Norwegians love to ask the newcomers to their country: “Do you like it in Norway?” (“Trives du I Norge?” which reminds of “do you thrive?”). Which is a difficult question because it doesn’t leave you an option. Well, not really 🙂 Saying no would be rude. And it also would call for a reaction “so why do you stay if you don’t like it?” So, you say yes. I used to say yes with a feeling that I am lying. I could not honestly answer that I like it here, but what could I say? After some years I used to answer “yes” more honestly but still halfheartedly. I would usually say: “Yes, I like it here. After you build your life here, you have more friends and you like it more”.
Norwegians are sweet in this curiosity. In a way they still feel that theirs is a little country up in the North and why would someone come and stay here? It is also a common question if you begin in a new job, they would ask “do you like it?” (trives du?). But it took me many years to accept this question. I felt like I was suffering from the loneliness for quite a long time here and it colored my experience of the country. And even after I got some friends I felt like a lone fighter in this cold landscape, having no one to count on but myself. The struggles were many, and leaving for home was not an option for me.
The February color theme is definitely pink. I stumbled over its first buds in the end of January and made a little collection in this post . Since then the pink has exploded. It was inspired by the St. Valentine’s day, but to be honest, I have never seen so much pink in Oslo stores. I guess, pink is also Pantone color of the season, so it is found everywhere, in clothes and interior alike. I am a lover of pink, so this season has given me a lot of fluffy emotions. That helps in the snowy season, while the spring seems so far away, and the winter doesn’t want to step back. While other places may soon boast of pink petals on the trees, we get our share while window-shopping. This is Scandinavian lifestyle. Now you know, why they invented hygge! 🙂
The soul is asking for color while the world outside is black and white. It’s been weeks since we’ve seen the sun. And then it popped out – for the whole day. Luckily, that day was Sunday so everyone took his skis and went skiing. We went for a walk around the lake Sognsvann, with hundreds of other sun-thirsty souls, who created a traffic jam around the parking space. But it was ok because – the sun! The nature in winter is so beautiful, I was sighing with regret of not having taken my camera with me, while simultaneously freezing my toes off. I didn’t check Facebook that day but I am sure it was full of happy sunny pictures with a capture like “ut på tur, aldri sur” which means “out for the walk, never sour” (a very well-used phrase that has become a cliche, but people still use it – without irony).
As I went to check the winter sale and see what’s new in the shops (my favorite activity), I was so happy to discover multiple shades of pink and red on display. At last! At last we can throw off our gray and black clothes this spring season. Norwegian street style is very careful in color palette, and it is great when fashion makes us wear red and pink. Some years ago it was considered way too girlish. Now it is officially in, and my inner child, who has never had a Barbie in her life, is rejoicing. Let’s rock that Barbie style! Let’s bring color to the streets!
It has been a while since I made a post for my hashtag “5 things”. I can’t even remember the last time. April? But these days I got inspired by the pretty details at home and collected them for this post. The most color-hunting I did at home was for pink (are you surprised? Me not). I hope also to go out for some color-hunting and share it with you. But for now let’s enjoy the small pleasures of inside life which feels so natural to lead in the winter season.
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.
Recently the world was infected by a new cozy inspiration: the Danish concept of hygge. Suddenly hygge was everywhere. I was reading the British and Spanish articles about this miraculous phenomenon, my Instagram feed was depicting the Hygge Book at homes from France to Russia. And, of course, I myself got affected and bought the book “The Cozy Life. Rediscover the Joy of Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge” by Pia Edberg. It seemed to be the perfect timing to be Scandinavian!
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?
Some time ago I stumbled upon blog post by a Russian make-up blogger where she was discussing natural aging and surgery methods for staying young. Her position was firm and clear. The blog had a compilation of celebrity photos: those aging naturally versus those who use plastic surgery and the botox injections, – and the former seemed to be losing the game. The author argument was like that: there are many natural processes in our body, like body hair, which we don’t accept and fight, by epilation or shaving. So natural aging is not better, and should be fought by all means. In her comments a man supported that point of view: “It is the strongest that survive. So if you can find the means to look young and beautiful – of course, you should use them!”
My reaction was strong and emotional. I had a recollection of the culture where I grew up, the culture that believes in “survival of the fittest”, and for a moment I felt thankful for living in a different reality. I was born and grew up in the city in Eastern Ukraine (Soviet Union then), with the strong Russian culture and language traditions. It was that kind of place that make (Western) Europeans gasp and wonder. Why do they do it? Why – in the country with an unreasonably low wages – do the guys have the latest versions of smartphones? Why do girls look like they just got out of manicure salon, balancing on high heels in the mess of bad pavement?
Because this is Eastern Europe, I would say. A place where you must impress, you must fake that you are richer and cooler than you are. And since people don’t have enough money to impress with houses or cars, they would impress with phones and clothes. The streets can be messy, but on every corner there would be a barber’s shop, a beauty parlor or a solarium. And nowhere else but in my city will you see a girl on high heels, with a party make-up and sexy gear, heading to her usual office job on a Monday morning.