Norway - Society and Culture by Eva Maagerø and Birte Simonsen (Eds.): Excerpt

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Eva Maagerø and Birte Simonsen (eds.)

Norway: Society and Culture 3rd edition


© CAPPELEN DAMM AS, 2021 This title was first published 2008 by Portal Books, Kristiansand ISBN 978-82-02-56648-7 3. edition, 1. printing 2021 This publication and its content are protected by and subject to the provisions of the Norwegian CopyrightAct. No part of this publication may be reproduced or disseminated further in any form or by any means whatsoever without the express prior written permission of the publisher, Cappelen Damm AS, in accordance with the law, or according to the terms of an agreement with the Norwegian reprographic rights organization, Kopinor. Cover design: Gisle Vagstein / deTuria Design Typesetting: Bøk Oslo AS Printing and binding: AIT Grafisk AS www.cda.no akademisk@cappelendamm.no


Contents Chapter 1 Values ........................................................................................................................ 13 Andreas Aase, University of Agder Equality ...................................................................................................................... 14 Moderation ............................................................................................................... 17 Nearness to Nature ................................................................................................. 20 Modifications ........................................................................................................... 24 Chapter 2 History ...................................................................................................................... 27 Merethe Roos, University of South-Eastern Norway Hunting, Gathering and Agriculture ..................................................................... 27 The Evolution of Norway as a State (872–1319) ................................................ 28 Early signs of unification ................................................................................. 28 Unification and the conversion to Christianity ........................................... 30 Civil war makes way for a new order ............................................................ 31 The Age of Unions (1319–1905) ............................................................................ 32 The Black Death ............................................................................................... 33 From union member to province ................................................................... 35 An expanding economy and an emerging elite .......................................... 36 A growing national consciousness ................................................................ 39 1814: The forgotten land ................................................................................. 40 State of the civil servants ................................................................................ 41 Schooling and education ................................................................................. 42 Population growth and migration .................................................................. 43 Industry, farming and the economy .............................................................. 44 Infrastructure and communication ............................................................... 45 Organizations and interest groups ................................................................ 46 1905: A nation is born ..................................................................................... 47

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Independent Norway (1905–2000) .................................................................... 48 From independence to a neutral ally ............................................................ 48 Between the wars ............................................................................................. 49 The Second World War ................................................................................... 50 Liberation, restoration and regulation .......................................................... 53 The emergence of the welfare state ............................................................. 54 International cooperation and concerns ...................................................... 54 Changing political winds ................................................................................. 55 Towards the end of a millennium .................................................................. 56 A new millennium: The 21st century .................................................................... 59 Norway’s wealth and the oil industry ........................................................... 59 A multicultural society .................................................................................... 61 Chapter 3 Religion ..................................................................................................................... 63 Helje Kringlebotn Sødal and Levi Geir Eidhamar, University of Agder Christianity Conquers Norse Religion .................................................................. 64 A Thousand Years of Christian Culture ............................................................... 66 The Lutheran Reformation .............................................................................. 69 Pietism ................................................................................................................ 70 Hans Nielsen Hauge – a lay pioneer ............................................................. 72 Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries .................................................... 74 Towards privatized and individualized religion .................................................. 76 Active Christians .............................................................................................. 77 Towards religious plurality .............................................................................. 78 Modern pluralism ............................................................................................. 79 The Future ................................................................................................................ 83 Chapter 4 Politics ....................................................................................................................... 84 Kjetil Børhaug, University of Bergen A Democratic Monarchy? ...................................................................................... 86 The Political Parties ................................................................................................. 87 Women and Politics ................................................................................................ 89 The Politics of the Sami .......................................................................................... 90 The Territory ............................................................................................................. 91 The Political Agenda ............................................................................................... 92 The language problem ..................................................................................... 93

