The Phenomenon of the Norwegian Mentality by BR19t9Xp


									              The Phenomenon of the Norwegian Mentality

       In Moldovan mass media one can very seldom come across any minor
information about one of the Scandinavian countries, Norway. And this is not to
any extent due to the long distance of this small European country from Moldova.
In the long run America is located much farther from us. But we are sure to hear in
the news and to read in the newspapers about it by far more often.
       Moreover, about another Scandinavian country, Sweden, we know more
than about Norway and we also get more information about it.
       There must obviously be a number of objective reasons of such silence of
our mass media sources.
       - The Norwegian Embassy for Moldova is in Bucharest (we do not have
even a consulate) though the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway Mr. Leif
Arne Ulland, the first secretary of the Embassy Mr. Terje Aalia, Mr. Roger
Bruland and other workers of the Embassy take a vivid interest in Moldova and
render all kinds of assistance to many endeavors in the country.
       - Norway generally helps Moldova more with the humanitarian aid
connections than with real economic connections, etc.
       But, perhaps, the most important factor of the relative ignoring this country
in Moldova is the Norwegian mentality.
       I will try to substantiate my suggestion.
       By Providence and God’s will we have known some Norwegians since
1992; it was when we first met them and began collaborating with them in one of
the charity organizations.
       After visiting Norway no less than 5-6 times and continuing visiting it on
business, and having wonderful friends and acquaintances there we have formed
our own, may be, subjective opinion about the representatives of this faraway
country which can still help us to answer the question asked at the beginning of the
article: “Why do we know so little about Norway and the Norwegians in our
       The first impression about them is quite worth mentioning.
       The Norwegians, both men and women, are mostly tall fair-haired and blue-
eyed people. Though there is nothing strange or new for us here. There is nothing
unexpected in the fact that they are at the first sight rather reserved and laconic.
Their attitude to you seems to be cold and some of them are arrogant in a way.
       In connection with this I can remember an incident when in summer of 1993
with a folklore group we arrived in the second by size Norwegian city Bergen to
the festival of Edward Grig.
       Waiting for our friends who were to meet us we made a few attempts to
address the passers-by trying to get some necessary information (of course we did
it in English; by the way the majority of Moldovan population speaks it). But the
passers-by reacted to that in somewhat unusual way – they dashed away from us,
looked at us in astonishment, murmured something and immediately ran to the
other side of the street. In a word they behaved as if we had come from a different
planet and we were infectious. Sometimes they did not seem to look at us but
through us like through glass. We felt very much hurt by that. In our country
people show a big interest in foreigners or at least they are curious about them. It
can be easily explained in terms of today’s reality. The former “closed” soviet
country at last has got the opportunity to see the world and to show itself. But the
Norwegians are not interested in that. Besides they are people living in the north
part of Europe and consequently reserved in showing their emotions, especially in
their looks.
        Afterwards we have met emotional Norwegians but they have been rather
exceptions from the general rule.
        Later, when we shared our impressions about Norwegians with our friends
some of them said: “A Norwegian is like a snow ball – when you first take it into
your hands it is painfully hard and cold. But hold it in your hands, warm it up and
it will melt and turn into gentle water”.
        Norwegians may be to some extent severe people in their appearance but
they are very sincere and ready to help.
        I remember our being struck by their ability “to talk without words”. It was
sufficient to make a slight move, just to look at something what was on your mind
and you merely got what you needed, without words, emotions, as if by chance.
Besides, this tradition is widely spread. They experience deep interest, respect and
care towards you but try not to show it too obviously. And you in turn feel a great
gratitude. And it shines in your eyes, you are grateful at heart and by this you
become closer to the person, you get involved in the mysterious silent
communication, inner understanding.
        The silent language is the mostly spread language in Norway. It may be due
to the fact that the relatively small number of population (nearly the same as in
Moldova) lives on the territory 10 times as much as our country. It happens that
“neighbours” live 50-100 kilometers away from each other.
        The major part of the country is located beyond the polar circle and the huge
part of the territory is covered by mountains and indented by fiords, narrow inlets
that go deeply in-land.
        This austere beauty, no doubt, left its mark on the people of this northern
        Manliness is the natural feature of the prevailing number of the population.
And women do not lag behind men. Norway is considered the first country where
women spoke for the equality with men.
        Women enjoy much more respect, recognition and rights in Norway than in
our country, the fact we can be envious about.
        I see a funny picture in my mind. On our way from Sweden to Norway we
saw a young couple with as many as four or five children, one younger than
another. After some time we ran into the head of the family sitting on the deck
floor, his kids playing and crawling around him. Meanwhile the mother was sitting
with her friends at a café table peacefully talking and slowly sipping her coffee,
she did not seem to pay any attention to her children. I remember how much
surprised we were then, though our impression could be deceitful. It must have just
been a different kind of education – without unnecessary emotions, shouting,
spanking and, of course, wasting nerves.
       In this connection I can also remember another incident. One day we,
Moldovans, were invited for dinner by one big and very friendly family. The
dinner took place in the house veranda that was located rather high from the
ground level, to be more exact from the rocks (the usual thing in this mountainous
country). We were standing not far from the table talking quietly with each other
when we noticed a crawling baby whose mother was passionately talking to her
friend. Meanwhile the baby was slowly approaching the dangerously high edge of
the veranda. As we were afraid to frighten the baby and his mother by our cries we
were just ready to hurl down and catch the baby before he had time to fall from the
edge. But a moment before his possible fall his mother pushed it away from the
dangerous edge just by the movement of her foot keeping on talking to her friend.
