Three weeks ago I came home from a wonderful month traveling nine Southern states in the US. We got to enjoy so many places, listen to a lot of great music, eat amazing food and – last, but certainly not least – meet a lot of wonderful people.
What I really enjoyed was how friendly people were. I know a lot of you follow this blog because you`re interested in Scandinavia and some of you may have a romantic image of this area and the people living here. Let me tell you – there is absolutely no need to be romantic about us because we`re a bunch of insufferable, ill-mannered grouches.
I just love your pink hat
On our vacation total strangers would come over to talk to us, ask us where we came from or just make conversation. A lady in Savannah shouted at me from her house across the street, “I just LOVE your pink hat,” and she wasn`t even being sarcastic (I loved my pink hat too and that woman just made my day 🙂 ). We had great conversations with a lot of interesting people who would tell us about their lives, their neighbors or just little things like where we could find the best clarinetist in the streets of New Orleans.
And in the shops and restaurants; it was a dream. They would joke with us, give us great advice and generally treat us like people. We`re just not used to that and now I find myself missing it.
Shopping in Norway
Let me tell you how shopping is around here: We went to buy a hedge plant because one of our hedge plants had died while we were on vacation. We went to a place where they usually have all kinds of plants but we just couldn`t find the right plant. So I went ask one of the people who worked there if she could help me. Without replying she walked out to where the plant was supposed to be and I followed her. After a while she stopped and stared at a box where there were no plants. The she looked at me and said, “We`re out.” And then she walked away.
If I hadn`t just been traveling around in a country where people would never just say “We`re out,” but would add, “Because it`s out of season,” or, “We`ll have new ones in next week,” or just, “I`m sorry,” I wouldn`t have noticed it because that`s the service you get around here.
Talking to strangers
Same goes with strangers talking to you. If someone, who is not your relative or friend, talks to you in the street you can be pretty sure he or she is:
2, Not local
3, A child
It`s really sad.
Oh, I should add a fourth. People will also talk to strangers if they want to correct you. They will tell you to be quiet if you`re loud or to stop playing football if you`re not allowed to play football there. And this was what happened to me today. For the first time since I got home from my trip to the US, a stranger talked to me.
Pick up poop with your hands
The reason? He wanted to tell me that I had to pick up after my dog. When I told him my dog had pooped under a shrubbery where no one would ever walk (my dog is really bashful when he has to go – he always chooses to go under trees or bushes where no one can see him. Which also means that no one will ever see or step in his poop), he said that I should pick it up with my hands if I didn`t have a bag (I did but I figured the shrubbery would benefit from some fertilizer instead of me adding to the garbage piles).
If you asked me right now, and offered me a job too (with health insurance, thank you very much, I`m too used to free hospitals and doctors), I might very well say yes to moving over to one of the states we visited. Yes, I would probably have a huge cultural shock but nothing could be worse than the grumpiness I`m feeling right now. And I`m not talking about other peoples` grumpiness now. I`m talking about my own. Because I`ve become a grumpy oldish woman longing for her Paradise lost.
I want to talk to strangers
I want to talk to strangers, I want to have little chats with the cashier at the supermarket and I want to not look the other way when I stand next to someone at the bus stop. And this should be read in a really whiny voice.
I told my colleagues about all this and they said, as people around here always do when we talk about how open people in other countries are, “It`s SO superficial – they don`t mean anything by their small chats.” But then one colleague raised his voice. “It`s better to be superficial and friendly than just superficial.” He`s lived in Minnesota and his two sons still live there and he knows the American way pretty well.
Indeed. We like to think that we`re sooooo deep just because we`re quiet. We`re not deep. We`re just impolite.
And I`m a grumpy woman suffering from post-vacation blues.
14 thoughts on “Post-vacation Blues”
And I can’t even cheer you up with the new football season!! I think you just need to book another holiday and even if the Norwegians aren’t happy to have you back I bet your doggy is 🙂
Oh, yes! That was a good thing – being back with Pingo (and friends and family, of course).