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The European Union ........................................................................................ 93 The oil income problem .................................................................................. 94 International Relations ............................................................................................ 96 A tiny country maneuvering in Great Power politics ................................. 96 International cooperation .............................................................................. 99 How Different? ......................................................................................................... 102 References ................................................................................................................. 103 Chapter 5 The Welfare State ................................................................................................... 104 Olav Helge Angell, VID Specialized University Political System ........................................................................................................ 104 The Organisation of the Welfare State ................................................................ 106 The Scope of the Welfare State ............................................................................ 107 The Work Approach to Welfare ............................................................................ 110 Reorganising Norway’s Benefit Schemes ............................................................ 111 The National Insurance Scheme ........................................................................... 112 Scope and expenditure of the National Insurance Scheme ...................... 113 The Norwegian Health Care System .................................................................... 114 Financial aspects .............................................................................................. 115 Social care ......................................................................................................... 116 The Family in the Welfare System ........................................................................ 117 The Welfare State in a Gender Perspective ........................................................ 119 Gender distribution in higher education and the workforce .................... 119 Measures and methods in gender equality efforts .................................... 121 The equality paradox: Gender and work in welfare society ..................... 122 Gender equality in a multi-cultural society ................................................. 124 Critical Views of the Welfare State ...................................................................... 124 Current and Future Challenges to the Norwegian Welfare System ................ 125 Rapid increase in the number of people receiving disability benefit ...... 126 Poverty as an issue in Norwegian public debate ........................................ 127 An ageing population ...................................................................................... 128 Immigration and the welfare state ................................................................ 130 The capacity of the hospital system ............................................................. 133 References ................................................................................................................. 134

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Chapter 6 An Egalitarian Society? ......................................................................................... 138 Pål Repstad, University of Agder Whatever Became of Einar Gerhardsen? ............................................................ 138 Likhet – A Complicated Concept .......................................................................... 140 Equality of Outcome – A Controversial Aim ....................................................... 143 Egalitarian Values in Norway ................................................................................. 145 Egalitarian Values – But What About Realities? ................................................ 148 Increasing Inequality in Norway ........................................................................... 149 Struggling for Equality – From Self-Interest to Ethical Motivation ................. 151 Towards New Forms of Inequality? ...................................................................... 152 A Brief Conclusion ................................................................................................... 154 References ................................................................................................................. 155 Chapter 7 Minorities ................................................................................................................. 157 Eva Maagerø, University of South-Eastern Norway and Birte Simonsen, University of Agder Including Strategies ................................................................................................. 157 From assimilation to integration .................................................................... 158 Minority and Majority as Basic Concepts ........................................................... 159 Indigenous People ................................................................................................... 160 A brief look backwards .................................................................................... 161 The Sami parliament ....................................................................................... 163 National day, national song and flag ............................................................ 163 Upbringing and socialization in a Sami context ......................................... 164 School – a challenge for many ....................................................................... 165 Traditional yet modern .................................................................................... 167 National Minorities ................................................................................................. 167 International agreements ............................................................................... 167 The Norwegian national minorities .............................................................. 168 An example of a national minority ................................................................ 169 Cultural and language minorities .......................................................................... 170 Integration in schools ...................................................................................... 171 The rights ........................................................................................................... 173 References ................................................................................................................. 174

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Chapter 8 Education .................................................................................................................. 175 Birte Simonsen Differences and Similarities ................................................................................... 175 How and When Education Started ....................................................................... 176 Teacher Education – From Zero to Five Years ..................................................... 178 Frequent School Reforms ....................................................................................... 179 The Structure of Education .................................................................................... 182 The School’s Foundation ........................................................................................ 184 Professional Teachers ............................................................................................. 186 References ................................................................................................................. 186 Chapter 9 Childhood ................................................................................................................. 188 Ann Christin E. Nilsen, University of Agder The Relativity of Childhood .................................................................................... 188 What Characterizes the Norwegian Context? ................................................... 191 Trends in Norwegian Childhood and Socialization ............................................ 193 Intimacy and intensified parenting ............................................................... 193 Institutionalization ........................................................................................... 196 Digitalization ..................................................................................................... 198 The Future of Norwegian Childhood .................................................................... 200 References ................................................................................................................. 202 Chapter 10 Language ................................................................................................................. 204 Eva Maagerø, University of South-Eastern Norway Language and landscape ........................................................................................ 205 The Two Written Languages: Bokmål and Nynorsk .......................................... 207 How different are Bokmål and Nynorsk? ..................................................... 208 Where do we find Bokmål and Nynorsk? .................................................... 209 Why Bokmål and Nynorsk? ............................................................................ 210 The two written languages in school ............................................................ 215 Bokmål and Nynorsk outside school .............................................................. 216 Spoken Norwegian .................................................................................................. 217 The dialects ....................................................................................................... 217 No standard spoken Norwegian .................................................................... 218 Minority Languages in Norway ............................................................................. 219

