Why are Norwegians so Grim? (Proudly Updated with New Cover Photo on 9/4/16)

Images of Norway

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Øksendal.  The tiny Norwegian fishing and farming village where my father was born.  He would move to the US with my Grandma and my Aunt Elsie when he was only four.  My dad would later help put men on the moon as an elite engineer with NASA.Hold your flag high, oh i ungdom i Norge.  The UN says your country is the second happiest in the world!The Vikings.  Dudes who were NOT to be messed with.Mmmmmmm.  Lutefisk.More yummmmmmm.  Pickled Herring.  Norwegians say "Dig In, Baby!"Lefse on the griddle.While the Norwegian curling team didn't medal in Sochi (though Norway captured the third most medals at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games), their wacky wardrobe of pants, as ever, blew the competition away!  The "Norge Patchwork Flag" look really rocked.One of the things that makes Norwegians smile is skiing.  Namely, of the Jumping variety...and also doin' it Cross Country.Ice Fishin' is a big deal in Norway.  TÃ¥lmodighet, tÃ¥lmodighet... (Patience, patience...;o})Norway's Nore Stave Church was built circa 1167 as a choir church.  A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building once common in north-western Europe.
Øksendal.  The tiny Norwegian fishing and farming village where my father was born.  He would move to the US with my Grandma and my Aunt Elsie when he was only four.  My dad would later help put men on the moon as an elite engineer with NASA.
Øksendal. The tiny Norwegian fishing and farming village where my father was born. He would move to the US with my Grandma and my Aunt Elsie when he was only four. My dad would later help put men on the moon as an elite engineer with NASA.
Hold your flag high, oh i ungdom i Norge.  The UN says your country is the second happiest in the world!
Hold your flag high, oh i ungdom i Norge. The UN says your country is the second happiest in the world!
The Vikings.  Dudes who were NOT to be messed with.
The Vikings. Dudes who were NOT to be messed with.
Mmmmmmm.  Lutefisk.
Mmmmmmm. Lutefisk.
More yummmmmmm.  Pickled Herring.  Norwegians say "Dig In, Baby!"
More yummmmmmm. Pickled Herring. Norwegians say "Dig In, Baby!"
Lefse on the griddle.
Lefse on the griddle.
While the Norwegian curling team didn't medal in Sochi (though Norway captured the third most medals at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games), their wacky wardrobe of pants, as ever, blew the competition away!  The "Norge Patchwork Flag" look really rocked.
While the Norwegian curling team didn't medal in Sochi (though Norway captured the third most medals at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games), their wacky wardrobe of pants, as ever, blew the competition away! The "Norge Patchwork Flag" look really rocked.
One of the things that makes Norwegians smile is skiing.  Namely, of the Jumping variety...
One of the things that makes Norwegians smile is skiing. Namely, of the Jumping variety...
and also doin' it Cross Country.
and also doin' it Cross Country.
Ice Fishin' is a big deal in Norway.  Tålmodighet, tålmodighet... (Patience, patience...;o})
Ice Fishin' is a big deal in Norway. Tålmodighet, tålmodighet... (Patience, patience...;o})
Norway's Nore Stave Church was built circa 1167 as a choir church.  A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building once common in north-western Europe.
Norway's Nore Stave Church was built circa 1167 as a choir church. A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building once common in north-western Europe.



First of all, I want to make this clear: I am the profoundly proud son of a native Norwegian. Even though my Dad moved to the United States when he was only four years old, he did not leave his love of the old country behind. And he passed that affinity for his heritage on to me, my brother and my sister. We, in turn, have done so with his five grandkids, collectively.

Over the years I have learned that Norwegians are fundamentally a nice, polite people. Hard working. Amiable. And decidedly grim. Grim? Yeah, I know. It seems so incongruous, doesn’t it? But it’s true.

Allow me to explain.

One must keep in mind that Norwegians are by and large descendants of The Vikings. Not exactly a light and breezy bunch. When you can trace your lineage directly back to a group of marauding, pillaging barbarians who’d just as soon lop your head off with a battle ax as look at ya, your demeanor may tend to be a tad on the grim side, too.

