Saturday, January 15, 2011

Socializing with Norwegians

Everyone says that people are cold in Nordic countries. Is that true? Maybe too true... but they also say that once you have a Norwegian friend you've got a friend for life. But making friends is not that easy for newcomers, especially those that don't know how long they will be in the country for (like me).

I've been here for 5 months now and this week got my first invitation for a social event (by a Norwegian). I've had people over a couple of times but had never been invited back, so I was quite happy with the invite to go sledding. The idea was to meet up at the metro station where my friend/colleague (V.) would meet her friends and then take the metro to this hill where you can rent sleds and then slide down 2.8km (1.75miles) until another metro stop and then you can take the train back up again. V. was very concerned whether I would have the correct clothes, glasses, etc and made sure to get me ready for a great evening. She meets friends once a week to do something fun and this week it was sledding.

We met at the train stop and right after introductions they were off speaking Norwegian. Fine, they've got a lot to catch up on, I thought. We arrived at the final stop, rented sleds and then headed to the slope. Needless to say, I had never done this before, so things were not as intuitive as they were for the 4 Norwegians. Let's just say that you get the hang of it quickly or you fall off the mountain, but I did learn fast (although I was always the last to arrive at the bottom as I kept braking to avoid loosing complete control). While waiting for the train to go back up, Norwegian surrounded me again.

Back up, slide down, up again, down again. It was fun! But I definitely did not feel as part of the group. While waiting for the train at some point one of the guys turned to me and asked: "So, how does it feel to be lonely even when in a group?" "Not nice", I replied. "So you should learn Norwegian!" "I'm trying, but it is not that fast." "I guess... let's go down again and then we head to get a beer and speak some English." And turns to his friends and continues in Norwegian.

We return the sleds and go for a beer. The scenery is beautiful... the view of Oslo at night from the top of the slope is amazing and so are the little pockets of lights streaming from the few houses around. We head to the restaurant, take off our extra clothes and then everyone disappears... I finally realize they went to the cafeteria-style place to get food, they just forgot to explain that to me. We have rømmegrøt (a sour cream porridge) and beer and head back to the table. They decided to speak English but suddenly no one felt like talking. After a while some small talk picked up. After the beer ended we went to the train station and headed home.
What rømmegrøt looks like.

To summarize the evening, on the way back V. was trying to convince one of the guys to go to the mountains to the cabin with her and the other 2. And I was sitting right there, next to the guy but was completely ignored. This was a truly culturally awkward moment since in Brazil you would ALWAYS extend the invitation to everyone around you (especially when the conversation includes everyone) or wait and invite the one person in private, when the other people that are not invited (me) are not around. Oh well... I guess I can start to say that Norwegians are cold.


  1. That last incident relating to the invitation not being extended to you seems very odd. It would not be considered polite in Holland, or the US. It is possible that it is not a Norwegian thing, just a an inpolite person thing.

    It is true that when you live in foreign countries you often get into these incidents of "cultural confusion."

    Good luck! I hope you find people to befriend and you can warm up to Norway!

  2. Doesn't sound too considerate of your friends, inviting you to a sledding day, not talking to you at all, and then not bothering to ask you or invite you to the next event...odd
    I have no experience with Norwegian culture at all though, but this is rude to do that in Switzerland, and in India it is mega rude to talk about an event to somebody with other listening in the group and not invite EVERYVODY. That's why indian weddings are so huge I guess :)

  3. Hi Miss Footloose and Cyn,
    I agree that not inviting people around is rude in all other places I've lived before. But it seems here things are a bit different...
    Went sledding with A. yesterday and we had a really good time (although he's complaining about back pain due to all the bumps :P )

  4. I have a Finnish neighbor who is constantly making jokes at the expense of Norwegians. I never know what to believe, but she keeps making them out to be cold, conservative, and very, very, Lutheran. I never know what the believe. What do the Norwegians say about the Finns?

  5. Hi BBBB,
    Finns make jokes of Norwegians and Norwegians make fun of Finns... Mostly the same jokes by the way :D
    Just to give you an idea of a joke:
    You know why Jesus could not have been Norwegian? Because no wise men could have come from the East (referring to both Swedes and Finns).

    I don't think Norwegians are conservative by any means... Cold... well... still have to be proven wrong here.