Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Dating, queuing and crisps

As a thank you for reading my blog, and because this blog post contains generalization, I wanted to show you how many Norwegians dress on Christmas Eve, the Norwegian National Day, christenings and sometimes at weddings. If you're invited to dinner with the Norwegian king and queen you're also allowed to wear it.

It's called bunad in Norwegian and is a folk costume representing different parts of Norway, and come in all different shapes, sizes and colours. My bunad is from the northern parts of Norway because my dad's family lives there. Northern parts of Norway are colder than southern parts (that's where I'm from), and my bunad is completely made of wool. On the 17th of May when we celebrate our National Day, let's just say it sometimes get's too hot underneath the bunad. That's my little sister on the right by the way - she's almost 5 years younger than me, 5 cm taller and wears shoes almost 2 sizes bigger than me. While I'm in Oxford she's living the dream as an only child, getting oh so spoiled... 

Before I moved to Oxford the possibility of big cultural differences didn’t really strike me as a possibility. I mean, the UK is a two-hour flight away from Norway, two countries only separated by some water and they're on the same continent. If I had moved to the US the culture clash would have been inevitable, as Americans are known for being extremely outgoing and chatty. The first week or so in Oxford I suddenly discovered how big the differences actually are. You queue for everything, you say thank you, sorry and please – words you hardly ever hear in Norway. If you’re lost in Norway and you need help with directions you will realize that it’s quite hard to get people talking. In Oxford however, people seem to be kind and helpful, which is handy when I’m lost and just want to see the Radcliffe Camera.

Some weeks ago during a group discussion about culture differences during a seminar, a friend of mine asked me how Norwegians date. The answer is that we don’t. We don’t even have a word for it. Either you’re a couple or you’re just hanging out as friends. It’s not like we don’t go on dates, but you hardly ever do it unless you would categorize your relationship as exclusive. And don’t think you’re able to date/go out with several girls or boys at the same time, if you do that you will get a bad reputation and the whole country will know it. When watching American movies where the girl gets picked up by the boy in a car (it seems like they always gets picked up at 7pm as well), the boy pays for dinner and then drives the girl back home, it all just seems so far-off. If you're Norwegian and going on a date you take the bus, the bike or simply walk. Now, we could use our cars, but it’s a strict zero-tolerance on drinking and driving in Norway, and of course we drink on our dates. That’s something I’ve never understood, why do they always drink and drive in American movies when so many are killed by drunk drivers? Shouldn’t they promote walking, or at least riding bikes?

Another big difference between UK and Norway is probably the way we approach strangers. In Norway we don’t talk to or smile at strangers, and if you ask a Norwegian a question on the bus you will either get the evil eye or just be ignored. In the UK, or Oxford to be more specific, I’ve been called darling and honey numerous times, talked to strangers on the bus and even been told by complete strangers that my hair looks nice. I guess Norwegians aren't best at everything (even though we really like to think so). The first time a stranger complemented my hair I instantly thought he was flirting. Norwegians don’t do that. Unless we’re drunk. Really drunk.

And whilst we're talking about alcohol, I don't get used to the alcohol advertisements, or the tobacco advertisements for that matter. In Norway it's illegal to advertise alcohol and tobacco in any form, so I always get surprised when I see it during prime time on TV. 

Apart from the obvious differences as groceries and alcohol being so incredible cheaper in the UK (a beer in a pub in Norway usually costs £8 or more), Britons eats an awful lot of crisps. I mean, when I’ve actually made an effort to do a whole day of studying at the library, it’s quite annoying having to not only hear but also smell bacon flavored crisps, making it really hard to concentrate on the political theory I’m trying to understand. You don’t eat crisps in Norway unless it’s a Friday or Saturday night. You just don’t.

I don’t know which culture I like the most though. I should probably say the Norwegian so I don’t piss off any Norwegian readers, but it’s something really nice about being able to talk to strangers or when the lady in the reception at the gym calls me darling. I think I will have to go for a combination of both, but if you stop eating crisps at the library when I’m there I would probably choose the British culture. 

If you were at Brookes applicants day this weekend I hope you enjoyed it and got answers to your questions (and if you didn't, that's what I'm here for). 

On Friday 14th of March, Brookes are hosting Live Friday at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, to announce Brookes 150th anniversary celebrations. It's a free event where you can, among other things, turn your smartphone into a microscope, talk to robots and see a bamboo mountain bike! Click here for more information or here for even more information about the artists performing, the robot and other announcements. So if you're in the area you should definitely join!

Now I'm going to finish my sociology essay about Marx, which is a dreadful thing to have to do when Oxford is soaked in sun and it's 18 degrees outside!

Hope I see you at the Ashmolean on Friday! 

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