So here I am, applying for a job in Norway. Coming from South of France, all these Northern countries like Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark seem to be the same: vast snowy landscapes inhabited by tall, blond beautiful people using strange alphabet letters and eating pickled fish.
Of course we learn a few things about Scandinavia in French schools. We know their ancestors were Vikings and that they actually came to the Americas way before Christophe Colombus who took all the glory. They had long beards and were fierceless warriors. We also learn in every sociology class that despite having slaughtered people and drunk from skulls for some years they are now champions of gender equality and transparency. I must admit that when I first saw a Scandinavian man holding his baby in a cafe while being on a papapermisjon it was very hard to believe that his ancestors were merciless Vikings.
While I wait for an answer for the job I try to remember what makes Norway distinct from the other Scandinavian countries, and realise that I don’t have a clue. Have I even met a Norwegian before? Ah yes, once in a party, called Ole (for the non-Norwegians reading this, Ole is a man’s name). Unfortunately at that time I had no idea I would ever go there, so I didn’t ask him anything substantial. How is the life there, how are the people, will I like it? I don’t know but I decide that if I do get this job, I will figure all of this later. Plus, I’m already in Denmark where I’ve been living for a year. If I get the job I can ask Danes about Norwegians, they must know a lot about the country they occupied for a while. (It turned out later that Danes think they know a lot about Norwegians but most of them actually don’t).
As I get a positive answer from my new employer, I call my parents to tell them I am moving from Denmark to Norway. “Just for a year, or two”, I tell them “just the time for me to get a good work experience”. The silence on the other side of the line is not due to bad connection: my parents had no idea I could move to a place that is even more North than Denmark. “But where will you go next?” asks my mum, “Siberia?”.