I am just back from a trip to Norway. There I visited three cities, Oslo, Stavanger and Bergen, on a mini tour organized by my Norwegian publisher Kagge. The trip included 2 other authors, Swedish Ulrika Davidson who specializes in low carb cooking and Jørn Lier Horst a Norwegian crime fiction writer that just won the bookseller prize in his home country and has now written a crime novel for teenagers. Both were super fun and the trip was very successful in every way. I bought Ulrika’s low carb book which promises a loss of 6 kilos in 6 weeks and am going to put my husband through the wringer. He will need more than one round though, how many I am not telling. I also bought Jørn’s children’s book and am going to read it to learn Norwegian. Although Norwegian and Icelandic are very similar langauages, like my husband I will need more than one round to reach my goal.
Norway is a paradise country. It is beautiful to behold and wealthy in a good way. It is the world’s second richest nation and this is not per capita. It is a net external creditor of debt, meaning they don’t owe – they are owed. I actually did not know that was possible. But Norway’s prosperity stems from them having one of the richest reserves of oil and gas outside the Middle East, endless hydropower, very good fishing grounds and lots of metals. But Norway does not behave like a Kardashian, despite their wealth being pretty a pretty recent development. Not at all. As an example, the profits from the gargantuan oil industry goes into a fund belonging to the nation. No one from their royal family is buying cars made of pure platinum or cleaning out their ears with Q-tips made of cashmere. The money is for the people. And did I mention that the people are great? It sounds too good to be true but it is not.
Well actually there is one snag. Everything in Norway is super expensive. I snuck to a MacDonald’s to have a hamburger without Ulrika seeing me and found out that a quarter pounder costs about almost the same as a bottle of Champagne in other countries. A sweater I liked cost the same there as if it were made of fur here, and so on. So I did not go on a shopping spree, only bought the diet book and the kid’s book. As an author I find it perfectly OK for books to be expensive. Hamburgers no and sweaters no.
There was one last thing that endeared Norway to me, hammered in the admiration actually. I passed through three Norwegian airports: Gardemon in Oslo and the somewhat smaller ones in Bergen and Stavanger. In each one the biggest ads hanging from the ceiling or posted on the walls were not from credit card companies, banks or vodka producers. No, they were ads promoting engineering as an occupation, from firms desperate to show why engineers should take up a job with them, or from recruiting agencies urging engineers to put their careers in their hands. Not that it would take much to operate a successful recruiting agency specializing in engineers in Norway if the shortage is anything to go by. Get one hopeful with a so-so CV in the morning, he’s got a job by lunch. On a slow day.
And this is the country my ancestors left to go to Iceland 1200 years ago. Because they found the king of the time annoying. And they did not even know Iceland existed. They just sailed away. To the north, in the direction of cold. So it is no wonder that the women of Norway did not want to join them.
It has been snowing here for days. Before entering the house in the evening you have to memorize where exactly you left the car in the driveway, as in the morning it will have disappeared. Become one with the plump, thick white carpet that swallows everything immobile. If my ridiculous ancestors had only tried counting to ten when dealing with the irritating monarch, I could be sitting in Bergen cleaning my ears with a cashmere Q-tip while yawning over the job offers piling up. Ah, to be an engineer in Norway.