Foreigners just don’t ‘get’ Norway

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NEWS ANALYSIS: Sympathy for Norwegians who have lived through a violent nightmare in recent days has streamed in from around the world, but so has criticism of Norway in foreign media. As Norwegians tried to return to some form of normalcy nearly a week after two terrorist attacks, many were puzzled by the foreign journalists’ criticism and felt they’d once again been misunderstood.

An estimated 200,000 Norwegians gathered for an impromptu “rose memorial” three days after the worst attacks on their country since World War II. PHOTO: Views and News

Reporters suddenly flown into Oslo, with little if any background on the country and its people, simply had a hard time understanding how the police function here, for example, or how people think, and that’s led to lots of head-shaking among the locals over reports they sent home. If anything, the experience and misunderstandings of the past week confirm a widespread belief about this small country in the far north:

It’s different up here. And the difference can lead to the criticism that’s often based on how non-Norwegians think it should be up here.

That means, literally, “the different country,” a term bandied about often after Norwegians voted for the second time against joining the European Union in 1994. They wanted to go their own way.

Norway has for decades been built up as an open, transparent, informal society with strong egalitarian principles and a regulated social welfare system based on what the Norwegians love to call fellesskap (fellowship). This is a country where the prime minister bicycles to work, where approachable politicians walk freely around town and where the chief executive of the country’s biggest bank can be spotted doing his family’s grocery shopping, all alone, in short-sleeves.

This is a country where it’s not at all unusual to hear its citizens say that they “pay their taxes with joy,” because they’re keen to spread the wealth and know that they can get a lot back in return, from free university tuition to total coverage of all hospitalization costs.

This is also a country that voted twice against joining the European Union but is an active supporter of the United Nations, and which celebrates its national day with an utter lack of military display even though it’s a member of NATO. Instead of having tanks or soldiers parade on the 17th of May, children fill the streets along with adults in colorful Norwegian costumes.

The police are unarmed, there is no death penalty, the penal system is based on rehabilitation of criminals instead of punishment and the maximum prison term is generally 21 years, with eligibility for parole in about half that time. This often shocks foreigners who view Norway as far too lenient, or even naive.

‘Minimal knowledge’
“I believe that the majority of the foreign journalists (sent to Norway to cover Friday’s terrorist attacks and their aftermath) had minimal knowledge of Norwegian society and culture,” Rune Ottosen, a professor of journalism at the local college Høyskolen i Oslo, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Thursday. And he says it’s a common problem within what he calls fallskjermjournalistikk, when journalists “parachute” into a spot where news is breaking and suddenly have to act like they’re experts on the place.

Most Norwegians seem rather proud of their unarmed police force, no matter what the media thinks. PHOTO: Views and News

That’s what’s sparking the media criticism in return from Norwegians. They were surprised to hear on a major American network, for example, that “it doesn’t seem like you have very good police in Norway,” or comments from a South American correspondent for newspapers in Argentina and Colombia that security was “poor.” He was surprised there were no metal detectors at the courthouse, and that his bags weren’t searched.

Other Norwegians have been amazed, even angered, by the errors made in haste as events were unfolding that weren’t corrected later. In the rush to satisfy demanding editors or producers back home, it was easy to jump to conclusions like the widespread suspicion that Islamic terrorists were behind the attacks on Norway’s government complex and a Labour Party youth group. Ottosen noted that Fox News in the US kept debating the danger of Islamic fundamentalists long after the blond Christian Norwegian had been arrested and confessed to the attacks. Other media focused on immigration issues in Norway, the absence of a death penalty and even the rising popularity of Scandinavian crime novels.

Little criticism within Norway
Some foreign media portrayed Norway as naive, or downright odd. Why weren’t people more angry, full of fight or seeking revenge? That might have been the normal reaction in their home countries, but not in Norway.

Nor has there been much if any local criticism of the police actions, the emergency response or the handling of the crisis by Norwegian politicians within Norway. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg can claim a 94 percent approval rating of his leadership during the past five days and the police have enjoyed praise as well. Far from being defensive, as some foreign media reported, police officials have questioned the foundation for the criticism and apologized publicly for some technical communications problems and failure to respond more quickly to the first calls of shooting on the island of Utøya. It took nearly an hour for the Oslo special forces to arrive on the island after getting their first call. They then arrested the gunman within two minutes.

Stoltenberg has set up a special commission to examine all aspects of the attacks, to learn from them and study “what worked and what didn’t.” He’s quick to say it’s not an investigation or inquiry, and he has full non-partisan support for the commission in Parliament. There’s been no criticism voiced by the opposition in Norway, which usually is quick to pounce on the government otherwise.

