are some exceptions towards low-qualified workers, which are necessary in this country and share respect. Generally, Norwegians are rather closed society and don’t want to anybody to intervene in their culture. They are several levels of closeness in a friendship. It might take a while before you get deep friendship with Norwegian. I recommend to be sensitive as to how much time both of you want to spend together. Remember, Norwegian men very rarely shake hands, unless they are gays. Interesting situation I experienced is when Norwegian woman looks straight in my eyes and talks to me without wanting anything else than a chat. That’s nice and unexpected. In Norway a woman can do everything that a man can do, going out alone, talking to strangers, having male friends in addition to her husband. Some woman will be insulted if you open the door for them, check it out!
(4) Politeness and manners. First of all, remember about directness, the polite form De (i.e. You) isn’t polite anymore. The prime minister is referred to as ‘Jens’. Say ‘yes’ if you want to come and ‘no, I’m sorry, I’ve got other plans’ if you don’t. Never say ‘yes’ and then not show up. Anyway, you are not required to refuse the first time to be polite. Most things in Norway similarly as in Germany begin exactly at the time given. Don’t be more than ten minutes late to a party. If you are late on classes, you will kiss a handle of the door (the Polish proverb!). What a irony when the bus and metro drivers are always late in this country, for f…’s sake!
(5) Sports. Norwegians have a craving for, which I like very much! When you are in Norway try to experience skiing, ice skating, cycling, running to Bergen or just throwing snowball. If it is so cold you have to move a lot, I’m not talking about your fingers and toes, I’m talking about whole body. I use swimming pool and gym very often and I appreciate this time. When I decided to rent skis for cross-country, it was too late and there were no more skis to rent. That’s a pity!
(6) Dress code. Imagine jeans and t-shirts in work. In Norway is possible, except jobs which require uniforms or suits. On the other hand, you should be more formal at parties. That’s ridiculous, totally different than in my country. Once, I felt really bad when I went to a party with jeans and my favourite polo t-shirt.
(7) Savoir vivre. Sometimes I really believe that Norwegians have a barbarian Vikings as their ancestors. For example famuous Norwegian Reach, which means just grab what you want on the table. They often serve alcohol in a Norwegian home – and definitely at a party – but it is okay to refuse. Alcohol is very expensive here, so they don’t be angry in case of refusal. Never expect that Norwegian buy you a beer in the pub, it’s expensive even to him. Otherwise you can expect that someone will steal you a beer if you don’t protect it.
(8) Norwegian sarcasm. Norwegians often say the exact opposite of what they mean, you have to listen to the intonation to get true meaning. That’s annoying, I would never know how it is, because usually I’m sarcastic.
(9) Special social skills. It’s good to say ‘ja’ while inhaling air instead of simple ‘yes’. I was forced to learn saying ‘mhm’ at the right places.
Finally, I must say that both me and my country have already changed with respect to my exchange programme.