In the first months of my life in Norway, my entire social life was limited to my colleagues and the cashiers in supermarkets who asked me if I wanted a “pose” (yes, a bag). Moving to Norway only for work meant I had neither friends nor family in this country to begin with. I quickly realised I would have to make some effort to build a social life outside of my workplace (and supermarket): my colleagues, however very nice, ran out of the office every day at 4pm to reach the barnehage on time, so there weren’t going to be beers and chats and come-over-for-dinner-tomorrow here. So one tries out ways to meet people, like skiing classes, joining a band, or online dating. Not necessarily to find the love of your life, but just to get to know people (yes, who also happened to be of the opposite sex). So I created a profile on Sukker.no, i.e. a free Norwegian dating website where everyone has or once had a profile.
I thought, naively, that online dating is like seduction. It is about seeing if there is attraction in a simple way (HA!) and being honest (HAHA!). First of all seduction in Norway is not simple at all for foreigners (see on this topic a previous blogpost: The Norwegian “Art” of Seduction). So, as you can imagine, neither is online dating. I would say it follows rules which are even more obscure than regular flirting in a bar, all in a language that I didn’t understand. Because in a bar you can get away with speaking English, not on sukker.no where everything is in Norwegian, including the dozens of preliminary questions everyone needs to answer to activate their profile. (Google Translate helps, to some extent. Then it just confused me).
The first thing you need to know about Norwegian online dating is that there are passions you absolutely need to have if you want men/women to be interested in you. First, you need to love something called “friluftsliv”. It means that you needs to be “outdoorsy”. To illustrate your love of being outdoors, you absolutely need one or several pictures of you in a magnificent, natural and wild landscape. It can show you swimming in a majestic fjord or standing on top of a mountain showing that you had to hike a pretty steep way to get there.
Second important interest: you need to be sporty. You thought it would be enough to like being outside having a nice little walk. No no no. You need to like extreme stuff like going to the gym every day. Don’t put pictures of you sweating in spinning class (unclassy) but do put a picture of you rafting down a crazy river in Thailand, or cycling up some road in South of France with a beautiful view of the sea behind you (nice tan is a must have here).
Then, you need to be kind of the same as everybody else but a bit different. Different…yet not too different. Confident yet not show off. It gets really tricky here. I don’t know whether it’s because of Janteloven and all that “you are not better than anyone else” education, but everyone writes the same things over and over again. I don’t think it’s because people are boring, just that they don’t want to seem to eccentric or too confident. Okay, some ARE boring.
So you end up with having to read this kind of sentence so many times your eyes hurt: “I like to stay at home, but sometimes I go out with friends. I also like going to cafes.” Oh wow, just like the rest of the 500.000 people living in this city.
Also, roughly 99% of the people online write that they love going to “gå på tur”, “gå på ski” and “på hyttetur” (hiking, skiing and going on cabin trips). Optionally taking weektrips to some place in gokk with neither electricity nor hot water. Sometimes men even write that the girl should be the “type” that pees in a bush without complaining. Seriously? Is that a criteria? It seems to me that all Norwegian girls have been raised to pee in the dark behind a hytte by -20 degrees with reindeers and polar bears watching, so I am sure it’s not a hard criteria to meet (for other foreign girls…maybe a bit different). Oh and she also has to be the type who can put on heels and look awesome and sexy to impress his friends, oh and also confident and sweet. Man, what a job to be a girl.
How to pull this off with dignity? I don’t have a cabin, don’t know how to ski, I had never entered a gym before moving to Norway because I am lazy, and I have (rectification: had) no pictures of me sitting on the top of a mountain, or rowing a boat in the Lofoten islands. Oh and by the way, I don’t speak Norwegian and I have no friends in this country. Do you want to be my friend? This doesn’t sound confident, or sexy or even a little attractive. Conclusion: I had nothing to sell on the Norwegian market of love.
So I thought! I was wrong, because having a vagina opens a lot of doors in the online dating of many countries of this world, including in Norway. So I did get some attention, mostly from men who were old and bold and living in Finnmark. I had a hard time figuring out what we had in common, for example Sugar_Daddy54 who sent me the picture of a little dog dressed in a pink tutu saying “Du er søt!” (You are sweet!). Herregud. Or this other guy who spent all his time customizing his car and doing bodybuilding, and who wrote to me “We have nothing in common but opposites attract right ;-)”.
I know, they are trying, and this is all quite sad because they don’t seem to have met or talked to a woman in a long long time. But on the bright side they are very dedicated to writing to you every single day and they have a profession that can come in handy like plumber or electrician.
You would think young hip urban men would be easier to connect to…but some get very specific, looking for a life companion, or should I say, a female person to appear on the pictures of the perfect family life they have imagined for themselves. “So, do you want children soon?” asks Per-Christian the second time we meet. “Because, you know, I’m 35, need to build a family and stuff. So if you’re not in I don’t want to waste my time”. Mmmh can I give you my answer after dessert or will I have wasted too much of your time already? was I tempted to ask him. I think I preferred the guy with his pink tutu-dog asking me out. At least he was being a gentleman.
Others make you feel like you’re in a job interview. It seems like they have a check list where you gain or lose points each time you open your mouth. Watch out! If you are not sweet, sporty and confident you might not get called for the second round. And if you can’t pee in the bush with class and dignity, you’re OUT!
In the end, did I meet someone? No. Got too tired of the mind games with men who date 5 girls at the same time and know all the tricks in the book. I survived 5 weeks on the website and figured going out was a more fun and less time consuming way to meet people. Did I make friends? Yes one actually, but he will probably ignore me after reading this (Per Christian, if you’re out there…).
So, in light of this very lousy experience, my advice to everyone is, as Oscar Wilde said, “be yourself, everyone else is taken”. And get off your screen damn it, and go meet someone in real life. If Norwegians were really that outdoorsy they wouldn’t need to sit on their bum in front of a computer to meet someone.
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