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Traditional minority languages ...................................................................... 219 The new minority languages .......................................................................... 220 Summing up .............................................................................................................. 221 References ................................................................................................................. 222 Chapter 11 Literature .................................................................................................................. 223 Elise Seip Tønnessen, University of Agder Searching for National Identity ............................................................................. 223 Henrik Ibsen: Half a Century of Drama ............................................................... 225 Contemporary drama: An instant success .................................................. 228 Tragedy and symbolism .................................................................................. 229 A New Generation: Knut Hamsun ........................................................................ 231 More wanderers ............................................................................................... 233 Back to the soil .................................................................................................. 233 A political postlude .......................................................................................... 234 History of Literature: History of a Nation ............................................................ 235 Realists looking back in history ..................................................................... 235 Realism in the aftermath of 1968 .................................................................. 236 Reality in literary form ..................................................................................... 237 Modernism in Many Phases .................................................................................. 238 Modernist poetry ............................................................................................. 238 Meta-reflection and poetics ........................................................................... 240 Children’s Literature ................................................................................................ 240 Everyday lives and local anchoring ............................................................... 241 Cross-media interplay ..................................................................................... 242 Realism and fantasy ......................................................................................... 243 Picture books for new audiences ................................................................... 245 References ................................................................................................................. 246 Chapter 12 Myths and tales ...................................................................................................... 247 Elise Seip Tønnessen, University of Agder Pre-Christian Mythology ........................................................................................ 247 World view ........................................................................................................ 248 A family of gods ................................................................................................ 249 Folk Tales ................................................................................................................... 251 References ................................................................................................................. 255

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Chapter 13 Art ............................................................................................................................. 256 Lisbet Skregelid, University of Agder The First Images ....................................................................................................... 256 National Romanticism – The First Norwegian Artists ...................................... 258 Realism, Naturalism and Neo-Romanticism ...................................................... 260 Edvard Munch .......................................................................................................... 263 The Vigeland Sculpture Park ................................................................................. 266 Expressionism at the Beginning of the 20th Century ......................................... 268 Abstract and Surrealist Painters ........................................................................... 269 Social Orientation – Decoration of Public Buildings .......................................... 270 Non-Figurative Painting .......................................................................................... 271 Political and Figurative Art ..................................................................................... 272 New Media – New Ideas ........................................................................................ 274 Contemporary Art ................................................................................................... 276 Chapter 14 Music ......................................................................................................................... 279 Arvid O. Vollsnes, University of Oslo The First Signs – and the Viking Age .................................................................... 280 Reformation and Baroque – Professional Musicians ......................................... 282 A National Awakening ............................................................................................ 284 Norwegian Folk Music ............................................................................................ 285 Collecting Folk Music .............................................................................................. 287 Edvard Grieg – National Romanticism and Radical Music ............................... 288 Johan Svendsen – The Symphonic Master ......................................................... 293 In Grieg’s Shadow .................................................................................................... 294 Look to Europe – The Post-War Generation ....................................................... 300 Diversification of Music ......................................................................................... 302 Sami Music ............................................................................................................... 302 Jazz ............................................................................................................................. 303 Cultural Policies ....................................................................................................... 305 The Norwegian Sound ............................................................................................ 308 Popular Music .......................................................................................................... 310 Rock ............................................................................................................................ 311 Black Metal ............................................................................................................... 311 The Fragmentation of Music ................................................................................. 313

