The Dark Side of Hygge

I have wanted to write under this title for months already. Today I have walked into the bookstore, opened randomly that famous book about hygge (by Meik Wiking) and there it was: my title! Though the idea was different. But still. Thank you, Meik! Now, since the title is out there (apparently a bit before I coined it myself), I can continue the discussion.

Meik writes that spending time in a hyggeligt way with family and close friends can have its dark, less pleasant side: the newcomers find it difficult to get into a circle. The Danes seem to be so preoccupied with their own circles which makes them not so open and inclusive folks. “But once you’ve gotten in, you are in”, he says.

after sunset, in Oslo

He says this about Danes, though Danes are considered to be the most open and talkative of all the Scandinavians. So imagine Norway after that. My Ukrainian friend who moved here after doing some work in Denmark, got depressed. She thought Norwegians are just like Danes. Looks like she liked the Danes. Then another Ukrainian friend of mine, who lives in Finland, considers Norwegians still more nicer than Finns. I just don’t want to start imagining Finns. But I can speak for Norway, this place I know oh so well.

Once you’ve gotten it, you are in, – this is what they say here too. It is not easy to get a Norwegian as your friend, but once you’ve got him, you really have him forever. Just a little question: how exactly do you get a Norwegian friend? To me it seems sometimes not just difficult – but nearly impossible.

Ok, I can speak only for myself apparently. And for a couple of my international friends who seem to be in the same situation. What I observe here is that foreigners tend to hang out with foreigners, and Norwegians – with Norwegians. Is it like this in every country where you live as an expat or migrant?

I remember living as au-pair in Austria. In a year there I made more friends with locals than in Norway for all of my lifehere. To be honest, the number of my close friends who are Norwegian – after eleven years –  is zero. And I see the similar trend for other foreigners around me. The Spanish blend together with the Spanish, Latinos and foreigners who speak Spanish, the Russians and Ukrainians make friends with all those from ex-Soviet. When I was moving to Norway, I was firmly dedicated not to become a typical Russian immigrant who hangs out only with Russians and misses the food like borsch, herrings salad and kefir. No, I was going to make friends with locals and hang out with them. Eleven years later I still find it mystical to make friends with locals.

after rain, October in Oslo

The puzzling thing is that they are not hostile. They are nice, sometimes really nice. In the workplace, in university they smile to you, ask about your weekend, they would talk to you with humor. But making friends with them? Mysterious. Maybe, they don’t want new friends because the old friends from their school and kindergarten are enough? But no, I have seen new friendships being created in my workplace. They make new ones – but also Norwegian ones.

An exception are Norwegians who have lived abroad and experienced the life as a foreigner. Also the children of immigrants are different. Though born and brought up in Norway, they carry values and manners of other culture – in addition to their Norwegian culture. My two-three local friends (not close, but friends) are like that.

They say that living abroad is always difficult when it comes to making social connections. You think that the Spanish people are open, but when you come to live there you will find it different, a Norwegian told me (who has lived some years in Spain). But then there is this theory (which I read in my course of sociology) that goes like this. In the Southern Europe people used to live in villages and towns for centuries and they were used to meeting their neighbors on the streets and markets, hang out with them and meet new people too. The climate would also allow such activity. Thus they got the habit for communicating a lot, even though sometimes superficially. In Norway, centuries ago, people often lived in alone standing houses, where the family runs the farm, and the next neighbor would be kilometers away. When you work side by side with your family, you don’t feel for chatting with them even more in the evening. And meeting strangers was not something that happened very often. Thus Norwegian culture got the value placed on authenticity, not on superficial small talk.

