Sunday, October 31, 2010

What is going on in Norway in October?

Well, slowly but surely shops have started to sell pepperkake (ginger bread), julemarsipan (Christmas marzipan), kakemann (or Julemann; Christmas man made of dough with a red-coloured sugar hat) and other Christmas specialities, we gave a warm welcome to Ingvar Kamprad who has finally arrived all the way from Sweden (IKEA opened up its 6th store in the country in Kristiansand), the mornings are starting to get darker and colder, but apart from these, some other things happened in the last some days that are worth talking a little more about.

Last Sunday (24th October) we had a national charity campaign called TV-aksjon, organised by NRK which is the national broadcasting corporation in Norway. It has been organised every year since 1974, always in one of the last weekends in October. This is a day when every single door in Norway has been knocked on and people can donate money for a good purpose, this year they could support political refugees. There are numerous TV-programs on the state channel so that everyone is up-to-date about what is going on. Of course not only households participate but many organisations and the government itself and this year, the country donated the amazing sum of over 204 million crowns (approx. 35 million USD/25 million EUR/21 million GBP). This is actually the third biggest amount of money that they have managed to collect in the history of this campaign.

Anyways, it has been knocked on the doors not only last but this weekend, too... Eventhough the tradition of Halloween in Norway is very young, there are some 'trick or treat' kids out there and it's getting more and more popular to have parties at home. The Halloween parties a la norvégienne are quite close to what I have in mind about US Halloween parties – at least the one I attended had a lot of artificial blood and spider net all over, several salty and sweet pumpkin based dishes and spooky ghost story telling at midnight.
Growing up in Hungary I got used to the fact that 1st of November is a holiday (in the sense of the word that you don't go to work). Well, it's not like this in Norway. I guess All Saints (or as it's called here Allehelgensdag) is not that important in a traditionally Protestant (Lutheran) society where saints don't have an as big meaning as in the Catholic Church. So the first time in my life, I will go to school on a 1st November tomorrow. It feels quite a bit strange.

And last but not least... Yesterday a 23-year old Stavanger girl, this year's Norwegian Miss World contestant got chosen to be the 5th most beautiful woman of the world in China. Gratulerer, Mariann Birkedal. I hope that with the help of your beauty you can someday make this world a better place.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Farger - Colours

I have always been interested in colours and what they represent and what they are used for in different cultures and languages. This short list of the colours in Norwegian gives a little taste of what exactly I mean.

Hvit (white)
Hvitløk (white onion): garlic. I don't really know the exact biological relationship between onion and garlic but I do think it is funny how certain languages bind together onion and garlic, for example Norwegian (onion: løk – garlic: hvitløk) or Hungarian (onion: hagyma – garlic: fokhagyma), while others don't (English; French: onion: oignon – garlic: ail; Spanish: onion: cebolla – garlic: ajo).
Hvitost (white cheese): semi soft cheese that is (despite the name) yellow... see gulost below.
Svart (black)
Svarteper (Black Peter): this is the way Norwegians call the card game Old Maid and this can be used to describe a person with a bad hygiene as well. I guess it is rather playful. I have also seen the expression Nysjerrigper meaning curious Peter. This is a sort of association for kids interested in the world and eager to know more about it
Svartalv: a demonic figure in the nordic mythology. This is actually everything I know about it at the moment but I am pretty sure I will write later on more about this and other mythological creatures like the trolls or the Huldra.
Svartsynt (black-minded): being a pessimist. Nice and simple!
Rød (red)
Rødlista (The Red List): Also Norway has its own red list where they enlist animals and plants that are endangered in the country. Some examples: otters, blue whales, bears, grey seals, wolves, narwhals...
Rødbete (red beet): beetroot. Sugar beet is called hvitbete (white beet).
And if someone doesn't have a red øre on him (ikke ha en rød øre på seg), it means he doesn't have a single penny. (Hundred øres make one Norwegian Crown (NOK). Today there are only 50-øre-coins in Norway. You practically dont get anything for 50 øre, Norwegians often dont understand why it even exists.)
Blå (blue)
blåmandag: a Monday when you dont work. I am not sure where this is coming from but you have the expression blue Monday (blauer Montag) also is the German language. It might have something to do with the fact that to be blue in German (blau sein) means to be drunk. Or with the fact that to be blue in English means to be sad... Isn't it interesting?
Gul (yellow)
gulost (yellow cheese): semi soft cheese. In the supermarket you often see both hvitost and gulost, to be honest I dont see any difference and Im not sure Norwegians do. My guess is that it is a question of where you live.
Den gule presse (the yellow press): I don't think I have to introduce this – yellow press means the tabloids. This expression also exists in English. However, more interesting is the fact that I've already seen for example prensa rosa in Spanish which also stands for tabloids but means pink press.
Grønn (green)
The expression på Guds grønne jord (on the green world of God) means something like in the entire world (said in a much more dramatic tone...:)

This was just a short selection, I hope the readers learning Norwegian managed to learn the name of the colours by the end of the article! Can you give me some similar examples in your mother tongue? ;)

N. B.: Oh yes, and one more thing: orange (the colour) is called oransje in Norwegian, although they don't use this name for the fruit (that is called appelsin).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The days of the week

