Norwegians are often regarded as reserved, controlled and introvert, – but also friendly. It is a fact that we are not known for talking too much or showing affections in public. Imagine a Latin American stuck in traffic jam with gestures and cursing. A Norwegian in the same situation will probably get angry, turn up the radio, breathe a little faster and keep the mind under control; – with the exception of whispering some swear words.
Another example is if a Norwegian would win big in a lottery. Will he sing, shout out his joy, call friends and family? Probably not. He will sit down; wipe away a drop of sweat reflecting on the problems of what to do with all the money.
But what is the reason why Norwegians are so controlled and use very few words (if any) to express feelings?
Historically, Norway has been very sparsely populated with very few cities. In the early 1800s, fewer than one million people lived in this vast and impassable country: Only about 0.14 people per square miles (3 people per square kilometer)! Most people lived in small rural communities under poor conditions with long, cold winters. With a lot of wind and rough weather it was necessary to communicate in a short, loud and effective way. No time for small talk! People rather spent time on hard physical labor.
In these small, scattered communities ‘everybody knew everybody’. Strangers were often viewed upon with great skepticism. In many ways we can say that the Norwegians, from when the first Europeans immigrated when the ice retreated northward, lacked social skills. There is still a ‘wild man’ living inside many Norwegians, and this is probably the reason why we today spend much of our time outdoors. Many Norwegians isolate themselves in the mountains or by the sea during weekends and holidays – preferably in total solitude.
But – there are major differences between Norwegians depending upon where in Norway you are born and raised. The topography has divided Norway into regional zones which have led to dialectical differences and behavior.
In Norway a person’s characteristics often is related to his/ her dialect. For example, a person who speaks a Northern Norwegian dialect is associated with an outgoing person who loves to talk, tell stories and have a rough sense of humor. Profanities are common in the Northern Norwegian dialect. If a Northern Norwegian calls a policeman ‘horse’s a**’, he/ she will not get any form of penance because profanity is an integral part of their vocabulary.
A person from Southern Norway, however, has a completely different mentality and behavior. Traditionally, this area is called the ‘Bible Belt’ and in the Southern Norwegian capital of Kristiansand it has been said that there are more registered Christian denominations than bars and restaurants. People from Southern Norway are known for their ‘soft consonants’ (meaning the letters p-t-k is pronounced b-d-g in the Southern Norwegian dialect), rolling R’s and gentle appearance. Southerners never swear, but instead have constructed ‘their own profanities’. If he/ she are provoked and enraged, a Southerner would say something like: ‘Fabian fish cake’, ‘this was not okay’, ‘Holy Land’ and ‘Hell-e-lujah’. A conversation between a Southerner and a northerner can therefore be a cultural challenge.
Let us continue with the Westerners: The capital of Western Norway is Bergen, which is isolated from the rest of Norway with its seven surrounding mountains. The people from Bergen are very proud of their city and still consider Bergen as Norway’s real capital. The Bergen dialect is associated with bragging about themselves and where he/ she comes from (this is probably not totally correct). Westerners are well-known for being conservative and ‘happy in their own company’.
The most densely populated area of Norway is Eastern Norway, with Oslo as the only ‘big city’. The Easterners are perhaps the most internationally oriented Norwegians, and many immigrants have gradually settled in this region. The Eastern dialect ‘bokmål’ (official written language) is often associated with efficiency, urbanity, ‘business mind’ and total lack of humor. They are perhaps a little bit too serious about themselves because of easy access to the European continent and the rest of the world. However, there are regions in the eastern part with their own dialects often associated with simple people and ‘hillbilly lifestyle’.
Caught in the centre of Norway is the Trøndelag region. In many ways, ‘Trøndere’ have got some of the Northern Norwegian and Easters Norwegian mentality. A Trønder is jovial, friendly and talkative, but does not swear as much as their Northern neighbors. Trøndere have a popular image where ever they go. They produce popular Country/ Rock music, most of the men have a mustache (which is a myth), and they have a sedentary lifestyle and are therefore not known to be the most effective. An Easterner would be constantly annoyed about the Trønder’s low pace.
If you were to meet a Norwegian abroad you may get a big surprise: If you meet a blond southerner, he/ she will probably behave in a way you expect a Norwegian to be: Polite, gentle and reserved. But if you on a late evening run into a Northerner you will be presented a good story with many expletives and loud laughter. If you take the risk and go to Norway on vacation, ThorNews suggests that you reflect upon this article and select your destination in accordance with your own temperament. All regions have their own charm, beautiful nature and original people.
Text by: ThorNews (An East Norwegian and a Trønder)