With hands up, eyes cast down and cheeks blushing I need to apologise for being a bad blogger. I’ve been living in Oslo for three months now and have only posted twice but I pledge to you that from now on I’ll be blogging every Tuesday.
I’m kicking this pattern off with an ironic post: bad manners. Every country has its cultural stereotype and for Norway, it’s that the manners are as cold as the climate. For England it’s that we’re tea-drinking snobs or chavs, depending on if you live in the South or North, who never visit a dentist.
If you’re expecting me to say that these generalisations are completely wrong, then I’m sorry. Wow, it feels refreshing to say that. If I say it in Oslo, the average Norwegian will laugh and look/run away. Here’s the thing – stereotypes exist for a reason. They form and take shape when you come across a new culture and don’t take the time to understand the quirks that make it different.
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Listen up, wannabe bilinguists. I’m going to let you in on a secret: you don’t need Rosetta Stone. Nor do you need adjective flash cards, a pocket-sized phrase book or any teach-yourself course that will make you an expert in pronouncing “the man can run” in the Queen’s English but able to say little else. What you need is to step away from the inanimate and start interacting, and I don’t mean pricey tutorials over Skype. The thought of putting what you’ve learnt into practice can be scary, whether you’re at A1 or C1 stage- it’s fair to compare the feeling to jumping from making coke and menthol rockets to assisting at NASA – but I’m happy to make a bet that it’s the most effective way.
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Patriotism is not my best asset. My nearests and dearests will know that I still get the British National Anthem confused with Rule, Britannia! and that I was embarassed to be seen with the new Firefly beverage in Oslo: choosing between the tantalising taste of Bramley Apple & Ginger and parading the Union Jack was a genuine predicament for me. Subsequently, it came as a surprise when I felt my ego deflate alongside with the vision of swanning into Norway and being given a job on behalf of my British accent and encyclopedic knowledge of tea. Of course, I hadn’t realised how reliant I was on my nationality to easily be granted access to Norway until I was at the Oslo tax office, waiting in a long queue of…and that’s when it dawned on me: “I’m an immigrant.” After years of being stuck in the British mindset of associating immigrants with Eastern Europeans, the neon flashing word of ‘arrogance’ came to give me a well-deserved slap.
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