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Chapter 1

Values Andreas Aase, University of Agder Once upon a time, the nations of the world were invited to write a book about the elephant. The Germans, being both punctual and thorough, published a twelve volume work before the deadline entitled A Short Introduction to the Life of Elephants. In succession, the French published The Elephant and L’Amour, the Danish 101 Ways to Cook an Elephant, the British The Elephant and the Empire, and the Americans How I Shot an Elephant. Last, but not least, the Norwegians published their contribution: Norway: Its Land and Its People. This joke illustrates what many seem to think is a distinctly Norwegian endeavour: a self-centred discussion of Norway and Norwegian culture. Living in a small and relatively new nation, located on the edge of the European continent, Norwegians seem to be in acute need of defining their values and their identity. And they have been given plenty of opportunities to do so. Four occasions stand out: the two referendums in 1972 and 1994 when the Norwegian population voted against joining the European Union, the Olympic winter games in Lillehammer in 1994, and the centenary of the dissolution of the union with Sweden in 2005. After the Olympics in 1994, Norwegian writer Inge Eidsvåg proposed three values he thought the majority of the population would recognise as theirs: equality, moderation and nearness to nature. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the meaning, the historical background and the present day relevance of these three values.1 1

Eidsvåg, I. (1994). Den norske folkesjelen – finnes den? På norske vinger, (5), 12.

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Equality Norway has been considered to be a country where egalitarian values have had greater success than elsewhere. This means that Norwegians have been receptive to trends emphasising factors such as codetermination, integration and economic equality. Visitors to Norway are often surprised by the relatively small differences in income between rich and poor, the generous grants from the state to students and families with children, and the extent to which children with special needs have been integrated in our schools, and these are just a few examples. Political scientist Bernt Hagtvet made this comment in Aftenposten in April 2004: ‘The quest for equality is distinctly Norwegian. If you go to Britain, you discover the immense amount of energy people use in order to create distance between one another.’ In Norway he finds an easy-going atmosphere between members of different classes in society, and between those who govern and those governed. Hagtvet elaborates, ‘I can send an email to our prime minister if I want to. Norway is the most transparent society in Europe. This is a triumph’. How, then, do historians explain this Norwegian preference for egalitarian values? Here are two explanations. First of all, in a very long-term historical perspective, Norway stands out in European history as a country where feudalism never had any real success. With certain exceptions (the expansive farmlands in the east and parts of Trøndelag) Norwegian rural society has been characterised by considerable social equality, and so differs from rural Europe as a whole. The Norwegian author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832–1910) wrote that ‘Norway is a country of houses and cottages, but no castles’. This absence of an aristocratic upper class can be partially explained through its geography. In most parts of the country, the landscape does not support farming on a large scale. Flying over Norway, you will see mountains, lakes, fjords, glaciers, forests and small islands. The lack of arable land is striking. Today, less than 3% of Norway is cultivated. Consequently, in this long-term historical perspective, Norway was sparsely populated, and it was difficult for rich farmers to mobilise poor farmers to work in their fields and pay land taxes in ways characteristic of feudal societies elsewhere in Europe. The typical rural pattern in Norway 14


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consists of small farmsteads that are very much alike. These decisive geographical factors have contributed to the fact that Norwegian economic life has invariably been based on small units. As a result, by European standards, Norway lacks an influential, conservative upper class. A British female student in my class once commented, ‘I’m a socialist, and my aim is to tear down the class system in Britain. It seems that likeminded Norwegians have a much easier job. They don’t have a rigid class system to tear down’. There have, of course, existed differences between people in Norway, as in most societies. From about 1300 to 1821 there was a small class of lesser nobility in the countryside, and along the coast during the last 400 years shipowners have managed to make immense fortunes in international trade. In church, the social hierarchy of everyday life was reflected in where you were seated, well into the 19th century: the upper class at the front, the ‘free’ farmers in the middle, and the smallholders at the back. It seems, however, to be a matter of scale. Comparatively, the differences were greater elsewhere in Europe. A second possible explanation for the success of an egalitarian value system is the emergence of several popular movements in the 19th century. It started around the turn of the century with the preaching of a farmer called Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771–1824). Contrary to the law, which stated that laymen were not allowed to organise religious meetings without the consent of the local minister, Hauge travelled up and down the country, discussing religious matters with people and preaching the gospel to ordinary men and women. He was also an energetic financial entrepreneur, organising mills, printing shops and sawmills. He had no formal education, no formal religious garb and no authorisation from the king. Consequently, he was sent to prison on several occasions. More importantly, when people met to sing, pray and listen to Hauge’s religious messages, the rich and the poor, men and women, the farmer and the smallholder sat next to each other. 200,000 copies of his writings were printed and read all over the country. This is probably a world record considering that Norway had a population of 900,000 at the time. Historian Berge Furre claims that Hauge’s work has had a lasting impact on Norwegian history, stressing such values as equal status and the opportunity for people to be masters of their own lives. These were values that fitted perfectly with the ideals of 15


