I lived in Norway when I was 9 and 10 years old (it was a loooooong time ago) and again when I was 20 (also a looong time ago).
Perhaps it’s just my romantic assumption that children manage to transcend social training (through play) – or maybe it was because I was – as a child – still fluid and malleable myself, but we all managed to bond without too much overhead. I picked up a bunch of theCulture and it seems entirely natural to me. Then again I am a Child of the US Military, sois part of my social DNA. It was just a part of life : I still speak Norwegian (like a 10-year-old). Here I am with my best friend, Frode Schibsted.
Anecdote: My father was attached to the US Embassy, so we did some formal and informal socializing within the international community in Oslo. I must confirm Elisabeth Fjaerestad’s observation about alcohol: My parents noted (and chuckled) that placing a bottle of liquor (brennvin – literally “fire wine”) on the table for Scandinavian guests was an invitation – no, a challenge – to finish it.
I must also agree with Per Jørgensen about the “privacy” difference between Americans and most Europeans (it gets more so, the further you go North on the Continent). Americans tend to be gregarious and are often considered shallow and intrusive as a result. Social anthropologistexplored and popularized insights about “the hidden dimension” (proxemics) and “the silent language” in the early/mid-60’s, as the world became internationalized. Still worth a look.
My second installment of Norge at age 20 in 1970 was truer to the privacy dynamics described in this thread. We were more adult and more socialized, but we were also hippies. For that brief moment in historical and cultural time, “we” (our generation) managed to get beyond some of our social barriers. It wasn’t always pretty, but it sure was fun.
Footnote on “the alcohol thing & vikings” : I soon discovered that – as a foreigner and an American – I was uniquely capable of bypassing strict Norwegian laws regarding alcohol. Every time I traveled outside Norway I could – and did – stock up on duty-free (cheap & available) alcohol & cigarettes. Became very popular.
In the early winter of 1971, my British roommate Ian introduced me to the sister of a friend of his, who was in the Amsterdam cast of the rock musical “Hair”, which was playing in Oslo at that time. We (the cast) became friendly – and later that spring Ito work the spotlights and be a roadie + sex object. Interesting times.
But that’s another rant
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