And think about it. Just how joyful could you possibly be if you subsisted to a significant degree on a diet of lutefisk and pickled herring? Oh, but the Norske balance it all out with a fistful of lard-based tasteless bread product labeled lefsa (after all, it could hardly have been called "right"sa). “Grim” has got to be the highest level a human being can achieve on the happiness spectrum when you know the meal is bound to include such fundamentally foul food.

And the Norwegians frown upon any manner of self-aggrandizement or braggadocio. They are truly a humble lot. Such an inherently repressive attitude naturally leads to a rather grim state of being. It really just can’t be helped.

Which brings me now to a story my Dad tells of his childhood growing up on a farm in northwest Washington state. Seems my late grandfather and my father were collecting hay for the cattle with a pitchfork one day. Now my grandpa was a great guy, and I loved him dearly. But he wasn’t exactly “Mr. Warm & Fuzzy” by any means. He was strictly old school from the old country. That country, of course, being Norway. On this particular occasion, Grandpa was evidently in a bit of a hurry, and in his haste he inadvertently (or so my Dad believes) stuck a pitchfork prong directly into my Dad’s leg, resulting in excruciating pain and bloodshed on behalf of my father. Rather than reacting in horror and rushing to his son’s aid, my Grandpa barked at my Dad to steer clear so he could finish his work. Boy, if anything will instill an attitude of absolute grimness in you, being stabbed by a razor sharp farm implement and then directed to get your butt the hell out of the way would have to be near the top of the list.

And not that a grim outlook on life is necessarily always bad. It is certainly consistent. It keeps one forever guessing as to whether someone stands in approval or disdain of you. It dispenses with perfunctory pleasantries. I mean why waste your breath asking a Norwegian, ”How’s it goin’?”, when you know the answer full well already; “Grim, you idiot. Just like yesterday. And tomorrow, too, for that matter. Now leave me alone so I can be miserable in peace, will ya?”

Yes, those of us of Norwegian flesh and blood are a grim lot. We don’t deny it. We don’t hide it. And we are not ashamed of it, either. In fact, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go to work on my scowl. I’ve only been able to muster a bit of a frown here lately. And for a Norwegian, that’s just not gonna cut it.


***UPDATE***

In 2013 The annual United Nations "World Happiness Report" ranked Norway second on it's global bliss list, trailing only the Danes. From a personal perspective, I would like to believe that my essay has, in some small manner, helped to raise the spirits of the wonderful folks who populate "The Land of The Midnight Sun". Life is good, oh you noble Norske. Så tør å smile folk! :o}

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Comments 15 comments

A Happy Man profile image

A Happy Man 18 months ago from Washington State Author

It's in the heritage, man. ;]


Norwegian Guy 2 years ago

Why do i feel like a Bezerker while reading this? x)


A Happy Man profile image

A Happy Man 2 years ago from Washington State Author

NorwegianWoods-Right. Those "hardcore guys" made the country great! My dear Grampuh was certainly one of 'em! UFF DA BABY!!!


A Happy Man profile image

A Happy Man 2 years ago from Washington State Author

Why SHOULD they?...They're GRIM! LOL!!!


Jetpac 2 years ago

Here's your proof. Norwegians don't smile in photos: http://bit.ly/1pfqc3u


NorwegianWoods 2 years ago

Absolutely hilarious and the pitchfork prong directly into my Dad’s leg story was just too funny. I`m in Norway and you wont believe this but when I was about 6, I was playing with a neighbour kid and he accidentally stabbed himself in the foot with a pitchfork. Straight through the foot. So his dear old grandfather walked over and told us to stop f**** around and do something useful. Then he walked away. :) I just love those old hardcore guys.


A Happy Man profile image

A Happy Man 3 years ago from Washington State Author

Thanks, Marie-clearly, you GET it!!