Fast forward it to now. The living patterns have changed, but the cultures are still bearing those traits. The Spanish can talk and talk, and ask you questions even if your language mastery is minimal. Norwegians will answer your questions politely but they will not make an effort to start a random conversation, for example, on a plane. Then there are few arenas where it is ok talking to strangers in Norway. You don’t start a random chat on public transportation, not in cafes, not in the shops. You can talk to strangers in the bars, but there are few interested in friendship, more in a hook-up. That’s why, maybe, Norwegians love organizations – they are the legal arena for meeting new people. If you want to make friends, join the choir, or dancing course, or any other organization where you will meet the same crowd on the regular basis.

after sunset, in Stavanger

Maybe, this is only my problem. Maybe, I didn’t work hard enough. Recently I read on the Facebook page of Expats in Oslo this question: “Have you read “The Social Guidebook to Norway”? Did it help you to find friends?” The book is written by a Canadian Julien Bourrelle, where he explains in drawings and humoristic manner how Norwegians function. It is not really a self-help book, more of entertainment, though the points ring with truth. And the first answer to this question was: “I did. And no, it didn’t”. It is sad to read it. And when I wrote about loneliness in Norwegian culture in this post, people reacted to it with confirmation. I still hope that there are many more foreigners who will prove me wrong. I’d prefer to be in a minority than in the pattern.

When writing this, I am very aware of unease I feel. I really don’t want to offend my Norwegian readers (especially my colleagues, they were fantastic people to work with). I appreciate this nation, it has so many good values and traits. But I just have to admit that my experience tells me that opening up for newcomers and including strangers is not its strongest side. And this unintentionally created exclusion hurts. It really hurts, according to recent research. It says that exclusion triggers the same brain areas as pain. Having spent many years in loneliness and social confusion, I can confirm that it does.

While the infomercial in the subway asks: “Which sun factor protects against loneliness?” The answer is: no sun factor protects against loneliness. I wish I had seen this question years ago. I wish I had gotten better information on what loneliness can lead to, and about ways to prevent it. No country for old men, my friend says about Norway. While I am young and can go out dancing salsa, it is one story. But when I become old, I prefer to see myself sitting on the sunny terrace of some Mediterranean town, sipping coffee (I hope, till then they make better coffee) or cheap read wine, in the place where I know the name of every waiter and every neighbor, chatting with them about life, telling them my stories. I prefer this to spending long dark winters with hygge, expensive candles and hot tea under the fluffy rug, where friends prefer to travel away for Easter and Christmas – and if you stay in town, you are stuck with empty streets and closed everything, where it is not normal to strike a chat with a stranger and carry on for a while. Where even I forget how to do a small talk – so that when I see a somehow familiar face, sometimes I turn away because I don’t know what to talk about here on the street. I prefer to be old some other place. And maybe, some years before that too.

If you have your experiences of Nordic culture, share them with me here in comments!

79 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Hygge

  1. I have been told even Norway born Norwegians have a hard time getting into friend circles and that is a serious issue. They get lonely too. I know with my family that friends seems to befriend the ENTIRE family of brothers and not just one which is interesting.

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    • Loneliness is an issue here, for sure. Like that informercial on subway, it was not directed to foreigners obviously (just imagine this sign in Spain or Italy. Makes no sense))). And if it is hard for Norwegians, it makes it even worse for the newcomers. That is a sad story, and it is ironic to hear when Norway is proclaimed the best country to live in and the happiest country too.

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      • OMG I was thinking that too! How is Norway the happiest country? I do believe the best to live in part however. My diabetic supplies cost thousands of dollars in the US compared to Norway costing about three hundred dollars max. There are definitely some ups and downs to living in Norway for sure.

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      • It can be counted “best to live”, depending on what is “best”. I understand the criteria they used: the life expectance, level of higher education, medical service, transparency. This makes Norway a very good place to live. If they counted social connection, level of loneliness, life quality (not life standard), the results would be different. As any country, Norway has its ups and downs.
        But the happiest country – this is really ironical to me. But ok. Well well 🙂

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    • They seem very reserved, yes. When you start learning them better, like in a work setting, or other place where you are involved over a period of time, you discover many different personalities. But I have still to travel far to find a more reserved people than them 🙂

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  2. you have confirmed my theory…that people in hot/humid countries are more warm than people in cold countries. My theory is that in warm countries people tend to mingle and have their entire social structure built around community and get together. So people in Asia, Southern Europe and even in Latin America are friendly than say Russians, Finns even Germany to some extent.

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    • Of course, climate has a lot to say in this case. In the warm climate you can spend all your day on the street where mingling is unavoidable. In the cold climate you spend too much time inside, and you are not used to mingle and meet new people all the time, if this is not your work. Even at work there is a limit on how much can happen in a little place like Norway.
      Let me disagree on Russians. My friend from Netherlands said that exception to this rule are Estonians, in his experience. I said that those open Estonians maybe originally Russians, a lot of them of live in Estonia. And he agreed. But to my it is hard to judge, since Russian is my language and my culture, and of course, these people are more open to me than to other foreigners, for sure.