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the American and French revolutions at the time: liberty, equality and fraternity. Hauge was not a socialist, but he disliked the capitalist tendency to show off wealth. The aim of economic enterprise was not maximum profit and material opulence. His ambition was to eradicate poverty and live a devout life as a Christian. Too much and too little were equally immoral. Thus during the 19th century, the tradition of segregating people in church according to social status was changed.2 Several popular movements influenced Norwegian values during the 19th century, and some may be considered to be protests against senior state officials (embetsmenn), who dominated political life at the time. Søren Jaabæk (1814–1894) organised farmers all over Norway in associations through which the rural population were trained to discuss, make speeches and to fight for their rights. Jaabæk himself worked hard in the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) in order to increase the political influence of the farmers. Outside the Storting, Marcus Thrane (1817–1890) organised the emerging working class in 414 associations with 30,000 members. This movement was sparked by urban dissatisfaction, and spread like wildfire to the surrounding rural areas. The fight for universal suffrage was given the highest priority. Like Hans Nielsen Hauge, Marcus Thrane was imprisoned for several years. The fight for equality, religious, political and economic, was still seen as a provocation in the mid 19th century. The awakening of the laymen, the farmers and the workers, however, had a lasting influence on the formation of Norwegian values. The growth of the welfare state after 1945 has also been a factor contributing to equality in Norway. The Norwegian state has introduced numerous measures aimed at equalising access to material goods and benefits. An elaborate and generous social security system was introduced after World War II. Child benefits (1946), sickness benefits (1956) and old age pensions (1957) were among the most important reforms made available to everyone. Young families were given subsidised loans in order to acquire apartments and build houses, and students were offered scholarships and low interest rates on loans. The aim of the welfare state has been to fight what were considered the five main evils in society: poverty, illness, unemployment,

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Furre, B. (2004). Ikkje alt som tel, kan teljast. Bedre skole, (4), 48–55.


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ignorance and bad housing conditions. In other words, each member of Norwegian society should have equal access to work, education, healthcare and a house to live in. An introduction to the Norwegian welfare state can be found in chapter 5. Nevertheless, egalitarian values are actually very controversial at the time of writing this chapter, 2021. One issue is the length of paternity leave. Today all men are granted a 10 week leave, and many people want to extend this. Homosexuals gained the right to marry under a marriage act in 2009, while the Norwegian state church allowed two persons of the same sex to marry in 2017. There is also an ongoing and heated discussion concerning egg donations and surrogacy. Equality had become an increasingly controversial value in Norway during the past 30–40 years. Some argue that egalitarianism suppresses the quest for freedom, such as the ability to do things your own way, to move boundaries, to achieve your true potential. Others argue that Norway is becoming more diverse. We are in a process of integrating immigrant minorities, and in this situation all talk of equality will only cause alienation and resentment. It is, according to these critics, vital that we do not develop a segregated society of ‘Norwegians’ and ‘immigrants’. A more detailed discussion of whether Norway may be considered an egalitarian country today, and whether equality is a desirable value or not, is found in chapter 6.

