I know this topic will likely be very controversial but lets see how we go ;D
Being an immigrant myself, I am acutely aware of the behaviour of other immigrants. This is because the way all immigrants behave adds to the general perception of immigrants in Norwegian society. It generally goes: if one immigrant behaves badly then we all do. Of course, there are exceptions, but what I’m finding is that certain groups of immigrants are making it harder for the rest of us. When I say ‘groups’ I don’t mean nationalities or cultures, however, I do mean groups with certain habits and social behaviour.
To have the right to live in Norway all immigrants must abide by the laws of the land. However, in society there are also common courtesies that are accepted as appropriate behaviour. These, of course, are not governed by law but are so closely woven into society that they can be used in a court of law. For example: if someone needs help the law does not say you must help them but social law says it is appropriate to help when asked. These appropriate social behaviours are the ‘unwritten’ rules that society creates to live in harmony.
There are some groups of immigrants who do not abide by these ‘unwritten’ rules for their own personal gain. These groups are the ones who frustrate the image of ‘immigrant’ and also frustrate immigrants themselves who not only have to overcome the obstacles of living in a new country but also the perception of ‘bad immigrants’. Here are the main culprits from my own experience:
These people usually inhabit bigger cities like Olso but have also be known to creep north. The pleader is not the average beggar. Beggars are ok and they have a right to beg – it’s legalised. In fact, in Olso you can make a descent living out of begging on the street. An NRK reporter did an experiment for a week sitting in certain spots with a coffee cup out earning a couple of thousand kroner a day. But I wouldn’t recommend you do this… usually you have to be in the syndicate otherwise you’ll be pounced on by the regulars.
However, the pleader has a more intrusive approach. You could be coming around a corner and then a street woman shuffling on her knees with her arms stretched out to you begging ‘Please! Please! Please!’ will stop you in your tracks. You would likely need to change course in order for her not to grab you.
Another type of pleader (which also incorporates the trickster methods below) are the people who pretend to ask for directions and hand you a piece of paper as if there is an address on it. As a social norm to help out someone, most people take the paper and read. Soon they realise that they are not reading an address but a beggars note asking for money.
These are people who give you something and then expect you to pay for it. Humans are funny creatures. If you put out your hand then the human will take it and shake it. Its a natural phenomenon. However, tricksters know this. Their whole tactic is to give you something and when it’s in your hot little hand they demand money. Usually an old woman would approach you in the street offering you a flower, nodding her head and smiling as if to say ‘take it, it’s for you’. Then as soon as you take it her demeanour changes to ‘you owe me money!’ (Of course, in her own language or pigeon Norwegian). She will likely touch you, push you or stop you from walking until you give her the money or give back the flower. I have seen numerous flowers scrunched up on the ground along the Oslo corso – a clear sign that Norwegians don’t appreciate this approach.
These people ‘hover’ to be seen by Norwegian women (well, women who are white and ‘look’ Norwegian). They pick out targets and then walk around trying to catch the targets attention. If eye contact is made then the helicopter decides to land. This approach is usually made by immigrant men in places like streets, libraries, cafes, shopping centres etc. They are generally looking for Norwegian women to marry so they can stay in the country. Their offer of marriage comes up pretty quick in the conversation – they don’t pussy-foot around. If the answer is ‘no’ then they move on.
These people are a little scary. They can stop you on the street or even come to your door. They are usually immigrant men who are looking for ‘friends’ to talk with. They can often stop you from walking and they sometimes have a male friend with them who stands and watches. The approach is to pretend that they know you from somewhere and try to convince you to have a drink or coffee with them. These people aren’t necessarily looking for marriage to stay in the country (they seem to already have a permit to live in Norway) but what they are looking for is female companionship.
These are people who hang out in groups of four, ten or more during the day in public places. I’m not talking about teenage kids but men in their thirties and forties. Places like shopping centres, libraries and markets are typical hang outs – anywhere that has enough chairs. The whole purpose for the gathering is to chat amongst themselves as they watch everyone. They stay for hours at a time sitting or standing and seemingly talking about the people around them. I understand that in many countries it is custom for men to gather and spend their days together in cafes and social hubs. However, these large groups of men in public places are very intimidating and prevent other people from using those areas as they are always occupied by the group.
The trapper works in confined spaces like buses and trains where they can capture their target. These are usually men who want to make contact with Norwegian women. They move from chair to chair until they are behind them. Sometimes they sit right next to women even though all the other chairs are vacant. Some use small talk but others can just stare so much so that the woman usually has to move (or get off the bus early). This approach is very confrontational and is generally used on younger women or teenagers. (It seems like these men know that younger women can only be trapped as normally in a public space they would definitely not put up with this.)
These people are generally sellers of products. They either sell things on the street or actually own immigrant businesses. They usually do not abide by consumer laws , selling faulty products or not allowing things to be returned. They often sell illegal or counterfeit items. A common trick is for them to change used-by dates on food products. (If a jar has a used-by sticker on it be aware – used-by dates should always be a stamp on the glass or cap, or imprinted on the label.) When you confront these people you are normally (gruffly) shown the door.
These people like to cause scenes in public to get what they want. Emotional outbursts or loud abusive language are used to overpower people in service, especially social services or immigration authorities. These people often cry ‘discrimination’ or ‘it’s not fair’ at anything that moves. They usually use the ‘it’s in my culture’ excuse to get away with their behaviour. (However, this technique does not work on Norwegians – and is very detrimental to the image of immigrants in Norway.)
These types of immigrants are dreaded in Norwegian society. Norwegians have a very strong opinion about them and I often feel uneasy hearing it. I too think immigrants with these behaviours are annoying and take away from the harmony of society. (I’m actually very surprised by a lot of these behaviours – you don’t get immigrants behaving this way in Australia – it’s just not tolerated.) However, when the label ‘immigrant’ is used (knowing that I am one too) I feel a little guilty about my fellow immigrants making such a bad impression on our Norwegian hosts. The word ‘assimilate’ is used a lot when talking about immigrants coming into the country. I’m now starting to understand that ‘assimilate’ doesn’t mean giving up your beliefs or culture for Norwegian ones (like what some dictionaries say), but to have the same ideals, attitudes and social courtesies.
I’m sure there will come a time when I don’t think of myself as an immigrant. I don’t know how long I will have to wait, but I can’t wait til that day comes.
somehow I when I hear it as