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      • May be we might disagree on this because of our observation. In any case, Russia is a big country spanning across various time zone and continents so variations do exists. But generally, even in other parts of the world Russians have a different image which can be false! 🙂

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      • True true. There are many different Russians one can meet. Though there is some coherent culture too, and even some evidence to stereotypes 🙂 And for me who is neighbor and sharing the culture, it is always difficult to see them objectively 😉 some things are better seen from the distance.

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  3. I think I have been lucky in finding friends in Finland because I first arrived as an exchange student and was taken in immediately by the circle of my host-sister’s friends. I am still close friends with them now and a few have stayed with us in Australia.

    Marrying/being in a relationship with a local also really helps to break into stiff social circles. Also knowing the language or at least being very interested in their country/language helps.

    I sometimes wonder if my experience would be diferent if I wasn’t ‘white’ and didn’t easily pass as a Finn…

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    • Thank you for sharing your perspective! Good to hear that you had such a welcoming experience.
      It definitely helps when you are involved with the family, that opens up many circles. And if you have a gate-opener like your host-sister helps a lot too.
      Good point with the appearance. I think, we all are colored by our perception. My Spanish man would not mind look and sound Spanish, since he got into a Norwegian family where everyone liked him, and he is good at making friends with anyone. While my friends from Russia and Ukraine look more Norwegian than him, and still find it difficult, especially those who came as au-pair, students or for work. Because the appearance is only for the first minute, then you have your accent, your culture that is so different, and few points to intercede. Well well. Very interesting subject. I will keep on interviewing my friends about that 🙂

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      • It definitely depends on the personality – I find that many Finns respond to a warm or outgoing personality, maybe because it can help to break the ice if the other person is more willing to make the first moves.

        It’s sad to hear about the experience of your Russian and Ukrainian friends… I don’t know about Norway but unfortunately in Finland there is a prejudice against people from Russia or eastern Europe.

        The Nordic countries are definitely not the easiest place to be a foreigner! But definitely worth it if you can break through the ice and experience the loyalty and dependability of the local people 🙂

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      • I was told by Norwegians that they like when people are outgoing and you need to be a bit southern here. Unfortunately, I reflect people I talk to, and become more Finnish that Italian 😆😆
        Norwegians also have prejudices against Russians as they share the border. I know a story of Ukrainian girl keeping a cafe and not willing to speak her mother tongue there. Her Australian employee could not understand that. Then she (aussie) pretended to be Polish for a week or two. And then she said to my Ukrainian friend: “I don’t want to be Polish anymore, that sucks” 😆😆
        Of course, there is a gradation of foreigners. Americans and Western europeans come first, then Eastern Europeans, Asians and Africans in the end. This is a sad reality, even if there are variations to it, and all is covered by political correctness.

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      • Haha I definitely adapt and become like the people I talk to as well! And I’m especially shy when speaking Finnish. But I guess overall I’m still more talkative than the average Finn 😉

        Unfortunately you speak a sad truth about those prejudices…

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      • You see! But it’s normal, we are social beings and adjust to each other. And I know 2 versions of me: chatty in Spain and reserved in Norway. And to be honest, I like the first one better. Even though I am still talk more than an average Norwegian 😆😆 just like you.

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  4. I truly believe that it does not happen only in Norway or northern countries. I have a lot of friends all over the world living as foreigners and many of them are having troubles becoming good friends with locals. Me myself I lived in Spain for one year and nope, I don´t have Spanish friends. Now in Germany I don’t have close German friends either… And for sure if I were a foreigner in Russia, I would have hard times hanging out with locals as well. I agree, beeing in a northern country makes things even more difficult, but even in Spain or Italy it is not easy to integrate at this level and to have true local friends.
    I guess that is just how it is… people like to stick to their tribe and it is in our nature to lean to people who are close to us. “Close” is a very relative thing though… In Asia all Europeans are suddenly close and you will see how easy it is to make friends with let’s say Germans. In Germany it will be somehow easier to make friends with Poles, cause you are both slavic and foreigners. But if you as a Russian would live in Poland, then suddenly this nation will be hard to get along with!

