I have a long list of topics that are perfect for blogging, related to daily life here and how it may strike or irk the non-Norwegian. They are perfect because they allow for free-form red-faced venting. Because life somewhere else can be extremely frustrating and infuriating, no matter how nice the place is. And I’m not saying that just because this is an election year here, and no one can stay calm for long when politicians are making noise all the time.
I also have some problems with trying to add some easy controversy into my blog. You may have noticed that I said above ‘no matter how nice the place is’. I have a very annoying habit of automatically qualifying remarks and immediately trying to temper them with a bit of balance, a reflex honed by years of writing wire service copy, where you can’t even think of quoting a strong statement, let alone make one yourself, without backing it up with something contradictory. Not the greatest way to incite argument or discussion.
The other problem is Norwegians themselves. If you criticize, highlight or ridicule some aspect of life here, you will often find Norwegians knocking each other over to try and top you. Bring up the topic of lutefisk (the traditional Christmas season dish of fish cured in lye/poison) and chances are high the first reaction from a local will be – ‘And what about sheep’s heads? – we eat sheep’s heads!’ and it only gets worse from there.
But I’ll try. There are a number of recurring bugbears about living here that regularly make me foam at the mouth. Some of them are even favorite topics of discussion by Norwegians themselves, judging from the media. Norwegians love discussing things. TV debates proliferate, and if there were Olympic medals in panel discussion, Norway would monopolize them. (They’re good at monopolies too.)
One topic regularly dissected in the media here is whether or not Norwegians are rude, because they can’t help noticing a lot of people think they are. Another, perhaps related, is the state of the service industry, or whether or not the idea of service as much of the rest of the world knows it, even exists. Do Norwegians think being successful is vulgar? Is this really the richest, most wonderful place in the world to live? And what the hell is that on my plate?
I’ll be trying to tackle issues like this in the future, in my own wishy-washy way. Stimulating debate, yet avoiding irrational fury. Well, maybe some fury.