The first time I heard the Norwegian word “skjærtorsdag” around this time of year I thought it had something to do with yeast though for the life of me I couldn’t understand what the connection between yeast and Easter was. I blame my less than stellar Norwegian skills. Skjærtorsdag translates to Maundy Thursday, which is the day before Good Friday and is one of the four Easter related don’t-have-to-work days here in Norway. Gjær, on the other hand, is the word for yeast. So close…
Holidays got me to thinking about other differences between my newly adopted home, Norway, and the home I grew up in, Canada.
Generally speaking I don’t think Canada and Norway are that different but there have been little things I’ve noticed over the past few years. So here is my fairly random, and by no means, exhaustive list:
- This may just be a local phenomenon but there is a serious lack of street signs in and around my town. Being generally geographically challenged, this posed a bigger obstacle for me the first few months I was here (still does, to be honest). I’m used to looking up an address, noting down which streets to look for on my way to said address (no GPS for me) and then trusting there will be signs on street corners helping to guide me on my way. Not necessarily so.
- Norwegian drivers are extremely pedestrian friendly. I’ve had cars slow down and stop for me at a pedestrian crossing when I was meters from actually coming to the crossing. When my husband and I visit Canada I have to remind him that drivers there don’t generally show you the same courtesy.
During my first Norwegian Christmas I noticed how many homes had the exact same decorative light display in their front windows. I was convinced each neighbourhood had a team of people patrolling the streets, ensuring everyone had the requisite light and leaving a “Notice to Comply” reminder on the dissenting homes’ front doors. (pretty sure this isn’t actually the case)
- Norwegians, and Norwegian women in particular, are masters of layering. Shirt, sweater, cardigan, jacket and scarf all effortlessly piled on as if they all had personal stylists available each morning before they stepped out of the house. As someone who struggles to layer a cardigan over a shirt, much less add a scarf to the ensemble, I can only look on in wonder.
- Canada, at least the part I lived in, had the most fearless and friendly squirrels. If you were out in a park taking a stroll it wouldn’t be uncommon for a squirrel to scamper up to you, squat on its hind legs and look at you expectantly, its front paws curled up in front of its chest hoping you’d toss it a peanut. Here I’ve seen the more elusive Norwegian red squirrels exactly twice. Once perched in a tree about 10 meters away from me and the other time one was darting across a narrow mountain road.
Book and movie reviews sometimes inexplicably use dice to illustrate how good or bad whatever book or movie they’re reviewing is. Alongside a review you’ll not see 4 out of 5 stars but 4 dots on a side of a die. Am I the only one who finds this odd? Dice, in my mind, are synonymous with chance not with opinion.
These kinds of little differences will pop up every now and again, some puzzle me and others make me smile. My husband has had much the same reactions when we visit Canada though. While I find it perfectly normal to buy milk in bags and for people to still be using cheques in 2015, he’ll just look at me and shake his head.