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The early bird...?

So, I like being early. Turning things in early, starting processes early, getting up early in the morning. I like to think it's one of my better qualities. And so I've started my blog early. Two months early to be precise. Now my reasoning is this: I am technically already ... read more

Elisabet Arnesen

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Books

Lonely Planet will keep you company

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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Despite my intention of fitting into Norwegian culture I couldn’t lose my grip on Lonely Planet Norway. I felt like a tourist every time I pulled it out, but the guide led me through Trondheim, Bergen, and Oslo just as well as it provided me with ideas to get out of the bustle. Its tip to visit Kjerringøy, a tiny, gorgeous town north of Bodø, solidified it as my near daily companion for five months.

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Getting Around

The boat will leave when it can

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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My brother and I walked tentatively onto the ferry and peeked through the staff only doorway. No ferries left yesterday, and this was our first chance today. Dressed in neon rainwear, the crew was eating lunch. “The ferry’s not going today?” we asked, the answer seemed clear. “Hopefully tomorrow,” they said and shrugged, as if to say “that’s just how getting around is during the winter in northern Norway—intermittent.”

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Culture Shock

They're not shunning you, they're just shy

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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I expected to see smiling faces at every turn—nothing but calls of “Hei!” from ruddy cheeked blondes—when I arrived in Norway, but I was caught off guard with silence and averted gazes. Norwegians are kind, hospitable, and happy people once you finally get to know them. Their shy nature, however, overshines their good natured spirit, something that is hard to get through in larger cities.

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Must Do

Ditch the guide book and hit the countryside

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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Get out of the cities, move away from the guidebook destinations and take a bus to someplace you have never heard about. It’s the travel advice so many people receive, and in Norway it is imperative to follow. An hour away from Trondheim by boat and then twenty more minutes from the pier, Hanne drove me from her farm, staring across the water at topped peaks. It’s the only place she could live, she said, and it’s easy to see why so many Norwegians feel the same way. Norway is a rural country; make sure you don’t miss it trying to hit all the guide book destinations.

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Etiquette

Take your shoes off

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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I stood around staring at everyone’s thick wool socks, and then I looked down at my own feet in tennis shoes before scooting away to slip them off by the door. Since then, I have noticed the one thing I missed that day—the small racks by the door in nearly every door in Norwegian houses. Slip off your shoes because with Norwegian hospitality you’ll be in for a long, homey evening when you are invited into someone’s house. Don't necessarily expect an invitation, however, as Norwegians often keep to themselves.

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Food

That's not peanut butter

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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When you see what appears to be a slice of peanut butter on a waffle, know this: it is not peanut butter. You will be disappointed if you take a bite with that in your mind because you are eating brown cheese. You’re lucky if it was made with cow’s milk. My first taste was the sharp tang and hint of caramel of gjetost made from goats’ milk. Definitely not peanut butter.

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Packing

Bring a raincoat or two

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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My decision to be more fashionable than practical was a bad one. I decided to venture into Bergen without rain pants because jeans seemed more fitting. After an afternoon in the elements, I was stuck with my rain pants for the next two days while my jeans dried. My rain jacket has become everyday wear. No matter how much you value fashion, when in Norway pack—and wear—your rain gear.

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Religion

Find Yahweh into the forest

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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Eighty percent of Norwegians are registered Lutherans, but as my roommates and I made our way into the forest for some tranquility on a Sunday morning, we estimated that we passed ninety percent of Trondheim out for a walk on a beautiful day. Christianity swept through Norway a thousand years ago but churchgoing has gone by the wayside in favor of a weekend of a different kind of spiritual experience—nature.

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Music

I love the 80s

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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In the most peaceful nation in the world according to the Economist Intelligence Unit and at the top of the Human Development Index, it was quite the surprise to hear Gangsta’s Paradise coming though my car’s speakers as we wound up a curvy mountain road in the Norwegian countryside. In addition to Coolio, Norway boasts blonde homegrown rap familiar to any American listener as closer to pop than hip-hop. And if you liked the 80s, you'll love Norwegian radio.

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Sports

Skiing without the sunburn

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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For a country with a supposedly untouched countryside, I couldn’t get over one thing—what is the deal with all of these streetlights in the woods? With the winter snow comes winter darkness, but Norwegians are determined to get out on their skis to tour nature. Every weekend, hoards of Norwegians fill the flood-lit trails to enjoy Norway’s most popular sport.

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TV

TV time capsule

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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Outdated English shows are common in Norway, and there is no silly Iron Chef style dubbing here. That means you can enjoy back episodes of the Survivor season you missed—or Friends, a favorite—in English! Every show is subtitled in Norwegian, which is helpful for practicing your language skills as long as you can take your eyes off of swarthy Doctor House from years ago.

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Fashion

Gore-Tex and Gucci

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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“Hiking boots on a Saturday night?” my friend laughed on our way through the snow to a birthday party. We had hoods pulled up like all of the Norwegian’s we passed on our way through the evening. Going to work or out for the night, practicality overrides Norwegian fashion as sportswear is popular. It’s one of the few places where Gore-Tex can accompany designer duds. Snowing or not, taper your jeans to your ankle with a rubber band or tuck them into your socks to fit in.

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Dating

It's not just a drink

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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If you want to buy a drink for the girl at the end of the bar, know that it is an investment. With the price of alcohol so high, the gesture implies you’d like more than a wave and some small talk. Dole out your gifts carefully because, in Norway, a free drink is not a frivolous gesture.

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Health

In case of emergency, break glass, use helicopter

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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Seeing so many ruddy cheeks exercising around town and walking into smokeless clubs whenever I went out, it is no surprise to me that Norwegians have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. When they need it, though, their healthcare system is capable to help out. For minor problems you will have to wait in a line, but with so much rural area, helicopters are always ready to pick you up in case of an emergency no matter where you are.

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Slang

Don't worry, they speak English

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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It’s okay, they speak English. They speak it well. I live across the street from a grocery, and the clerks know I’m American. Still, every time I step up to the register they toss Norwegian my way, letting me try my hand at the language they prefer. Usually my Norwegian flounders when the topic strays too far from the price of milk, so they switch to English until I leave and we both call, “Ha det bra!”

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Nightlife

Nurse that beer

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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Be prepared for a light night of drinking in Norwegian clubs. With beer averaging over 60 kroner ($9) for a half liter—and it can be much higher depending on the venue—it is hard to find many finishing their drinks quickly. College students start the night at home and make the most of Thursdays nights when there's no cover charge.

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Being an American

Americans are rare but English is ubiquitous

Patrick McCue

10 Feb 2009

Norway

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Patrick McCue

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Norway is not swarming with Americans, but English can be found anywhere. As attractive as Norway is, many people find their way here from various homes and languages, often making English the default language. Norwegians tend to joke to the rare American about the US government with a hint of both exasperation and confusion, but don’t expect very many questions about the US as Norwegians like the seclusion and quiet that remains in their country.

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