I’m sure every community has one, a society of woman made up from the older generation who take it upon themselves to make the unwritten rules of society.  In joining the society, you commit to adide by these rule, looking down on everyone else who doesn’t. If you break a rule you are ostrasized by rumours, sometimes even banished to the outside.

Being an outsider of the Norwegian culture, I’m generally oblivious to these kinds of Norwegian (underground) cultural societies but this one has certainly made itself known to me. I am an Australian and we don’t care what other people think of us. We are generally louder and freer than most and have a habit of telling the blunt truth: Do you like my sweater? Yes, but not on you. My Australian character certainly doesn’t fit into the Secret Society of Norwegian Women.

My ‘I-don’t-care-what-you-think-of-me’ attitude has served me very well in Norway. I wear my Australian-style of clothes (boots, t-shirt and jeans) when everyone else is dressed in blouses, slacks and high heals. I bring my weird Australian dishes to potlucks even though I know no one will touch them (more for me!) And I do strange things like whistle, laugh out (really) loud and play jump the cracks with the kids in the middle of the city. I was brought up to be free, to play with the kids and leave the dishes in the sink. Happy kids always beats housework any day!

Norwegians are very different. If you don’t have a sterile house you are poor and a country bumpkin, and no one certainly ever wants to be that in Norway. In any case you can be gossiped about and you can certainly NOT join the Secret Society of Norwegian Women.  Not every Norwegian woman is a part of this society but I’m sure it is still apart of their lives.

These women in this secret society have half lives. They are always worried about what other people think of them and are especially worried about gossip as they might even be kicked out of the society if it is too harsh. There are many rules to follow, most of them have been passed down from their mothers. With statements like these, the rules can be learnt to a tune: No animals in the house – a house is not a barn; all the lights must stay on in the house to welcome visitors; a window must be framed with curtains to show outsiders that nice people live there, at every gathering tea must be served in china cups, you must be seen at ‘important’ community events to be notable… The list goes on, and on, and on.

Being an immigrant certainly has its advantages. I sometimes revel in being an outsider.  When I break the rules I am mostly forgiven by the Society because ‘I don’t know any better’.  Norwegian women may be ‘freer’ than me to live in Norway (being citizens) but I am certainly freer than them in living a Norwegian life. 

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