Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Random Observations 1

TOWELS

Norwegians don’t use big towels, they use very absorbent towels the size of hand towels. We have five of them hanging up in the bathroom and it takes up very little space. It was weird at first, but it works quite well. Few people have machines to dry clothing; we have a washer but no dryer, instead we use a wide fold-out rack to dry our clothes.

THE BATHROOM

Why are foreign bathrooms always so interesting? Our toilet is not as exotic as the ones I've seen in Japan, but it does have two separate flush buttons, a regular flush and a water-saving flush. Our shower isn’t in a separate stall. It’s in the corner of the bathroom, surrounded by a shower curtain, and the water runs halfway across the floor when we bathe. I had to change my habit of leaving clothes on the floor when I shower! The bathroom floor is heated to a constant 25° C. At first I thought this was to keep our feet warm in the winter, but in fact I see now that it quickly evaporates moisture. An inflatable kids' swimming pool will need to serve as a bathtub for the children!

POLICE?

We haven't seen any police yet. We're told that the police don't really drive around looking for trouble, as there isn't much to find. Instead they will pick one particular offense they are interested in and go to one area to look for it. Sometimes they may set up checkpoints to hunt to for drunk drivers. The acceptable blood alcohol content level here is very low, 0.02% which you'd get from less than one glass of wine, and the penalties are quite severe. It's easy to walk most places in town, though, and very safe to walk alone at night, even if you've had one entire glass of wine.

KID FRIENDLY

Very young kids walk themselves anywhere, and children are free to roam without parents worrying about their safety. As a parent of 3 young children, that's great. It's a law in Norway that traffic must stop for children who raise their hands.

SEX OKAY, VIOLENCE NOT

There's nudity on the TV here and discussing sex is not a big deal. Violence is not okay at all -- in fact it's also against the law to hit children and one can go to jail for it. It's funny because on American TV you can see people getting graphically killed, but a "wardrobe malfunction" creates a national outrage. One of these two countries has their values backwards, methinks!

NO NEED TO BE FRIENDLY TO STRANGERS

The guidebook warned us, but it is still a strange thing to experience. When walking, I am used to nodding, smiling, perhaps even saying hello to strangers I pass on the sidewalk. Here, no one even makes eye contact. It feels very impersonal at first, but even after just a few days I can feel a difference in my reaction. No longer must I feel obligated to pretend to care that the person I’m passing will feel rejected if I don’t reach out to them. I can just go on my way and take care of business and no one’s feelings are hurt at all. I wouldn’t call it ‘unfriendly’, it’s really more of a neutral attitude. I asked Allan about this, and he laughs that it really is a wonderful blessing not to be burdened with acknowledging folks you will never see again. Huh.

MONEY'S NO SECRET

In the U.S., it is taboo to discuss how much money you make. In Norway, you can go online to see how much your neighbors earn. No one cares much, it's like discussing what color you painted your house.

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