Yesterday I took part in the Norwegian citizenship ceremony. Even though I had received my citizenship half a year ago, this ceremony felt like a watershed to me. I slowly start to realize that I am not a guest here anymore, that this is my home too. And that I can breathe out, be proud of how far I came and start building something. Leaving the stress behind. Leaving the story of “poor me who has to fight for everything” behind.
Maybe, connected to this event or not, recently I am more aware of how Norwegian I have become in all these years. Today I want to share a simple list of the changes that would have seemed peculiar to me 10 years ago. But now they are my second nature, and it took some effort to step back and notice what is different to me now.
My post about the perks of being Norwegian has got great support among my Facebook friends and I got many compliments for it a day later at a friend’s party. There was a note of surprise in their tone which was suspicious – am I usually not as positive? 🙂 So I had to reassure them: “Don’t worry, the negative post is just around the corner. It is already half-baked in the oven. First you catch the attention by the positive one – and then swoosh, comes the negative one. This is what I call strategic blogging, hehe”.
This was not far away from the truth, since I had written a draft a month earlier – about what I like and dislike about a typical Norwegian. The post was half-baked indeed. But now, on the positive wave of the new year and positive confirmation – should I go back to complaining again? I have learnt my lesson: complaining doesn’t work (it took me a long time, but at last I learnt it *grin*). And it is much better to keep the focus on the things I like instead of going through what I don’t like. But on the other side, I feel that I am hiding. I have my ideas and I am just afraid to air them. Because they are less pleasant for Norwegians, and so I am also afraid to touch that.
I don’t want to offend anyone – and then I end up tiptoeing way too much. I also want to be more positive than negative. But still there are things I want to say – and why should I suppress my voice which is still so weak? When suddenly I got the idea of talking about myself, instead of a typical Norwegian. What about Norwegian culture that I adopted myself and don’t like?
I love flying from Oslo. And not in the meaning of leaving Oslo for some exciting or sunny destination (though I love that too). I mean, I love how smooth the process is. From when I step out of my front door till the moment I am in the air.
I take a tram or a bus to the central station. The ticket for it I buy in the app. I know the timetable of the trains so I know if I can make it – otherwise I take an airport express (which costs twice as much). The ticket for the train I buy in the same app (for airport express I just swipe the card, no paper ticket needed). While sitting on the train I can check in with my flight. I still often prefer to check in at the machine at the airport. Norwegian has also an easy bag drop in Oslo airport where you can scan your bag yourself and off it goes. The whole check-in process takes no more than 5 minutes. I still remember flying to Norway from Ukraine. Passport controls, eternal lines for check-in. And good if there were lines. Crowds. Like someone said: “When you are in the big airport like Amsterdam and looking for a check-in window to Kiev it is easy to find. All other destinations stand in line. Ukrainians stand in a crowd”. True true.
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.
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.
Lately Norway was announced the world’s happiest country, according to the report made by UNO. Wow, how did it happen? I wouldn’t call the local population the happiest of all I have seen – but these are the results of the study. I wonder, what brought Norway to the 1st place. And I also wonder why the top 5 of the happiest countries is occupied by Nordic countries: Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Finland. What is their secret? It got me thinking, and thinking hard. I am not a social scientist (though I am a proud holder of the half-done master in sociology :)), so I don’t want to start a discussion here that lacks the scientific basis – instead, I want to share my understanding based on my personal experience. Experience of happiness in Norway.
The easiest way to explain that result is by the Norwegian oil money and high income, but that would simplify the whole thing way too much. The money can explain a lot – but not everything. And while BNP per capita and levels of education and medicine service are important for the studies that proclaim Norway the best country for living, they are not enough to justify the subjective feeling of happiness. Money cannot buy happiness, but the certain amount of money is necessary like a good fundament on which a person can build a happy life. But when I think of the results of the study, I don’t compare Norway to the African countries or even my own Ukraine. I compare it to the UK, Germany or Spain (which is on 34th place). If it was oil money in a country enjoying the Mediterranean climate, the rich cultural life and the vibrant social environment – then we would not have this discussion at all. But the North is the place of harsh climate, long dark winters, short rainy summers, highly introverted culture – and these things are important for feeling happiness. So how do the Nordic people do it?
If I were 18 now I would have ADHD or concentration problems. I would switch between studying and checking my Snapchat every 15 minutes. I would have distorted image of real life. I would believe that the people on Facebook and Instagram have a lot of fun in their real life, and I don’t. I would have distorted image of myself. Well, it was already distorted, so maybe, it would not be that worse)). But my self-esteem would suffer since I would compare myself not to the glossy images on TV, but to “real” images of beauty bloggers of Youtube and those Instagram divas with styled brows, big lips and sexy limbs which they are not shy to show.
Yes, I am talking about the social media and how it changes our ways. I don’t want to make an apocalyptic analysis here, and I don’t want to draw a totally negative picture – I am just really curious about how did happen that we got addicted to sharing, and what does it do to us? I imagined how that would have shaped me when I was growing, and to be honest, I am happy that I grew up in the pre-Internet era. But today’s youth seem to cope with it somehow, and I wonder how they do it. I also wonder how people manage to keep balance in the time when it is so easy to get absorbed into all those distractions. The smartphone is called “A cigarette of modern age” – I find this metaphor aptly as I see the mobile glued to the hand of everyone like a cig was in the movies of 60s. So how do the people cope with this new addiction?