It`s just that all these little conversations with strangers made me pretty happy and now I miss them. I wouldn`t have missed them if I`d never had them but now I do.
So now I just bother all the tourists I meet on my way to and from work. They probably come home and tell their friends that Norwegians are really strange and will start talking to you in the middle of the street 🙂
I am the quintessentially friendly American. I’ll chat with you any old time. I talk to everybody. I find the connections very rewarding. Sales people usually remember me and go out of their way to help.
I’m not Christian but it always reminds me of ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters and it shall return to you thousandfold.’
How did ASkars get to be so nice.?
I`ll talk to anybody as well and I love talking to strangers because I`ll learn new things.
I`ve been shopping at the same supermarket for 15 years. Yes, they have new people working there all the time but of all the people working there, there`s only been one who seemed to remember me and started talking to me – and she moved here from Ghana.
I think most of us behave better abroad and most of us probably love talking to strangers as long as it`s not back home. I`m sure ASkars is as grumpy as me when he goes home 😉
Come to Australia. We are friendly too!
Hehe, it seems everyone is friendly apart from grumpy Scandinavians. It must be the cold weather…
(and I`d love to come to Australia!)
I’m glad you had a great time here. How did your family like being here? Do you see alot of tourist by you? I wish I could be one of them.
Yup, I think you need to go on a mini vacations every once in awhile so you won’t be so blue.
My daughter didn`t want to leave. I think she`s like her mother – we both just want to travel all year and not bother with pesky things like jobs and school 🙂
My job is next to the Norwegian parliament, which is one of the buildings on the touristy must-see list in Oslo. So when I wait for the bus I`ll have plenty of tourists asking for directions. I like it 🙂 And I wish you could be one of them too!
I`m going to Copenhagen on Thursday. Not really a vacation since it`s work but on Friday my family will come down too and we`ll all have a small vacation in the town I was born in. And we`ll go to Denmark in the autumn vacation too (kids have a week off from school in October). Not quite New Orleans or Memphis but it`ll do 😉
I feel for you, Thyra. I’m on vacation now in Florida. I’ve struck up conversations with plenty of nice people each day. It must be quite the adjustment to not only having an extended vacation, but going from one culture to another. You’re spot on with how a person in the plant store would respond.
Now, if you’re in NYC, there are plenty of nice people there too, but there’s more looking the other way on the subways or busses.
I keep looking for downsides to people being friendly and open but I haven`t found any yet. And I also don`t know why we`re not like that.
Yesterday I did have a lengthy conversation with a stranger but we bonded over something that could have been sad. A guy failed to stop for a young woman who was crossing the street and she was just centimeters from getting run over. A lady and I were witnesses and we were both so shocked that we talked all the way home (we were going in the same direction). I liked that little chat but I would have wished we could have had it without anyone`s life being in danger.
I hope you`re enjoying Florida! Where are you staying?
I am glad and proud that you enjoyed our southern hospitality. However for all of our friendliness, you will find that you could not have afforded to take a trip like the one you did because of low wages and most of us do not have that much time off.
Even though I do have health insurance we still have out of pocket expenses. I have a $500 deductible per person and the plan only pays 80/20 on a good day. I really do envy your health care. My daughter was accepted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She had to complete a physical exam, TB skin test, another round of MMR shots (they required 2 vaccines) and Hep B vaccine. I received the bill the other day. I almost had a heart attack. After insurance paid the balance was $511. I decided that I couldn’t have the heart attack because my husband had one in November. The hospital bill for 11 days was 253000. I was lucky. My out of pocket was a little over $5000.
So see your country does not hide its disdain for itself. It openly embraces it. Here in the south we like to hide ours by pretending life is great. We welcome everyone with open arms because we would rather here about your life than dwell on the one we have. Besides we are just really nosey. LOL
I do hope you come back. I love to have company.
I hope your husband and daughter are fine now?
