Hatred towards Immigrants – a personal story

puddle-road

This is a true story.  In fact, it happened to me yesterday.  It was the first time I had ever been violently approached by a group of Norwegians and then abused because they found out I was an ‘immigrant’.

It has been really wet here in Alta.  No rain, just the snow melting creating mayhem on the roads with slippery snow and large puddles which hide big potholes.

I was driving to the theatre on a university access road.  The speed limit is 30km/h but I was going slower than that because of the potholes.  I was approaching three people (who should have been walking on the path a couple of meters away from the road) but they were on the other side, walking on the road with a Rottweiler.  I was more concerned about the woman standing in front of me in the middle of the road.  She was waiting for me to pass because right before her was an enormous puddle on the road.  I slowed down even more, drove on the far right and went through the puddle so I could pass her safely.

Just 30m up I parked the car in front of the backstage door and jumped out.  The woman with the Rottweiler must have been running to me because she was puffing.  She was telling me in Norwegian to ‘wait, wait, wait’, before going inside the theatre.  So I stood there waiting, not really knowing what I was waiting for – maybe to catch her breath?  No, it was so the other two guys could catch up.  When they did, the woman approached me with the Rottweiler, it seemed an aggressive move but I wasn’t intimidated.  I am used to big dogs and my Saint Bernard could eat her little Rottweiler.  The two men stood off on the road waiting for her.

The woman started speaking Norwegian to me.  It was clear that she was now angry about something.  I couldn’t make out what she was saying, her dialect was strange to me.  It certainly was not an Alta dialect.  She then asked me ‘do you speak Norwegian’ in Norwegian.  And I said ‘very bad Norwegian’ in Norwegian.  This is usually taken with amusement by Norwegians and usually seen as being humble.  Instead I got an angry ‘why did you speed past us?’, in English in return.
‘I was going under the speed limit’, I said.
‘You were going so fast through that puddle!  You splashed water on us.  Why didn’t you stop the car!?’
‘I didn’t know that I had done that’, I explained, thinking that everything would be ok.  But no.  One of the men started yelling at me and aggressively coming towards me from the street.  ’Don’t you know the *f* speed limit.  You *f* don’t know Norwegian law.  You shouldn’t have a *f* license you *f* *b*. ‘

Now, Norwegians generally know that it is not polite to swear to ‘the English’.  Swearing in English is an act of aggression and he wanted to be aggressive.  I had a de ja vu moment of standing in Australia again but this man was now waving his angry finger in my face.  I was surrounded.  She was behind me and he was in front.  The other guy was just laughing on the road.  I liked the other guy much better.
I felt I needed to repeat myself.
‘I was going under the speed limit.’
‘You *f* were *f* going too *f* fast, you *f* immigrant.’
‘I know the road rules and I was not going over the speed limit…’
It was getting harder to explain while the man was having a swearing rant at me.
‘You were on the other side of the road.’, I tried to reason.

I thought this was so odd.  Firstly, Norwegians don’t approach you aggressively.  They might make comments to you to tell you off about something, mostly under their breath, but being ready for a fight was uncharacteristic.  Secondly, Norwegians are generally more forgiving of strangers.  They think Norwegians should know better and outsiders need to be taught.  I would have expected a lesson, not a fight.

The woman made a counter move, holding her foot up to me, ‘But you were driving so fast you wet our boots! Look.’
I looked at her yellow felt boot, but I really couldn’t see a drenched muddy mess.  I couldn’t see any splashes of water.  My first thought was ‘she must be worried about her designer boots getting wet.  I wanted to say ‘um, you’re Norwegian, shouldn’t you know how to dress for this wet environment?’.  Hec, I even had my waterproof farm boots on at the time to slush around in the wet snow – and I was just moving from car to theatre.

But she continued ‘We stopped for you.  Why didn’t you stop the car and say sorry to us?  You didn’t say sorry to us!’
I said, ‘Sorry’.
I was happy to say sorry.  All this anger just because they wanted me to say sorry?  They didn’t need to get so angry for me to make an apology.  If they would have tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘By the way, please be more careful in the wet….’, I would have certainly said ‘oops, sorry’ and we both would have had a much pleasanter evening.  The situation was almost defused.  The woman was perplexed that I could say sorry so quickly.  However, that was not all they wanted.
‘You *f* immigrant, go back to your own *f* country, you *f* *b*.  You *f* have no respect.  You don’t *f* live here, go home, *b*.’

