We apoligise for the interruption in scheduled programming…

Posted: July 20, 2011 in Norwegian culture, not really sure

Well, It has been a busy few weeks…

The job hunt has borne fruit and I begin a new position in Kongsberg from the 1st of August.

Now I just have to find accommodation in the area, any tips or leads will really be appreciated…cutting it close, as usual.

My wife managed to hijack me away fro a week for a family vacation to Denmark.  Great to spend time with the kids and share some new experiences with the family.

Made a few observations during the trip I thought I’d share…

I noticed first of all that in Denmark, they can build roads.  dual carriageways and the ashfalt is not falling apart everywhere.  Perhaps the Norwegians can have a quiet chat with them and pick up a few pointers.  Also a lack of speed cameras, which was odd as if we are to believe all the ‘road safety experts’ in Norway, I should have seen multi car fatal car accidents everywhere yet oddly, everything was moving smooth and without problems, in fact it felt much safer than driving the main road from Oslo to Bergen that passes through Geilo.  And we were doing nearly twice the speed in some areas that we travel in Norway..

Yes, yes, I know the geography is different, but that old excuse is too old to have any weight, after so many years, surely all the engineers must have formulated solutions?

Another interesting feature was the lack of large luxury S.U.V’s everywhere, in fact the only ones I saw were Norwegian registered.  Seems that the Danish have less of a need to ‘flash the cash’ and are more secure in the size of their genitalia than the Norwegians..  This is perhaps one oof the contributing factors as to why it felt safer driving there..less arrogant, angry, intolerant cashed up dickheads on the road.

Customer service was pleasant to experience again, walking into a shop and being recognised and asked if I needed help.  Meeting people that smiled and were engaged in their work, taking pride in the job they did was particularly nice and engenders a real desire to return.  We visited different attractions and hotels, all the time met by people who were genuinely friendly and hospitable, ready to assist us in any way.  Many of the staff we encountered were young people, most likely in summer jobs that are not well paid, yet they were brilliant.  Again, Norway, perhaps sit down and have a chat with these people, you could learn a few things…

As we were mainly visiting tourist areas it was a great surprise to see presentation was considered.  Buildings were maintained, roads were good, signage excellent and everything we interacted with was well presented and created a feeling of value for money.  even popping into a supermarket to pick up some food for our day at legoland was pleasant with the parking attendant telling us not to bother paying for parking as we were tourists and at the time didn’t have any Danish currency, he even gave us a free indicator for the windscreen that you set at the time you park – these are common in Denmark.  I cannot imagine getting the same treatment in Norway, have the suspicion that they would have identified every possible way to collect money and the entire trip would have been multiple times the cost.

Things were cheaper, food, drink, hotels, you name it, which seems odd considering that they have very similar tax systems to Norway.  Perhaps it was that they had figured out that by pricing correctly to the market, people bought more, so lower profit per item was overcome by volume of sales?  Who knows, but even my wife, who is a ‘Halling – known for fiscal frugality’ was more liberal in her ability to part with money.

Now recently I have been reading in the papers that the Norwegian tourist industry is going through tough times, visitor numbers are down, spending levels are down per visitor and many areas of the industry are having a hard time breaking even, yet alone make a profit.

After this trip it seems rather smple as to why.  Norway offers a vastly more expensive holiday option and a much lower level of service; the product is inferior and the attitude is take it or leave it.  The tourist authorities and local tourism elite are constantly repackaging the same old outdated ideas and presenting them as new, the available local workforce  is disinterested and views the industry as undesirable due to status and wage level issues and the presentation of their product is frankly, appalling.

Whilst Norway is a beautiful country, with breathtaking nature and sights that are world class, has an exotic feel for visitors and is steeped in legend and myth regarding Vikings and the like, the actual interactive experiences for tourists are just simply, not up to scratch.

If I am paying top dollar for a holiday, my expectations are higher.  Due to the tax system in this land, which is nearly crippling for small business and high cost service industries such as tourism and hospitality,  the prices are markedly higher than in other available options for tourists and yet, the product delivered is dissapointing.

