What can we say is typical for Norwegians in 2012? We are a multinational country with inhabitants from all over the world. All the big religions are represented here and also some smaller ones. We eat tacos, pizza and tandoori, we do yoga and we play American football. In the modern times it is hard to say what is typically Norwegian. But have we ever had anything typical about us? Is Ola and Kari blonde, blue-eyed peace loving people who eat lefse with brunost, goes to church every Sunday and enjoys hiking and skiing? Or could it just as well be Ahmed and Raja, who wears turbans and hijabs, smells like garlic and other strong spices and goes to the mosque?
It is said that Norwegians are rude but friendly, not very extroverted and likes talking better than action. We are rich, but we do not brag about it like some might say about wealthy people in the U.S.A. Norwegians like to think we are the best, at the same time we do not like people who think they are better than us. This is called “janteloven”, or the Law of Jante, which basically says that you should not think high thoughts about yourself.
There is never bad weather in Norway. There are only bad clothes, and that is not an excuse for sitting indoors. In Norway people go out in any weather, we like to talk about the weather and those who complain about the weather should buy some new clothes or move to Spain. And of course we have some typical Norwegian food. We have our own kind of bread, like most nations have. This is a type of flatbread and lefse. We also eat more whole-wheat bread than most other nations. Other tasty Norwegian dishes are bruonst (brown cheese made of whey or goat’s milk), får- i- kål (lamb- in- cabbage stew), smalahove (salted, dried and then cooked sheep’s head), tørrfisk (in English known as stockfish), lutefisk (stockfish soaked in water and lye), and kompe (mashed potato balls served with meat).
I think we can say that some of the mentioned foods are not regular dinner dishes, but can be called a part of our cultural heritage. Scientists and archeologists believe that there has lived people in Norway for 11 000 years. The Vikings are obviously the most known part of Norwegian history. Folklore and legends about trolls, Huldra, Nøkken, dwarfs and little people are also a big part of our cultural heritage. And we must not forget our most famous writers and artists, like Henrik Ibsen, Knut Hamsun, Edvard Grieg and Edvard Munch. In more modern times our black metal music and artists like A-Ha, Röyksopp and Stargate production are parts of Norwegian culture that is known internationally. What we might be better known for than music is skiing. Many very good skiers are from Norway, and it is said that we are born with skies on. I think the cultural heritage in Norway of course forms the people here, but now days we have so many other cultures represented as well.
Norwegians love their coffee and painkillers. We top statistics of use of both. We also tend to get depressed and sick. Maybe it is because we have so much and good welfare? In sociology class we talk about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In Norway we are on the top of the pyramid. All physiological needs are covered, so we can focus on following our dreams. I wonder if this has any connection to the fact that we struggle with high numbers of suicide and deaths by overdose. We have to try so hard to find meaning in life that maybe it is just too hard for someone.
After the terror in Oslo and on Utoya on 22th July 2011, the people of Norway have caught international media’s attention. When George W. Bush spoke after the terror in the U.S.A. on 11th September 2001 he said: “our military is powerful, and it’s prepared (…) we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them (…) we stand together to win the war against terrorism.” After the terror in Oslo and on Utoya, Jens Stoltenberg said: «a whole nation and a united political Norway are now creating a tide of democracy and involvement to answer the attack”. While Bush focused on how America and their allies could win the war, Stoltenberg focused more on taking care of those who were affected by the terror. He quoted Stine Renate Håheim and Helle Gannestad who said: “When one man could cause so much evil - think about how much love we can create together”. Stoltenberg also said that no one could ever stop us from being Norwegian. So is this what Norwegian means? Peace, caring, democracy and roses instead of war and revenge. If so, I think we should be proud of Norway. We should also be proud of our prime minister, king and other political personalities who fought to keep the nation united after the terror struck us. After the attacks the tone was that we had to take care of each other. That there had to be room for all kinds of grief, not only the “peace, love and roses” type. Maybe we can describe typical Norwegian with the phrase: “make love, not war”.
I think it is hard to define what typical Norwegian is. There are many things that are typical for Norwegians, but at the same time we are such a diverse nation. We are influenced by the native Saami people, Germans who came here in medieval times, Sweden and Denmark from the unions and the immigrants who have come here in more modern times. As already mentioned, we eat both lefse and tacos, we like skiing and football. But I think it is okay to say that we are a calm people. We act with consideration and care, and we like to talk instead of fight. Maybe we can say that we are a nation of peacemakers. I also think we can say that it is typical Norwegian to be comfortable with your living situation. This may be because of our wealth. We might want to have more of things, but we do not fancy change. So when we eat pizza and tacos we make it into our own Norwegian dishes, like Pizza Grandiosa and taco spice- mix that mostly consists of sugar and salt. When we travel to Spain we like to live in the “Norwegian parts” with Norwegian schools and kindergartens. Still, we do not want too much immigration to our own country. Maybe we are too good talkers, and should get better at doing things?
It seems like Norwegians themselves like to think that typical Norwegian is brown cheese, lefse, “Kvikk lunsj” chocolate, oranges, black coffee, oil, skiing, hiking, our national suit the “bunad”, temperance and success in sports and business. Others say that Norwegians like to think that we are the best, but when considering others the “Law of Jante” kicks in and we do not like it if others think highly about themselves. But maybe somebody should remind us that neither chocolate, oranges nor coffee is very Norwegian. We are spoiled with too much wealth. For some foreigners it seems like we can buy anything we want and do whatever we want. And we did not have to work for it, because of the oil. I partly agree with this. Oil is a natural resource and it is just luck that has made us so rich from it. But at the same time many people have worked hard and some even risked and lost their life in the oil industry, making us one of the world’s richest countries.
As long as we do not become nationalistic, patriotic and chauvinistic I think it is okay to be proud of Norway. I know that I am proud of the way we as a nation reacted after the terror last year. Instead of focusing on revenge, we focused on taking care of each other and our values. Of course this does not count for every single person in Norway. Something is typical if the majority agrees in it. And it seemed like the majority of Norwegian people reacted in that way after the terror attacks. I hope we can hold on to these values in the future. We can never know if and when a new attack is coming, and we also have a responsibility when we meddle in international politics. If we can learn people in for example Afghanistan about the importance of democracy, freedom of religion and women’s rights I believe it will benefit the international community. At the same time I think it is important that we do not get too comfortable in our own little corner of the globe. We must look out to the world and try to learn from others as well.