Oooh Norwegians… they’re lovely, blond, tall, spend their free-time running uphill and their holidays in wood cabins, they don’t drink, don’t smoke, they have the best-managed oil fund in the world, split kids nursing between father and mother in a more balanced way than anywhere else in the world, and to sum it all…they’re even one of the happiest people in the world…right, let’s stop, this is getting frustrating.
So I spent a marvellous weekend in Oslo, in great company which never hurts; but I thought that instead of doing another lonely-planet type post, I’d share with you a few fun-facts I gathered about Oslo, Norwegians and other things
- 1. Brunost – or brown cheese. I wouldn’t know if to describe it as sweet or savoury. It’s not a spread either;rather, it’s served sliced with a specially shaped cheese scrap.
Last year in a road accident, a lorry transporting 27T of the stuff caught fire in a tunnel. No one was injured but Norwegians discovered that what they though was “healthy” (yes you see it’s BROWN cheese) was in fact packed with fat and sugar, giving it the distinctive caramel flavour. Not my top pick in term of local delicacy but it’s definitely iconic.
- 2. Norway for what I’ve seen, seems like a temple of healthiness. Alcohol is only on sales at extortionate prices, in state owned shops, the Vinmonopolet (that being said, most restaurants are licenced for beer and wine). Smoking is banned, inside, outside and if they could follow you in your bed it’d probably be banned there too. Even the tourism office warns you!!
According to the OECD, only 14% of adult are smokers in Norway, vs. a European average of 24%, the policy seems to work well!
- 3. I was in a conversation with my friend and the more she was moving her hand around, the more my attention got distracted… for she’s wearing her wedding band on the right hand!! after a bit of head scratching to try and explain the difference, we called on our google friend and found an answer on the “my little Norway” blog:
“Today many people around the world prefer to put the wedding ring on the left hand, (…) closest to the heart – the ‘vena amoris’, or vein of love.
However, in Norway it is custom to place the wedding ring on the right hand. This custom is based on a spiritual commitment. In the Bible it was the practice to wear rings on the right hand, the hand of authority and power, completing the pledge of commitment. The power and authority came from the right hand of God – the ‘right hand’ meaning the Christ. Therefore wearing the ring on the right hand – in Christ and through Christ – blessed the marriage. Both men and women wear the wedding ring in Norway.”
here you go.
They also have a lovely tradition of the “morning after” gift that the bride and the groom exchange on their first day of matrimony, often a ring (there’s no engagement ring as such in Norway) or a necklace…
- 4. I love Christmas, everything Christmasy and above all, gingerbread. And now that I discovered the attention to details (and yes sheer madness) that they put into backing gingerbread towns, I soooo want to go back to Norway in December. Sick.
- 5. Norway is a Monarchy since 1905 when the King was elected (yes!!)
In 1905, Norway became independent from Sweden, its new government offered the crown to Prince Carl, second son of Denmark’s future King. After being approved in a popular vote by the Norwegian people (78.9% of voters in favour!!), the prince ascended the throne as King Haakon VII.
For someone coming from a country with a tradition of King & Queens beheading, I raised an eyebrow at this one!
- 6. The city has over 600,000 inhabitants and more than half Oslo’s surface is covered by trees and forest!
Oslo has been the capital since 1814, when Norway gained its independence from Denmark. The city is one of Europe’s fastest-growing capitals, with annual population increases exceeding 2% in recent years.
- 7. And last one because I loved it: what are Norwegian kids hoping for on a winter school day?
That the thermometer would show below -20, as school will stay closed …ah …different childhood reference points I guess?!!
Read & watch
…as usual I’ve asked people around me for their best reads and watch from Norway…
Jo Nesbo’s detective adventures, came up pretty often in friend’s favourites. It does have a strong Oslo background, to the extent that city themed tours are even organised!
But I took the opportunity to read a Norwegian literature classic: A doll’s House. The play describes a family drama and provides a reflexion on the role of women is couples that still has many echoes in today’s world. I personally loved it, but that’s no doubt due to my admiration toward 19th’s century rebellious women. 🙂
In the plane I also watched Oslo, August 31st, given the title I could hardly skip it, however don’t watch this one on a rainy day: it’s a brilliantly interpreted story of a drug addict trying to quit and blend into society…
Other interesting resources:
– Intelligent Life, because it’s always a good reference
– Visit Norway, packed with good suggestions and useful info
– A frog in the Fjord, a blog in English from a French young lady who lives and works in Norway. Local culture explained to foreigners and a witty humour, love that blog!
– Thornews, “supplier of Norwegian culture”