In Geilo, where I currently reside, everything looks tired, it is run down, graffiti covered or paint is falling off, the facilities are outdated, in  2011 there is no free wi fi in the town centre and the tourism operators are utterly unable to cooperate and share costs for development of things that enhance the tourist experience such as an app for the town, development of infrastructure and marketing.  Seems up here it is Everyman for themself, greed is more important than common sense and having unfinished building projects littering the area, piles of rubbish lying around and a general nonchalance to any input from us ‘outsiders’ is the modus operandi of the area.

So, there you go, a few quick observations and now down to the nitty gritty of getting myself sorted for the new job….

hope you all have had a great ‘holiday’ over the summer (or wet green autumn we have gotten) this year.


  1. smv says:

    “Det er deilig å være norsk i Danmark”. I think what you see is the difference between old money and new money, which you see in any country. It’s also no surprise that many, many in the service industry here in Oslo are either Swedish or Danish. Vive la difference! Congrats on the job, btw.

    • Without doubt there is a markedly different attitude to money, service and self pride. I found Denmark to be more ‘refined’, somewhat more at ease with itself and not out to prove anything.
      The experience seemed to only reinforce my earlier observations that Norway has ‘little man’ syndrome, is obsessed with money yet has no idea of its value and has a real issue with status, or more accurately, perceived status.
      So, looking forward to starting the new job, now just to get my shit in gear so I don’t have to sleep in my car…LOL

      • Siobhan says:

        Hi! I am an australian living in Kristiansand since March this year. I have just calmed down from one of my homesickness attacks, i just can’t get anything from this place or people. I was so excited about coming here and feel very disappointed with the coldness of norwegian culture. I’ve made 1 friend who i made through an aussie i worked with in Melbourne, but i am worried this place is going to damage my sense of life and excitement about the future. Im tearing my hair out.

  2. Hi Siobahn
    the difference between what we are accustomed to and how the Norwegian culture operates is quite difficult to comprehend and can quickly lead to feelings of hopelessness and even depression, the climate doesn’t help either.
    The reality is that you will need to be self motivated and you will most likely find yourself with 3 choices.
    either you need to become Norwegian in your attitude and approach to life, which not everyone can do, or, throw in the towel and give up, which is never a great option and tends to leave a bitter taste in your mouth. The other is to strike out on your own and pursue your dream.
    Chances are that you were doing that when you moved here and have already demonstrated a deep well of resourcefulness, the ability to reach your objectives and follow through with plans.
    Look into the local area and try and identify where other foreigners hang out, it is a great way to build a support network and start to gain understanding of what makes Norwegians tick.
    I have moved to Kongsberg and even though I have only been here a week, already I am seeing a completely different approach to life by the locals and a much more accepting culture. There are also lots of foreigners here due to the industries based here.
    Stavanger is also good for foreigners, so look into that as well.
    If you are ever in Kongsberg, drop me a line and we can hook up for a beer or two, or three, or….

    • Siobhan says:

      hey! thanks for the reply, i was just checking up on your blog again randomly and noticed you had replied, glad i saw that! Yes i think self-motivation is the key, i guess i get a bit lazy. My summer vikar position with the kommune expires this monday so i need to find a new job argh. My boss here told me how my idea of working in childcare will never get me anywhere really, and its best to work in the public sector, and how norwegians abuse it, blah, whys everything so difficult. I will think about what you said and look into those options! 🙂 Honestly i feel like ive come to this country as a refugee, have to take everything i get. Its a sobering experience and im sure i will gain alot of insight from it though. Where abouts is Kongsberg? northern norway is sounding much more open than kristiansand. What are you doing in terms of work? Thanks for all your suggestions, nice to think there are other aussies going through the same thing! 🙂

  3. keep your chin up…I have been really busy at the new job, not permanent but it is a start. enjoying Kongsberg, seems to have the right balance of size and multiculturalism for me. From experience, if you are finding the area where you live to be shall we say ‘small minded’ and a closed community, it is better to move to a more cosmopolitan area sooner rather than later as the constant rejection and isolation is really depressing.

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