Moderation One approach to understanding a social system is to explore the way people prepare and eat their meals. In many countries, people put a lot of energy and consideration into the preparation of meals. In Norway, simplicity and moderation in preparing food have been virtues. Returning to Norway on a charter flight from the Azores in 2004, I observed a group of Norwegian tourists eating their lunch.We had been given the choice between making our own packed lunch (matpakke) at the hotel or buying a $5 sandwich on board the aircraft. Most of the tourists around me had chosen to wrap their food in sandwich paper at the hotel, and then eat it hours later. They were wealthy and over 50. They could afford to fly for hours to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for a week of sunshine. 17


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Most of them would have an expensive car and a spacious house back home, but buying a $5 sandwich on board was unthinkable. An obvious conclusion is that the relationship between Norwegians and what they eat is not a matter of economy, it is rather a question of ethics and morality. Historically, Norway has not been a land of milk and honey. The natural surroundings have not provided for a life of material abundance. Consequently, moderation and thrift became virtues. It may be difficult to observe these values in Norway today if you look at the houses in which people live or the cars they buy. But it is still possible to see it in the ways they eat. Two of the most successful entrepreneurs in Norway are examples of a frugal way of life. There are many examples of this in relation to the real estate developer Olav Thon (1923–). He would often turn down invitations to business lunches and instead eat a carrot he had in his jacket.3 It has also been said that shipowner Fred Olsen (1929–), one of the wealthiest people in Norway, used to make his own matpakke with crispbread and Norwegian brown cheese (brunost) every day while working.

The cheese slicer is a true Norwegian invention. Its purpose is to slice the cheese as thinly as possible.

3 https://www.ut.no/artikkel/1.11097872/

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The ideal content of a matpakke is a few slices of brown bread with butter and a slice of white, mild cheese or Norwegian brown cheese. The cheese is cut with a true Norwegian invention, a symbol of moderation: the cheese slicer. The purpose of this invention is to cut as little cheese as possible, an invention that has never been successful in France. A matpakke is cheap, ascetic and believed to be healthy. The tradition of the matpakke is not very old.4 It dates back to the 1930s when parents in Oslo were encouraged to give their children nutritious bread, milk, raw vegetables and maybe a piece of fruit in a matpakke. In 1991, a survey showed that 95% of all children in elementary school brought a matpakke to school every day. When the kids get older, some throw it in the dustbin and buy buns and Coke instead, while others have become focused on wholesome food and make their parents prepare a matpakke without sugar or meat. However, it is still a widespread tradition to bring a matpakke to work. Norwegians spend less time than other Europeans on meals, and the tradition of the matpakke contributes to this. Even in neighbouring countries like Finland, Denmark and Sweden people usually have a long break in the middle of the day to eat a warm lunch. A famous Norwegian chef, Trond Moi, claims that in France, people drive to lunch on their scooter, and then eat a three-course lunch, while in Norway, people drive to lunch in a Mercedes, and then eat their matpakke. Eating a matpakke is something every Norwegian should do. You often meet this moralistic attitude among teachers claiming that there is a close correspondence between eating a matpakke and having good manners. If you eat bread and cheese during the week, then you can go wild and have unhealthy white bread, Coke and sweets at weekends. On Saturdays and Sundays, Norwegians tend to forget the value of moderation in several spheres of life: they consume excessive quantities of alcohol, and some even spend money on taking a taxi. The matpakke is not only eaten in schools and in workplaces. It is also a central factor in Norwegian outdoor life, which brings us to our last value: nearness to nature.

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Døving, R. Matpakka. Den store fortellingen om familien og nasjonen. Din: Religionsvitenskapelig tidsskrift, 1(199), 4–12.

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Nearness to Nature Long Litt Woon is a Malaysian social anthropologist who immigrated to Norway in 1976. One of the things that was hard for her to understand in the beginning was the emphasis Norwegians placed on going for walks in the country. She recalls first of all the embarrassing feeling of dressing up in an old-fashioned outfit, and then the surprise she experienced when she discovered how Norwegians went about walking in the country. In an interview in 2005, she remembers how exhausting it was: ‘We climbed a mountain, and when we reached the peak, there was barely time for an orange, a bar of chocolate and a few photographs. Then it was time to go home. The funny thing was that there was not much conversation. It was not a social event. Everyone seemed happy to walk alone. Now I realise that it is not the destination of the trip that’s important to Norwegians, they focus on the walk itself.’ 5 Walking in the country is for most Norwegians a pleasure and a duty. You need a good excuse to sit inside on a Sunday when the sun is shining and all your neighbours are out in the woods cooking hotdogs on a bonfire or skiing down the slopes. Leisure time is highly valued in Norway. And leisure time should be spent sensibly. The outdoors is looked upon as the place to relax and recharge your batteries. Walks in the country compensate for the daily routine of the city, and national parks, barren mountain plateaus and spectacular fjords even serve as symbols of the nation itself. Norway has a law from 1957 which guarantees public right of access to the countryside. This means that anyone may use private property for hiking, swimming and gathering berries, flowers and mushrooms of all kinds as long as the area is not under cultivation. According to most surveys, 80% of the Norwegian population go crosscountry skiing and hiking. However, this does not mean that everyone goes for a walk in the country on a weekly basis. During Easter, between 13–20% of the total population go skiing in the mountains. But surveys indicate that 70–80% of the Norwegian population wish they could spend more time on outdoor activities. This is a high figure compared to other desired goals, for example spending

