Different Cultures

 

I went to Norway over the holidays, and – as usual – had an opportunity to reflect on the differences between US and Norwegian culture. In the big picture, they are obviously very similar to each other, but as a person living in one culture or the other, there are some significant differences as well.

Maturity

The main difference I experience is the level of maturity in the mainstream culture. In Norway, there is a fusion of head and heart in a grounded way. In the US, head is separated from heart, and often not very grounded.

In Norway, they take the side of the underdog and the weak in society. They see themselves as a part of an international community, and have a genuine interest in the international community. They typically use compassion and openness when they view different situations and individuals. Solidarity is a strong value – solidarity with those in Norwegian and international community who are in a difficult situation, solidarity with future generations (they save up billions of dollars in an oil fund for future generations). Politicians are regular people, live regular lives, and look out for regular people. It is respected and seen as a mark of maturity to admit mistakes openly.

In the US, they support the strong and punish the weak. They are not very aware of the larger world. Judgment is rampant. Solidarity and compassion are seen as weakness. Problems are pushed onto future generations (an enormous national debt). Politicians come from the few wealthy and look out for the wealthy. Admitting mistakes is seen as a weakness.

This is of course a somewhat simplified and polarized view, but the general trends described above are accurate as I experience them.

Diversity

There is obviously a reason why I live in the US as well: diversity.

In Norway, the culture as a whole is quite progressive, but the leading edge developments are often not found there or are found only in a very small group of people. This is probably due to (a) the small total population in Norway, (b) the homogeneity of the culture, and (c) that life is typically very good in Norway. Most people enjoy their life and their work.

In the US, mainstream culture is relatively backwards, but there are significant numbers of people working on leading edge insights and tools. This must be due to the large total population (and similar minded people tend to cluster), the diversity of the culture, and that life for many is not so good in the US so there is an incentive to develop alternatives.

Some leading edge developments: holistic health and health psychology, holistic design (incl. permaculture), alternative health (process oriented psychology, Breema etc), Community Supported Agriculture, and much more.

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