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Vi ♡ Norge

15 May 2012

“Don’t you hate it when …?” … “Have you seen how they?” …. “Why can’t they be more ….” “Why are they so ….”

We immigrants love to do this sort of thing. It makes us feel like we’re not crazy for thinking a certain custom/tradition/behavior/response is the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever seen.  “This place would be so fabulous,” we say, “if only it could be a bit more like America or Holland or Tanzania. Then it would be the most perfect place on earth.” (Never mind that it would no longer be Norway.)

We readily admit to our love/hate relationship with Norway, which really isn’t so different from the frustration a wife feels for her husband when he loads the dishwasher all wrong, or doesn’t notice the toilet needs cleaning, or puts her bras in the dryer. I love all the wonderful things about you dear, but, you see, my way is just, well, the right way to do it.

But we immigrants also love to sit around and share what we love about Norway, because it reminds us of why we came here in the first place, or at any rate, why, despite continuous rain and painfully high prices, we stay.

Norway: in honor of 17 May, Norway’s National Day, here is a list of everything I love about you, everything you do just perfectly:

Torget i Bergen

Photo: Bergen Tourist Board/Per Eide.

  1. fresh shrimp from the sea, cooked on the boat and sold at the fisketorget in Bergen
  2. the brick-colored sky when the sun hovers just under the top of the mountains
  3. the secretive blue world of late morning light in winter
  4. forking trails that invite me to never reach my goal
  5. the tradition of Sunday hikes
  6. chemical-free drinking water
  7. Hvitveis and Blåveis, carpeting the forests in spring

    Hvitveis (“wood anemone” in English)

  8. the crisp and cozy smell of sheets dried outside in the sea air
  9. the word “kos” and for worshipping it when we need it more – in winter!
  10. tursjokolade
  11. that children are safe to run free and explore their world
  12. dagpenger and sykemeldinger for those who need it
  13. equal access for everyone to health care
  14. free education
  15. kransekake
  16. civil rights for everyone, even in same sex marriages
  17. the importance of “we”
  18. the explosion of wild berries in the woods, along the roads, and in our backyard in August

    Kransekake for 17 May.

  19. the light of the midnight sun, even when it’s raining
  20. roundabouts
  21. Christmas and Santa Lucia Day
  22. påskekrim
  23. chili nuts
  24. feriepenger and half-taxes in June and December
  25. a workday that ends at 4 p.m.
  26. the value placed on families
  27. barnehage — a paradise for all 6 and under!

Please feel free to add to my list in the comments below!

To read last year’s post on the traditions of 17 May, click here.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 May 2012 12:13

    Thanks for the list Jena. You can read my latest blog post (published just minutes ago!) and judge my current mood and attitude for Norway pretty easily. Last night (in between sobs) I told my husband the only good thing I could think of about Norway was barnehage. And then I started compiling a list (in my head) of everything I missed about the US (or at least Vermont). Maybe I’ll print out your list and start counting my blessings.

    • 15 May 2012 12:15

      Oh, I’m sorry, Emily! I really am. I, too, have actually had a really, really bad Norway week and so I think I had to post this list for MYSELF! 🙂 … I think our plan for celebrating 17 May is to hide inside with some films. I’ll go read your post now. I’m supposed to get updates when you post something, but sometimes they come a day or so late.

    • 15 May 2012 12:17

      but Barnehage! YES!!! How could I forget that wonderful heaven of a place? Will add that to the list!!

  2. kutubuku permalink
    15 May 2012 12:22

    Påskekrim! 😀

  3. kutubuku permalink
    15 May 2012 12:31

    On more serious note: I don’t know whether I have lived in Denmark too long (and too weary of its politics) that i can no longer see these kind of things that you listed here, but I also feel like Norway has always had more traditions than the Danes. Take 17th May for example, we don’t have that kind of thing, or the love of the nature, or tradiitonal costume (bunad), or many many other things that are charming about Norway.

    This is why I understand why Norwegians are so proud about their “norwegian-ness” while when Danes do that, I don’t get it because what is Danishness really? All I can get for answer is “open mindedness (frisind) and equality” which is not something that is special as Danish

  4. yharlap permalink
    15 May 2012 12:38

    Hm. I would put verdens beste kake on that list rather than (or alongside) kransekake. Or maybe, just kake in general. So many kinds of kake. And what about softis!? Also, milk and butter are really yummy. (I think I need to get something to eat!)

    • 15 May 2012 12:52

      Yes – ALL CAKE! 🙂 I actually don’t like Norwegian ice cream, but I agree with butter and milk for sure!

  5. 15 May 2012 13:21

    I booked my flight and I’m coming over there! 🙂 Let’s get baking and hiking and flower-admiring and sky-watching and snowshoeing through the fields in April! Seriously, would love to some day. You should be a freelance travel writer. Norway’s biggest advertiser to the world.

    • 15 May 2012 13:23

      oh goodness, Pam, you crack me up. I’ll have to make my next post: “I hate Norway!” just to balance it out to immigrants know what to *really* expect! 🙂 You should definitely come visit!

