We recently watched a TV show where a journalist asked people on the streets what the Norwegian values were and surprisingly few could formulate a reply. We often talk about values, principles, so-called guidelines we use when describing how we live and what shapes our lives, but every now and then they can come into conflict with other cultural values or expectations.
Honesty is probably an all time favorite for most people, yet how often have we not been in a situation where we cannot be (or feel we cannot be) honest? Norwegians would do what they can to avoid causing discomfort for someone else, so much that in some instances we would say things we cannot keep just to keep the other happy. This is a small exaggeration of course, but these «promises» can be something as insignificant as telling someone you will call them, but never do. Or simply not telling the truth about how we fell, as it can cause discomfort or pain for another.
I never really noticed this before, or it was just part of our cultural ways and expectations, so I did not think much about it. I would not give it a second thought, it is just somethings that was said and that is how we are. Now, these small, innocent ways are giving me a cause for some afterthought and I am trying to understand. Because, why would people say things they do not mean? If it is simply to please others, then I am quite sure that the disappointment is bigger when the other part of the deal is not being upheld. Things might come in the way, that is normal and part of our busy days and lives. Keeping this in mind, however, when spending times with people from other cultures can be a useful tip to avoid somewhat awkward situations.
Meeting new people from different parts of the world while living in a foreign or known country, will heighten you perceptions about who your are, what you value, and what you want. Living with someone from a different part makes a even bigger impact. What has become noticeable is that although we adapt to fit in with our surroundings, there are some things that will always be part of us. These are our values. They are embedded in us and part of us, but as we adapt and are shaped by our society, we might adjust our understanding of them. We might not see any possible flaws we have as a culture the same way as someone from the outside will. The Norwegian culture is made up of all of this is and so much more, and while I am a proud Norwegian, proud of my culture and of who I am, we are still allowed to look at ourselves with a fresh pair of eyes.
I did, and although nowhere near being close to losing any of my Norwegian attributes (whether desirable or less desirable), seeing things through a different pair of eyes helps. This is just the beginning of our journey on creating a new culture together with shared values and joys, and what better way to do this than to start looking at yourself…