lørdag 13. april 2013

Managing Expectations or Being Managed by Them in Norway..

This is a kind of appendix to my "Norwegian social highway code"

I feel I have had to reluctantly change myself when living here, to tone myself down and to adapt to circumstances.

However, here's the crunch: I have been here a while, so would not that decade lived in the UK have taught me - an impulsive, boyish, egalitarian rebel - that the "grown up" western world of family life is just a road of conservative, conformist boredom?

I have toned myself down and taken some exercises in concentration and social etiquette which I needed to do regardless of culture and geography. In fact living here has been positive because work and social life highlighted my distract-ability, impatience and most of all my high expectations and presumptions placed on work and new friendship.

Moving to another country can amplify your abilities, but also it can greatly amplify your social foibles and emotional problems.

I noticed that my concentration was off mark, and that my ability to summarise data was shot. In fact it was a new type of analysis , kind of manual judgemental regression analysis and report writing for a pair of pedantic twats who were terrible at report writing themselves that put me on the road to some calamatous self discovery here. I think at home I would have ploughed on and maybe really done myself some financial and emotional damage!

So I went to my GP and then a local (no good) shrink about concentration problems and social anxiety: I should have thrived in two or three jobs here but I was held back by some critical stumbling blocks. On the social side I said I struggled to make friends in Norway outside our original fortuitous social circles which we moved away from for work. The GP or Shrink or both of them replied that really some of this lack of social life, was the function of becoming  a middle aged father of two.

Locally here, it is the sticks and people are tight. They really do look at you with quite a nasty look sometimes because they know you are an outsider and they want to show they don't approve. The place has always been a bit messed up because there were some closed-shops for work and social life. That is evaporating, but the white trash families who have scraped by resent that incomers come to the town with of course, better qualifications and prospects.

That is however, a way to just describe any town like where I live, a charming coast town with some industry and a heavy, affluent tourist influence in July. ( bit like the 'Hamptons or Cornwall perhaps) . I was giving up here socially after a few false starts when I got a job two hours away in a bigger smoke, and never really looked back.

In the bigger town in the bigger company, I found that I could get a decent social contact with nearly everyone I work with, and pick up a few of those necessary acquaintances, some of whom then go on to be good pals probably.

I found my past life in a more academic infiltrated industry, seems now a weird place, and my past life in sales and marketing was weirder. People weren't real there. Here they are real.

Norwegians do take their distance, but the best thing to do is to keep your pride and keep your own bit of distance. Feel which way the wind is blowing: avoid some conversations: pose personal or career history questions back in their faces in relaxed situations, to judge if they are inquisitive or genuinely are seeking a dialogue with you.

Most of all I would say down size your expectations and under communicate expectations of "escalation" to a dinner party etc. Take it slower. It is really one thing which is different here over many countries or cities or company cultures: you can't slide in and you certainly can't elbow your way into social circles or into private friendships. You have to stalk and be under stated. You pretty much well have to be the nice, undemanding person who eventually once you are known gets invited to something involving alcohol and sociability out of curiousity or plain pity.

 "Snowballing" social contacts is a big no-no here too: you can find that you burn your main bridge into a social circle if you become pals with one of their long standing friends or members in the circle, and find that to be awkward with your original, probably nearer first point of contact. Worse, you can get locked out  by that contact.

If you move in with any expectations and push to come in, then those expectations will manage you OUT of that situation. It is all very annoyingly, softly-softly-catch-a-monkey here i Norway

One big plus side of this for me is that I place a much higher value on shy people. I used to be uneasy around shy people, and find them irritating and boring. Shy girls I found dull and slow and difficult to read signals in. My friends were often brash, arrogant types when I was young. I grew out of them all by the age of 25. So unlike most people with my back ground, I have no real "ol' buddies".  Now I have learned to come in slowly to everyone, and it has enormous dividends with shy people. Usually shy people are plenty interesting, and a vaneer of unfriendliness is pure nerves with some girls in particular.  So thank you Norway, you have turned several aspects of my life around.

A final word on perspective and comparing like with like for new immigrants here: Many, many people who move here are like me, move to a Norsk spouse when pregnant or heading that way. Also many who are asylum seekers or the current Portugeuse / Spanish economic refugees come with families in fact: they can move and NEED to move to feed their families and have something of that middle class lifestyle their education promised them. So you have kids and you are over 30. Read paragraphs above and then downsize your expectations of sociability as you would have done back home: you are a parent, so are many other people your age. It fucks up your social life big time.

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