  6. 15 May 2012 13:54

    Every world has it’s “Loves” and “Hates”. Now that I am leaving my job and Baltimore to return to London, I am seeing all of the things that I am loving and less of the things I am hating. When I was in England I missed all of the things I loved about the States, and when I returned home I missed all of the things I loved in England. I think making your list is good. IT IS the little things that make a life, and rarely do we stop and smell the roses… (Or eat the Kake!)

  7. 15 May 2012 14:48

    Living in a place where many people vacation, I lose sight of and take for granted the good things around me. On the other hand there are no movies within 100 miles, no shopping, groceries are minimal, cell phones don’t work at my house, etc. I guess it all depends on my mood or “attitude du jour.”

    • 15 May 2012 18:51

      I knew you were remote from the pictures on your blog, but wow! That’s like being at one of the DNT cabins in Norway! 🙂

  8. 15 May 2012 17:19

    Its funny, I fall in and out of love with Norway at least three times a week and have been here for over twenty years.

    Everything on your list is good, the only thing I can think of adding is maternity leave…

    My daughter is about to give birth and will get thirty two weeks of full paid maternity leave and her husband will get twelve weeks! (option #2: forty-two weeks with 80% pay) I love that!

    • 15 May 2012 17:30

      WOW!!! I have a friend who works for the FBI in the States and she gets 6 weeks UNPAID maternity leave, and her husband gets nothing. That is amazing!

      • 15 May 2012 18:55

        Yeps! that’s why we’re no. 1 in the world for mothers! … the U.S. ranked 25th. Did you see that report?

    • 15 May 2012 18:54

      Good to know I’m not the only one! 🙂 And you are absolutely right about maternity leave. And taking care of mothers and babies in general. And fathers! … I think in an early version of my list I had “No. 1 Country for Mothers” but then combined it with several other items to “value place on families.” … which reminds me, what a bunch of bunk the whole “family values” thing is in the U.S.!

  9. Jeff permalink
    15 May 2012 17:21

    Thanks for this list! I need a good reminder every once in a while (especially after just realizing the final cost to switch my driver’s license to a Norwegian one is going to cost somewhere in the order of 15000,-)

    I’m especially fond of #3 & # 19:) I need to think of more things to add.

    • 15 May 2012 18:56

      Oh I know, Jeff! I had to do that, too, and *failed* the test the first time and had to pay another 1500 kr or whatever it was to take it again! It’s painful. And the test was so stressful, because you have to drive for a full hour with no mess-ups. So you DO need to think positively! 🙂

      • Jeff permalink
        15 May 2012 20:12

        That pretty much sums up what I’ve heard about it already; I’m terrified. I’m sure there will be a blog post out of this whole experience…May 23 is the date. Oh boy.

      • 15 May 2012 20:25

        My driving test in Norway wasn’t stressful–we headed out into the countryside on a highway, and just drove for 20 minutes and back again (and backed up in a school parking lot, and turned around on a hill). I was just worried b/c I didn’t remember if the speed limit was 60. . . or 70. . . or 80?

        The stressful part was the “safety test” at the end, b/c they asked me where the safety triangle thingy was, and i had no clue! THIS IS A RENTAL CAR FROM THE DRIVING SCHOOL! How should I know where the damn safety triangle thingy is??? And then they asked me how far away to place it on the road, and I had no clue. But somehow managed to pass the test despite this.

      • 15 May 2012 20:19

        See if you can schedule your test for 1 p.m. — right after lunch. My examiner was a heavy-set, older man who took a little nap during the test! I had to wake him up to ask where to go next! And that’s how I passed! Plus the 8 am exam that I had the first time around is right during rush hour.

  10. Jeff permalink
    16 May 2012 16:28

    The test is scheduled for 12:30pm in Fyllingsdalen, that’s almost countryside right?? OK, not really, but it’s good to dream. The speed limits drive me crazy, I swear you just have to ‘know’ when things change. I was driving out of downtown yesterday and was sure we were in the 50 zone, nope, still 30. Then we turned right not 100m later and I figured the speed limit would stay the same? Nope, it’s 50 there. Signs people, they’re important.

    • 16 May 2012 21:43

      Don’t get me started on 4-way intersections and their complete lack of signage. Or rules. I mean it. . . don’t get me started!!!

  11. 21 May 2012 19:37

    Like Emily, I think I need to print out this list and have it on hand for my hate-Norway days (although fortunately, those have mostly just been moments, not full days). Well written. I kept nodding my head over and over in agreement. The only one in question: påskekrim, but I guess it’s alright.

    • 21 May 2012 19:46

      I was having a serious “hate Norway” day when I wrote it — problems with NAV that I won’t go into, but I’m sure all immigrants have these days. I started writing an angry post but realized it really wasn’t the post I wanted to write. Funny, really. As for påskekrim, I guess I should have specified that it is the TV version I participate in. For us it was something to look forward to during those loooong days of being with kids. But I also just love the whole idea of it — I mean, just think of the culture that puts crime with celebrating the risen Christ! I love it.

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