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The Norwegian – a study in niche-choices

06.03.06 in In English

I have often asked myself what in the world went through the head of those members of the European Homo Sapiens species that, for about 10.000 ago, followed the ice as it withdrew north. Europe had been underneath ice for tens of thousands of years, and you would think there was no reason to follow the ice. I mean, it wasn’t as if Europe was overcrowded at the time. There were vast available areas for those who wanted land; in Spain, Italy, France, heck even Germany seems better. It’s warmer, the climate is more suited for varied agricultural production, and the winter is at worst 2 months long. Most people understood this, and stayed down at the continent.

But not the Norwegian. He followed the ice. As if to make sure it stayed as cold as possible for as possible. The nomade-Norwegian must have like cold, without question. In addition he must have been content eating roots and berries and very sour apples, and the meat he managed to catch when he understood that snowshoes was the way to move around the country. About 2/3s of the year it must have been impassable territory. 6 months of winter, with extremely muddy periods at both ends, does not ensure movability up, forward and around.

Even the old Norseman understood that this was difficult to grasp for anyone but him. That’s why Eirik the Red called Greenland exactly that. Green land. How else would he trick people into going there? There is a little green on the coastline 1 ½ months of the year. Other than that, everything is ice and snow. All year round. But like all good marketing executives, Eirik understood that it is all about making the most out of what is positive, and make less of a fuzz about side effects such as food shortage and frozen limbs.

And we see the remains of this still today, because when spring finally arrives, the Norwegian again follows the snow, to the mountains. More snow, more cold, and going for a long exhausting hikes on wooden planks (or fibreglass these days) in a snowstorm; this is what make the Norwegian happy. And some of them icebade too… it is the ultimate test of manhood (or womanhood) to a Norwegian. Chop a hole in the ice, check that it’s not colder than -15 degrees C, jump in, and pretend that it’s just looooovely. Yeah right!

Two typical Norwegians:

And the Norwegian likes this image as someone who makes niche choices. You can tell by the way we market the country, abroad. It is only mountains, fjords, snow and old peasant houses that count. What on earth do we need culture and modern impulses for, up here in the beautiful and cold north. Norway is being portrayed as stuck in the 1800s. After the Lillehammer Olympics many Americans still think that all Norwegians go do work using a so called SPARK on the ice. Spark means to kick, as you can see from the picture, it is a rather suitable and descriptive name for the thing.

And it *annoys the crap out of me*. “No! We do not use a spark to get to work, so there!”

Because I am NOT such a Norwegian. I am not born with skies on my feet. I last wore skies when I was 18. I am like Pondus the cat; if he ventures out on the veranda in snow and cold, he soon realises that his paws get wet and yucky, and wants to get back into the warm livingroom. Last weekend he didn’t even want to get close to the door, he wanted to lie in his basket in front of the fireplace and sleep. That is what I call sensible winter-activity. You wouldn’t believe to what extent Pondus and I agree on that one.

After a bit of thinking, I think I have found the explanation for my lacking enthusiasm for the winter. Originally I am from the north-west part of the country. Home of the bachalão. For hundreds of years there were Spanish, Portuguese and Italian seafarers there, to buy fish and fur. I’m willing to bet that if looked back in my family-tree, I’m sure some genes from southern Europe are bound to have snuck in. Might be that there is a family secret or three buried here, when it comes down to it. And if I’m lucky, there might even be a Brasilian somewhere down the tree as well. Rumour has it that Brasil is nice and mild when it comed to granting visas to people with this kind of background *hopes*.

Because I am not made for this. I hate snow and cold. There are no mitigating circumstances with it. I long for the day when I can do as the birds in October; fly to southern lands until the worst is over. Go back here around April 1st, when the wonderful Norwegian spring arrives. That’s my time of year!
Did I mention that it’s snowing again?

Turned out that Oslo had the most snow in 40 years last winter, need I say more?

(Originally written in Norwegian)

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