Original illustration by Kristin Lauvrak.
You might ask yourself when seeing this title: is there really anything to say about seduction in Norway? Is there even such “art” in Norway? In Italy one could write about the casanovas and the sexy brunettes agreeing with langourious eyes and loud conversations, in France it would be the born-seductors and the classy and snoby Parisian women teasing men with their red lipstick and long cigarettes. But in Norway?? Yes the Norwegian people also have some codes and mysteries surrounding seduction, and they will all be revealed to you now! As a disclaimer I must say they are probably not all revealed here, just those I’ve managed to catch despite poor Norwegian language skills and many cultural misunderstandings.
I found out that the Norwegian art of seduction is based on three basic principles. The first one is eye contact. In any setting (a metro, a party, a bar) a man or a woman will look at you directly in the eyes for several seconds. You might think, like me, that this guy is looking at you in a strange way. Is he stalking me? NO he is trying to seduce you with his hypnotising long eye-contact. If you are a Scandinavian woman you will look back, with a wink (?) or some kind of long smile. And that is the start of something, I guess.
Men will rarely do more than that in their part of the Norwegian seduction process. The rest seems to be the woman’s job (see principle number 2: inversion of roles).
The issue here is that such subtle signs of interest from men are completely invisible to foreign women’s eyes as we are used to heavy flirting and seeing big signs of 2 meters by 4 made by men especially for us. Here it is a little Post-it hidden in the guy’s pocket. No wonder we can’t see it and read it. It is only after some years in Norway that I realised that men do flirt in their own peculiar way in order not to do anything that might invade your private space.p>
So conclusion number one: men won’t do anything more than just looking at you for a few seconds to show interest because they are shy and/or scared and/or very respectful of women. I haven’t figured out which is strongest yet. But sometimes they are even too shy to do that. If so go directly to principle number three: alcohol.
The second basic principle is logically linked to the effect of the first principle. As men are not very brave and need a lot of moral support and encouragement to talk to women, I have observed that there is an inversion of roles in what we, Southerners, see as the usual suspects: man chasing woman, woman playing hard to get, man trying to convince woman anyway by telling her that her eyes reflect all the stars of this universe, that she is beautiful, that no, she doesn’t look fat in that dress. Patriarchal, probably. More romantic, definitely.
Scandinavian women work for it, whereas we sit there and bat our eyelashes. They get active and invite men to dance and flirt openly whereas Southern women are taught to do these things subtly and discretely. You know, with a little style and dignity, not drunk with your fake tan getting off your face like I often saw in the UK. In Copenhagen, where every Friday and Saturday evening see some kind of meat market going on in town, people look at each other for minutes and hours accross the room (party, bar) until one of them comes up to the other and says “my place or your place?”. Or women just come up to a guy in a cafe, handing their number and saying “I like you, call me”. Although I see the benefits of women being like that, it is so foreign that I can only sweep and cry for all the Latin girls who never dare to do such things. Mind you, a few French men I met were offered sudden one night stands by Danish or Norwegian women in bars or parties refused. Apparently Scandinavian women are not used at all to be told by men “no thank you I am not interested in having sex with strangers whom I’ve had no conversation with beforehand”. They got quite angry (of course this is second-hand information, I never experienced it myself). Some men actually like the chasing part, in our part of the world it is that which is called seduction.
In more machist societies like France or Italy, such open flirting from a woman will be seen as an invitation for all the men in the neighboorhood. Some men (not all of course) already flirt heavily when uninvitied, so imagine if you actively seek attention. To avoid being harassed as well as to be taken as “easy” or worse, Southern European women smile a little, ignore a little, and let the guy suffer and try hard to seduce them. What happens to women who grew up in such setting when they end up in Norway? Being used to be seduced for weeks and months by men, with flowers and travels and dreams come true? Well, too bad for you, wink back and get over it.
So second conclusion: Norwegian women are fearless. Which is good, I guess, when you think in terms of gender balance, feministic battles etc. etc. but very bad for those others who were not raised in the North and who try to adapt to these foreign codes of equality even on their way to the bedroom.
The third basic principle, which is the most important of all, is the link between all the principles, the foundation of Norwegian seduction. Yes I am talking about alcohol. Most would say that the French also drink alcohol, and that is true obviously. But Norwegians as other Northern peoples like Britts, Danes, Swedes, Finns and Russians drink really a lot. A (drunk) Dane once told me that being half drunk is a waste of money. Some philosophical standpoint to think about. So this is not about drinking a few glasses, this is about getting smashed drunk, so much that you don’t remember what happened, that you felt so inhibited that you were not even yourself anymore and that it felt great. At that point, just before you pass out, vomit or you get blood poisoning, you are brave enough to make a move on that girl sitting next to you in the bar. It is 3am and everyone needs to leave because the bar is closing. This is the M moment for Norwegian couples in the making.
What comes next is the infamous party-trilogy: after-party, sex and hungover (and sometimes a bonus like vomit and morning-after pill). Most of the time it ends there, after awkward morning-after-moments: who is this person? why am I naked in his/her bed? Is this a real moose-head hanging on the wall staring at me?
In some cases you have breakfast with your one-night love and end up realising that you share real life experience (oh my god it’s so amazing I’ve also been to the Roskilde Festival) and you exchange numbers. What happens next seems to be out of anyone’s control. Is she/he interested? seems to be a question no one, absolutely no one can answer. Then follows days, sometimes weeks of exchanging sms with more smileys than anyone can stand. And then sometimes people hit it off and get together, and after many complicated commitments decide to call each other girlfriend and boyfriend. They might have kids, but rarely do they get married.
To all of those who spread the information that there are no codes of seduction in Norway, you are wrong. There are more than codes, there are scenarios that repeat themselves over and over again every friday and saturday evening in the streets of Norwegian cities.
So what if you don’t drink? (so boring, get out of here). Or what if you are tired of meeting people for one night because now you are 35 and kind of over that. Well then Norwegians start dating on the internet. That does not involve alcohol (or so I am told), but a lot of smileys (still) and long conversations through screens, which make it easier for shy Norwegian men (and women) to communicate with potential love-of-their-life without even having to pass out. More in a next blogpost: Surviving sukker.no.