5 http://www.long.no/2007/02/hvordan-jeg-lrte-g-tur.html

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more time with their family (50%), spending more time with friends (56%), making more money (18%) or spending more time in shopping centres (5%). There is evidence that an increasing number of people are starting to live according to their values. In 1970, there were 190,000 holiday homes in Norway. In 2016, the number had risen to 425,000, and anyone who reads newspapers will realise that there is an explosion in the building of cabins. The main difference from earlier times is that most cabins today have electricity and running water. Many are located next to a ski resort with machine-made ski tracks and restaurants. A new trend is to build luxury apartments in the mountains with an outdoor hot tub and a panoramic view of the mountains. This is a provocation to traditionalists, who think that cabins should be located ‘in the middle of nowhere’, where the charm is to fetch water from a nearby lake, to put logs on the fire, to make your own ski tracks in virgin snow, and to eat your matpakke under the blue sky. Anthropologist Ernst Gellner claims that a national value system is only possible in a modern society with universal schooling and a strong state Hiking in the countryside or in the mountains is regarded as a pleasure, and close to an obligation, by most Norwegians. Kids learn to be outdoors at an early age.

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Roald Amundsen posing on skis in a fur coat. Together with his team, he was the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911.


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to maintain a national educational system. There has been a strong and long-term emphasis on educating pupils to value and use the outdoors in Norway. It started in the 19th century during the nation-building process. Norway was a colony under Denmark until 1814, and farmers and fishermen living in different parts of the country had few values in common. The leaders of the nation-building process lived in the cities, were educated, decided the content of the school curriculum, and found the true Norwegian character in the inland valleys, as far away as you could get from Denmark. The farmer, living close to nature, was to become the incarnation of Norway. Literature, music and painting in the 19th century were often inspired by life in rural areas, and taught to children in schools. According to this tradition, the original Norway was located out in the countryside, not in the cities. Norwegian heroes in the 20th century were people like Fritjof Nansen (1861–1930), Roald Amundsen (1872–1928), Thor Heyerdahl (1914–2002) and Monica Kristensen Solås (1950 – ) who challenged the forces of nature, skiing to the North and South Poles and crossing the oceans on wooden rafts. One consequence of this emphasis on values connected to nature has been a certain scepticism towards cultural expression connected to city life, such as non-figurative art, ballet and opera. Norwegians lack a firmly rooted urban culture. Even today, it is difficult to find urban dwellers with 3–4 generations of urban ancestors. But things are changing. Today, more than 80% of the Norwegian population live in villages or towns. A well-founded prophecy says that urban culture will increasingly permeate Norwegian values in the future. One of the most visible examples is the growth of a great variety of cafés and restaurants. The Norwegian national curriculum for the last few decades has emphasised the importance of education in promoting the tradition of an active outdoor life. For the youngest children, there has been a rapid increase in kindergartens where they spend most of the day outdoors in all kinds of weather (naturbarnehager). Let us take a closer look at this new trend. The first naturbarnehager appeared in the late 1980s. Today, there are about 350. The government has been a bit worried that children in naturbarnehager will suffer from spending 5–8 hours outside in the forest every day of the week, even in cold and wet weather conditions. As a consequence, the gov23


