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?