So often when we talk about a country or a culture, it seems that we compare it with another one and come to conclusion that sums up to: “I’ll stick with this one, no matter what” – or “No, thanks, I’ll go for another one”. It sounds like we choose all the time. But why choose only one? Can we take (and make) both?
I have noticed that my life comprises mostly of the people who come “from here and there and a bit of everywhere”. There are few (or none) 100% Norwegians, or 100% Ukrainians, or other pure nationalities in my life. Maybe, because that’s my natural tribe, reflecting my life choices. I am not amazed, for example, that I, born Ukrainian, communicate with my native Catalan husband in Norwegian language, not native to either of us. It once suprized a couple of Norwegians though.
I can understand them, they didn’t expect to hear the language of their little proud country in some tapas bar in Barcelona somewhere around midnight. Especially coming with heavy Spanish accent and sweet Eastern-European accent, used to discuss a love relationship between those two. Why Norwegian?? They seemed to be falling from their chairs, breaking their backs to turn and see who these two were, using their language in this place.
Once in Ukraine there was a restaurant chain called “Mafia” (its tagline being: “family values”). The chain pronounced itself as a Japanese-Italian kitchen fusion (where sushi meets spaghetti). Wow, if these guys could combine the strict minimalistic Japanese attitude with flamboyant chaotic Italian cheer – maybe, I’ll also be able connect my love for Scandinavia and Spain in one fusion attempt? If it were possible to go and search in the middle, I’d definitely do it. But where could I find that middle? In Germany? France? :))
So let me call this ambitious project of mine a Scandi-Spanish fusion. And here are the ingredients I would pick fro each culture to create it. I am not talking about kitchen (or not only about it), mind you :))
- Their art of building houses, solid and warm, and creating cozy homes. Especially the warm cables under the bathroom floor. Imagine stepping on those warm floors barefoot in winter.
- Their level of social trust. I don’t know any other country that has it at this level. As one Norwegian expressed it: “You know you are at home, when you can doze off on the tram and be sure that nothing happens to you” (quoted in “The almost nearly perfect people” by M. Booth)
- Their relaxed attitude and humble optimism towards everything in life, expressed in this Norwegian phrase “It will order itself” (“det ordner seg”). Note the mystical absence of the agent. It’s not “I’ll fix” or “You have to do something about it”. Maybe, it comes from the security pillow of all that oil money, maybe, you would even call it laziness – but I learnt to love the way Norwegians say it. It’s all peace and love, in Nordic way.
- The art of enjoying small things. The whole philosophy of hygge takes its origins in that. In the conditions of harsh climate and scarce resources these nations learnt to extract pleasure and joy from the few little good things they had. In Norwegian language the famous Danish hygge has its brother – the word “kos”. The verb is “kose seg”, roughly translated as “enjoy oneself”. A Norwegian can honestly say: “So I was sitting on my couch enjoying the sweets” or “Now I will go home and enjoy myself with a glass of wine and a series marathon”. In my home country you wouldn’t care to mention to it – you just eat and drink and consume those products (add the gloomy Soviet face to it – who would talk about enjoying oneself now? :)). But this little notion of “kos” and “kose seg” gives another color to those small pleasures.
- The internal Scandi humor. Scandinavia is like a village where neighbors make fun of each other, but not in a hostile way (because you still have to live close and collaborate). Norwegians tell jokes about stupid Swedes, Swedes tell the same jokes about stupid Norwegians – and nobody seem to understand what Danes are saying. Before moving there, it all was a great mystery to me. But now I find myself laughing of typical Nordic things, like in this Youtube video (it is hilarious and in English).
- There is life. Always and almost everywhere. Kids playing, dogs barking, parrots in the trees making noise around their nests like proper Spanish citizens. You’d go to your hood on a random weekend and see a spontaneous market reminding a garage sale, or another one selling honeys and cheeses. There will be older couples holding hands and dogs meeting and sniffing each other. Winter or summer – doesn’t matter. You’ll get so much from those hours spent outside that you don’t feel the need to travel in order to fill your days with life (maybe, you will feel like traveling to do the opposite :))
- Even in your home there is life. There are these galerias, typical Spanish way of building houses around a patio, that have this perfect acoustics. So you know how many dogs are in your block, which kid likes to practice his flute and that someone cooks a lot of microwave dinners. You never feel alone. And when you hear your door bang, you cannot be sure if it’s your husband or your neighbor (in his own flat, that is :))
- And again I’ll say it. You never feel alone. In any line there will be an older lady talking to you in Spanish (or Catalan!) ignoring that you look like a guiri (tourist). And you’ll be thinking fast through your vocabulary which is mostly comprised of the names of tapas. The neighbors will be saying hello and asking “how are you?” (they don’t usually do it in Norway), the man at the cashier will be smiling at your “Good day!” and noticing that it is already “Good evening!”. All these small interactions will fill your day and you will feel more connected to others and that human side of you 🙂
- And talking about tapas. The Spanish cuisine may not be as sophisticated as the French one. But eating here is a feast! But every time. And the tapas is the most sociable way to do it. It’s not about eating your individualistic plate – it is about sharing. And when you add to it a bottle of red (by the price of one glass of wine in Norway) – you can’t say it’s not a happy way of eating!
So why choose? Let’s go further and create our own fusion lifestyles picking the best from each country and culture!
And what would you like to mix?