Meanwhile, Norwegians were getting back to work. Businesses and stores that briefly closed after the attacks have reopened, the streets have been cleaned and even the sun has re-appeared after five days of heavy rain and gloomy skies. The Norwegians’ lack of visible anger or noisy emotion illustrates their customary restraint, which also could be seen on a small post-it note mounted on the shattered glass entrance of a publishing company two blocks from the blast site: “Please use the other door.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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  • Martijn

    I thought Norway prided itself to be the birthplace of the trolls. Abeit maybe not the internet kind. 😉

  • Ricardoh

    The more you expect from your government the more you will expect until it is not sustainable. Sooner or later the takers will out number the payers and the house of cards collapses just like what we are going through in the US. The government in power will do anything to stay in power and that is where the problem lies. It is like unions, people are never satisfied until they get more. If you as the head of any organization can’t deliver you are out and the new are in.

    • Dave

      It’s clear you’ve never been to Norway or Scandinavia in general and certainly have no understanding of their fiscal position or even the fiscal position of the US.

      Norway has half a trillion dollars (growing every day) set aside for when their oil runs out and currently oil revenues only account for 4% of their national budget. They pay lots of taxes that (as the article said) they pay in exchange for a free education system and a free health care system that produces first class workers.

      And the problem in the US isn’t primarily that they are spending too much (though starting unwinable wars didn’t help) it’s the Bush tax cuts and the incredibly low tax rates on those with the highest income that is creating an enormous revenue shortfall.

      • Sam

        Indeed oil has produced the wealth in Norway – not socialism or capitalism or Norwegian cleverness. This is true.

        On the other hand, its pretty undisputable that socialism is what has SPREAD the oil wealth around to such a degree that the overall standard of living in the country is high compared to say Nigeria or Libya – and that the degree of democracy and openenss is streets ahead of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia for example.

        • Chris Hitchens

          “On the other hand, its pretty undisputable that socialism is what has SPREAD the oil wealth around to such a degree that the overall standard of living in the country is high compared to say Nigeria or Libya”

          That is far from indisputable, in actual fact, it is complete and utter nonsense! Why would you compare Norway to Nigeria or Libya?

          Alaska uses its oil revenue to enable it to have the lowest income tax rates in the USA (which are already much lower than in Norway), and there is no sales tax there at all! What better way to spread the wealth? The standard of living in Alaska is better than in Norway, unless you believe far-left, big-government, pro-socialist, hugely partial and biased organizations like the UN.

          The only benefit Norwegians see from the oil is the economic activity and investment it attracts to the private sector in Norway. That’s it. Other than that, we get to spend 4% of it each year to augment tax revenue, which is already extremely high. That revenue is then squandered on bureaucracy and inefficiency. What a waste.

          • Euro

            Alaska isnt a country, so any such comparison makes no sense. Alaska benefits from expenses borne and shared by 49 other states such as national defense, federal government adminstration, foreign expenditure and many other things.

            So no, sorry, you need to compare to a real country with complete expenses, not some bogus strawman.

            If you were looking for a state with good lifestyle, child development and standard of living in the USA, it would be Vermont, not Alaska. And that’s not about oil.

            Also you grasp of economics is shaky. On the one breath you say oil bosts overall economic activity in Norway and in the next you dont seem to grasp that this has multiplier effects.

            Also you cannot at any point deny the OECD statistics which show that social mobility is much higher in Norway than any of these places you are comparing to, including the USA. Which means that whatever you want to say about socialism, it is doing a good job of detaching parents’ status from the success of failure of children in the next generation.

            I’d agree with you there is waste and inefficieny in Norwegian government, but that isnt about socialism. The same characteristics prevailed with the right wingers who were in power before Stoltenberg’s latest stint. In other words we are dealing with government reform, which is a global challenge. The issue is for Norwegians to recognise and take it on instead of pretending they know it all and are perfect.

          • ChrisH

            Euro, please point me to the part of my post that denies multiplier effects of economic activity due to oil. It’s not there.

            I was making a comparison between another developed world government’s approach to distributing oil revenue in contrast to the Norwegian government’s socialist approach. Suggesting that the Nigerian/Libyan vs. Norwegian approach are the only choices is making a false dichotomy, and it is certainly disputable. That in essence was my point, and I believe the comparison is warranted because we have much to learn from the Alaskan approach. The fact that the Alaskan state incurs lower expenses as part of the USA than it otherwise would is in some ways analogous to the benefits Norway receives as a part of NATO and the EEA. In any case I don’t think that is particularly relevant to the assertion made about socialism, which is what was under discussion.

