Oslo Defying 3 Stereotypes

Norway has been on my list of high priority destinations for a while. Walking around Oslo it quickly became obvious that I was operating on some old stereotypes.  The Norway I discovered is delightful, modern and much more complex than these 3 stereotypes I packed in my bags.  

1. Not Frozen.

Disney's Frozen animated fairy tale stars Olaf the snowman.

Disney’s Frozen animated fairy tale stars Olaf the snowman.

The Visit Norway folks are using the movie Frozen in much the same way the New Zealand tourism industry is marketing Lord of the Rings/Hobbit. There are some challenges. First and foremost, Frozen is a cartoon. Also, much of the story’s action takes place in deep snow; whereas, most visitors plan their trips in summer–a time when the animated snowman Olaf would be distinctly uncomfortable. Modern Norway is a progressive democracy no longer ruled by royalty–even spunky princesses. 

They do have reindeer. Frozen’s Sven is a very charismatic reindeer. I did note the reindeer in photos tweeted along the route of the 2014 Arctic Race of Norway, the world’s northern most bicycle race held over several days each August. Makes me want to go watch this race in person. (Adding to personal list.)

Sven the charismatic reindeer from Disney's Frozen animated film.

Sven the charismatic reindeer from Disney’s Frozen animated film.

 

 

2. Not Vikings.

Many people in Europe can trace their ancestry back to a Viking invader. My grandfather was 100% Norwegian, and very proud of the accomplishments of the ancient Vikings. Norwegians are not the only Scandinavians who can claim to descend from the seafaring and conquering Vikings–the Swedes and the Danes can too. Because of my grandpa Olson, if you say Viking, I think Norway. 

You can certainly see Viking ships and buy an impressive variety of souvenirs with Viking stuff on them in Norway. Grandpa loved the Hagar the horrible comic strip. I have since learned that Hagar’s classic horned hat is an inaccurate depiction of what a Viking might have worn. And the modern Norwegian is more known for peace than pillage. 

This did not stop me from romantically seeing these Viking laws as part of my DNA influencing my own values: 

Viking Laws
1. Be Brave and Aggressive
Be direct
Grab all opportunities
Use varying methods of attack
Be versatile and agile
Attack one target at a time
Don’t plan everything in detail
Use top quality weapons (or technological tools)
2. Be Prepared
Keep weapons (or tech equipment) in good condition
Keep in shape
Find good battle comrades
Agree on important points
Choose one chief
3. Be a Good Merchant
Find out what the market needs
Do not promise what you can’t keep
Do not demand overpayment
Arrange things so you can return (do business another day)
4. Keep the Camp in Order
Keep things tidy and organized
Arrange enjoyable activities which strengthen the group
Marke sure everybody does useful work
Consult all members of the group for advice 

(From postcard purchased in Viking Ship Museum)

3. Not my Grandfather’s Norway.

My grandpa was called “Ole” by his friends and he was an active member of Sons of Norway in Santa Rosa. His grandfather immigrated from Lillehammer to Donaldson, Minnesota in the 1880s. It took me a few days to realize that the things my grandfather cherished as Norwegian are actual artifacts of Norwegian life in the 1880s. These traditions of drinking coffee morning, noon and night; lutefisk, and saying “Uffda!” are carefully preserved pieces of culture that my great-great grandfather brought in his luggage and passed on to his children and grandchildren. Meanwhile, Norway’s culture continued to evolve.

The Norway we discovered is more ethnically diverse, a World War II survivor, a titan of the merchant marine and an oil producing state.  

Hope you discover Norway sometime soon. If you have been to Norway, what was your biggest surprise? What was your favorite memory?

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