Friday, November 10, 2006

The one thing my country doesn’t have is.. - Norway

It is sad, but it is true. What my country lacks most, are manners.

In Norway, urban culture is a relatively new phenomenon and thus, we tend to get anxious and insecure in situations where we have to interact with people we don’t know intimately. We are clueless on matters of etiquette and utterly helpless at small talk. As soon as more than two people are gathered in a public space, politeness is gone with the wind. It is every man for himself and damned be the poor fellow who happens to crack a smile or catch the eye of a stranger. He must be a loony, for sure. Better to pretend he’s not even there.

People don’t know how to queue properly. They crowd in front of doors, probably out of fear that the bus will leave without them or that someone else will occupy their seat of preference. Escalators are living nightmares. The person getting off always stops and takes a moment to decide which direction to go, effectively bottlenecking his followers, making them drop like human dominos.

The other day I had to take two turns through a revolving door. The people in front of me blocked the exit, dumb as sheep. I also recall with great pain the horrifying incident when I single-handedly had to transport three very heavy turkeys from the shop to my house. I took turns, carrying one turkey a few meters, always keeping the other two in sight, then going back to get another, zig-zagging down the street to Canossa. People stopped, stared and laughed. But not one person showed enough mercy to offer assistance.

Oslo’s provider of public transportation is now planning a campaign in the hope of changing people’s behavior. Knowing how well posters appeal to our moral sensibilities, I have my doubts. One can always pray. The time is ripe.


Blogger Jock said...

Tonje, that´s sad.

Today I saw a beautiful scene here in São Paulo. One man was walking on the street, and get away from his way to help a blind man to cross the street!

Sometimes we can see these beautiful scenes...
And that all this become an example to all of us!

2:12 PM  
Blogger Rebelde said...

There's a campaign like that in Mexico (i saw it on cable) to raise moral values and kindness, one of the ads is about 2 boys playing soccer in the street in front of the stadium, they find tickets for the game on a street bench and then a guy comes back looking for his lost tickets, the boys give them back and go on playing feeling a lot better. I don't know about people in Mexico, but that ad made me want to do the right thing

6:53 PM  
Blogger Michael Carøe Andersen said...

A year or two ago a Danish bank had a commercial like this. Where people would walk by on the street see something going wrong or not being right and just correcting it without anybody noticing. The catch phrase would be something like; Xbank - so you can do a little more.

Looking beyond the commercial goal for the bank of being associated with people who cares I got a feeling like rebelde is describing of wanting to do the right thing.

I haven't been to Norway since I was four but have always considered Norwegians as smiling and kind people. But I guess it is quite typical Scandinavian to be reserved and 'cold' until you get to know people.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Tonje Brustuen said...

The minute after I finished writing this post, I headed to work. Waiting at the subway station I was approached by this guy, and my natural impulses told me to brush him off. Since I had recently bragged about how we should treat strangers as friends to whom we haven’t been introduced, I decided I should put my money where my mouth is.

So I was nice. And he told me about a funeral he went to the other day, a friend had committed suicide. Then he said that those who could go through with it were brave. I said I think that if it has come that far, the bravest choice is actually to stay alive. Next, he said he had often thought about ending it all. Then I had to change trains, I wished him a good life and left.

Way better than the usual small talk..

2:49 AM  
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