Even though ‘hello’ is probably the most used word in any language you will probably not need to use it much in Norway. This is because Norwegians have an asocial society. If you are standing at the check-out, sitting at the bus stop or passing the neighbour, you can be guaranteed a non-conversational experience. Norwegians just don’t talk to each other. They could sit next to you for an hour to catch the same bus and not even look your way.
This always seems to be a topic of conversation in my Norwegian language class. It is one of the characteristics of Norwegian society that immigrants find hard to comprehend. But I think an ‘adaptation’ of a Saul Bellow quote will help you understand: “It’s not that you’re so asocial, but a man who needs people doesn’t wind up in the Arctic” (Italics added). I’m starting to learn that it’s not that Norwegians don’t want to talk, it’s that they don’t need to talk.
However, get a Norwegian out in the wilderness and you will experience a much warmer phenomenon. If you pass a Norwegian on a walking track you will be greeted like an old family friend. It is not only considered polite to exchange hellos half way up a mountain but considered bad manners if you don’t. There must be something about mountains that makes a Norwegian gregarious. (Or maybe it’s just the moonshine?) Who knows – but I think the Norwegian character is fascinating and worthy of a paranormal study.
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