Paradoxically, I have been overwhelmed by the lack of culture shock I have experienced upon my arrival and subsequent two or so weeks here in Lillehammer and Oslo. While there are certainly differences in the architecture, urban planning and general infrastructure, the national mentality and culture I have encountered has been strikingly similar to the rest of the developed world. Nearly everyone speaks English and the storefronts display similar products as any cosmopolitan center in the United States. Immigration has diversified Oslo to a point where it is not uncommon to see people of other nationalities almost everywhere in the city. I feel as though I could be anywhere in the developed world at any given point during the day.
That being said, I had a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with a friend I made back when I was an exchange student in Ecuador. He invited me and a couple of his friends up to his cabin just outside the northern city to Roros. Here is where I found what he referred to as the “true Norway”. On the edge of a massive lake, surrounded by mountains covered in forests and rocky outcroppings, he took us fishing with traditional Norwegian equipment, fed us locally raised reindeer meat, and elaborated on the sacred connection between humans and nature that Norwegians have cultivated for centuries. As a member of the Agrarian party, he enlightened me to how politically Norwegians value decentralization and the rural communities over the industrial capitalist mentality generally embraced in the states. He helped me understand the foundations of the Norwegian social norms by exemplifying the immense respect they have for the practical and moderate life a fisherman or famer as opposed to the American capitalist guided by manifest destiny. I am immensely grateful to have experienced this side of Norway and am happy to have a newfound insight into what makes this country a world leader in so many areas. I feel as though I have found a piece of the “true Norway”.