For the native speakers of numerous languages spoken in Europe, the name of the days in Norwegian might not be that surprising. The days of the week (ukedager) conserve the old Norse mythology, the religion of Germanic tribes before christianity.
First, the grammatical pattern for the days: (på) mandag – on Monday (can work both with and wothout ), mandager – every Monday. And now let's look at the list:
Mandag: Monday. The day of the moon (måne).
Tirsdag: Tuesday. The day of Tyr. He was the son of Odin and the god of victory in combats.
Onsdag: Wednesday. The day of Odin (also: Wotan) who is the main god in the Norse mythology. He had an eight-legged-horse called Sleipnir who was able to go around the world in just eight steps. Some years ago, I was lucky enough to visit one of the footprints of this remarkable horse: Ásbyrgi, the magnificent canyon in Northern Iceland that recalls a huge horseshoe with its form. Anyways, back to the weekdays: it's quite interesting that for exemple in German and in Icelandic, Wednesday is simply called 'the middle of the week' (Mittwoch and Miðvikudagur). I do not know why, a possible answer might be that Germans and Icelanders were simply too afraid to pronounce the name of the great Odin.
Torsdag: Thursday. The day of Tor, the son of Odin. Tor is the god responsable for the weather. He was imagined as a god with a hammer that he threw down to the earth when he was angry. Eventhough the hammer always came back to him, it created a thunderstorm with lightnings on the earth. That's the reason why Norwegians say if there is a thunderstorm: Det tordner. Just like in German: 'Donnerstag' and 'es donnert'. The name Tor and its female version Torunn are still very popular in Scandinavia.
Fredag: Friday. The day of Freya. She is the only goddess that was eternalised in the days of the week and is associated with love, flowers, beuty. She travels through the sky on a chariot driven by her two cats. Both in Iceland (Freyja) and in Norway (Freja) you can find a brand producing sweets and chocolate attracting people with the name of this goddess. (And both barnds are absolutely worth trying...) Pay attention: don't get confused – fridag means 'day off'.

Freya, the Beautiful with her cat

Lørdag: Saturday. The day when people washed themselves and their clothes.
Søndag: Sunday. The day of the sun (sol).
Helg is the Norwegian word for weekend. It means 'holy' and in Norway, weekends are holy: all the biggest shops are closed. My advice: when in Norway, do as the Norwegians do... forget about the stress of the everydays and go out into the nature with your friends and family in the weekends. I think it's actually wise to do anywhere...
And finally, here is a nursery rhyme in Norwegian, translated from English (Monday's child):

Mandagsbarn får vakre øyne
Tirsdagsbarn blir lett på tå
Onsdagsbarn får perletårer
Torsdagsbarn får langt å gå
Fredagsbarn gjør alle glade
Lørdagsbarn blir sjelden trett
Søndagsbarn får den største gaven, alle dyder under ett.

Friday, October 1, 2010

First thoughts about shopping

If you want to start a blog about your everydays in a foreign country (in my case Norway), I think it's smart to dedicate the first entry to shopping food. Not just because this is one of the first differences you have to face abroad but also because these pieces of information can be useful anyone (I remember myself being lost all the time in every supermarket during my first some weeks in Kristiansand) and also because I think supermarkets are like a mirror of the lifestyle and in some extent the culture of a country.

Well, let's follow the golden rule of journalism (Only bad news are good news...) and start with bad news: Norway is an expensive country. This applies for pretty much everything, particularly meat (kjøtt) and alcoholic beverages (alkoholiske drikke). Norwegian families who live close to the Swedish border often drive there to do the weekly shopping. It's also common to take the ferry to Denmark in the morning and return with a car full of kjøttdeig (minced meat), kylling (chicken) and biff (beef) and of course øl (beer).

The good news on the other hand is that after some time (and after some bad moments caused by some very bad buys...) you will have a certain experience where what to shop.

You can find many elegant grocery stores in Norway like Coop or ICA where they often have good offers. Anyways, if the fanciness-factor is not that important for you, there are some other adresses I would recommend. According to locals, the cheapest places to shop are Rema1000, Rimi and Kiwi, the youngest supermarket in the country with its shrill light green colour.

Rema1000 (or Rema Tusen) is based in Trondheim and the first shop with this name was opened up in 1979. Since then Rema has kept the initial concept – the interieur is consciously simple, almost warehousy without any effort to create luxury.
I was very interested where the name comes from and I was quite sure that 1000 has something to do with money (especially since I saw their slogan on their plastic bag: De smarte sparer tusener – something like Smart people save thousands). The word Rema is actually (just like IKEA or Haribo) an acronym made from the founders name Reitan and the word mat, the Norwegian equivalent for food, while 1000 stands as a reminder for the period when the shop only sold exactly thousand different products.
Although the number of products has heavily increased, the concept of simplicity and the name remained and the recipe seems to work – Rema is today the biggest supermarket chain in Norway.

All the advice I can give is to be uptodate concerning good offers and then buy as much as you can, to avoid processed food (it really pays up in Norway if you make everything from scratch – even if you live alone! Btw. you should avoid processed food anyways...It's bad for you!) and maybe to learn these phrases I have collected. They might come handy ;)

Kan du hjelpe meg? (Can you help me?)
Jeg bare ser./Jeg vil bare kikke litt. (I'm just looking around.)
Vil du ha kvitteringen? (Would you like to have the receipt? - This is a common question you hear in Norway when you pay, if you say no, they will not print it or throw it away for you.)
Kan jeg ha ei pose? (Can I have a plastic bag?)
Jeg vil betale med kort. (I would like to pay with card.)
Jeg vil betale kontant. (I would like to pay cash.)
Hvor mye koster det? (How much does it cost?)