Don’t get me wrong, I love going out with other foreigners. A few beers, a night out without anyone of my Spanish, Afghan or Canadian friends is always nice. Even a week end in a hytte (cabin in the woods) with non-Norwegians seems like a nice idea at a first glance. This means no annoying Norwegians around telling you how to eat waffles: with brunost (Norwegian goat cheese) OR syltetøy and rømme (jam and cream). And nothing else. What if our foreign and creative minds want to put other stuff on a waffle such as Nutella and bananas, Belgian chocolate with chantilly mousse, or even, god forbid, mango chutney. None either to ski like a pro in front of you, in full matching gear, swish swash on the snow and ice, yelling from far ahead “look at me, it’s so easy. You don’t have to do anything, it’s just like walking” (and believe me, it’s not). And you, slower than a 5 year old Norwegian, with your pink pants and your yellow top from the 90s, trying to make it down the little hill without falling face down in the snow.
How complicated can it be? Become a member of DNT, the national trekking association, and plan a trip to the wild with all your little friends.
But…it turns out Norwegians are much more prepared for such trips than any of us Southerners. I did a few of these trips and found out there are a few things to keep in mind.
First of all, us foreigners are not trained since childhood to walk steady without stopping or complaining. We might stop for a chocolate snack every 500 meter and ask insistently “Are we faaarrr now? Is this the cabin?” (No it can’t be, we started walking 10 minutes ago and we are covering 10 km). “I am tirreedd, what is this mountain? It is so steep”.
If skiing, keep in mind that we are not born on skis. Some have never tried and will have to learn on the spot. I personally sometimes wonder whether I would actually save time by taking off the skis and walking instead of trying so hard to do cross country skiing. Once an Italian girl had put the wrong wax under her skis which made her stick to the snow. But she refused to change the wax as she knew this way she would never fall when going downhill. So plan some time to get there.
Secondly on the way there are always one or two persons who did not realise what they were getting into. Maybe their clothing is wrong. Was the choice of wearing three layers of wool + a down jacket but very thin cotton socks by -10 degrees a good choice Pooshi? Probably not. Others don’t realise that there is no running water in cabins, neither is there in the toilets. That’s the screaming we heard coming from outside, of someone who opened the lid of the dry toilets, realising he/she would have to sit that close to a frozen plump of others’ pee and poop.
Thirdly, many will bring heavy and unnecessary things such as glass bottles, bananas that will get mooshy after an hour of hike, but forget the essentials like a good knife and a head lamp. Sånn er hyttelivet med innvandrere.
But most of all, foreigners are completely carefree and do not realise the dangers of being out there. The cold, the night and the fire. After an unfortunate experience, I realised that it is not the Norwegians who are annoying, it is the rules (don’t enter the cabin with your shoes on, don’t leave candles burning during the night etc.). And these rules are there for a reason, that’s because they will 1) spare you 2 hours of cleaning the fucking stains of mud and melted snow on the floor of the cabin just when you need to leave in a storm and 2) save your life. Fire is not a fantasy-fear, it is real. Once on one of these hyttetur with foreigners, we almost set the place on fire. Despite the heaters being on, someone thought it would make the cabin warmer to make a bigger fire. Taking any wood she found, she made the fire bigger, indeed, but it suddenly started creating thick smoke. The girl had taken wood from under the snow. Long story short, we spent almost 2 hours with screaming alarms trying to get the smoke out by the windows, to the point where sometimes we had trouble breathing and seeing. Fire was uncontrolable and for the first time I got scared. I imagined all of us outside, in the snow by -15 degrees with our meal in our hands looking at a burning cabin. Later explaining to the Fire Department that we thought wet wood would make a great fire. We managed, just about, and made sure no one (as it did come up as a solution) poured water on the fire to put it off. In the end, the cabin had a thick smell of smoke, and the temperature inside was now below 0 degrees. So much for warmth and koselighet.
All this time fighting against this smoke and hoping the hytte wouldn’t burn down because of us stupid foreigners who know nothing about fires, I was thinking to myself “this would have never happened if we had brought a Norwegian with us”. Not that surviving would have been the only perk. As locals, Norwegians can also teach you lots of things on which berries and mushrooms to eat, or share memories of their own amazing hytte experiences. Sånn er hyttelivet uten Nordmenn, dangerous and freezing cold.