A Thing I Will Not Miss

Want a quick recipe for life? If you feel bored in one place – move. If you want to discover how amazing your place can be – move. If you want to start noticing again all the beauty of your old place – move.

Since we started moving plans for real, Oslo has become so amazing to me. I can just walk without my headphones now, listening to the people talking, to the singing notes of everyday Norwegian. Listening to the fountains and dogs barking. Noticing all the small things that make this place beautiful. Lights in the dark autumn evening. Hipster shop signs. Friends smiling to each other. City bikes. Blue trams. Bars and cafes of my neighborhood.

The more I realize that moving is for real, the more I come to see the things I will miss. I think so. But there is one thing I will not miss. Or will I?

Yesterday I took a bus from work, from the company course I teach. There were two students from my class on the bus – and they sat for themselves, not together, avoiding eye contact. And I can guess that it is not some special relationship here. It is the culture of this country. Not to cross your eyes with someone you know, pretending they are not there. Interesting enough, even foreigners (these guys were not Norwegians) have caught up on this habit.

Well, if you walk out of the office together, you can take the bus together and chat the whole way. But it often happens that I meet someone at the bus stop, and then they hide their faces in mobiles – or maybe, they really don’t see me. But it’s quite a Norwegian thing. I see you, but I pretend that I don’t see you. And I then do the same. If the person wants his quiet solo time, why would I go and interrupt him?

I wonder if they do it same way in other countries. Because where I come from, Ukraine, you would normally always come up and say hi. And end up talking the whole ride together. Yes, it happens that you are not always glad to see the one you meet on the bus or on the street. Here, in Oslo, it is normal “to see without seeing”. A tiny glance, no wink,no hi, just an impression that a person hasn’t recognized you. Why? Why do we do it here?

Sometimes you are too tired and don’t want to talk. I understand that. Sometimes you don’t know what to talk about with this particular person (you haven’t seen him in ages, he’s never been a close connection to you, or he is just plain boring) – so you want to escape an awkward conversation.

But it seems that we are loosing our skills of small talk (or, it is said, Norwegians don’t own much of this skill) – and we just don’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we have to do it. I can feel it while traveling. Sometimes it is hard to find a topic which would feel ok to talk about with a stranger. A while ago it was not a problem. But now I feel stiff and frozen talking to strangers. And I am not born Norwegian, just have become it after many years. Imagine being born into this country! What the level of discomfort one must feel when urged to have a conversation with a stranger.

I ask myself: does it happens in Catalonia where we want to go? Do people ignore their acquaintances on the bus? Because on the street everyone seems to stop and have a 15-minute chat with my man when we randomly stroll around the neighborhood and bump into someone he knows.

I say to myself, that I am happy to go the place where people talk more to each other. But will it happen that I will miss this Norwegian thing? That I will plug headphones into my ears and want no contact – and escape the eyes of the people I know on the public transport? Will I say that everybody talks too much and all I need is just my solo ride of 30 minutes on the bus? And will they say that I am too stiff and Nordic? :))

What is the culture in your place? Do you chat with the people you know when you meet them on the street or on the bus? Does it happens, you pretend not to know them?

16 thoughts on “A Thing I Will Not Miss

  1. I remember us talking about this, in the comments section of an earlier post.
    When I lived in Hyderabad, India I didn’t look into a phone to avoid eye contact – you chatted with someone you saw but didn’t necessarily greet a shop keeper.
    In New York, we always greet one another if we know them from a class, or institution. When it comes to greeting to someone just living in your apartment whom you haven’t met before and get into the elevator with, most people would rather stick their noses in their phone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t remember but it’s very possible since this is very peculiar to me :)) And, btw, not greeting a shopkeeper was ok in Ukraine too. Here they say hi, you say hi, and that’s it. A bag, a check? That’s a typical flow by the cashier. In Spain they can stop there and start talking about their lives. Doesn’t happen here :))
      Not greeting your neighbors is also very common in Oslo. Even people from other Norwegian places get upset.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m living in Victoria, Australia. The first place which comes to mind, however, is South Australia. There, just about everyone who walks past you in the street will smile and say hello. They’re also more than willing to stop for a conversation, if you indicate there’s something on your mind. In Victoria, things are a little different, especially in the area I’m currently living. Strangers generally won’t acknowledge you – even if you smile and nod (unless they’re from another locality), having said that, the only time another person won’t acknowledge you, is when that person doesn’t want to talk to you/want to know you. It is normal to engage in some conversation with those you’re familiar with, and we also greet shop keepers, especially when in their place of employment – it’s a sort of interaction we avoid making, however, if we’re not overly familiar with the store keeper, when we see them in the street. I think this is because 1) we recognize the person might be taking a break; and, 2) We understand they come into contact with a large number of people, and don’t expect the same rapport with them, than say they would have with a friend. So, unless we see a lot of them, and get along with them quite well, we don’t generally talk to them on the street (but may still acknowledge them with a polite nod, and smile).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for stopping by and adding your perspective! Wow, I see Australia as one (never been there though), but you see all those nuances that make places there different. Australians have the fame as outgoing and cheerful people, no? But, of course, there will be variations between cities and villages, and even South and North, as you say.
      It seems that you acknowledge a shopkeeper on a break (with a smile and a nod) more than we do to the people we know :)) But it makes sense also. It is enough to nod to the shopkeeper, but it calls for the conversation with the ones you know somehow, I guess. So you just ignore them. Even if you’ve seen each other. Feels so straaange :))

      Like

  3. There are definitely people I would rather not have to talk to, that I will pretend not to see, just like a Norwegian. But most of the time I will talk and talk and talk–my Italian friend once said I can talk to anyone about anything. And that’s coming from an Italian!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We all have those people we’d prefer not to see, eh? πŸ™‚ but i think, it is a pity, for the sake of them, to exclude all kind of communication :)))
      Wow, with your ability to talk you seem to be in the right place πŸ˜‰ I once was way more chatty than now. But I am looking forward to rekindle this side of mine soon πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Anyway, where I used to live (Marseille, South of France) this “I see you but I ignore you” would not last more than 3 seconds. It is the extreme opposite to be honest! Forget about taking the bus on your own. You’re bound to see a neighbor and start a conversation. Forget going to the bakery to quickly buy a baguette. You’ll chat with the lady behind you. I’m not even mentioning the post office where the wait is longer! I remember a couple of years ago, an American friend came to visit. I had an business appointment in the centre so she came with me and agreed to wait for me in a cafe. She could not speak French and had brought her crochet to keep her busy. When I came back an hour later. She knew one of the waitresses like a friend and had started a conversation with a blind man! That says it all!

    Liked by 1 person

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