I never thought I’d find myself in the dating scene again, let alone dating in a foreign country where the language still boggles me. But, times change, as do places and relationships, so for the past two years I’ve had the opportunity, privilege and curiosity to see what Norwegian men are all about.
Before I got out there, I was prepped by a diverse selection of Norwegians on how dating is done in Norway. I was told the men were shy and the women picky, and in order to get them together entailed a series of unfortunate events: a drunken one-night-stand ending in a love-the-one-you’re-with morning after. I thought, ‘Surely, this can’t be true. Norwegians have always been a sensible bunch to me’ but from a decade of whispers, I became suspicious.
After being in a long-term relationship, my dating intentions were just to have fun. I wasn’t looking to commit anytime soon. In fact, I took my dating opportunity as a chance to explore Norway in a different way – from the inside out. I had great expectations of learning about Norwegian culture and social life, about love and relationships in the Arctic, and cracking the code of the mysteriously shy Norwegian male. My journey certainly didn’t disappoint!
However, to understand my adventure, you must understand my person. I’m the stereotypical Aussie girl – happy, friendly, adventurous, and a little wild. As a forty-four year old, I’m well educated and have a satisfying career, but I have a young disposition, and am very energetic and sporty. I enjoy my own company, of course – you have to, living in the Arctic wilderness – however, it’s not unusual for me to make friends with the people sitting next to me, and across the aisle, on a bus, plane or train. Yes, I’m a Crockadile Dundette.
You’d think that such a girl would frighten the shy Norwegian male, but on the contrary. Being a tomboy, I’ve always made besties with guys, and it’s been no different in Norway. In every city I’ve lived in – Oslo, Harstad, Tromsø and Alta, in that order – I’m moving up in the world, literally – I’ve had a male bestie. All of them have had a naturally quite disposition, but get them comfortable and even my cheeks could go red from their Viking antics. Norwegian men are shy? Hosh-posh!
So, where does an Aussie girl in the Arctic meet Norwegian men? Tinder, of course.
I could have gone out to a bar in my hometown but the pickings are slim. In such a small town as Alta, we have only two watering holes, and I’d say, there is only two degrees of separation here. Looking elsewhere is not only wise but necessary. Tinder broadens the possibilities, dramatically.
I was quite surprised to see how many Norwegians used Tinder too. Not only that, but the general idea among many was to meet people during their travels. It is very acceptable for daters to make a long car trip to the next city over, or even catch a flight for a date. A few men have taken the two-hour plane trip from Oslo up to the Arctic for a weekend date with me, and a few from other cities have travelled to meet me while I was visiting another destination. Being a practical girl, if I was travelling for a weekender – mostly to the capital – I would often arranged a few dates for that occasion; sometimes I could manage to fit in two or three dates in one day. I was always upfront about not being exclusive, of course. The type of Norwegian men I dated found my dating habits quite amusing. It certainly gave us lots to talk about. I think it also made them feel comfortable with me as they knew I wasn’t gunning for a relationship.
On my travels, I met many Norwegian men from all walks of life: A fifty year old widowed business owner; a twenty-three year old hockey player studying law; a thirty-four year dog sledder come tiny house builder; a forty year old ‘Oslo elite’; and a twenty-eight year old military captain… to name a few. For some reason, I attracted many twenty-eight year olds. I thought my age might be a fetish for them, but once I met these men, I realised they were interested in me as a person and they secured my belief that age is just a number.
For first dates, we would meet up at the usual first date places such as cafes and bars, before venturing onto dinner or a club. As such, I’ve got to know some awesome local haunts in Oslo city, which I still frequent. I was surprised to discover how conscious Norwegian men are to be gentlemanly. Many of my daters were very attentive. Some ordered drinks for me, usually wine, took my coat and opened doors. Many walked on the outside of the footpath so I was protected from the slushy city roads, and it was usual for my dates to offer me their elbow so I could walk with safety along the slippery winter pavements. Though, on talking about this with a few, it seemed they thought it was expected of them, me being Aussie and from the genteel ‘British Empire’. But, it seemed they enjoyed being chivalrous as if it was something they seldom got to do.
I rarely went on second dates – they were never my intention – but when I did, I was usually invited to personal spaces such as the home. Second dates mostly involved every day activities – going shopping, cooking together or watching TV. I became uncomfortable with how easily Norwegian men slipped into a daily life with me so quickly. Perhaps that is why it was even rarer for me to go on a third date with them.
Over two years I went on at least fifty first dates, but who’s counting? All my dates were special in some way. I was never stood up, no dates finished early, and some even went on for 24 hours. We had amazing conversations and great fun. Most ended in ‘it would be great to see you again’.
The one thing all my Norwegian dates had in common was that they were real – they were open about their life situation, they didn’t feel the need to try and impress, and they were happy to have a good time without any expectations. These were fair dinkum blokes. The Oslo boys liked the fact I didn’t care what kind of car they drove, the price tag of their clothes or if they came from the Westside (the ‘uptown’ of Oslo). The country boys liked that I could give them a run for their money with outdoor activities, could sit in quietness and preferred beer over wine. I could have certainly kept dating a lot of them, and there were a few times I indulged, but a girl has only so many free days in her calendar.
There was one interesting circumstance that grouped many of the men I had dated together, including the ones under thirty: they had a child from either a one-night-stand or a previous relationship they had no intention of keeping long-term. As I listened to their stories, I reflected upon the myth I was told – perhaps it wasn’t just a myth, but an actuality for Norwegians to fall into relationships because of one-night-stands. It seemed that social expectations got the better of a few and they found themselves marrying for the sake of keeping up appearances and/or to take responsibility for their actions. It seemed because of this, they had underlying feelings of disappointment about their lives, which dampened their hopes for future romance. I dare say, some saw themselves as ‘ruined’ and didn’t expect their life to grant them the opportunity to have a loving relationship with a life partner. This common theme among the men I dated did make them very adamant about not having any more children, or even getting into a relationship where they would have to entwine their lives with a woman’s. The New Age of Perpetual Dating suited them just fine, or so it seemed to them. Though, I’m not sure this is what their heart wanted. I was surprised at how romantically inclined these Norwegian men were, and even more surprised at how hard it was for them to accept me saying goodbye when I felt our time had come to an end. This made me understand how they could fall into mediocre relationships and settle. That was certainly not something I wanted for myself.
I must say, the quality of men in Norway is second to none. They are educated, stable, active, passionate, and know how to balance their life. I’ve been really lucky to have dated the best of the best. You may have noticed my observations above have been written in past tense. Yes, you would be right in supposing I now have a steady boyfriend. It was unexpected but for some reason I just can’t seem to let this one go. *wink*