Saturday, June 4, 2011


Fresh shrimps are sold out. Norwegians love them on a slice of bread with mayonnaise, fresh salad and dill, they squeeze some lemon on top... Removing the hard shell together with friends and family and colleagues is a Norwegian social event par excellence.

Reker (shrimps)

The trash can exclusively for disposable grills is full. In Norway the nature is everyone's. You can walk anywhere, pick berries and mushrooms, even cut down a Christmas tree... However, the biggest activity of the sommer months in the forests is grilling. And since they already recycle everything, why not recycle disposable grills in a separate trash can?

There are more cars in front of the zoo as in front of IKEA. Ingmar Kamprad tried to turn shopping into a pleasure... however, right now there is no summer offer that possibly could be more tempting as a fun day with Julius the monkey in the Kristiansand zoo. You can even spend a night in Kardemomme by (Cardamom Town), a theme park built exactly like the illustrations of Thorbjørn Egner's famous children's story When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town. This zoo is so nice that not only people but also animals seem to have a great time there - they are populating which makes it possible for the zoo to export animals. This is actually quite unique.

Summer is on in Norway. And this is their No. 1 summer song. The everyone-knows-it-by-heart-sort of song.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Easter, Monsieur Poirot!

I apologise for being absent for a while... it's been busy lately and I have to say I am very happy for it: I got a job a month ago.

Apart from this, there are some other things that have changed in the past weeks. The snow has disappeared from Kristiansand city and spring has finally arrived. For me as a Central European, winter was unbearably long, dark and cold... Anyways, before I give up my winter whinings definitively, I would like to share one last winter story that happened to me on a cold February evening.

Alphonse Mucha - Spring
We got a dinner invitation to a friend who lives in Posebyen (the old town of Kristiansand), in one of these charming little white houses I was writing about here. It was pretty cold but still I didn't understand why our host had to put three oil radiators in the middle of the living room. Well, it happened for a reason. His place didn't have any heaters on the wall. A home in Norway without any heaters. Excuse me??? Apparently there were no built in radiators in the whole house.
So if you want to rent a place in the summer time, even if it's sunny outside and the birds are chanting, you want to make sure heaters are included otherwise you'll be surprised some months later... :) What a funny thing.

I'm quite stunned actually that not everyone is fed up with winter yet. This crazy little nation of Norwegians tends to say that the last time of the year where you can go skiing is Easter time. They call it påskerenn. Indeed, "Norwegians were born with skis on their feet". Some weeks ago I started to have the impression though that this statement is craving for clarification. Norwegians were born with skis on their feet... yes. But also a crime novel in their hands.

After the lent has started, all the libraries and book stores have turned into some kind of crime novel supplies advertising Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Unni Lindell, Camilla Läckberg, Stig Larsson etc... Påskekrim is the name of the phenomenon and it started in 1923 when publisher Gyldendal advertised the crime novel Bergenstoget plyndret i natt (Bergen train looted in the night) of Jonatan Jerv in some daily papers with huge headlines, giving the impression that the Bergen train really had been looted in the night which scared many people having relatives and acquintances on the train.

Påskekrim in an Oslo book store
Now this is what I call marketing... Book stores really seem to make a profit out of this little local tradition. However, a crime novel would be probably the last thing that comes into my mind when I think about Easter.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Moods of Norway-experience

Kristiansand, 3rd March, 2010 - The Norwegian fashionlabel Moods of Norway opened its biggest store in the world. The brand was not unknown in the town, it could be found in some other stores and I remember I almost purchased a pair of navy moon boots like these in December, in the middle of my deepest winter-desperation... :)

The idea of the label was born in the village of Stryn, Western Norway by Simen Staalnacke and Peder Børresen. The third founder, Stefan Dahlkvist joined the team a little later. Alone their slogan "Happy clothes for happy people" was attractive but knowing the fact that the Norwegian landscape and urban lifestyle have been inspiring them and being passionate about everything local, I couldn't wait until I finally have the chance to check out the store with my own eyes.

