Once you’ve caught the travelling bug on your year abroad, it’s easy to forget to pause and appreciate the country you’re actually living in. I’ve become so accustomed to Bergen now that I feel no different here from how I do when I’m in Glasgow, and as brilliant as this is, I realised that I’ve just taken for granted what Norway has to offer. A friend came over for a flying visit a couple of weeks ago, so while she was here I decided that would be as good a chance as any to explore a bit more of what is really just on my doorstep.
We took a trip 170km east, to end up in Flåm. Standing on a viewing platform 650m above Aurlandsfjord was unreal, and I realised how lucky I am to live in a place where experiences like this are so easily accessible.
Now that you’re feeling suitably sickened by my little “Norway Is Great” spiel, I want to share some of the social and cultural norms that consistently keep Scandinavian countries at the top of countless lists documenting the happiest/best/most liveable/*any other positive adjective* places in the world.
- Scandinavia is big on equality. Be that gender, wealth or racial equality, you’d be hard pushed to find any form of social hierarchy here. This means that while women can’t expect men to open doors for them, they can expect lower gender pay gaps, shared parental leave for child care, and top board positions in all public and private firms.
- Following on from the idea of broad social equality, bragging about money here is a no-go zone. It took me a while to get used to the idea of not tipping in bars and restaurants, but workers are well-paid here and excessive tipping is seen as arrogant and unnecessary.
- As there is little concept of hierarchy here, it is commonplace to communicate on a first-name basis with people, particularly with lecturers and tutors. While I’d suggest initially erring on the side of caution here, this is pretty common.
So for anyone who is going to be studying in Scandinavia next year, I hope this has helped to debunk some of the information you might already have heard. Either way, I’m sure it won’t take long before you agree that the Nordic countries really do put the rest of us to shame.
If you have any other questions, feel free to drop me a message on Facebook or fire an email over to 2069152J@student.gla.ac.uk.
Until next time,