Now you almost gave me a heart attack. I thought that it at least was free if you had health insurance – and I think I would get an ulcer just thinking about the potential cost of getting sick. Wow!
I had to visit the emergency room when I was in Florida because I`d lost part of my hearing aid inside my ear. It was not a life threatening accident, by far, so I expected to wait in line for some time – especially since this was the 4th of July. But I was treated immediate and very well too. They were extremely nice but I must admit that I felt over-treated when they took my weight, height, blood pressure – and gave me a suicide talk. This is probably standard procedure but I kept wondering what this might cost because every new person I talked to was a person who had to be paid. I luckily had a travel insurance or I would have had to have cut my vacation short then and there because of the cost of that minor procedure of removing a little piece of rubber from my ear (took them 30 seconds).
We pay half of what you pay pr person for our health system – and we`re all covered. And our system is fairly expensive since we`re very few people living in a huge country, which means we need to have a lot of hospitals for very few people. In Denmark, where I`m born (and which is a tiny country) they pay much less. There are probably a lot of different reasons for why we in Scandinavia pay less and get more but I would guess that having private hospitals who need to make money (as opposed to government hospitals who need to treat people) will give you a lot of over-treatment. Give people suicide talks when they don`t need them (unless losing things in your ear is a suicide sign that I don`t know about) and having fully staffed emergency rooms with almost no patients even on 4th of July has to cost a lot of money. And the insurance companies take their piece of the cake as well. It`s really a shame to think about how you could have had more people covered with less money if you had a different system. Well, that`s my interpretation, anyway. I`m no expert 🙂
We do have long paid vacations (I have 6 weeks which is one week more than the minimum vacation of 5 weeks – and it`s a mangers duty to make sure everyone has taken their vacation time every year). It`s hard to say if we have higher or lower wages than you guys because it depends who and how you compare. Norway has the third lowest difference between wages among the OECD countries (Iceland has the lowest) which means that the lowest wages are fairly high here and the highest wages are low compared to in the US. I read somewhere that a manager of the largest companies here earn 19 times what the lowest paid people in that country earn, whereas in the US the manager earns 327 times as much. So if you`re a manager, you`re not that well paid here. But if you`re on minimum wage, things are not that bad.
Sorry for being chatty but I find these things incredibly interesting. So many things are so incredibly different between the US and Scandinavia – this was also one of the things I started chatting with all these strangers about 🙂
Well, I like nosy as long as it`s well meant – and it certainly felt well meant on our vacation. People seemed genuinely interested and they were also glad to share (because I`m nosy too :-D)
And I would love to come back!
I think the majority of the time the friendliness encountered is genuine. Alex commented on that as well, that it took some getting used to but he liked it. I really enjoy it myself. It’s nice to have human interaction and to experience other people. I’m sorry you miss it and that it makes you sad. Feel free to move to the states, I know Suki and I would be thrilled! As far as your negative Nancy co-worker, she’s just jealous you got to experience friendly Americans and that we don’t fit into the superficial, idiotic, fat mould people try to cram us into. LOL <3
I think it`s genuine too. It seemed very genuine and people were very helpful too. It didn`t take me any time at all to getting used to this time but I do remember when I was 18 and moved to San Fransisco and just didn`t understand what was happening – why people insisted on setting me up on dates and pushing me out in various social settings. I was used to doing all that work myself – meet people and find friends without anyone helping me. But they wanted me to stay and figured it would be easier to convince me if I had a boyfriend and a lot of friends. What they never realized was that I`d never been on a date before because that was just not how we met guys when I grew up. We would hang out or meet at parties but never arrange “dates”. Even if you had a boyfriend you would never go on a “date”. You would just go to the movies or hang out at his or your place. So the cultural shock was huge for me.
This time, not so much. I`m older and don`t need things to be the way “they`ve always been” and it`s easier for me to see the meaning behind things instead of just finding them strange.
Here you`ll interact with your friends and you really aren`t a friend until you`ve known each other for ages. It`s strange and it must be incredibly hard to move here from other countries.