    It is very confusing and I honestly don’t know how to overcome this 😦 It would be nice to have local friends, but in the end just having (any) friends is what matters. And who they are – is not so important as long as they are good. Don’t look at the fact of not having local friends as an “integration failure”. It is not. Yes, we all came to the new country with that perfect image in our head how we would fit in 100% and find our new home, friends and family. But it happens only to some very few lucky people! Don’t be too hard on yourself trying to conform to that “ideal immigrant” illusion ) It’s not a big deal that you don’t have norwegians friends. Maybe they will come in the future, who knows, but for now I would let it go (and I did just that in my situation).

    As for the retirement – I am definitely going to Spain! That’s decided! Hahaha )

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    • Thank you, Uliana, for sharing your story and your analysis. I agree on the point that it is not easy getting local friends in any place. And I would sign up under this: if I lived as a foreigner in Ukraine, I would have troubles making friends too (though we are curious about Americans and Westerners. But not about Africans, for ex.).
      I just had such a great experience in Austria that it blinded me for a while. I felt totally integrated into the social life there, but one year is not representative, I understand))
      And I love being in Spain where it’s acceptable to chat any place with anyone while in Norway I get so frozen. That even when people chat up with me here, I feel weird and don’t know what to say 😆😆
      I really would love to live in south before retirement ( I need a break from Northern climate and culture). And hopefully, we will meet with you then on Mediterranean coast for a glass of something 😉

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    • And I just love your words about being kind to myself and not press myself into that perfect immigrant image of me. Thank you for reminding! This is so true. We press ourselves into so much 😝

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  5. Interesting post that I’ve missed when it came out! 🙂 Again, these are exactly the things I’ve been thinking of – oh I so wish I could meet you for coffee and have a chat – though maybe we’d just end up complaining, hahah – yikes! 😀
    When in France, I’ve had mostly foreign friends, the only Frenchies who befriended me were always men, never women. In Finland, I don’t have many friends anymore. I’ve met a few new people every now and then when changing jobs and now through my twins, and we send messages on whatsapp and sometimes meet. But my closest friends all disappeared when they had kids 5-10 years ago and moved out of expensive Helsinki to areas which require a car for visiting (I don’t have a car and I didn’t have kids then so that was the end of it.) Some also moved abroad (like I did, but they stayed there. I often wonder why the *beep* I came back!)
    Anyway, I feel that most Finns make friends in kindergarden, as ridiculous as it sounds, just like you suspected of Norwegians. Then they make a few more friends in school and that’s it for life. They don’t need more friends. They get married and mix it up with their partner’s similar circle of buddies. Voilá, friends for life. Thank you and goodbye, no more friends needed!
    I actually just read a Finnish article on loneliness before reading this post of yours and it just confirms my feelings. It’s something that I truly dislike about the local culture but I can’t tell anyone because they don’t understand and will just get offended.
    On the other hand, Finns love foreigners from interesting countries. Not Somalia or Iran, but if you’re from England, the USA or Australia, they will befriend you in a second!

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    • Haha, that would be great – meeting for coffee and complaining the whole evening 😆😆
      Too bad my (Ukr) friend was not American)) She has lately moved from Helsinki to Holland and loves the cheap beer, nice collegues and tasty mayonnaise. Whaat, mayo?? How bad can it be?
      Norwegians also love “sexy” foreigners. I don’t know if they befriend them fast, but they love them. What about you, sexy Australian? So sad to hear that you don’t have friends now. I am happy I have my expat friends here.
      And in Norway the kids are a good ice-breaker. First, baby groups, then kindergarten parents, common activities. Maybe, your kids will open a new window for you? As they will socialize, you can have a moment with other parents 😉 So I don’t give up on Finns and you!

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      • Hahah, I’m fine as it is and life moves on. I’ve already met a couple of twin moms who are nice 😊 As for me, when I moved here as a kid, no one was interested for more than 5 min! The local kids asked if I’d seen kangaroos and then went on their way. To them, I’m a boring Finn who maybe wants to show off with what she’s experienced (big sin! if you tell anyone they think you are bragging! wtf! and being proud of yourself makes you the worst kind of person in their eyes! I don’t agree btw). Not the same as befriending an Australian 😄 I’ve given up but hope the babies blend in and make friends!

