Slay the Cliché: A Norwegian story

An interview with one of the University's Norwegian students to find out more about Norway in comparison with the UK

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Photograph by Juliane Bjerkan

Here we are again: it’s another rainy day in Lancaster. My interviewee, Kristine Gjoese, and I have decided to meet in Costa, looking for some warmth. While talking to Kristine, I realise my next vacation will be in Norway. Check it out!

Where are you from?

Sarpsborg, a town the size of Lancaster an hour south of Oslo.

What do you think are the main reasons to visit Norway?

The main reason for me would be to see the fjords and the mountains! I love being outdoors as there are so many different things you can do both in summer and winter and the landscape is beautiful. Go skiing, ice-skating or visit the Christmas markets during the winter, and in the summer go hiking, kayaking or swimming in the fjords or sea.

Do you like studying in the UK?

I definitely like studying in the UK and plan on doing my master’s in England after I graduate. When I moved here I wanted to learn English at an academic level and experience a different culture. Now I love England because of my lovely friends and I am charmed by all the quirks, fascinating food habits and pub culture.

Do you miss your country? And if so, why?

I do miss my country, especially when I haven’t been home for a while. There are practical things that I miss, for example I find the English double taps very confusing and carpet floors strange, as most floors are wooden back home. I always forget that you have to turn the plugs on, here, and in winter I miss Norway’s snow. Mostly though, I miss my parents, my sister and my dog, but I think that’s the case for all students, international or not.

Could you please describe a typical day in Norway?

I guess I would wake up around 7.30am to have breakfast, and then go to work or school. I would have a lunch break at 11am, and stay working until 4pm: in Norway we strongly believe that a personal and fun life is equally important to securing a job. Maybe after that I would have tea around 5pm and toast or a snack before sleeping.

Tell us the major differences between Norway and the UK.

Firstly, I find that the UK is more densely populated. In Norway there is more forest, more mountains, and fewer people. Secondly, I find the culture of politeness to be different. For example, we do not say “thank you” for everything as you do here. If you thanked the bus driver in Norway, bystanders would find you rather strange. Also, in Norway if you bump into someone by accident, you continue walking as it is considered rude to disturb people further by saying “sorry”.

What would you bring from your culture to this one?

As the Danish have the concept of “hygge”, Norwegians have the concept of “kos”. It roughly translates to “all things cosy” and can include lighting candles on a winter evening, meeting a friend, good food, or cosy socks.

What do you think are the best three habits of English culture?

The first is definitely the politeness: very charming! In fact, when I’m back home I tend to thank people a lot more. Then, probably the English idea that a cup of tea is the solution to everything… And, finally, the fact that people, back home, generally dress very similar to one another, like in black, white, or grey, whereas here there is much room for diversity: you can dress however you want!

What is your favorite place in your town back home?

I think it’s where I walk my dog… it’s in the forest, on top of a hill where you can sit on the edge and see the entire city. Definitely somewhere outside.

What is your favorite place here in Lancaster?

Atkinsons Coffee Roasters, in town. There you can have tea, coffee, beautiful cakes… so it’s different because it’s somewhere indoors, but is still very cool!

Would you say your lifestyle changed when you moved here?

If anything, I would say that I go out to eat more as there are more restaurants in Lancaster than in Sarpsborg, and it is expensive to eat out in Norway.

It is said that Norway is the “land of darkness”. Is this true?

It is true! In the north of Norway they have a midnight sun and midday moon: the sun does not set at night in the summer or rise during the winter as it is above the polar circle. I live in the south so we do have sun, but in December it is only for four to five hours a day. Going to school in darkness and coming home in darkness can be a bit depressing, which might be why we have “hygge” and “kos” in Scandinavia to keep our spirits up.

All Norwegian people ski, and drink a lot… are these stereotypes true?

I would not say all Norwegian people ski, but certainly a lot more do than here. I suppose it is because we have more mountains and actual snow. Cross-country skiing is even more popular and when I was a child I would sometimes ski to school in the snow rather than walk. As for the drinking culture among youth, I would say it is quite similar to the UK. Some have wine with their food, but mainly people drink to get drunk and go out.

What’s a stereotype? Are those I’ve just asked you about true, false or offensive?

A stereotype is any assumption about a group you are not part of. It does not necessarily have to be true and could be negative or positive. According to that definition, the questions above do refer to stereotypes, but they are not offensive to me. Rather, I find them amusing and see them as a chance to discuss my culture with other people.