In January 2013 I had the pleasure of my first ever trip to Scandinavia. It gave me an opportunity to learn first hand the Norway way in various things.
I had my first ever flight with Scandinavian Airline Systems otherwise known as SAS.
This was nothing to get too excited about in itself. SAS have been plagued with financial problems for years and the plane interiors were dated and not sufficient to be classified as luxurious. Bearing in mind my flights took around an hour each may also be a factor in the type of aircraft operating on the route.
I had an opportunity to experience a Norwegian winter. Well it was late January and my arrival was greeted with a snow and rain blizzard.
The snow did not seem to last long although there was plenty of it. Temperatures then increased to above zero for the day time until the day I left which was greeted with -5C.
I had the joy of walking around streets of a beautiful town and able to admire the architecture of some very wonderful and desirable looking houses.
Just look at it! Wouldn’t that be a cool place to live, close to the sea? And close to the sea it was as I stayed in a beautiful but small seaside town.
These things are all wonderful and make me want to go back and soon. There were three things though that really stood out for me more than anything.
Okay I was here for work so my colleagues really would make an effort to be friendly with me. However this seemed to come natural to them. Some I just couldn’t stop talking.
That aside, the interaction with other people was also noticeably outstanding. The receptionists (yes more than one) at the hotel were exceedingly welcoming when I stayed there for five nights. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a warm and sincere welcome from any hotel in the world and I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels!
Always willing to help and volunteering to chat in a genuine and respectful way. I can often be frustrated in the US by what I consider to sometimes be false and insincere conversation. That was never the case here, it was always warm and of genuine interest.
I told my bride-to-be of the friendliness and she said that she’d heard of how genuinely friendly the people were too. This included strangers on the street and people in shops and cafes.
I flew into Kristiansand and had to drive for around an hour to my destination. Okay the weather wasn’t great but I made it. On arriving I did reflect that on what was a reasonable timed drive through some populated areas there was not a single traffic light to be found! Highly unusual I thought since I’ve driven in numerous countries and found them.
On talking to locals the Norway way is to have very few traffic lights on the roads. There are some but they are very, very few. Yet somehow the traffic seems to move well with little hold up, unless it is an accident or road works.
In towns and cities there is also a rule of you have to give way to traffic from the right. I kind of learnt this the hard way when I nearly knocked a woman off her bicycle; my sincerest apologies. Effectively there are no priority roads unless there is a special yellow sign which means you have right of way.
Speed limits are 80km/h on many of the roads outside of the towns and cities. This is mostly complied with as few even attempted to over take me (I always try to stick to the speed limit or below depending on driving conditions).
There were some of the usual frustrations I have with other drivers still evident. These included people using handheld mobile phones whilst driving, especially truck drivers (this drives me crazy, you could kill someone in an instant!). Also people indicating after they have begun their manoeuvre or just not indicating at all especially on roundabouts (what, you think I can sit here and wait all day?).
On further research I learnt some more on the Norway way of driving:-
– there are strict rules on overtaking which must be on straight stretches of road with a clear view
– switching on headlights is mandatory, day or night
– drivers must give way to pedestrians at crossings, I found that the vast majority of drivers did do so
– drivers must keep a safe distance from the car in front, at least 3 seconds away. I love this rule as nothing can get me more wound up than a driver right on my bumper with close to zero braking distance.
Other rules apply and I understand that they can all be very strictly enforced (shame about the mobile phones). Driving was a relative pleasure compared to other countries including my own.
Now this one was quite a shocker for me. Hiring a car meant that I listened to the radio at all times of the day and the time of day really didn’t matter. There does not appear to be any watershed for radio broadcasts.
I was soon shocked to hear unedited music broadcasts. I’m not one to use profanity to any significant extent, in fact it is rare for me. I find foul language offensive and often unnecessary; it is generally used by the less articulate amongst us. I don’t even use it on Flights And Frustration with the rare exception. (I think that one is acceptable?)
I find that musical artists are reverting more and more to offensive language. Maybe that is their daily speak or they try to shock to be controversial. Often you’ll hear a radio edit version of a song and be in a position to guess what has been edited out. Well there is no need to guess with Norwegian radio, irrespective of which channel I listened to.
On a drive shortly after 10 am I became excited to hear that the Will.I.Am and Britney Spears collaboration would be played. I then imagined the shock of parents driving their young children to hear the unedited version.
I was then introduced to a band I’d never heard of before. I kind of take off from Bon Jovi yet in an adult themed way. I was treated to Steel Panther’s “Party all day”. This was a highly sexually explicit song about what the guy wanted to do every night and what his girlfriend of the moment may do for him if he is lucky. Seriously this is 18 and over stuff no doubt. I’d hate for any young kids of mine to listen to that stuff. If you are of an appropriate age then check it out if you don’t believe me.
Thankfully this free and easy use of the English language was not something I encountered from the locals who were always polite.
Overall I was very impressed with my first experience of the Norway way. I just hope that next time I’m wary of any passengers in the car before I turn the radio on!