tirsdag 12. august 2008

A lot like leaving Birmingham

Oslo is a big stress factory in a little land. What's ironic is there is no need whatsoever for it to be such.

Like a run away lawn mower with a broken cable there is no hand to make it less noisy and less run away. It just roars on with out intervention.

In principle Oslo should be a place with a very high quality of life and actually be a laid back, low stress city. Compared to places like London or even Amsterdam. But it ain't and I can only point to my own experiences.

Oslo suffers from both big-city-syndrome, despite being a relative pin prick, and at the same time the norwegian nature. As Dawkins postulated positive encounters outweigh negative but if the animal puts their neck out only to be repeatedly burnt or robbed by the stranger then the animal assumes a similar retributional behaviour pattern in new encounters. Oslo people are bloody unfriendly in the younger generations. It is more than just stand offish. It is a culture for punishing the outsider.

Why the problem? My thoughts- On the one side you have a city obsessed with wealth and one that has been through hard times before. Capitalists here are "flinke" to turn a dollar and a dime out of an Øre and a spot of land. Materialism is almost as rife as London. There is a monied snobbism. Couple to this the way norwegians operate in social circles. These are not loose collections with fluid relationships like say a squash ladder in the UK. They are iron rings of relationship forged by commonality which has managed to last. They have common experiences and feel very safe with this. Safe enough to bore each other senseless with Hytte (cabin/cottage) chat and endless confirmations, 17th may etc.

In oslo you feel the rush throug the different pauses in the year more than in most other cities, although first week July in Bergen or easter week is comical for it's lack of norwegians! Like Big Ben the hands of the clock tick methodically and heavily rather than the smooth inexorable motion of a rolex. Suddenly work begins jan 4. Dong goes the clock hand for one. Then it is winter break and the preparation for skiing. DOng again. Then more skis and hytte with a crime novel at easter. Like a starters pistol for that one! Just at the point some work is actually being achieved the clock strikes in succession for 17th of may (national day like july 4th) , confirmation and then wedding. Now it isn't just cabin fever that makes the nordmann scurry around the land like a fechless lemming. The fact is that today the majority of norwegians in Oslo are from long outside Oslo and wandered in themselves. So 17th may etc involve travelling. Internally to Norway they are as nomadic as the Irish, as wanderlust as the kiwis an as lazy as the arabs. Blue eyed arabs them.

And the summer of arabian nights. Almost two months of little if any activity and for lacidasical performance for those of us who cover. I am never doing a bloody mid july stint again which involves trying to get in touch with either norsk suppliers or customers.

The two over riding principles of norwegian psyche both regn and are flagrantly ignored leading to frustration. jantas lov - presbytryism self denial and head-bowing- is deeply ingrained in many but has it's modern expression in " you are getting something I am not" jealousy and this motivates a lot of rigteousness. The other rule is not sticking your head out to look silly before someone else does- wait for a foriegner! this is expressed in flocking behaviour with fashions establishing themselves reapidly and being very even. People break the rules and are exceptions which prove the rule, but they are either the sharks on this reef r

Back to social circles - these are tight and thick but in fact contradictory. It is all about being seen to belong and feeling you are part of it. But in fact all that skiing over the land and sports clubs and sail tours amount to very individual behviour just that it is seen to be conforming and perfoming the norsk thang! There is also the will to make the other guy the loser which is part of "your getting something I'm not" in that it is revenge for all the people who HAVE.

People drive badly here and this means that with much of the sheep behaviour the roads are unnecessarily jammed. The wolves are out too, rushing into the jams. Driving is appalling despite the mass of traffic behaving itself you ae left with a sense of stress without need.

Wolves, sharks you call them what you want. Above all the academics, the offentlig sektor workers and the busy little siviløkonoms, inginør and marketing managers swim the big fish. Like we being ants, it is difficult to percieve them unless you live in west-kant. There the ants are in the minority.

So it's a stress machine of noise, But everyone refers to it's saving graces. The culture, the fjord, the islands and Nordmarka ( the virtual wilderness which begins a stone throw from the centre) Hold on a minute here, for those of us who don't do theatre what is there? Fjords and walks in the woods ? HELLO like this is anything unique in a norway.

I came hear with my head down a bit but leave with my chin up.

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