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      • Ahaha, have you see kangaroos? And bye 🙂 🙂
        Poor you, that must have been a confusing experience. Oh yes, not bragging, no no. There is even a name for it, Janteloven, the law of Jante. Have you heard of it? “don’t think that you are something”. I guess, the whole Scandi simple style and that popular now Swedish “lagom” comes from it. Not too much. Not too loud.
        You can be proud here, but not of yourself alone, but collectively. That’s why they are so proud of their country maybe. Bc this is a way to channel that feeling without bragging 🙂

        Wait and see, maybe as babies blend, you will blend in too. Who knows if in coming years you will write glossy posts about something typically Finnish, like hygge 🙂 I already have started to think of a Norwegian concept I could sell, haha.

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      • Hahah, go for it! Make a living from hygge 😉 Over here, I can’t see it but maybe I will one day… And very good point!! That does explain why everyone brings up how they love their country – collective pride is the only kind that is ok!! Personally, I think it’s healthy to be proud of yourself and your achievements and if you tell someone about a trip, it’s not because I want to brag or think I’m better or something, it’s just a topic I’m interested in talking about! I really am in the wrong country – and maybe you are too 🙂

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      • I have to use my Norwegian status for whatever it is worth now 😆😆 So if Norwegians don’t discover their brand besides winter sports and oil, we foreigners will do it!
        Norway is a peculiar case. It is very individualist society, so contrary to my collectivist Ukraine. But bragging and being proud is not so welcome, the farmer mentality at work here, I guess. This is how I explain their oversized national pride as well as obsession about winning in Olympics right now. It feels good to be proud!
        I know, I have felt it for many years that I am in a wrong place, too southern and too loud. But today I’ve been to the citizenship ceremony (as a new citizen) and I am also proud to be Norwegian. Gosh, soon you will see me waving that flag on every occasion 😆🇳🇴

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      • I’m always a beach girl in my heart – I could’ve been a surfer, but for now I’d happily just be a swimmer (I never get to swim over here, miss it so much!). I would also be a zen yogi and a Croatian salsera (why not? never been there but I’m sure I would love that festival of yours!)

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      • Surfer sounds good! It is one of my dream images. Apropos swimming. I follow a blog “Becoming Finnish” here on WP, and we had a conversation about ice hole swimming. And you say, little swimming in Finnland, haha.

        Oh, Croatia is good for that all: salsa, swimming, yoga… There are still no festivals combining salsa and yoga, mojitos and asanas, but who knows what is around the corner? 😉

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      • Oh yes, I already follow that blog! 🙂
        I am not keen on trying that, are you?!!! I also don’t like the idea of walking on the frozen sea. People (locals) drown/die of hypothermia every winter because they feel a pull to go walking on that ice even though it’s not strong enough. Crazy stuff. I’d rather walk on solid grown and just look towards the ice, if there’s something to see… (there isn’t)…
        Oh, Croatia and salsa, swimming and yoga sounds so perfect!!!
        In Malaga, did you ever visit the feria in August? (Did we talk about this before?) I did once (2002) and there was (besides an amazing imaginary town built out of lights) a building with small rooms which each had their own party going on. Several rooms had salsa and flamenco. There was also a tapas area. And an amusement park. Nothing like that over here!

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      • I am not keen either, but if my friends were doing it, I would give it a go. Russians do ice bathing too, so I could blame it on the Russian side of me 🙂
        In Norway they ski on the frozen lakes, and the sea never really is frozen, only some meters by the coast. My friend from Crimea commented that it was so sad for a Southern person to see the frozen sea in St. Petersburg. Hehe.
        I have never been to feria de Malaga, though I’ve been to Malaga several times. My friend went to Malaga after me, for the language course, and she got addicted to the Feria. So it is her fixed program every summer. Andalucia people know how to party 🙂 I usually choose to party in Croatia, but if I could I’d love to visit Feria de Malaga once.
        And hope, one day I will find (or create) a concept of my liking: with the warm sea, some dance, some yoga on the beach… Life is so much amazing with them!

