US and Norwegian cultures

 

I am in the US now, and however much I love the US – and especially the landscape in the West, and the culture in the Northwest – there are things I still struggle with.

Here is a brief list:

Lack of good public transportation, except in large cities, and especially lack of good, comfortable, and fast trains. In Norway, public transportation is very often the most comfortable, fast and attractive mode of transportation.

Over-reliance of cars. Difficult if you don’t buy into the car use lifestyle. (Which I am reluctant to.) In Norway, you can easily live without a car.

Treating poor people poorly, so they live in an undignified way. Large differences between the wealthy and the poor. In Norway, there is much more of an attitude of taking care of the weakest in society, also so they can live a dignified life.

In Norway, people tend to be quiet and considerate of others, both at home and in public. In the US, more people tend to be loud, noisy, and far less considerate of others.

In Norway, public servants – including politicians and the police – are just that, public servants. They are in the service of the people. In the US, I often don’t get that impression. It seems that they often forget that their role is to be in service of the people, and people as individuals.

In Norway, people tend to care for their homes more, and make them cozy and comfortable. They also value natural materials, nature and fresh air. In the US, fewer people seem to do this. The indoor air quality in the US, especially in offices, tend to be quite poor (more toxic materials, more VOCs, poor indoor air quality). I have also noticed that in some areas of the US, people tend to close windows and doors and use air conditioning, even when the outside air is fresh and has a comfortable temperature.

Also, in California these days they seem oblivious to the upcoming water crisis. People still water lawns in areas where there would be no natural green grass. They fill their pools. They maintain large golf courses. They waste water in innumerable ways. In Norway, there has been water rationing well in advance to avoid future water shortage.

I realize that these are all assumptions and beliefs, and not the whole picture. That’s why these things still bother me. At the same time, it’s good to notice that I have a clear preference. And that’s what often has created some ambivalence in me.

I love the landscape of the Western US, the weather everywhere apart from the Pacific Northwest rain season, and the culture in the Northwest. (Especially the Bay Area.) I love the leading edge of the alternative culture on the West Coast. At the same time, I really like the Norwegian landscape, and feel very comfortable in the mainstream Norwegian culture, and also feel that it’s very provincial when it comes to many of my main interests.

In a nutshell, I feel very comfortable with the mainstream Norwegian culture, but am disappointed about their alternative culture. And I love the leading edge of the US West Coast alternative culture, while feeling very uncomfortable with the US mainstream culture.

It’s something that’s stretching me, and I have more to explore in myself around this, especially fears around missing out when I am in Norway, and discomfort around aspects of US culture when I am in the US.

Note: It seems that many of the things that bother me about the US culture has to do with an attitude of not really wishing to take care of everyone, including the weakest ones. This lack of a social safety net has many consequences, including higher levels of stress, and ways this is expressed. (Perhaps even in a more polarized politics.)

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