Like North Korea with Juche, Norway has a set ideology, originating from Romantic Nationalism: a manufactured past to keep everyone “smiling.” It used to be fun when the oil money was flowing through the streets, but now with new economic and social challenges, it’s not funny anymore and it could spell the end to this society as we know it.
Resident vs. Tourist
There is definitely a difference between visiting Norway as a tourist and living here. There is a Norway that tourists see and one another we live in. Generally, life is pretty good and much easier than living in most places in the USA if you are willing to compromise some luxuries in exchange for free time and healthy living. Nevertheless, the honeymoon period lasts around one year before realizing that you’re living in ”The Truman Show.” The high rankings on the happiness index generally come from not only a sense of security, underpinned by a government-supported safety net but also a social norm that frees people from personal responsibility and obligations. The only downside is complacency and stagnation. However, that trade-off actually suits most people: those who are fine with “9-5,” living a tracked life, void of challenge and ridicule. But for those who are outspoken, determined, driven, and spirited, life in the Epcot Center Exhibit can feel confining at times.
Disney does a better job than God, positioning nations next to each other based on relationships. Recently, Norway agreed not to criticize China in exchange for increased market access to sell more fish and most Norwegians oppose Trump’s Wall although they built one of their own with Russia.
Although Norwegian free speech rights and guarantees are among the strongest in the world, every newcomer eventually picks up on the “wall of politeness,” sensing the social boundaries on what they can say. The government will never curtail what you say but it’s easy to get “shunned,” freely expressing your views. Although descended from the Vikings, modern Norwegian, in general (ca. 68%), are quite fragile and easily stirred when asked pointed questions about whaling, refugee and race relations, and good old-fashioned American conservatism. Caught off guard, they quickly panic and try to switch the conversation to yoga or spout some gibberish about a cabin in the woods without running water or electricity. Others simply walk way.
“Norway is a free country, peopled by unfree men and women” – Henrik Ibsen (Norway’s Benjamin Franklin)
It’s very difficult to get to know people and let them know who you are. At some point, you must talk about yourself to establish creditability because the press doesn’t investigate and write up a bio about every newcomer. Touting your personal triumphs or portraying the competitive aspects of your personality scares the hell out of people. Instead of giving credit for years of sacrifice and taking risks to reach a goal, which you are proud, they immediately deem you a braggart. Many other newcomers make another common mistake, thinking that watching the Viking’s TV series and learning their ways is good preparation for the new life:
This is what I ready before coming to Norway. It reminded me of the lessons taught in Minnesota grammar school and the US Navy. However, most modern Norwegians will find these views offensive.
However, average Norwegians will quickly counsel you on how things are done, instructing you to shut down the most valuable parts of yourself and just submit to the silliness. They want you to become so modest that you never get noticed or ahead. Soon one realizes that a choreographed society, modeled after Walt Disney World, requires everyone to play their part, keeping the delicate balance. Most people have to be faceless dancers because the prominent Mickey Mouse role has been filled ages ago. The establishment doesn’t want any disruption from spirited newcomers. I have several Norwegian friends tell me that they are proud of their nativity when describing how they dealt with adverse situations at home or abroad. They don’t seem to mind, getting ripped off or assaulted. It’s more important to remain in compliance with their culture, fearing ostracization.
The modesty culture has merits but it is crippling. Although the tenants promote a nature-friendly and fiscally conservative mantra, living as one with your surroundings, there exists an irony. Norwegians, in addition to depending on selling toxic hydrocarbons for their bounty, are among the most indebted people in the world. The hidden vanity that overrides the virtue, portrayed to the world, living within nature’s constraints. Hence, Norwegians are borrowing to look rich instead of working hard and competing to build genuine wealth. In Norway and Sweden, people are more respected if they attained wealth through inheritance or luck rather than through hard work. That projects greed or ambition.
Hence, incapacitated by an unnatural and paradoxical ideology, Norwegians (in general 66.7% of the time) lack or suppress the self-confidence, spirit, determination, and other factors, which helped us evolve from monkey to man to overcome new challenges. Oil’s rapid decline and changing demographics throughout Europe require bold and visionary thinking to maintain the way of life and wealth. Nevertheless, most tell you that everything will be alright even when presented with the data.
Next: Part II – Where Did the “Weirdness” Come From?