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    • And yes, the loneliness is a big problem here. They don’t talk so much about it – like “we are the happiest nation”. But the problem exists. And it is sad. So far we are young, it is not so bad. But when I imagine growing older here… I get goosebumps. No country for old men. I wouldn’t be old in Norway, I hope not to.

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      • I know! I should do it more often. While working in the sales I notice that often they just need to chat, not buy a thing. And then I chat just for a chat. But I don’t do it much outside of the work.

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      • Oh, I know. When I just moved to Oslo and my guest family was away for holidays I was silent for two weeks. The only people chatting to me were guys in the Turkish shop. That time was like a torture. That’s why my relationship with this country has been bitter for many years. But I hope to turn it now.
        We must be that change in the world and not give up chatting!
        P.S. We watched “the lobster” last night, a great thoughts-provoking movie. And the issue of loneliness got a new aspect in my eyes. Have you seen it yet?

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      • Yes, I’ve seen it and I loved it! I don’t normally like absurd stuff, but this was sooo absurd… but with a message too. A desperate message.
        Lucky you, planning your escape!! 😀 Hang in there with the Olympics- they must be everywhere if Norwegians are so proud of these sports! Do you like watching them? Hubby watches them so I see some of them on TV, I don’t really care t watch otherwise. Ice hockey is the biggest sport here and what annoys me is that they have play offs in MAY. May!!! That is the spring season after an already too long winter! Why do they have to ruin the spring atmosphere with more winter sports? Ice hockey is ok in the winter, but please let us have that brief non-winter time without reminders! Another thing to prove that I’m in the wrong place 😀

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      • Do you know this joke? How do Norwegians call summer? – How? – “Bad skiing conditions” 🙂 🙂
        That was my empathy for the ice hockey in May. Unbelievable! Norwegians use their summer skis in summer, but the most don’t miss winter 🙂
        I am missing the Olympics but totally. My man watches La Liga and I am very informed on Spanish football, haha. But winter sports are passing me by. When I worked in school, I got it more from the surroundings, teachers were talking of them all the time. But now, part-time in the shops, those kids are as unaware as me. And though I am Norwegian now, but I don’t follow Norwegian news, again no Norwegian friends, so no one there to make me follow it. I myself have more passion for salsa than skiing so there goes my attention 🙂

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      • Same here! More passion for samba, in my case, than skiing 🙂 But I haven’t actually been able to dance after giving birth bc the doctor said my abs need to return to normal before I can do sports… it’s already been almost 8 months and I still look pregnant!!! That twin belly was enormous and it stretched the abs, and so now I have someone else’s body. But that’s another story. Anyway, exotic dances are not so exotic to me, just normal and I love them! 🙂
        Thanks for the empathy! Over here I get none, everyone loves ice hockey, all the girls too!

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      • Oh really? Have you mentioned samba before? I think, you did, but how come I let it pass by me. What kind of samba do you dance? I used to do samba no pe, the solo version for the carnival. Oslo samba school even joined the carnival in Copenhagen and I was there, walking and dancing. That was unforgettable! Have you ever seen the carnival in CPH?
        Oh, that must be the hardest time – waiting for the body so that you can dance again. But maybe you can dance a little bit in your kitchen, while the twins sleep? 🙂 Just to get that healing groove that puts a smile on your face…
        thanks God, no obsession with ice hockey here, only skiing 🙂 but don’t you get infected when your hubby is watching? This is how I came to learn the Spanish football. No passion for it, but I sit next to him and read, and so watch some parts. And suddenly I know a lot about it 🙂

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      • I used to like ice hockey a bit as a teenager so I sort of know the game. And we played it at school in sports class – all girls’ games 🙂 But no, no infection risk! 🙂
        Yes, I danced samba no pe too (“nopee” in Finnish means “quick/fast” which is funny bc it suits the steps so well!) but never performed coz I am still a beginner and I have a fear of some stranger videoing me while I trip and fall on my face and then the video would become a viral youtube hit… hahaha… I’m not good with high heels you see! I think we talked abt this but I had forgotten you had danced this too. Never been to the Copenhagen carnival (though otherwise I’ve been to CPH several times) but I have to say the Helsinki carnival is quite nice, big and well organized and prepped! Only thing is, it rains every year on carnival day and is friggin COLD. 😀 I usually go and watch (in my autumn coat and scarf!) It’s in June…