We were struck. Nobody seemed to pay attention to that incident including the
baby. Only we stood still puzzled. Perhaps at that moment we began gradually
understand why we had not practically heard children’s cries or seen naughty
children in Norway. May be such balanced and, in our opinion a bit Spartan
education, contributes to the fact that children when they grow up remain calm and
self-possessed, at least in their appearances.
       We have not heard parents shouting at their children and, perhaps, this is the
reason why the children have been quite calm in any situation.
       One very boring for children meeting of adults where some parents with
their children of different ages were present can be a precedent. During rather a
long period of time the children remained quiet and even if they were bored of
sitting quietly they got up and strolled about the room without making any noise. It
was a mystery for us. Besides much later we visited Norway with the senior class
pupils from Moldova and we saw the teenagers’ wild behaviour at the pop concert,
in the bus and at the excursion.
       It is very probable that the Norwegian children’s behaviour is a proof of
their being educated in the spirit of respect to their parents that is to all adult
people and it is also a remainder of patriarchic and religious education of the recent
       Norway is a country where the majority of population is religious. It is
enough to say that in spite of religious tolerance in the country the official religion,
Protestantism, is proclaimed.
       A lot of today’s adults were educated in very strict religious families. Now
there is nearly no trace of that strictness and the young generation is growing up
free and unlimited. Though what was cultivated in the consciousness for centuries
cannot be gone so quickly. And is it really necessary?
       The distinctive feature of Norwegian mentality is that the rich state (Norway
is one of the most “expensive” European countries) lives in a very economical
way, carefully saving the money for the next generations.
       Norway has not yet forgotten the period of starvation about which the
famous Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun wrote in the last century; it has not
forgotten post war hardships when a lot of residents of the country, the same as in
Moldova now, emigrated abroad (generally to the USA) to be able to maintain
their families.
       And not until the fifties of the last century that the discovery and
exploitation of the oil wells in the Northern Sea brought the people of this country
prosperity and recognition in the world.
       Nevertheless Norway could invest more in education, medicine and different
branches of agriculture, but there is a risk of growing inflation in the country. It
already lives according to the laws of the capitalist world though some people
think that in Norway they have built the socialism, which collapsed in former
Soviet Union republics.
       This balance between wealth and economy, foresight and a kind of
thriftiness is also a part of the Norwegian mentality.
       Besides, to help a fellow creature is a sacred duty of each Norwegian citizen
actively propagandized by the country’s government, the “third power”, that is
mass media, and the church.
       To be occupied with charity is natural and prestigious; the majority of the
mature population are members of one or even several charity organizations.
       Thanks to the activities of these organizations Moldova has received and
continues receiving the humanitarian help for invalids, old people, families having
many children, cities, villages, different organizations, including government
organizations worth millions of lei. Some most active Norwegian charity
organizations can be mentioned here. They are Salvation Army (the leader-
Nielsen Justein), Help Moldova (the leader- Arne Kastad), Norway-Moldova.
Quality of Life and Development (leader- Hakon Vefald), Bridge Builders (the
leader- Otto Brekke), Ahead (the leader- Ane Tweit) and others.
       Yet we know and hear little about this what does not bother Norwegians as
the help is provided not for the purpose of being famous but just “ from hand to
hand, from heart to heart” (the words from the slogan of one of the organizations).
The assistance is rendered in silence.
       As well quietly and quite unnoticeably our organizations collaborate with
Norwegians in this sphere. They are Help (the leader-Galina Gradinari), Voinicel
(the leader- Ivan Puiu), Bridge Builders (the manager- Oksana Ribakova), Lotosul
de Aur (the leader-Galina Oltu) and others.
       The unquestionable merit and an extraordinarily attractive trait of the
Norwegians is their love for nature. It is expressed not only by the fact that from
Friday evening till Sunday the Norwegian settlements become empty of people –
they go to the mountains, sea sides, fiords and forests. Also almost all the families
in this country have summer and winter houses somewhere in the mountains or at
the seaside (something like our dachas, just without gardens).
       Norwegian people take a big care of their nature environment- they do not
make bonfires in unsuitable places, poison fish (on the contrary they “heal” their
lakes and rivers), pollute their ponds and leave piles of litter and writings on the
rocks and trees after them (what is usual for Moldova, especially in park zones of
the big cities).
       The Norwegians since there childhood have been used to taking care of all
these, even though the percentage the nature resources per capita in this country is
much more than we have in Moldova.
       Such habits and features of character are the part of the national culture,
what is worth being learnt by us and the rest of the world.
       One can say that in this article the picture of the Norwegian mentality is
presented as too ideal. Of course, the Norwegians are not ideal. They are rather
conservative, unwilling to give up common stereotypes, quite cold and closed at
the first sight. As all the people on the Earth they have positive and negative
personal characteristics. However they, in our opinion, possess the unquestionable
advantages of their mentality, which could be good for us to be taken over. We do
not mean a thoughtless imitation but the learning and accepting the useful
experience, the exchange of experience, knowledge and culture traditions (here we
have what to share and to be proud of). The both sides can benefit by this -
Moldovans and Norwegians - as our people have such features of character which
the Norwegians who have visited us admire – hospitability, kindness, industry,
cordiality, etc.
       Studying the phenomenon of the Norwegian mentality as well as the
mentality of many other nations including our own can change our view of the
       By changing ourselves we shall be able to achieve more, to have the better
future that is to become richer both morally and economically.
       We also hope that the interest and attention to Norway will be growing as
closer diplomatic and just human contacts will be taking place.

      December, 2006
      G. Oltu

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