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Why are Norwegians so quiet?


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I've been looking into Scandinavia as a trip next spring, and saw this page on the University of Bergen's site. Thought it was funny despite the somewhat broken english:

-Why is silence so important in Norway? asks social anthropologist Anh Nga Longva rhetorically .

- Louder! shouts a German voice from somewhere at the back of the room.

150 students from all over the world have come to the large auditorium to try to understand Norway and the Norwegians.

The international student forgot to complete his exclamation with “please”, but that doesn’t matter. In Norway this is perfectly acceptable. What’s more - pronounced lack of good manners is the key to understanding social codes and behaviour in this sometimes red-hot, but mainly ice-cold country. It has been confirmed by several academic sources: Norwegians are impolite.

Quiet and kind

-But, they do not mean to be assures Longva.

In fact, this is how Norwegians show that they are genuinely kind and friendly people.

Some of the students smile a little at this comment. Anh Nga Longva knows how it feels - having grown up in Vietnam. But after 30 years in Norway she sees a sort of logic in it:

- Norwegians seem to think that all verbal expressions should have meaning, otherwise they’re unnecessary. I have come across Norwegians who think phrases such as “thank you”, “please”, “excuse me” etc., are superficial – even hypocritical. Americans in particular are often regarded in this light, as they often use these phrases, says Longva.

Quietness is very important in Norway

- Norwegians choose to remain quiet when they want to be regarded as upright and dependable.

A German accent is heard again.

- Surely it’s not possible to generalise over all Norwegians?

- No, you are quite right, answers Longva.

This is of course easier said than done when the lecture is titled “Understanding Norway and the Norwegians” and lasts for 1hour and 30 minutes. The next time the international students get squeezed between Norwegian rucksacks, on a crowded yellow bus, it will be comforting to know why Norwegians don’t apologize.

- I know that you know that I didn’t do it deliberately

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