I am so excited about moving to Norway and getting this job that I bring it up in parties, diners, among good friends and aquaintances. As Norway is geographically so close to Denmark, and because of the historical and cultural links they share, I figured Danes are the people who should be best informed about Norway and Norwegians. I am therefore very surprised by their reactions.
Kristoffer, a friend of a friend, seems to be well informed: “Denmark is the best country in the world you know, why would you want to move to Norway?”. “There is nothing up there, and people are so strange”. “How strange?” I ask. “They are just strange. They try so hard to dress in a cool way but they just aren’t” he says while flipping his long blond fringe to the side, laughing a little.
I think about it and realise that I’ve never been considered cool either according to Copenhagen standards, so I guess I already have something in common with Norwegians. He goes on:”You know what we call them? Mountain monkeys”. Mountain monkeys, really? What kind of stereotype is that? “Oh well you know, they have all these mountains, and they love hiking and skiing instead of being in big cities, hanging out in bars and going to nice parties like we do here. I mean do you know what they do on sundays? They go for a walk in the forest! Even the teenagers, that’s what they LIKE to do. Isn’t that insane?” he says, now just laughing out-loud at imaginary Norwegians who might be standing there. Mountains? I think about the flat Danish landscape and realise I’ve missed mountains a lot since I moved to Denmark.
Then Mia, his girlfriend, goes on. “And their language is really strange”. Okay now I’m scared. How can any language be stranger than Danish? After a month of intensive classes in Danish language, all I was taught was how to pronounce words properly, putting the glottal stop and the “soft d” in the right spot in each word.
“It sounds like they are happy all the time, almost singing. And they speak sooooo slowly”. Oh that sounds nice. When Danes speak still can’t figure out how many words just came out of their mouth.
Then came a bit more agressive comments, like my colleague Anders who said “Norwegians? They are just fishermen and peasants who found oil, OUR oil”. Your oil? I thought that when Norway found oil they were already independant from the Danish rule. I was given the answer to this question by many drunk Danes. Some apparently believe that during negotiations to divide the Northern sea, the Norwegians got the Danish prime minister insanely drunk. Then they made him sign the paper that would give away the part of the Northern Sea where lies the oilfield to the Norwegians, and give the rest of the “empty” sea to the Danes. Everytime, the conversation with the drunk Dane on this topic ends with: “These damn Norwegians and their aquavit. If only our Prime Minsiter hadn’t been so stupid, we could be so rich”. Mmmh aren’t you rich already? I thought to myself. They could be even richer, is probably what he meant.
So what have I learned about Norwegians so far? They used to be peasants and became filthy rich. They also love their mountains, and don’t dress in a very cool way. And their language is singing and with a happy melody. So far, so good.