Ler gjennom livet min venn! ;o}


Marie 3 years ago

Hahaha, well, you made this native Norwegians day! Rightsa, the vikings that would just as soon chop off your head as look at you, and the pitchfork in the leg, goodness, you had me laughing so hard. I guess it's no wonder if dark humor is in our blood. I certainly feel anything but grim, thanks a lot :D Have a wonderful day!


A Happy Man profile image

A Happy Man 4 years ago from Washington State Author

Kjetil-

Thanks so much for all of your thoughtful comments. I do not interpret them as angry in the least.

I do not believe it possible to communicate just how FIERCELY proud my dad is to be a native Norwegian. He has passed this deeply felt love of the country and it's heritage on to me, my brother and my sister. We, in turn, are passing it right on to his grandkids.

This clarified, are there any nationalities more capable of poking fun at themselves than Norwegians? Right?

I have watched a lot of Norwegian cinema of late (which I have consistently really enjoyed) and have found the film makers to share in abundance a sly inclination to make gentle sport of their fellow countrymen and women. I find this to be both admirable and honorable.

Oh, and one more thing, my late and precious Norwegian grandmother made the most AWESOMLY DELICIOUS krumkake known to mankind (from any country! ;o}).

Le på ...

"A Happy Man"


Kjetil 4 years ago

That said, I enjoyed reading your article. I always find it entertaining to find stuff on Norway written by people outside of Norway. So, thank you. I did not mean to come off as angry or anything in my last comment.

Btw. Did you know that there are about a thousand words in the english/american vocabulary that comes from the elder form of norwegian, a language called "norrønt". (An example of such a word is your work cake, that comes from the norwegian word kake with the same meaning).

Ha en fin dag. (Have a nice day)

Med vennlig hilsen Kjetil. :)


Kjetil 4 years ago

I have to disagree with you on a couple of your statements "A happy man". First off I would like to agree with Casper on his point about the food. I am born and raised in Norway and I have never even tasted lutefisk nor have I ever eaten pickled herring.

You have to take into consideration that your father lived in Norway at a time when our nations cultural values were very different from now. Norway, like many other countries, have grown enormously both culturally and economicly over the last decades. We have adopted a lot of values, food, clothing, etc from other countries as the communication and media coverage between nations have increased.

Norwegians are a proud people. We are proud of our viking heritage, and I for one do not look at myself as particularly Grim. I know you wrote this with the best of intensions, but I have to say that I, as a norwegian, find this post a little offensive. I think the non-norwegians in general has a tendense to stigmatise norwegians as a primitive people who have not grown in line with the rest of the world.


A Happy Man profile image

A Happy Man 4 years ago from Washington State Author

I could not have expressed it better or agree more, Casper.

Norwegians are absolutely the best!

Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comments.

Smil masse!

JS


Casper 4 years ago

It's a common misconception that we norwegians only eat what you call "traditional" foods. A lot of the people here don't really eat anything like that except for MAYBE once a year.

It's like saying Mexicans only eat tacos all day, every day. Except that tacos actually taste good.

Norwegians are not grim, most of us are kindhearted and hard-working fellows.

What I have noticed though is that we don't care that much. We try to act as cool as physically possible, but if something extremely weird would occur we wouldn't actually care at all.

As there are people in other countries that would gladly do all sorts of things at their school or at home, we norwegians find even dancing embarrassing. At least I do o_o

all norwegians really are trying hard to keep a steady state of "cool" at all times and we're actually never openly expressing ourselves unless we're with friends or family.

I wish norwegians could be more open-minded, but I guess it's because of the intellect of most people that they keep their state like this.

I also wish we would smile a little more, but you must always remember that we're always good people inside. Even if it doesn't show.

Always ;)


A Happy Man profile image

A Happy Man 4 years ago from Washington State Author

Toungue-in-cheek fun here, my friend...mostly. ;o}

Thanks so much for reading and for your comment!


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 4 years ago from Texas

I didn't know Norwegians were grim! :D Cool video! I think Jackie Chan may have slid off that opera house in one of his movies! LOL!

Voted up & awesome! :)

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