My wife and I have just been vacationing in western Norway, a very beautiful place. After I attended a conference of the International Association of Constitutional Law in Oslo, we headed west in a rental car to see the fjords. They were spectacularly beautiful – the sort of place you’d want to stay forever, if only Norway wasn’t so expensive, and if only the wonderfully long summer days weren’t inevitably followed by extremely long winter nights.
What’s more, the fjords are very accessible: Norway has built a network of roads, ferries and tunnels that make getting from place to place quite straightforward. The tunnels, in particular, are quite remarkable – they can be over 20 kilometers long and a couple of them included roundabouts like the roundabouts at road intersections above ground!
But here’s a funny thing: we were interested in learning something of the country, and so we would sometimes ask the employees in the hotels or restaurants we visited to tell us where they were from. The answer, repeatedly, was: not from Norway. We met a Swede, a Finn, and a German.
A few conversations aren’t a study, to put it mildly, but if we did stumble on an actual social phenomenon, perhaps it’s not so surprising. One person told us that Norwegians didn’t like to work in “service”; I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but Norway wouldn’t be the first country whose people delegated less desirable jobs to foreigners. I’m more partial to the theory a second person offered: that some Norwegians didn’t want to stay in the out-of-the-way fjord country. We thought staying there would be great, but we weren’t actually planning to stay, and fjords and mountains for many people don’t offer much of an answer to the question “what can I do on Friday night?”
Human beings aren’t an easy bunch to satisfy!