|My guest this week is, as the title implies, someone from Norway. Maja Asgautsen is a blogger from Norway. I became curious about Norway after getting regular views from Norway over the last several months and they weren’t all Maja. My curiosity about Norway first lead me to make fun of it and while doing that I realized how little I really knew about the country. Maja, who has a really great blog which you should go visit, was kind enough to agree to my “interview” about Norway.
1. What is the one thing you’d like people from other countries to know about Norway? That we are actually a country and not the capitol of Sweden, or a city in Scandinavia.
2. When people from other countries visit Norway what are they most surprised by? Many of the tourists, especially from countries outside of Europe seem to be very surprised by the fact that we don’t have polar bears walking up and down the streets (there are no polar bears on the mainland in Norway just on Svalbard, an island that belongs to Norway). Some also seem to be surprised by the winter darkness and midnight sun up north or they are equally surprised to find out that this only occurs in the North of Norway.
3. What differences do you see between Norwegian culture and those of other countries? Norway is a country where equality is very prominent, both in how our welfare state works and in the fact that we have come quite a long way in gender equality. Norway is a very democratic country and even if there are quite a few political parties they fundamentally don’t disagree on things as they do in many other countries, in an international scale they would be quite similar. This doesn’t stop them from arguing very passionately for their view points.
We generally are not that big on hierarchy here in Norway, at work we don’t tend to dress formally and most places we address our colleagues by their first name regardless of their position in the company or their title.
The “typical” Norwegian is quite taciturn. And we tend to like to keep to ourselves. You hardly ever see a Norwegian person sitting next to a stranger on the bus as long as there is a possibility of sitting alone.
We take great pride in winter sports and in the winter Olympics we tend to win a lot of medals especially if you consider that we are a notion of 5 million people. But most of our athletes are quite modest, the Norwegian way of thinking is that a person should never think he or she is better than anyone else. From time to time there are people that differ from this, but these are normally viewed as a bit un-Norwegian.
4. What is the best thing about living in Norway? For me the best thing about living in Norway must be the closeness to nature. You never seem to be far from a beautiful scenery with mountains, fjords and the like. I also don’t think we always fully appreciate how well our benefit system works and we have a lot of freedom that we often take for granted.
5. As evidenced by your blog, you obviously are very well versed in English. Are most Norwegians bi-lingual? Which language do you use the most? Thank you, you flatter me. Most Norwegians can speak English in varying degrees as it is taught as a subject in school, but it’s not like a second language to us. We can also choose to learn a bit of German, French or Spanish in school, should we wish. In fact in Norway we have three written languages and two spoken. Two of the written ones are a bit similar and is called bokmål (book language) this was heavily influenced by the Danish language from when they ruled us and so they made a new one called New Norwegian that is based on a collecting dialects around the country. The other language is not written or spoken by many, but it’s the language of the Sami people and it’s been given the status as an official language in Norway.
6. Besides Edvard Munch and you, who are some other famous Norwegians that people from other countries would know? The composer Edvard Grieg’s music is quite well known around the world. The band A-ha used to be quite popular. We have quite a few famous explorers some might have heard of Nansen, Amundsen and Thor Heyerdahl. Jens Stoltenberg is currently the Secretary General of NATO. Magnus Carlsen is good at chess, Alexander Kristoff is good at cycling, Mats Zuccarello Aasen is good at ice hockey. There are quite a few others you might have heard of depending of what your interests are. If you are curious a list can he found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Norwegians
Maja, thank you so much for taking the time to educate me and the rest of the world about your beautiful home country of Norway. Everybody go follow Maja’s blog for regular posts on life in Norway. Have a great Wednesday! ~Phil
Self-proclaimed grand poobah of leisure and author of humorous suspense novels The Sneaker Tree & White Picket Prisons, the humor essay book Fifty Shades of Phil and the long running blog The Phil Factor. thephilfactor.com
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