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      • So what happened to your ice hockey attitude? You even played! :)))
        Samba no pe is tricky, and yes, hehe, it is fast. But it is such a paaaarty! The first time I got into the class I knew it was better than a disco 🙂
        Oslo carnival is also in June, and it also happens I go see it in autumn wear while the girls dance in bikinis. In CPH it was hot that day when we were marching in bras and hot pants. It is once in a life experience!! And another time I saw it as a visitor and it was biting cold in May, poor girls. I hope, they had some vodka inside, bc I was freezing in a coat. But it is such a fun! After carnival they have party on the streets at night, so you dance reggaeton and samba, and watch the shows and drink in the designated area…makes me forget I am in Scandinavia :)))) Total recommendation. When your twins grow up now, hehe.

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      • Sounds like a hockey trauma 😆 I played football like that, wishing to avoid it.
        That street party with several stages and bars IS a lot of fun! You forget that you are in Scandinavia 😆😆 last weekend of May (Pinsen helg?), if you want to remember 😉

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      • Oh, and I used to dance lots of other dances before samba, been to dance classes on/off since I was a teenager but I’m not especially good – I’m clumsy and forget the choreographies – but I’ve always loved dancing! I remember you told me you’ve been dancing a long time too but you never went to dance classes, do I remember right? For me it was also a way to work out. (Finns aren’t as obsessed with workout as Norwegians seem to be, but in Helsinki it’s normal!)

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      • I am with you, sister! I am bad at choreo. I have tried to learn street dance lately. I am either too old for that stuff. Or I have no memory 😆 when they are on 5, I am still on 2.
        I used to dance at home, with tv music or radio. Since I was…3? I have a pic of my at 3, dancing. But I never took classes before samba when I was 30. So I am good at freestyle🕺🏻 But not choreography.
        And what is your history of dance?

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      • I danced since I was 12, actively until 24. After that, on/off depending on what else I was doing in life. I danced street dance as a teenager and also dancehall reggae, they were fun then! Have danced some mixed latin stuff, never with a partner, always individually! Also tried jazz, afro etc… 🙂 Lately I’ve been into yoga, before the babies I did yoga at home (Yoga With Adriene free Youtube videos are great!) and occasionally classes (first astanga, then hatha)… Have you been doing yoga too?

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      • Gosh, you are my hero! I would do all the same if I could turn back time. It is never too late, true, but I feel a bit too slow in the classes full of young girls, so I self select myself out 🙂 I am happy in Afro fusion classes though.
        I started with hatha yoga at the studio and then it was kundalini. I have tried ashtanga too, but my favorites now are the soft kinds: Yin yoga and kundalini yoga (I get my head cleaned like after meditation). I tried doing at home, but not good at it, need those group practice. and of course, one day I would love to become an instructor and do my retreat on Ibiza :))) have you ever thought of it too?

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      • I like hatha now, it’s softer than astanga was. And yes, I did actually think of that for a while!! 🙂 But the courses for becoming a yoga instructor in Finland are suuuuuuper expensive. (No surprise!) A friend did a course in Thailand and now could be an instructor if she wanted to. You said you were good at freestyle dancing, I’ve always been good at stretching! 😀 I would definitely visit your retreat in Ibiza!! 🙂

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      • There are so many teacher training classes around the world that I would never consider Finland 🙈 I imagine Costa Rica or Bali for that, they have plenty. But now with babies your life has a totally new scheme)) my friend used to be a yoga instructor in the local gym with no training, she was just good at stretching too. That was 8 years ago, maybe now it’s different. But anyway, u never know. You could ask around.
        I book you as my first retreat visitor, lovely! 😉

