Most foreigners are ignorant. At least that is what Norwegians want you to believe.
Not only are foreigners ignorant, Norwegians also like to joke about the lack of foreign neighbours the Swedes’ intellectual capacity – much like what the British say of the Irish (and vice versa) and Americans about the Poles (who are here in great numbers keeping Norway going, not just as painters).
When making a statement out-of-kilter with Norwegian homogenous national opinion, arguments tend to be shied away from in favour of facts. Natives are quick to point out exactly why the offending diverse view is wrong; combining the facts with a “but you’re in Norway now”.
The above situation is a classic example of what can be summarized by using an invented US radio station-inspired acronym: W-KBTY – We Know Better Than You.
So what happens if you fail to prostrate yourself, ignore the self-satisfied look with more than a hint of a condescending smile cast by somebody from a population of just five million, and decide to stand your ground?
There are countless examples. I was (un)fortunate enough to encounter ‘the HSE (Health, Safety, and Environment) fascist’ one.
“You must always use the chain as well,” said another father who had just delivered his children excruciatingly early – for some – to day-care, looking at the external gate. “It’s a double safety measure.”
An undeniable fact. How ignorant and ‘ikke norsk’ I was. All Norwegian children aged one to six are born with an indigenous practical gene equipping them with an instant understanding of physical lock mechanisms and how to open or bypass them.
My British, culturally conditioned “but you were coming out of the gate anyway” reply was cast aside into the abyss of ‘foreigner inferiority’ with a “but you didn’t know that”.
Another inarguable fact. I was not given telepathic powers. I could only assume the fact that I actually saw him standing there was true, as I had my eyes open and Schrödinger’s cat was gone.
The man came out through the gate he had then opened, shaking his head. He wandered off (not like me who wandered in: the ‘innvandrer’) in his lime-coloured, bum-numbing, flimsy, basic, and W-KBTY (about the environment) electric vehicle.
Shaking my head in an ‘oh, for goodness’ sake’ way, I got into my 12-year-old comfortable, ‘petroholic’ but clever and safe Swedish (foreign) car.
Driving away from the scene of the conviction, I thought, “yes, actually, W-KBTY. What a culturally ignorant person."
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