It was in the changing room that this thought started to intrude my mind. My youngest was having a gymnastic class with his fellow companions in the gym hall. It was freezing cold and windy, the snow was dancing in a rather disorganised way. I hid myself in the changing room, together with two other parents. Two fathers in their 40´s. We were all sitting on the long bench, with considerable distance between us. They were both reasonably dressed with scarves and boots. The noise from the hall broke the silence occasionally. None of us lifted our heads, all kinds of eye contact was to be avoided. Not a single word was exchanged, not a single smile was to be traced. I was occupied with my reading, a short story collection by Alice Munro. All their attention was paid to the phones. It´s awkward you might think. Is this the Norwegian version of politeness?
An article titled “Norwegians impolite? Forget it” threw me into my thoughts. A few years ago, a letter from someone who had just settled in Norway was sent to the editor of a Norwegian newspaper, the descriptions of Norwegians as unsociable and unfriendly was heavily debated in the social media.
Norwegians are criticised for not greeting or engaging in small talk with strangers, for not being personal and warm in social contexts, and for “the Norwegian arm”, a term used to describe Norwegians´ tendency to stretch across the person sitting next to them to reach what they want. Kristin Rygg, associate professor and researcher from Department of Professional and Intercultural Communication of Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) refutes these allegations. She points out that in the Norwegian version of politeness, it´s more important to not bother people. For many Norwegians, it´s polite to leave people alone, and they don’t engage in small talk unnecessarily. Respecting other people´s space is high on the list of being polite.
So if you encounter Norwegians who appear to be reserved, they might just be faithful to their form of politeness. If you take the first step to get to know them, the chance is good that you would be met with friendiness, helpfulness and warmth.
Want to read more about the article? Click http://sciencenordic.com/norwegians-impolite-forget-it
Thank you for reading and take care.
With love ❤️
(All pictures were taken in November this year, in Oslo, Norway)