|Review: Culture Shock: Norway
||[Feb. 27th, 2016|10:43 pm]
I found Elizabeth Su-Dale's Culture Shock! A Guide to Customs and Etiquette: Norway (1995) recommended by a few sources, so I picked it up.
One of the mysterious things about this book is who the audience is or where the author is from. When you're talking about culture shock, you're going to be comparing the new culture to the old culture, and I couldn't tell where the old culture is. The language sounds more British than English. The book was published in Singapore. I couldn't find anything about the author online--but then there was a short description at the end of the book. I think she's from Singapore. So it makes sense that some of the assumptions about where I might be from are off. For example, one might be shocked that Norwegians drink water right out of the tap. They don't boil their drinking water like people in some other places do.
"If you are single and lonely, you can learn to read the advertisements in the local dailies as well as some other newspapers. You will be amazed at the explicit statements of longing and desire for companionship. ... In the cities, there are the usual cafeterias and singles bars where you can hang out, if you wish." The usual cafeterias?
Part of the fun is that the book was published in 1995, and it sounds like it was published even earlier. The writing reminds me of golly-gee 'fifties writing but also enthusiastic hippie 'sixties writing.
The common potato ... is so much used in Norwegian kitchens that no Norwegian can conceive of a main meal without the ubiquitous potato. It is eaten boiled, baked, fried as chips, sliced and baked in a fricassee, served in soups... So be prepared when you are confronted with the potato in Norway--do not throw up your hands in despair and say you need rice, not potatoes; you need pasta, not potatoes; you need greens, not potatoes. Potatoes are what they have more than enough of in Norway and potatoes are what you will get, so learn to enjoy them.
I did learn a few shocking things:
* When you move into an unfurnished dwelling, it might not have ceiling lamps, just switches and wires.
* When washing dishes by hand, a Norwegian generally "scrubs the dishes with a brush, rinses them in the soapy water, then takes them out of the water, still dripping soap, and places them on the dish rack to dry. ... The detergent is edible, anyway, and it will drip-dry."
* One of the items she recommends for your kitchen: "A birch whisk for smooth sauces is really a most useful tool to ensure no unsightly lumps in soups or sauces that use flour as a thickener." That sounds like a wire whisk to me. But made of birch? I can't imagine it!
And I learned other interesting things. For example:
* Lillehammer, where the 1994 Olympics were held, is in Norway.
* Bente Roestad saw an octopus while on vacation in Greece and created Inky, the Octopus, as a character in stories she told her five-year-old nephew. This became a book series about sea characters worried about pollution. Their popularity led to the formation of The Inky Club for "young environmental detectives" age 5 - 13. Members investigate environmental conditions in their neighborhoods, write articles for newspapers and contact politicians and industrial plants. And membership is open to kids all around the world. (Sadly, I can't find much on this organization today. But I like the idea!)
* Thor Heyerdahl sailed not only Kon-Tiki (to prove it would have been possible for Latin Americans to settle in Polynesia), which I read about as a child, but also other voyages and explorations.
* Roald Amundson and his team, the first to reach the South Pole, is also from Norway.
* It is forbidden to physically punish children.
* There is freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and gender equality. The freedom of speech and especially freedom of the press sound real, but the gender equality sounds like old-timey sexist ideas of gender equality. "No one is permitted to strike a woman. Abuse of women at home or at work is frowned upon." And only men have to serve in the military.
* At age 13, you can work light jobs and fill out your own tax forms. At 15 you can control your own income, appeal child welfare decisions in the courts, choose your own schooling, and be punished for breaking the law.
* The road systems include an "extensive network of car ferries, road tunnels, and bridges across fjords. ... dozens of long tunnels, either through a mountain or under the sea, substitute a ferry service. On some tourist routes, the old road across the mountain is kept open during summer for nostalgic tourists."
