Every time I ask Norwegians whether there is infidelity in Norway, their answer is always “Much less than in France”. One could believe that, as the image of French people is savy guys and girls going around having affaires on their lunch pauses. And of course the French politicians from which we accept just about anything. The funeral of the French President Francois Mitterand is still vivid in many minds: when the world witnessed his wife and kids and his “wife on the side” and “kid on the side” all taking part in mourning him.
Can you imagine Erna Solberg driving on her scooter in the middle of the night to meet her secret young and famous lover Vegard Ylvisåker? Probably not. But this is exactly what happened in France when the current President Hollande was caught red handed on his scooter to meet famous actress (and 20 years younger) Julie Gayet. Not only was he in a relationship, but he also was the head of the state. And in a civil partnership with a woman whom he had left his wife for. Oh well. Does the fact that this situation is unthinkable for Norwegian politicians mean that regular Norwegians don’t cheat? I doubt it.
Norwegians are as unfaithful as the French?
“French people are very romantic, yet very unfaithful. They have mistresses like we have different pairs of woollen underwear. You guys cheat on your partner during lunch time. Us Norwegians are not like that”.
I remember working in a hotel in the city centre of Paris. Every week this couple would come in, pay cash, and leave separately pretending not to have been in the same room for the past 2 hours. We just had to pretend we did not recognise them every week. They both had wedding rings, but which married couple needs a hotel room to be together 2 hours and pay cash? Those who are married to other people.
The truth is, it is much more acceptable to talk about infidelity in France, especially for men. For men in high positions either in the private or public sector it can be a sign of even more power. In Norway one hardly hears men or women bragging about their infedilities. Or maybe among close friends. That does not mean it does not happen. A study published in The Mirror in 2015 shows that Norway is number 6 in the most unfaithful people in the world while France in number 5.
It seems like Norwegians cheat almost as much as the French do. That is not just based on this survey, but also on the many infidelity stories one sees but never hears about. It seems like cheating happens mainly during specific activities, and while everyone is drunk.
Activities during which Norwegians are allowed to cheat
- Julebord or Norwegian Christmas party
Colleagues all dead drunk flirting above pinjekjøtt (Norwegian Christmas food involving a very fat and salty meat). How much more sexy can it get, really? There is nothing like a big party where alcohol is paid by the company and where that guy/girl you’ve been eye-flirting with for a year is taking off their shoes and dancing very close to you. No nappies to change, no screaming kids waking up at 5.30am (you just have to stop putting them to bed at 7pm for heaven’s sake…). No samboer in their old pyjamas asking you to take the recycling out. Here you have real freedom and you feel young, beautiful and single again. Enjoy! For some reason, although infidelity is highly socially unacceptable in Norwegian society, if it happens in Julebord it isn’t really infidelity.
The downside of utroskap during julebord is that you will meet your colleagues again, quite soon actually. But luckily you are protected by two other social rules which outrule the one saying you should not cheat on your partner: 1. what happens when everyone is drunk is never to be talked about and 2. what happens at a Julebord stays in the Julebord (like in Las Vegas but with more snow).
2. After-ski parties (in Hemsedal for example)
Still on a hungover from all the Julebord, trying to lose those extra kilos you put on during Christmas holidays, you are now checking where there is snow in order to go skiing in the mountains. Let’s move on to the next activity where you can let off some steam and cheat with a good conscious: Skiing season! That is around February-March-April. Basically as long as the ski resorts are open, in Norway, Sweden or the Swiss/French Alps.
The infedility does not happen on the slopes, because during skiing trips Norwegians usually don’t ski that much. That is becuase they need to get off early to go to the after ski parties that start as early as 4pm. I have never been in any myself but heard many lively stories. A male friend from France told me that after an after-ski party in Hemsedal he had never felt that dirty in his entire life. You can interpret “dirty” in all the possible meanings of the word you can imagine. Apparently these parties are filled with people in their skiing outfit, including skiing shoes (not very practical to dance considering how stiff they are). Then they spend around 3 to 4 hours spilling jugs of beer on each other and dancing on tables while listening to very bad music. A friend made a video for me to see, I got a headache and felt claustrophobic just by watching it. Then again, I am a 75 year old lady trapped in the body of a 33 year old. What do I know about fun?
There is apparently massive eye-flirting during these few hours, and by 7 or 8 pm everyone is out, with a few numbers in their pockets of their wet skiing suit. Then they go back to their shared-hytte they are renting with friends or colleagues, shower, eat dinner and drink more beers.
Later that night, they knock at each others’ hytte to finish the night in the arms of some other person than their actual partner on a bunk bed or in the sauna.
Then all these people go home to their families and pretend nothing ever happened. Happy life for chlamydia in this country in the cheating season!
3. Trip among male friends (in Riga for example) and 4. Trip among girlfriends (in Syden for example)
All these activities involve being far from home, with friends or colleagues. Guttetur involve male friends, a plane, cheap alcohol and potentially either prostitutes or one-night flirts in that club with nice girls in Prague. I am not saying all guttetur end up in infidelity but as I understand it any chance far from home with alcohol and good friends has a higher potential for ending up on the wrong side of monogamy.
Like most things in Norway, gender equality applies. Girlfriends together on the beach in Las Playas de la Cucarachas, alcohol, sea sex and fun. Again, not all jentetur end up in infidelity, but it is easier to find the opportunity far from home with a guy in a bar you’ll never see again than when taking the bus to work everyday.
5. Conferences, work trips
A conference far from home, again. Colleagues or new exciting people you’ve never met. A dinner in the evening without having to think of driving home. This kind of “away from home” conferences or work activities are again an opportunity to cheat, without the partner finding out.
Norwegians’ high morals dissolve in alcohol
How is this possible that in this country where protestant principles of discipline, shame and high ethics one can find so much infidelity? I believe it is exactly because of these principles that would suffocate anyone, that alcohol is an acceptable excuse to escape all responsibility for one’s actions. Including cheating. Friends will stay silent about the event, and unless the partner is a bit nosy, the whole thing will stay secret.
As we say in France, those who say the least do the most. The French might brag all day long about their infidelities, we all know that a lot of it is just bluff to make one’s life look interesting. In Norway on the other hand things happen behind curtains and everyone is silent about it. I wonder what one would find if one started digging in the dirt, I bet there would be even more lust and Biblically morally punishable actions to be found.
This article was published in Norwegian in VG under the title Det utro folket, on the 28th of December 2016.