The proud founders
I think I haven't been to a clothes store before where the inner enterieur played such an important role. Imagine that after some steps in the forest (mushrooms, a rabbit and a huge white milk can in the shopping window), you enter a cosy hytte (= a little cottage in the middle of nowhere, the more nomadic the better. Something utterly Norwegian). The furniture is old, used and welcoming. Not antique but more like the style of the 60s or 70s, something that makes your grandma's place cosy but for some reason you don't really appreciate in your own place. And since a real hytte does not have water in it, feel free to step in the wooden outdoor toilets - however, strictly to be used as changing rooms! Wow... chapeau!

The collection is colourful and has very different pieces. Not to be offensive or anything but Norway being particularly famous for its gender equality, I wouldn't have minded seeing a bigger female collection (it's awesome as it is but still...:). There were some really nice things for the ladies and I could see some children's wear as well but for me, the most interesting part of the collection was the men's wear. I really liked the different suits (all had a nice and unexpected twist) and it was cool to see all the magenta and turquoise - black shoes with a turquoise sole - how cool is that??? Actually I might want to purchase something in these shades because I got scared I (= lover of sober colours, greys, blacks etc.) may radiate the message toward the world that I am not a happy person... :)

Oh, and I wanted to save the best for last. The key piece of the store (that I think expresses the whole Moods of Norway-philosophy) is a huge pink tractor in the middle of the store. It's also the sign of the label that appears on many of the pieces of the collection - I usually don't like wearing the sign of a label (why should I advertise them for free???) but this tractor thing is sooo far out there that I can't help loving it.

The pink tractor
I think a pink tractor is kind of a slap on the face of all the fashion snobs in Milan or Paris making people unhappy (cf. slogan of Moods of Norway) with their statements.

Or wait... not a slap. A snowball. Yes, I think it's rather a snowball into their face. That's more like Moods of Norway.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What is Norway like?

Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen, Denmark. December, 2010.

We have just arrived in Copenhagen. There are still a couple of hours until our connection flight to Kristiansand is leaving. We decide to kill the time in the inner town of Copenhagen. We want to take the train and are standing in the queue in front of the automatic ticket machine. Three out of the five machines are not working.

There is a Danish boy behind us. He seems to be in a hurry... he is checking his watch every 10 seconds. He tells us he wants to go to Helsingor. A train to Helsingør leaves nearly every 15 minutes. We offer him to go first. He refuses it kindly, looks at the automats not working and adds somewhat painfully: "It's not perfect, it's not Norway."

This is what Norway is like. Perfect.

Or... isn't it?

Klien, Erica Giovanna: Locomotive. 1926.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Eurovision 2011

After Belarus-born Alexander Rybak's winning Fairytale of 2009, Norwegians put their trust into Stella Mwangi, a 24-year-old Kenyan girl, winning the national final on 12th February in Oslo. It's not completely unheard that a country wins twice or three times in years so close to each other but we will see. The song contest will take place in Düsseldorf, Germany in the middle of May.

Good luck, Norway! Voila, the song:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Excuse me... could you repeat it?

If we are talking about learning a new language, there is one sad fact we had better accept: there are lucky people and there are less lucky ones. Kató Lomb, the famous Hungarian polyglott who had learnt 17 languages without having spent a longer periode of time in a foreign country, claimed that she did not believe in such thing as a language talent. Well, I would feel quite a bit uncomfortable to write down that I disagree with a person of her grandeur, but I do dare to put down that I guess we all can feel (or could at least in high school) that certain people have fewer (or, if you want, more) difficulties at reaching the perfect score at a grammar test than the average.

I have been in Norway for a little bit over six months now and I am quite happy with what I know in Norwegian so far. In this entry I would like to write a little bit about what I think we can do in order to be more successful at acquiring a language. (The tips are maybe easier for those who are lucky enough to spend some time among native speakers but of course I hope everyone can benefit from them.)

1. Forget the 'pronounciation doesn't matter'-attitude. Why should you? The answer is easy: because it does matter. You might hear here and there that having a foreign accent sounds cute (I was told once that German spoken with French accent is erotic for German ears...), but in my eyes such a compliment is definitively to be avoided on the long run. It's tiring to listen to someone who is not easy to understand and (to be honest) it's hard to take someone with a harsh accent seriously...