* The average Norwegian spends an hour a day reading more than one newspaper. The newspapers aren't exactly biased, but they do have a focus like a trade, a region, or things of interest to members of a political party. "However, newspapers have never functioned simply as mouthpieces for their own party. Sometimes, it was the paper that influenced the party rather than the other way around."
* They have a constitutional monarchy, and for the first time I get why people might want a monarch. Not being elected, they don't have to appease their party--they look at the whole nation. "King Håkon's resounding 'No' to German demands on 10 April 1940 stands sharply illuminated in the history of monarchy and of Norway. The Germans had wanted to install a puppet government in Norway headed by a man called Quisling. But the king refused to acknowledge this act. His statement to the government was, 'The decisions is yours. But if you choose to accept the German demands, I must abdicate.'
* Alfred Nobel, a Swede, stipulated that unlike the scientific and literature prizes, the Nobel peace prize was to be decided by Norwegians.
* The air is dry; it's good to have hand cream and lip gloss.
* There are lots of classes and club meetings in the winter--in the summer, people are adventuring, working on their gardens, and otherwise enjoying the outdoors.
* The Freia chocolate factory was "immortalised in Norwegian-American author Roald Dahl's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Or a fictionalized version of it, anyway. But the real factory has lunch rooms decorated by Edvard Munch (Norwegian painter of "The Scream," among other things) and the company created Freia Park, full of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. (Hmm, this park is somehow not called that in any of the tourbooks I have but instead Frogner Park or Vigelands Park.)
* The "stave church, of which 30 remain, only in Norway[, is] the finest expression of wooden architecture. No nails are used in the contruction of the stave church which has withstood the ravages of wind and weather for 800-900 years. Norway is the only country in which wooden church architecture was developed to such an extent that medieval churches could be preserved up to the present time."
There was a whole chapter on food and drink. Like all human cultures through the history of time (probably), they have alcohol:
* beer, especially pils
* aquavit - very strong potato whiskey with caraway and other spices
* wine (mostly imported)
* gløgg - hot spiced red wine
* coffee - strong and black
* tea - "Today, there is a new trend among younger Norwegians who perceive tea-drinking as a healthier alternative to coffee. Earlier, tea was served only on formal occasions and also to the infirm." Heh.
* milk - drunk daily
* hot cocoa
And she mentions these foods:
* pålegg - something you put on bread; I knew they ate open-faced sandwiches--they have a name for what we would call the filling of a closed-face sandwich
* cheese - Gouda, Jarlesberk,goat cheese, and more; "The most Norwegian of all cheeses is red cheese. Called Gudbrandsdal, red cheese ... has a clean, sweet, caramelised flavour."
* salad - may contain flowers, cabbage
* mushrooms - they grow in the forests
* berries - they grow in the mountains and include blueberries, lingonberries (which are apparently wild cranberries), cloudberries, and raspberries. I can see why Dahl couldn't resist making up snozzberries as well.
* bread - mostly whole grain, flat, and often crispy
* fish - especially "cod, herring, trout, brisling, salmon, and mackeral," preserved in various ways
* Finnish Beef - thinly shaved reindeer meat from the Sami culture up north
* salted lamb ribs
* meatballs in brown sauce
* lamb stew with cabbage
* fishballs in white sauce - "For the Asian foreigner used to fishballs made wholly from fishmeat and boiled in soup, Norwegian fishballs are a rude shock. The Asian fishball is springy in texture and contains only fish, salt, and water. The Norwegian fishball is soft and milky, both in colour and flavour. It is an acquired taste, but you could get fond of it."
* potato and meat stew
* smørgåsbord - this idea of a buffet table may have started as Swedish potlucks.
Huh, no mention of porridge.
The author proposes the following reasons for Norway having one of the lowest crime rates in the world:
* minimal gap between the haves and have nots
* "emphasis on social justice makes Norway and Norwegians some of the most equitable administrators of justice"
* censorship of television to reduce exposure to violence
* deeply ingrained sense of human rights
This book is one of a series of Culture Shock books on various countries including the US--and Singapore. I may check out more of these in the future.