"Farai e disferai in continuazione il tessuto della tua vita, in attesa di trovare la sola esistenza che ti possa appartenere davvero”.

Vices, virtues and paranoia. Part one

My adjustment period in Norway was characterized by astonishment.

I used to wander around the city pointing my finger at the numerous coloured wooden houses, I loved taking pictures of the street names (usually longer than eight syllables) and I could not stop marveling at the climate and atmosphere. 

After some time, I began to understand that these houses are built with wood to prevent unnecessary heat loss, the streets have long names because they are formed by combining two or more words and I had to resign myself to the climate: since I’m living near by the North Pole, I cannot expect hot summers with temperatures always around 30 degrees. Therefore I became interested in the blond natives and in their numerous offspring: how do these Nordic creatures live?

My Italian curiosity was piqued by some oddities that have shaken up some of my consolidated thinking patterns:

When are meals served? The day starts with a hearty breakfast (very hearty) and the preparation of the matpakke, literally: “packed food”. It normally consists of sliced bread, ham or something similar, cheese and, perhaps, some fruit and yoghurt. This is what Norwegians consider “lunch”, consumed during lunch break, around 11:30 am. Working day starts and ends early, so, in most cases, employees and school kids go home around five o’clock. But here comes the strange part: what do our Nordic friends do, as soon as they enter their houses? They have dinner. At six in the evening, at most. This happens not only as winter draws near and it is dark; they used to do so even during the summer, when the sun is still high in the sky.

Food paranoia. The Nordic diet has declared war on two common ingredients of Mediterranean diet: salt and, above all, white flour. As a matter of fact, whole wheat bread is everywhere, often accompanied by sesame seeds, caraway seeds, sunflower seeds… every hamster should have the pleasure to eat here, at least once in a lifetime. Instead of thanking the salt, which has allowed human beings to store food for centuries, the Norwegians have banned it from their tables. Too bad they eat Salmiak candy (a variety of liquorice containing salt) and are madly in love with bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Leaving aside these ingredients, even sugar is going through a bad moment in Norway: sugar free drinks are promoted everywhere, but sugar gets back at you in the form of high calories cakes that will stalk you in every Narvesen or 7-Eleven.

How would you manage bad habits? We all agree that smoking is a bad thing. Nevertheless, if you sit in a pub, you will notice just a few people smoking outside. Instead, strange labial expressions sometimes appear on the face of your Norwegian friends. This is due to the fact that Norwegians love Snus, a moist powder tobacco product consumed by placing it under the upper lip for long periods of time. It does not affect the lungs as cigarettes do and does not bother the neighbors.

In the matter of alcohol, the situation is more complex: prices are prohibitive and legal requirements for the sale are very strict. Nevertheless, what made me really curious is the Norwegian behaviour towards alcoholic beverages. You can drink during the week, but without exceeding: a beer after work is already enough. In the weekend, on the contrary, you can drink as much as you want. And that normally means A LOT.

For this reason, and since the cost of alcohol is really high, Norwegians borrowed the “vorspiel” tradition. This word, adopted from the Germans, means “foreplay” and it is a party held in a private house. The people warm up with beer or spirits before going out. Later, they come back for the “nachspiel”, the afterplay, where the most resilient guests will drink what is left of the alcoholic supply. What is peculiar is that nobody shares: I drink what is mine, and nothing more.

-Dulcis in fundo, I cannot understand why all shops are closed on Sundays, except one: the florist. I do not underestimate how useful an ornamental plant can be: a beautiful rose bouquet can lighten up a gloomy day, but I think that people can survive without buying a new floral decoration on Sunday. Wouldn’t it be nice to keep two pharmacies open? When I get headache, I do not think that pruning my petunias could be a valid remedy. Maybe I should try to use some flower petals and make a decoction.


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