Culture shock in your own country? Absolutely! Read more to hear about Aslak’s fondness for Norway and particularly Oslo, how fantastic the outdoor and family oriented lifestyle is there, and how it feels to have culture shock when coming back home.
Where do you live? Where are you from?
I am from Oslo, Norway. Oslo is the capitol of Norway. The city it self has about 600.000 people and Norway is just about to become 5 million people. Apart from the 2 years I spent living in Barcelona, Spain and 2 x 1/2 year living in the US (Texas, Utah, Minnesota) I have lived here my entire life and I am very fond of the city.
Can you describe a typical day for you?
A typical day for me is all about family and work. My wife and I try to share the responsibilities at home equally, so that I normally take care of
the mornings and she takes care of the afternoons. That means that in a typical day I get up early and make breakfast for the kids, fill their lunch
boxes and make sure they get safely to school and kindergarten. After that I have a 30-40 minute commute to work. I work as a consultant but my clients are mainly centrally located in Oslo so I rarely have to do extensive traveling. Most days I can ride my bicycle to work.
After a full day’s work I rush home. It seems there is always some football (soccer) match, handball practice, parents meeting at school or something going on, so I normally just manage to get through the door before heading back out again.
Once the day’s activities are over and the kids are in bed I pick up the computer again and put in a couple of hours of work before heading to bed.
I know you lived in Spain for a couple of years. Did that experience change your view of your own country at all? If so, how?
Yes. The same thing has happened to me both when returning from studies in the US and in Spain, although I was more prepared for it the second time around. The thing is, that when moving abroad you are mentally prepared for the fact that there will be cultural differences. When returning home, you are not expecting there to be any differences, since this is “your own” culture. However, you have accustomed to your new culture and can actually experience a small cultural shock. This can be small things and it can be big things.
When returning from the US I was surprised by how rude Norwegians are. While as in the US, someone would say “excuse me” while passing you with a 2 feet distance in a supermarket isle, people in Norway can literally bump into you without even acknowledging that you are there.
What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?
Oslo has a great nature with great outdoor possibilities very close to the city core. The city is surrounded by a forest (“Marka”) which can be used
for skiing in the winter time and walking, running, bicycling, fishing, camping and more in the summertime. In the summertime the Oslofjord provides great opportunities for swimming, fishing, boat life and even beach life(!) as well.
There is also a broad acceptance in the Norwegian work life for having family obligations to attend to. Even in client situations it is most of the
time OK to reschedule a 4 o’ clock meeting because you have to pick up your kids at the kindergarten.
Of the things I like the least about Norway is a tendency among people to try to pull other people down, especially if they are successful and know
it/ show it. Going your own ways and achieving success is jealously looked down upon. There’s a poem in a book from the 1930s quoting a “law” starting with the line “you should not believe you are something” and it goes on “you should not believe you are as good as us”. All Norwegians are familiar with this law and even though not accepting to conformity is more accepted than ever, the tendency is still there.
What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?
Norwegian, obviously, and I read and watch news, books, movies etc in English. No Spanish, desafortunadamente.
Tell me about a national hero in your country (can be anyone- living or not, internationally famous or not). Who are they and what are they admired for?
I will go for Roald Amundsen. 100 years ago (14th of December 1911 to be exact) he was the first man to reach the south pole beating the British Robert Scott. Winning the “race” to the South Pole and beating the British was an incredible achievement. For a small and new Nation (we got our independence from the Swedes in 1905) it had great significance far beyond the individual achievement. Skiing is Norway’s national sport and Norwegians take great pride in staying outdoors. Even today explorers and adventurers are greatly respected and admired in Norway.
Tell me about your favorite holiday, and what cultural traditions you practice to celebrate on that day.
The 17th of May! In 1814 Norway got its constitution and the day is celebrated with great children parades in the streets of every city and small town. The National day is all about creating a great party for children.
What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?
There are no polar bears in the streets! Definitely not in Oslo, and not even anywhere on the Norwegain main land. (There are however polar bears in Svalbard, a Norwegian island far north).