Probably one of the most common stereotypes that you will hear about Norwegians is how their demeanor can be a bit cold or reserved at times. Most expats will tell you this, and most Norwegians will almost talk about this stereotype with pride. A few things you might hear are, “Nobody talks to their neighbors." “You don’t make friends in the gym.” “People will look at you like you’re crazy if you talk to them in public.” “The only acceptable time to talk to a stranger is when you are hiking.” The list goes on and on, but the comments are always about how people have a bubble, both social and physical, and you need to to respect that bubble at all times.
Well, I am going to have to stand up for Norwegians and say that this stereotype is just not true. Okay, I need to be fair and say that my experience is repetitive of the entire expat community. Some expats may have found Norwegians to be a bit cold and reserved, but I have found Norwegians to be quite the opposite. The only exception is the woman at the post office, but I guess bad experiences at the post office is a stereotype that can cross any border.
I have never been shy, and I have never had a problem talking to complete strangers. I guess that I get it from my mother who feels the need to say howdy to every stranger she has ever met in a line. I talk to my neighbors, people at the gym, and people in the park all the time. Nobody has been rude or unpleasant to me, and I have even made a few friends. So what is going on here? I am either an anomaly or I am completely oblivious to how uncomfortable I am making Norwegians.
My opinion on the matter is that Norwegians have bought into the outdated stereotype of being reserved and have now begun to use it as an excuse to be rude when it suits them. However, expats feel that Norwegians are cold because most Expats are too afraid to push through the initial awkward conversation because they fear that they might offend.
My advice to expats is to keep pushing a conversation with a Norwegian forward, no matter how awkward it may be. Norwegians are just like everybody else on earth and want to talk about their lives and connect. It just may take a few more minutes. You should also not be so scared to offend someone. Trust me, Norwegians have extremely thick skin and are very skilled at sarcasm, so just take everything said as light humor.
My advice to Norwegians is to stop buying into this whole reserved act. I have seen you after a few beers, so we are way past that charade. Don't pass your neighbor or co-worker on the street without saying hello, be friendly to expats, but don't tell me that you being rude is a part of the culture. It's not!
I know Norwegians to be friendly, inviting, helpful, curious, hilarious, and incredibly kind. Change the stereotype to reflect how your culture truly is.
Written by Nicholas Williams, blog columnist at Culturas. American citizen with a Master in International Marketing Management, Nicholas worked in Rio de Janeiro for four years and is currently living in Oslo.