Immigrants are happy to hear that Norwegians are very frank. No, the Norwegians are not straightforward. Norwegian culture is not easy to understand. It is full of social pitfalls that no one explains to us in a clear way.
This is history. The record expresses the writer’s position. You can submit articles and posts to VG here.
LORELOU DESJARDINS, lawyer and blogger
“What are you doing?” My dad asks and I extend my arm right in front of his face. We had dinner and I try to reach for the salad bowl without asking for help.
The Norwegians call it the ‘Norwegian arm’. It’s not so rude there,” I answered.
The problem is that this is very rude in France.
Here in Norway, it’s okay not to greet the neighbors if you’re having a bad time. Wait until you meet them in the mountain! It’s rude to help someone who doesn’t ask you for help.
On my first trip from Paris to Oslo, I expected tall men around me to carry my luggage without me asking for it. I thought Norwegian men were rude. The men outside have learned that they must “help women in need”. Women expect help without asking for it. Everyone has learned how polite she is, but it’s the opposite in Norway.
Now I carry my bag, and if someone takes my baggage without asking me, I think “Do you think I can’t carry my baggage?”
Oh no. help. I became Norwegian. I now live in a world where the most important thing is to be independent.
The fact that my personal need to be alone with my thoughts is more important than the need of others for social interaction.
This is why social media is boiling over #Swedengate
In the Swedish trend #Swedengate, Swedes allegedly do not serve dinner to children visiting the country. This claim has gone viral.
It’s an interesting discussion that arrived recently international newspapers and social media. It is claimed that Swedish families do not serve dinner to the children who visit them. While families eat, guests should be alone in another room. Such a thing is seen as the height of rudeness in many countries.
Although I have never experienced anything like this in Norway, there are some elements that I recognize from Norwegian courtesy. The Swedes say they do this to avoid messing with their guests’ dinner plans. Since they as a family have already planned their own meal, they should be notified in advance of these changes.
What is now called #swedengate, which has spread rapidly, means that Swedish culture has quickly gone from being cool and modern, to appearing blunt and cold.
I often do workshops to teach foreigners about Norwegian work-life culture, but also about social norms, such as the boundaries between politeness and rudeness. There I have many interesting questions, which many Norwegians would probably be too embarrassed to answer.
Why don’t my colleagues welcome me every day when I meet them at work? Why do Norwegians say “hello” when it’s on the mountain, but not when you meet them on the street? Why do Norwegians sit far from me on the bus on the way to work, and talk to me freely and openly after a few hours on a Friday out of town? How many people would be in the elevator so I wouldn’t get in?
Don’t get too close to the Norwegian. Do not accept a Norwegian in the first meeting », from the advice. Stretch out my arms in front of me: How close were you to the Norwegians before crossing their intimate border.
Yes, Norwegian courtesy is complicated. In many cultures, it is OK to touch a person’s arm or leg while speaking to them. Or kiss the person on the cheeks the first time you meet, as in France.
Norwegians are socially anxious about being in a room with strangers, or getting into a situation where they have to speak in front of other people without being prepared. Therefore, it is literature in Norway to “make room for others”. A space for reflection, a space for calm, gives one the opportunity to avoid unwanted social interaction. But this is considered rude in many other cultures.
It doesn’t help when Norwegians tell immigrants that they are too direct. No, the Norwegians are not straightforward. It is not easy to understand Norwegian culture and morals. It is full of social pitfalls that no one explains to us in a clear way.
In France and many other countries, it is very important to raise children to be polite. French children learn from an early age to eat what is offered to them, to sit quietly in a restaurant and not to disturb adults. In the United Kingdom and the United States, children learn to say “please” in all sentences in social contexts.
How much compliment can be expected from Norwegians, who have at least three words for rain and almost no words for “please”? Hence, body language is usually unenthusiastic. It is important not to show too much emotion.
My theory is that Norway has historically been so scattered that distance between Norwegians has affected how it behaves. Norwegians are not used to meeting a lot of other people, especially since they are very close to them. They like to have a fjord between every village and a mountain between every house. These are conditions unknown to most people in the world, from Germany to India.
So we who came here have to adapt. It is convenient to live in one’s own bubble with family and work, and feel some kind of safety in a well-known social network.
But it is unreasonable to be polite as a Norwegian.
Fear of upsetting others means that you are often left alone with your feelings. Sometimes you want to help others, but don’t know if it’s socially acceptable. Other times I need help, but the Norwegian courtesy also says that no one should bother others with their own problems.
Everyone has to be positive and solution oriented in some way.
Norwegians can certainly learn from other cultures and be less ‘polite Norwegian’ and more ‘foreign polite’.
Maybe we need #Norwaygate for people to talk about!
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