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ernment in Oslo published a set of guidelines in 2001 emphasising that all naturbarnehager also need premises similar to ordinary kindergartens. Parents and employees, on the other hand, do not seem worried. They are motivated by a Norwegian value system that emphasises children spending time outdoors. It is assumed that it is good for children to go for walks in the woods. Parents give several reasons why this is desirable: 1) children learn to respect and enjoy nature, 2) they learn about plants and animals, and 3) they learn to enjoy going for walks in the country. Many seem to think that a happy childhood is closely connected to spending a lot of time outdoors. 6 Who, then, are the parents that send children to naturbarnehager? As a general rule, they are well educated with high incomes, and they themselves like to spend time on outdoor activities. This corresponds with research showing that it is the urban upper and middle classes who are the proponents of walks in the country in general.

Modifications How will Norwegians reading this chapter react? In my opinion, a majority will nod approvingly. But I also realise that some modifications are necessary. An obvious question is: Are values like equality, moderation and nearness to nature distinctly Norwegian? The answer is of course no. The Scandinavian countries all share an egalitarian value system. The feeling of anxiety when a person is challenged to stand out from the crowd, the social pressure towards consensus, the ideology of equality – all this has been described by sociologists as typical of most rural societies. The Norwegian cheese slicer, a symbol of moderation, has never been a success in France, but has been introduced with a certain success in countries with a Protestant Calvinist value system, like Holland. Consequently, equality, moderation and nearness to nature are not exclusively Norwegian values. The hypothesis underpinning this chapter is that these are values that permeate Norwegian society to a larger extent than elsewhere. But they are in no way unique to Norway.

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Lysklett, O.B., Emilsen, K. & Hansen, T.L. (2003). Hva kjennetegner natur- og friluftsbarnehager. Barnehagefolk, (4), 79–85.


values

Moreover, we have to remind ourselves that Norway consists of many social systems, some connected to geography and some to class: we have families, counties, relatively poor and wealthy suburbs, small fishing communities and so on. As a citizen of Norway, a person is a member of several social systems, and hence has been taught different values and in some cases contradicting ones. Therefore, not all Norwegians will recognise equality, moderation and nearness to nature as their values. An increasing number of people look upon themselves as mainly urban, they think liberty is a more important value than equality, and they have no moral qualms about spending money in restaurants and cafés. Another point to be made is: people do not always live according to prescribed values. Many sociological surveys ask people about their attitudes. And there is no doubt that equality, moderation (when it comes to eating) and nearness to nature are considered important values by many Norwegians. But some critics will argue that it is not what people say that matters, but how they live. There is no doubt that more Norwegians think equality, moderation and nearness to nature are important values than those that actually live accordingly. The relationship between theory and practice, ethics and morality is complicated. But in my opinion, it would be a mistake to conclude that because people do not live up to their ideals, the ideals are meaningless and irrelevant in trying to understand a social system. Over time, they have exerted a powerful, if often indirect, influence on how everyday affairs are conducted, and they still do. Lastly, values are taught by parents, teachers, politicians and clergy to the younger generation. Normally, however, each member of a social system chooses to live their life according to their own will. They are critical and selective. As a result, values change. Does this mean that the values described in this chapter are the values of the older generation? Teenagers living today will think differently about equality, a matpakke and walks in the forests when in the future they teach their children how to live a virtuous life. Cultural change has always been, and will always be, an integral part of every society. The purpose of this article has not been to specify a distinctly Norwegian value system. My aim has been to select three values Norwegians have emphasised in the past which, I hope, make it easier to 25


chapter 1

understand Norwegian society today. What the next generation of Norwegians will choose as their priorities is a different matter. Most of you who read this book are not Norwegians. You are probably visitors to Norway as students or tourists. You might be working here for a year or two. Please do not use this chapter (or this book) as a key to unlock the truth about Norway. Use it as a set of hypotheses or ideas to think about if you like. Hopefully, you will be able to visit Norway long enough to find your own answers to these questions. What are the characteristics of Norwegian society? Does a Norwegian value system in fact exist? And finally, when the German magazine Der Spiegel tried to find out what characterised German culture, their conclusion was: Germans like to discuss what it means to be a German. So maybe it is a myth that Norwegians are more self-centred than other people. Most people are!

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