2. Turn on the television. It has thousands of benefits... I often play this game: take a piece of paper and try to write down as many new words that you hear on the TV as possible - within (for example) 10 minutes. Try to watch different shows, this way you can have a great little vocabulary about numerous domains.

Houndstooth pattern is called hundetannsmønster in Norwegian. Not an important word, but who knows... I might need it one day. Something I've learnt from the television. The painting of Pete Nawara.

3. Listen to music. Local music is a great topic of conversation with the locals. Music is great to learn some new words, however, it might not be this helpful with the intonation (because of the singing).

4. Go to the library. There are so many things I can be grateful for, thing that only happened because I go to the city library every once in a while... I bought used books on sale, I found CDs and DVDs I have always been interested at and I got a member of a French club. I remember having asked a lady in the library not so long after I arrived in Kristiansand about the most widely read children's book authors in Norway. I got a few names and started immediately to read shorter stories. I think if you read something that the locals heard as bedtime stories from their mums back in the days... it's a bit like sharing a common secret... having a piece of them. I might be wrong but I do think it's a good way to get to know them better, to get closer to them.

This is where the magic happens - The main library in Kristiansand

5. Try to find the logic. If you already know a language that is somehow related to the language you want to acquire, don't hesitate to take a closer look to that relationship! Just one example: what is z in German, is often t in Norwegian (bezahlen - å betale; Zahn - tann). Since I speak German and German and Norwegian are not far away from each other, this little game became almost like a habit and it's as much fun as a riddle!
Let's make an exam now: Look at the words 'night', 'milk' and 'eight' in French (nuit, lait, huit), Spanish (noche, leche, ocho) and Italian (notte, latte, otto). Can you see it?

6. Pay attention to the differences. Let's take the word 'book'. In French: le livre (masculin). In German: das Buch (neuter). With this knowledge in my pocket I was almost 100% sure that 'book' in Norwegian is neuter, or, if for some weird reason not, than masculin. Well, guess what: in Norwegian the word bok is feminin... All I want to say with this is that you should watch out for the differences between the new language and a/the language you already know.

7. Avoid people from your own country. It might be funny to read this but there is some truth in it. In the beginning it's easier to be among your fellow countrymen but the language learning process is much slowlier this way...

You might feel like this at the beginning, but being with locals is worth gold if you want to learn a language.

 8. Look at every situation as a potential source of learning. Don't underestimate anything, you can learn something new even through buying a hot dog or asking the way.

9. Challange yourself. I think it's a great thing if after a while you are already capable to read and understand the articles about the latest plastic surgery of Donatella Versace in the tabloids, but how about you go one step further and challange yourself with something more difficult? Don't underestimate yourself, don't be afraid of trying something that you think you are not good enough for.

10. Change is gold. Don't always watch to the same TV show, don't always listen to the radio program with the same guy, don't always read just one magazine. It's important to listen to both men and women, young and old, perfect speaking TV hosts, farmers living in villages, 'too cool for school' teenagers using slang... etc. This will make your vocabulary and language skills in general sooo much more versatile!

11. Paraphrase. This is a fancy expression for describing a term with different words. If a word is missing,try not to look for the English equivalent. Explaining a word is a bigger effort but don't break the communication and you avoid by it the automatic switch to English.

It's worth trying hard!
+1. And last but not least: Don't forget to give yourself compliments. Don't overdo it, though. You don't need to buy yourself a Maserati right on the first day when you survived in the post office without switching to English. But never forget that learning a new language needs a lot of effort and endurance and even if you are struggling in the beginning, keep in mind that most people appreciate very much if they hear a foreigner try hard to speak their language.

Don't give up and keep on telling yourself as a mantra: Discere non est vitiosum, sed ignorare. (Ignorance is shameful, learning is not.)

Lykke til! (Good luck!)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The official 2011 press photos of the Norwegian royal family

New official photos were published of the Norwegian royal family in the end of January on their homepage. The amazing photos are available as posters in the current issue of Norway's biggest weekly magazine Se og Hør. The shots were taken by noted Norwegian photographer Sølve Sundsbø.

Check out this and other pictures of the photo shoot here (by clicking neste bilde). Beautiful! What do you think?