One of the most fascinating things with living abroad is the fact that you’re able to see your own country through the eyes of a foreigner once you go back to visit. It’s now been two months since I went back to Norway for the summer, and in this post I’ll share the “strange” things I’ve noticed as I’ve been observing the culture with a set of foreign eyes.
You may want to consider this a follow-up to a post I wrote about “things I don’t get about Americans,” last year. Just to equal things out.
Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel like a foreigner in my own country, but I guess two years in the Midwest has influenced the way I see the culture here. As a Norwegian myself, I’m probably very biased, but I don’t feel too bad about it because I’m technically British enough to vote in the UK. (So if this whole thing bothers you I’ll act as a “Brit” for the purpose of this post)
I know Midwesterners think they don’t like physical contact in the form of hugs, but they do — more than Norwegians anyway. My fellow Augustana Viking, Elin Hægeland wrote a great post about Norweagian hugging etiquette. Read it HERE.
I, on the other hand, hug people — everywhere. When my car (aka Charlie) broke down in Sioux Falls earlier this year, I hugged the guy who helped me because I thought that was a natural way to express my gratitude. But according to Karen I “paid him with my body,” haha. That came from another Norwegian, so I think you all get my point — hugging strangers isn’t socially accepted in Norway, I guess.
2. The compliment-issue
I give compliments, and I mean every word of every one of them. Not because I’m trying to get compliments back, but because I think people deserve recognition for what they do and who they are.
Accepting compliments, however, seems to be harder for Norwegians to do. (Gosh, if feels weird referring to “Norwegians” from a third-person perspective, but I don’t know how else I can talk about it without insulting anyone, lol) I’ve learned that complimenting other Norwegians can backfire. Some people seem to think I have a secret agenda if I tell them they look good or have nice shoes. Others just look at me like I’m some weirdo.
The same thing happens if I accept a compliment like I genuinely appreciate what they just said.
Aaaand that leads me to the next thing.
3. “The Law of Jante”
I think the awkwardness around compliments is caused by the fact that many Norwegians don’t want to come across as full of themselves, cocky or over-confident. According to a former teacher of mine the core of the Norwegian mentality is “The Law of Jante”
Ouch. No wonder why compliments are tricky. But it’s true — Norwegians don’t take up nearly as much space as Americans… both literally and metaphorically.
And that leads me to my final point of the day.
4. The sandwiches
The wonderful sandwiches Norwegians wrap up in small packages and bring with them everywhere. They look like this:
On the inside they look like this:
These 300 calories make up a perfectly normal breakfast, lunch or even supper — sometimes all three in the same day. Quite the contrast from the American “three-1000kcal-hot-meals-a-day” philosophy.
I’ll post a second or third post about my Scandinavian discoveries, so stay tuned.
Have a blessed night,