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  6. I have lived in Copenhagen for 10 years. I like the author of this post have not had much success in integrating.. I’ve given up trying now! Thankfully I’m quite introverted, enjoy my own company and have decent self esteem. It’s a very racist climate. If I could speak to my younger self I would tell her not to bother moving here. Nice for a visit maybe but not to live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, it is sad to hear that. And I know what you mean. I too felt like I was fighting an invisible fight. It works well if you are introvert, like you say. I am not, so I built my relations with expats and foreigners here. it took some time to accept things as they are though.
      However, I would not call this climate exactly racist. I have heard that even locals face the same difficulties moving from one place to another. I used to take it personally like “they don’t want/like Ukrainians”, but now I stopped. It is how they are, not hostile, just not open to new connections, be you either Norwegian or not.
      And so ironic, that these countries top the Happiness Report statistics :)) Well, maybe happy locals, but newcomers have to work hard on their happiness project 🙂

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  7. I’m glad you don’t have racism as part of what you are dealing with. It is the same here that when people move later in life within the country they will have a hard time building new friendships. I agree that it is ‘how they are’ but I disagree that it is not hostile.. it could be said to be covertly hostile. I wonder if all the hours of very early daycare creates a society lacking in emotional intellect and from what I have studied I know that I’m not alone in that thought. On ‘The happiest people in the world’ report.. I believe that should be renamed to something else, that the title is off.. I recognise that these counties are of the most finance/work stable.. and with it the most content! I wonder if even that stability being provided and a given is the reason why without that feeling of risk experienced by others abroad they do not experience the lasting glee of ‘flight’ when they achieve? Just a thought.

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    • I would say that I don’t feel discriminated bc of racism, because it doesn’t apply to me since I am white. Though it definitely exists. Though even some Norwegians call it “everyday racism” when I tell them my experience. Hm, interesting discussion. I find myself at the thought crossroad, as they say here in Norwegian 🙂

      And I agree with you that the name of Happiness Report is very misleading. What is happiness after all? Who has the right to define it in terms of financial stability and transparency? Where is the social connection, emotional health? With such high levels of loneliness, suicide (Finland), use of antidepressants (Denmark) – what kind of happiness are we talking about? Are these factors irrelevant to human experience of happiness?

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  8. Jumping back to this old discussion we had, Marina – I was reminded of this today when I was watching a silly reality tv show about 4 young Finns who go abroad as au pairs. Briefly put, 3 of them made a whatsapp group and left the 4th one out because they thought she might not be interested in what they were chatting about. The girl who was left out said to the camera later that when she found out that this WA group had existed for a while already, she felt hurt. The other 3 never mentioned the whole thing and the episode continued with other events. This kind of thing, leaving someone out of a group deliberately, is so very Finnish. If I had to pick one thing to define Finns’ behavior socially, this would be it. The ones who are in the group just act like nothing happened. No one acknowledges they did anything mean. Or if they did, the 4th person “deserved it” for being different or not fitting in. It’s like people here love to leave someone out… 🙄

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    • Your comment is just in time for my fresh post – about the Nordic happiness and its peculiarities 🙂
      I did some thinking about why talking and learning about social inclusion and exclusion in schools is so important here. I have done it a lot as a teacher. Maybe, bc they have the exact problem: of excluding people without meaning to be mean. It is just ok. He sits in silence the whole party, no problem. Nobody tries to get him chatting. I observed – and experienced it – not only once. Being kind of ignored – but not in a bad way.
      now, my experience of living abroad is not so rich, though it may seem rich. i just cannot say if other nations are better at this. Need to go and find out by myself now 🙂
      what would you say about the French? you’ve mentioned, you had not so many friends there either. are they better social animals? (they must be 🙂 after Finns, everyone is, no? haha)

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      • I had lots of friends in France, just not any 100% French women 😊. My friends were men, women who were half French and half something else, Finns, and other nationalities. In France, if there is a party, everyone is invited. And everyone’s friends. Sure people still talk about others behind their backs, I guess that happens everywhere.
        As for Nordic ignoring, there is a mean way to do it and a neutral way. Also silences are considered normal. But I often think it’s because of cultural vad self confidence that no one has the courage to take the initiative and go talk to the one sitting alone.

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      • Oh, Latinos (I include the French) love talking behind the backs. But then they are so warm towards you that really I don’t mind sometimes :)) Norwegians are careful about gossiping but does it make them better friends? Some yes, and some no.

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      • I’ll admit, I do it too (come on, I am Ukrainian :)) But either Norwegians are too pietistic and I never caught them gossipping. Or they do in their subtle manner. Like they say “she is kinda special” when they want to say “she is totally crazy” :)))

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