I was a little angry. This person didn’t know me, they didn’t know that I had made a home in Norway, a life and a future.  They didn’t know everything I have contributed to Norway.  I have two Norwegians kids, developed work and service, giving my passion and love.
I said without a twitch ‘The other lady stopped before the puddle so I could pass without her getting wet.  That was the smart thing to do.  Why didn’t you do that?’
The man stepped closer to me very violently and I was prepared for him, with this:  ’You are violent and you are aggressive.  I am not talking to you anymore.  This is over.’
I turned to the backstage door for a cool exit and, ‘doh!’, it was locked!  The man was still swearing immigrant hate stuff at me, and I must admit, I wondered if he was a Breivik sympathizer.
‘I am not listening to you anymore’, and I passed the woman to get to my car.  She grabbed my elbow.  I was a little shocked.  Norwegians aren’t known for physical contact, let alone violence.  I ripped my elbow from her hand.  My voice became deep and slow and menacing.
‘How. Dare. You. Touch. Me!  This is abuse.’ I pointed to each of them, ‘You and you, are abusive.  I am not standing for this.’
The other guy had already walked on and the angry man turned, still swearing, and went after him.  I got in my car and drove off leaving the angry woman unsatisfied.

I was more angry now, in the car; driving; thinking.  I was angry that such people were Norwegian.  I was angry because I know that other immigrants suffer with such instances every day.  I was angry that such people wreck Norway for everyone.  And then I thanked god that I knew this encounter was not at all Norwegian; that these people are nothing compared to the amazing, most brilliant Norwegians that I am so grateful to know.  I don’t recognize these people as Norwegian at all.  They don’t stand with the peace-loving people.  They are some odd little dot in a beautiful landscape.  I only wish I had said more so next time they would think twice about abusing someone because they are an immigrant.

Sommarøy: Tromsø’s Best West

sommeroya-1

Summer Island is a beautiful little coastal town in Tromsø’s west. It’s one of my most favourite hideaways as the ocean views are spectacular. Because of the coastal weather the panoramas change constantly in colour and atmosphere. Every visit brings a new perspective of the beauty and majesty of Tromsø’s best kept secret.

sommeroya-2

sommeroya-6

Sommarøy is linked by bridges which provides great opportunities to take birds-eye pictures over the waters. The vista is dotted with small islands with mossy grassland and the colours in the sky changes the tint of the waters from aqua blues to warm greys.

sommeroya-4

To the west are the blue mountains of Senja, to the east the mountains of Kvaløya and in the northern waters is the cliff island, Håja.

sommeroya-7

If you are looking for an ocean adventure then Sommarøy has arctic sea cruises and whale safaris, sea rafting, deep-sea fishing and boating. They also have camping by the shore with caravan patios and a miniature farm for the kids.

A popular activity at the hotel is ice bathing – relaxing in the spa then jumping in the cold ocean – in summer or winter! Apparently it is very invigorating but I am yet to try it. As the town song goes: “We heat the tub with Russian timber, so no trouble with the winter storm. At home you may be used to bubbles, but here you have to do that on your own…”

sommeroya-3

It is a nice one hour drive out to Sommarøy around Kvaløya from Tromsø. There are two ways you can go – the low road (south) which is better for campervans and tourists. This road takes you past ancient rock paintings, Straumen Gård Museum with 18th Century timber houses, and the worlds northern most rhubarb winery. Or you can take the smaller, winding high road (north) along Kvaløya’s fjords and fishing villages. If you are coming from Senja you can go by car ferry through the islands.

Sommarøy is perfect in the summer where you can enjoy endless sunshine with the Midnight Sun. The island also boasts about its Northern Light displays but you have to brave the ice and snow if you want a spectacular sighting as aurora only comes out for the winter.

Having a Different Opinion and Culture in Norway

norwegianlanguage.jpg

I communicate everyday with Norwegian women, men, youth and children.  I speak (bad) basic Norwegian and lots of English.  Even though it is generally accepted that there is a language and cultural barrier when communicating with me, so all misunderstandings should be immediately forgiven, quiet often they are not.  I have got into trouble sometimes thinking it was okay to have an opinion.  I find I have the biggest trouble with speaking to Norwegian women.

At first I felt that I couldn’t be myself in Norway because I couldn’t express myself; I didn’t know enough language.  Now, I think I still don’t know enough language, however, I know enough to express my basic opinion – bad, good, sad, ok, fantastic!  But still, I need to be careful with how I use the negative words.  Norwegian women can easily take offense; they have long memories and intricate connections in the community.  I find you have to watch over everything you say as if you are a politician, otherwise everything will come back and haunt you.

