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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Culture/Human Experience (aka the blog post where I wear a Bunad)

I created a mini-stir with a status message I put up on Facebook the other day(by "mini-stir" I mean I induced a few people to "like" it).  In said post, I lamented that the worst type of ex-pats (and/or people, depending on your view) are those that use their life experiences to look down on others.

To clarify, I'm not saying people who choose to leave their country for any reason, regardless of whether its logical (love, work, cost of alcohol, etc.) or "not" (I feel stupid even adding the "not" because, if it makes sense to you, then do it... who cares about the social norm?), aren't extraordinary people (they should even write blogs!).  What I meant is that there is no life choice that gives anyone the right to look down on anyone else (well, perhaps organ donation... if you give me your kidney, you have the right to harp if I'm doing a keg stand).

Why bring this up?

A re-occuring sentiment I have noticed amongst other Americans here in Norway (and other parts of Europe) is one of disassociation.  

Not only a rejection of America as a place to live, but as a culture (I can't believe you call it soccer!  Personally, I don't know why anyone would be interested in American Football...), as an idea (Oh my God, you're following the U.S. Presidential Elections?), or as an identity (Look, I really insist that we stop speaking English and only speak <insert language here>).  In addition, this extreme aversion causes the person to view their approach as superior to anyone living differently (whether that means less assimilated ex-pats or those still living back in the USA).

Different paths work for different people...

I understand the need for immersion (even if I don't practice it the best) and agree that is the best way to learn/understand/ingratiate oneself into a different culture.  Its respectful to try and create as small of a cultural footprint as a foreigner in a new country (religious zealots, I'm looking in your direction).  However, that sense of embracing the new, native land does not, and should not, come at the expense of your old identity.

In an attempt to find the balance, I wanted to wear a bunad.

Much in how I wanted to try whale, pinnekjott, and reindeer (I had Reindeer pizza again on Tuesday... delicious!), I felt that the bunad was an important part of the culture that I wanted to experience.  If I'm going to have half-Norwegian children someday (maybe), I want to be able to at least be semi-knowledgable in case they have questions and mom isn't around.  

However, these experiences are for me, too.  

Norway is an amazing place, rich in tradition and heritage that is alien to my own life (no Bjorns or Anders in my family lineage).  The variation in foods, dialect, and customs between regions separated by a few miles (albeit, those miles may be a Fjord or mountain) can be vast.  I can't possibly sum the amount or respect and awe I have for landet.  So much that I almost didn't post this picture!

Seriously, though, I know that if I am to be successful in all aspects of life here, I have to do my part to learn as much as I can about the customs and people as I can.  Norge doesn't have to meet me halfway, I must cross the distance as much as possible.  It is the burden/journey/duty of being an ex-pat.  However, the other part of the pact is to not forget from where one came.  The saying shouldn't be "When in Rome, do as the Romans" it should be "When in Rome, become as Roman as possible.  However, don't forget home because, in the end, you will never, truly, be Roman."

Alt for Norge

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  1. Wow. Just realizing you've made this move man. Much luck in your journeys.

    Hey, would you say that people seem to reject American culture on the whole, or are they more averse to certain aspects, ideology, whatever...Things that could maybe contributed to their decision to leave in the first place, even.

    I'm not the most worldly person, but I imagine some of what makes America so cool are a lot of the things we don't even think about day to day.

  2. JD!

    Great to hear from you, man. I would say, in my interactions, that the "elitist ex-pats" identify specific things as an embodiment of America (specifically people from traditionally intellectually bereft places... The vast majority of elitist ex-pats I've met are from Texas). While there are generally things they appreciate/love that are American (family, Cinnabon, good delivery food, etc.) their overwhelming disdain outweighs said entities.

    I feel I did the topic a disservice by not also stating that it isn't an American-only affliction. I'm sure people from many different nations feel the same way. I also forgot the people who brag about how they're only friends with natives of the country they are in. That's another trait of it.

    Thanks for the comment/question! You're right, there are, seemingly, an infinite number of things that one is privy to on a day-to-day, routine basis that make America different than any other place in the world. To a lesser extent (much lesser, actually) the same is true for many other places in the world.