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Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Norway Question and Nights Out

So what do you think of Norway?

I get this question all the time.  It feels like a trap.  Like the person asking it is waiting for me to slip up and say something dismissive/stereotypically American/condescending so they can pounce on me.  This feeling is self-imposed.  Generally (there's exception to every rule), the person asking is genuinely interested in how an outsider perceives their country.

Still, it's a strange question.

In the states, one rarely ever deigns to ask that question to a visitor because, mostly, its assumed our country is awesome and you'd be foolish to think otherwise.  Norwegians, more often than not, feel the exact same with regards to their own country (and, really, who doesn't hold some biased fondness for their homeland?  Patriotism isn't always synonymous with nationalism nor does it always beget jingoism), but have a learned/cultured veneer of humility.

Which illustrates the most basic difference between America and Norway.  We say what you're all thinking.

Though, seriously, I don't know how to answer the question.  It's a first world country that besides being noticeably colder and speaking a different language, isn't a radical change (there are many, many, many more differences but, largely speaking, those are cosmetic).  There are good things and there are bad things, but it's not some, wholly grand paradigm distortion/destruction.  I dunno.  It's cool, I just wish there were better late night food options (this and this are not in the same league as this and this

Anyway, moving on...

This past week, I had the fortune/opportunity to go out on two, separate occasions.  One was a birthday party and the other, a Champions League game (Even in defeat, that Zlatan Ibrhamovic is sick!).  Those two, completely different events left me with two, distinct thoughts.

1) A party happens in different ways, but usually brings about the same result.  In my experience, the pattern of interactions amongst Norwegians are inverse from those of Americans.  Here, everyone is usually in small groups at the onset of the evening (as opposed to loosely mingling and making small talk with everyone in the room) and, as the night progresses and more alcohol is consumed, the members branch out and exchange with other people (as opposed to dwindling down the social set to the people, with whom, you actually care to talk).  Though, in the end, everyone drinks their share and dances (I will say that the added element of trying to dance with people who you loosely know while trying to talk to them more provides excellent "people watching" material).  Of course, the goal is to find a select few people to invite back/tag along with to a nachspiel.  The point of a nachspiel is to break out your Tevin Campbell.

2) Watching TV/Sports in bars is not a concern.  The majority of bars/pubs in the good, ol' USA have numerous TV sets that are viewable from every place and can be fine tuned to a bevy of channels.  In Norway, there is a sparse collection of bars that offer viewing options and those are quite limited in scope (though, there is about 1/100th the options of sports on television).  It took four bars to find one that offered the Champions League game (mind you, one game "Bayern vs. Juventus" was on standard cable while the "PSG vs. Barcelona" was on the premium, pay-per-view channel).  The lack of diversion means that people have to actually talk to each other.  As you would imagine, this leads to people asking and answering questions.  I will give you one guess which question I get asked the most...

On that note, if you have any questions you'd like answered about my time here in Norway, please leave it on the Facebook page!


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  1. Alcohol tends to have a big influence on social behaviour in Norway. Maybe it's the quantity, but I guess it's an uexplainable cultural thing. It never seems to amaze me though.

    Next time we'll go to another part of Oslo, to a real football pub. Let us forget the 24-experience. But at least I made a new friend. A dog, but still...