As i have told all my international friends, and as all my friends back home are aware of, my home country is not a particularly warm and welcoming place – neither in terms of weather, which is usually both cold and wet – or in terms of people. The two might be related – it’s hard to talk to strangers from beneath five layers of woolen ski-masks!
However, there are two situations in which we will greet out fellow countrymen with warm honesty and appreciation such as were we lifelong friends; one is walking the mountains. The further away from anything civilized you are, the longer and more personal are the completely random conversations with strangers.
The other one is also when traveling – traveling abroad. When we meet someone “of our own kind”, we greet them as long lost loved ones, even when we just happen to randomly eavesdrop to their rather personal conversation on the subway… and they do not mind being overheard and disturbed, no not at all, come on, we’re fellow Norwegians! Practically family!
However, on several occasions lately, I have found myself in the situation of overhearing Norwegians. My natural instinct, which has always said “Say HEI!” – has the past few weeks also let out a loud sigh. “Oh no. Please don’t. Just move along, nothing to see here.”
What’s going on?? Have eight months on the American continent turned me away from my own if-not-in-blood-then-at-lest-in-spirit-when-we’re-traveling kin? (Although, on a side note, with a Norwegian population of not even 5 mill, there is statistically a quite good chance of being physically related too. Anyway.) Am I no longer a proper Norwegian? Where’s my sense of Nationality? Gone? Lost?
Of course I know what’s going on. Despite the fact that yes, there are not even 5 million Norwegians in this world – as a relevant comparison, Bay Area alone has almost 8 – EVERYBODY knows a Norwegian. Or their great grandfather was Norwegian. Or their wife’s cousins half brother’s friend’s uncle once visited Sweden. Or was it Russia?
I appreciate statements such as “Wow – I’ve always wanted to go, it seems like such a beautiful country!” I love my country!
I do not mind people approaching me with questions about Norway. Like, “Is there good skiing there?” or “I’ve heard that the Norwegian girls are on the top of the world’s one night stand statistics. Do you have any cute friends you can introduce me to?” Again, I love my country – and I have a lot of cute friends!
I can handle, although awkwardly, the “Wow, Norway, huh? How’s that?”. Usually asked by some drunk guy who’s desperately trying to recall geography class, failing miserably (then and now), unable to place Norway on the right continent. He would probably not even be able to place the United States of America on the right continent.
But the thing that poses, for me, the most awkward situations of all, is: “Oh my god, Norway, my friend’s aunt is Norwegian.” Period. No more. Not a question I can answer. No statement I can verify. (I have no idea who you are, let alone your friend’s aunt!) Nothing. Maybe it’s just my fault – I do not know what to reply. It always, every time, without exception, turn in to an embarrassed smile, an awkward laugh and sometimes a half-pronounced “oh, that’s nice…”.
Yes, I am still Norwegian. Yes, I still love my country.
It’s just so awkward from time to time – and the last thing I need is a load of Norwegians around me to really draw some attention.
So whenever I hear Norwegian, I will not listen to my “we’re-practically-family” instinct, but simply pretend to be a proper American and discreetly move on. Nothing personal.
Comment by William on January 29, 2010 10:13 am
Haha, kinda funny when you put it like that. I have encountered several Norwegians as well since I came here, but every time so far my reaction has been, “well, what would I have to say to them?”
Also, it’s kinda fun to just listen, knowing something they don’t — always hoping that they will comment on my clothing/looks/whatever, so that I can say “interessant at du mener det” or something.