Celebrating like a local: the National day of Norway

Two days ago Norway celebrated its birthday – National day, also known as Constitution day. But everyone calls it “17 mai” because everyone knows what it stands for. Constitution of Norway was dated on 17th of May 1814 even though Norway was still under rule of Denmark. After Napoleon lost the war and Denmark as his ally had to give up on Norway, Norway still didn’t get independent but was forced into the union with Sweden. Only in 1905 Norway could claim its independence when the union was dissolved. Maybe, that is why Norwegians appreciate their independence so much, both in private and in state affairs. They have been fighting for it for quite a long time.

17th of May, Oslo
main street of Oslo on 17th of May

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Soon it’s time to wave the flag

Norway celebrates soon its National Day, which is also called here 17th of May, because this is the date of it 🙂 Yesterday I read a post by Manja Mexi Movie  about her experience with Norwegian flags, and it inspired me to go outside and take pictures of them. Luckily, in the advance of the great day many window shops have the national flag theme. I also hope that the weather will be kind to us next week and I hope to get outside and take some pictures for the blog. Thanks to the blog that it can kick me out in the inspiration rush because after many years here I am no longer amazed at the parade and use to stay at home to avoid the crowds (or even unpatriotically leave country for a sunnier place).

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Is Norwegian culture lonely?

I hope, you will disagree with me and prove me wrong. Really. I am here not to drive any point home. I am just wondering: is it just me or is it true for others? So here is the thing. Is Norwegian culture lonely? Or just very independent? And where does the difference go? Sometimes extreme independence and freedom can look like loneliness (but is it so?).

To begin with, I appreciate the independence and freedom a lot. A LOT. I was born and grew up in the Ukrainian city, with the social control like in a village. Our culture was (and I guess, still is) very collective oriented. The people around you can support you, and they know you well, but it can also feel suffocating. As a kid, I knew all the neighbors in my block, and the most in my backyard. You could borrow salt, matches and money from your neighbors, and you could babysit for them for free. At the entrance to every house there were benches, occupied by the old ladies of the block. They functioned as a daylong news station. They held all the information about the neighbors, they knew who didn’t clean her house, and whose husband was drinking too much. Sometimes I wonder if they were bribed by KGB for keeping the information up to date :).

Where I grew up, it was normal to be asked by your neighbors “Why are you not married yet?” and get a dating or relationship advice. It was normal for people on the bus to start a heated discussion of politics and bring it almost to the point of fighting.  It was normal for people to ask very private questions about your life. So it was a relief to come to Norway where people respect your privacy over everything, and where it is not normal to ask about your salary and which party you are going to vote for in the next election. It was like a breath of fresh air. Freedom.

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picnic on the lake Sognsvann, Oslo

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