I’m from a culture where we take everything others say with a grain of salt (unless they are a polly, of course).  We are used to each other saying stupid things but we laugh if off and let it go.  What is most important is that you are allowed to say stupid things and it won’t be held against you.  We over exaggerate, over emphasize and blow everything out of proportion.  Everything is bigger and better to Australians.  This has got me into trouble sometimes when telling stories to Norwegians.  If I say I nearly broke my leg trying to get out of the car, Norwegians think I am saying that I had a real chance of breaking my leg (but I was meaning it was hard for me to get out of the car).  So I have to be careful when I speak with Norwegians to make sure my culture doesn’t effect a Norwegian’s understanding.

Australians also say things with a lot of emotion.  We get angrier, happier, sadder and crazier.  Our loudness is just because we are carried away with the situation.  It is no biggy.  I think we have silent competitions in Australia on how loud we can get.  Maybe we have to be so loud – being so far away from the rest of the world, we need to make sure they can hear us.

In Norway it isn’t so loud.  In fact, the Arctic environment makes you speak softer because your voice in naturally carried further between the leafless trees and grassless ground in winter.  In Norway, expressions of emotion are not so valued.  It is rare to see a Norwegian emotional.  I always have to control how I express my emotions every day so I don’t frighten Norwegians.  This is because I am living in a country where understating is an overstatement.

This means I can’t relish in my language anymore. I can’t blow things out of proportion for humour or sensationalism.  Norwegians will believe any length, any time and any number you give them.  I must admit, it is fun sometimes being an Australian in Norway.  I get very amused watching Norwegians work out what I mean, waiting for their delayed reactions.  However, I often can’t be myself, even when I speak Norwegian.  I feel boring and uncreative.  It is not fun to constantly guard you communication – language, facial expressions and body language.  I live in a very sensitive country.

In the workplace, especially in the public sector, (where I work), everything is personal.  Norwegians are on high guard with what they say and do.  If you do one thing that ticks a person off in the municipality it will likely have lasting effects.  It is because everyone in the community is connected somehow and usually everyone has known each other for 20 years or more.  Your history is important in Norway, especially your social history, and follows you around where ever you go.  I often hear about confrontations and arguments that happened 20 years ago to explain to me why two people or two groups are at odds with each other now.  In Norway you don’t pee in your own pool because the pool belongs to everyone else too.  Once you have that little blue ring around you, it will follow you for life.

I find I have to be very careful with what I say around Norwegian women.  It is harder to make jokes and to say silly things around them.  They seem to be the serious sex in Norway. I’m certainly not allowed to express anger with my voice, my face or body language, otherwise they will likely take offense.  You have to speak diplomatically, calmly and with no energy.  Norwegians often confuse my enthusiasm, high energy and loudness with aggression or stress. Norwegian woman don’t tend to like being told that they are doing something wrong or silly.  Just a simple ‘shouldn’t the children play on the snow instead of the icy wet mud?’ can cause a strong diplomatic reply stating Norwegian law.

Disagreeing with any point, no matter how logical your well constructed argument is, is never appreciated.  In fact, I have created friction sometimes in conversations with Norwegian women because I thought, living in a country known for equality, I was allowed to disagree.  Silly me.  Disagreeing with a Norwegian woman is social suicide.  I’ve learnt now that you have to listen to them – everything they have to say. I can’t reply until they are completely and utterly, finished, with every, little thing, they have to, say.  Rebutting is out of the question.  You can’t say why you think their point is wrong; you are only allowed to say why you think your point is right. Having different opinions than the ‘Norwegian opinion’ is, unfortunately, frowned upon.  Well, not so much the opinion, but stating the opinion.

I think Norwegians generally think they have to teach immigrants like me how to live, behave and think in Norway.  I often find myself in a position where a Norwegian woman is telling me how I should be or not be.  I pleasantly defend myself saying ‘sorry, it’s my Australian culture’ and they often reply ‘but you’re in Norway’.

Setting Off the Avalanche

In our recent post Avalanches on Stjernøya, we described how explosive experts often set off charges to create a controlled avalanche in a high-risk area. However, it is often a hit-and-miss wether the charges actually set off anything. On Stjernøya, we have already attempted twice this winter to blast the snow off the mountain, but with no success. This doesn’t mean the mountain is safe – the snow could still come crashing down at any time. [Read more...]

Quick Links

Tourist & Travel

Series

General

  • Parenting in Norway
  • Having a Baby in Norway
  • The Cost of Living
  • Norwegian Name Days
  • How Vikings Changed the English Language
  • Norwegian Flower Show
  • Fårikål

Norwegian Lessons

  • Learn Norwegian - Introduction Series
  • Norwegian Lessons Series
  • Learn Norwegian Podcast Series

About My Little Norway | Contact | Disclaimer

© 2008-2009 My Little Norway | Theme by Moose | Log in | Powered by WordPress.

144,448 spam blocked by WP-SpamFree