|Seagulls don't talk. I like that about them.|
Before we boarded the from-the-airport train in Oslo, Norway, Younger Daughter, who currently lives in one of the capital city’s outer neighborhoods, whispered advice.
“Norwegians don’t make eye contact with strangers and won’t strike up conversations. If you attempt to chat with strangers, they’ll think you’re weird.”
I found that information comforting rather than off-putting because I dread getting stuck with a chatty seatmate who plays a version of Twenty Questions. If you’ve spotted me on a plane, train, or bus, you know I favor the window seat and my gaze seesaws between my Kindle and the view outside.
Maybe I’m Norwegian. That would explain a lot.
While waiting on the T-bane (Oslo’s rapid transit), I surreptitiously observed commuters. Men and women wore no-nonsense shoes, toted backpacks, and sported no-fuss hairstyles.
Maybe I’m Norwegian. That would explain a lot, especially my love for of clunky Merrell shoes.
Before I could tell my daughter about our likely Viking ancestor, a man eager to enter the arriving T-bane elbowed me aside. He said nothing in the way of apology, and I shrugged it off. Later, a commuter let a door smack me in the face. What the heck?
In the privacy of her apartment, my daughter told me Norwegians rarely apologize for bumping into others and don’t hold doors. “Men and women are equals, so men don’t hold doors for women. And Norwegians figure they’re bothered you enough by bumping into you, so they don’t bother you more by apologizing.”
Since I’m the kind of American who says, “I’m sorry” when someone crashes into me, I began to doubt the existence of a Viking forebear.
From my daughter, more insights followed: “The resumes of Norwegians tend to be brief and factual. They don’t brag.”
I’d rather stick a pencil in my eye than puff myself up, so I put the Viking back into the family tree.
“Generally speaking, Norwegians are tolerant. You won’t hear them criticize people.”
Hey, I’m tolerant. I try to guess the name of my Viking ancestor. Leif, Harald, Nils?
“There’s no real word for “please” in Norwegian,” my daughter says.
Whoa. Leif's days are numbered. “Is there a word for thank you?” I ask.
“Takk,” she says.
I’ll work with that unless someone far younger pushes me out of the way to snag a seat on the T-bane. If that happens, Leif’s toast.