I have moved around a fair bit in my life. One thing this means is that I am a classic people-pleaser. Trying to fit in and adapt and be likeable is pretty deeply ingrained into my behavioural psyche. This means, socially speaking, moving to Norway went kind of smoothly for me.
I am a talker, a conversationalist. Comfortable silences are NOT my thing. Unlike many Norwegians I have met, those silences make me anxious. I find it frankly odd that Norwegians seem perfectly at ease when the conversation comes to a standstill. Not me. I panic. I am all about the chat.
As an experienced chatter I have some go to topics that always work. Here are my top 3:
(Caution: Not recommended as pick-up chat. You´re on your own with that)
When you look foreign and then crack out the Norwegian, this is the biggest all time crowd pleaser. It doesn´t matter that you don’t have a perfect Norwegian accent. Norwegians love that you have made the effort, so no matter how many years you have lived here you will often meet a – “wow, your Norwegian is so good”. I milk this for all it is worth and bask in the praise.
I talk about those funny little language quirks that I have noticed. For example the “ja” spoken on the in-breath that indicates agreement and understanding – something I am not quite sure Norwegians realise that they do. I also like to refer to the melody of the Norwegian language, pronunciation of that funny i the one that looks like a y and the weird shapes you need to make with your lips when you say it.
Oh and I always mention all the different dialects – this, is probably the most reliable source of solid conversation about language. Throw in a funny story of when you thought you knew Norwegian and then you met someone from the West coast and you have your audience hooked.
Norway is beautiful. FACT. Norwegians are super proud of it. FACT. So, of course this is a goldmine of a conversation starter. I usually start with asking about what people have done recently, at the weekend on their most recent holiday and it probably involves some kind of activity in the great outdoors. I of course have my own stories to tell. I am one of those outdoorsy types or I became that in my late-twenties. I talk to people about the parts of Norway I have seen – the beautiful fjords and the challenging mountain climbs like Besseggen and Galdhøpiggen.
Anything nature related is pure dynamite. BOOM!
Where you come from
One of the questions that comes up pretty quickly in a conversation is “where do you come from?” Here I´ll admit I have had to brush up on my Cyprus and UK knowledge.
Norwegians are travellers, explorers, they have been pretty much everywhere – so do not think you can get away with peripheral knowledge about your country – it won´t work. I mention Cyprus and I often find myself going into the politics of Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, talking about the divided country and the latest round of peace talks. I also get questions about the weather in Cyprus, the food, the language – I might start sending a bill to the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs for my services.
I also need to make sure I am up to date with the news – because Norwegians follow what is happening in other countries. I mention the UK and I need to know about the Brexit saga and latest developments with that or at the very least have an opinion about it. The UK election has been a recent hot topic. If I thought moving to Norway would give me a break from being inundated with Theresa May and Boris Johnson antics, I now know much better. I do not get to avoid the media frenzy. Thank you UK for being so incredibly newsworthy recently and providing excellent chat.