  • Rick Wilkening

    Norway and Norwegians are exceptional for many admirable reasons.
    This discussion has largely ignored a fundamental truth, however. Norway was historically one of Europe’s poorest nations. Only with the fairly recent discovery of oil and international demand for it has Norway risen to the ranks of the world’s most prosperous.
    It ignores the obvious to conflate Norway’s tax system and governance with its prosperity. Norway has the luxury of great wealth and a fabulously generous social welfare system because of the incredible good fortune that it is a country with a small population which discovered prodigious quantities of OIL on its territory.
    Neither the Labour Party, taxes, nor socialism have produced great wealth in Norway, OIL has. A unique circumstance at a unique time in history has blessed the wonderful nation of Norway. The best form of governance for distributing oil wealth and preserving it for future generations after the oil runs out are interesting questions.
    To debate whether high taxes and socialist governance have created wealth is simply naive. They have not. Oil has.

    • Sara

      Sweden and Finland have no oil and are still doing way better than the U.S. Iceland, which decided to follow a much more capitalist agenda has already been declared bankrupt. Regardless of oil, the Scandinavian political system appears to be more stable than extreme capitalism and relying heavily on self-interested bankers to stabilise the economy.

      • Bitter Norwegian Taxpayer

        Sara Sweden and Finland are both highly industralised nations, Norway was once but has been so thouroughly corrupted by oil it allowed all it’s industry to run down, now it’s mostly gone. Sweden on the other has has many large world class companies Volvo AB, ABB, Ericsson, IKEA, Electrolux, Swedish Match, TetraPak, Saab, Assa Abloy to name but a few.

        • dsha

          How can it be? I mean, from what I know, the government is only allowed to allocate 4% of oil revenues (not sure, however, for which period) in an annual budget. With this practice in place, I would expect the government to rely primarily on taxes from other revenue sources, not oil-related. Meaning that there should be some non-oil economy in Norway…

        • Martin

          @Bitter: That`s not correct. Just do some research. Industry as part of the real GDP: Sweden 34 %, Finland 31% -> Norway 38% !!! But industry is still not the future. Small companies are.
          By the way: Volvo struggels, Saab as well, IKEA produces mostly in other countries, as does H&M, Electrolux …
          Sweden has one of the highest unemployment rates among the youth in Europe (22,6 %), Finland 20,1 %. Norway 3,9 % …
          The incomes are dramaticly lower in Sweden and Finland, while the taxes are higher or as high as in Norway.

          • Spoiledluna

            Because, my dear, over 30% Norwegians are on long term sickness benefits. This is a luxury hardly any country can afford.

        • Espen Johnsen

          So Norwegian income is only oil?

          • frenk

            80% of Norwegian government revenue is derived from oil & gas activities – I can only wonder what the government will say when they present the budget next year?!?
            We’ve had the % of Norwegians on welfare….’who don’t actually need to be’ debate here before….we know its somewhere between 20 to 30%….even the woman I rent my apartment from doesn’t work….like a lot of people in the area….I can see the ‘boredom’ she lives through on a daily basis and the effect it is having on her children – one of which also appears to be ‘on the NAV’…..
            The is the ‘present’ for Norway….the future is not ‘bright’ for this country….and….we have to question why the government continues with family friendly policies (which aren’t actually that friendly) which encourages women to have children…so they can be poorly educated, eat poorly and have rather unfullfilling lives?

            • Espen Johnsen

              Just give a reference and I will believe you.

              • frenk

                ……eh………where else do you think this money might come from? Where do you think all this money goes…..? What are all these people doing….who are not working……how are they paying for their lives?

                • frenk


                  Still, in Norway, oil wealth may have made the state reluctant to make reforms or cut subsidies unthinkable elsewhere. Farm subsidies allow farmers, for instance, to keep dairy cows in heated barns in the Arctic.

                  It may also have made some Norwegians reluctant to work. “One in five people of working age receives some kind of social insurance instead of working,” Doerum said, despite an official unemployment rate of 3.3 percent.

                  Also interesting:

                • Espen Johnsen

                  I am only asking for a reference that show your claim, which should be fairly easy if it is true. Statistics would be helpful. Otherwise your statement has 0 credibility and I will assume you have made it up in your imagination and in envy, malignantly express it like some bad propaganda from just another internet troll.

                  • frenk

                    Read below. A number of university papers on the subject have previously been posted on this site. As ever….as I assume you are a Norwegian…it will be much easier for you to source exact and up-to-date figures?

                    • Espen Johnsen

                      Can you repost them please?

                    • frenk

                      It may also have made some Norwegians reluctant to work. “One in five
                      people of working age receives some kind of social insurance instead of
                      working,” Doerum said, despite an official unemployment rate of 3.3

                    • frenk
                    • Espen Johnsen

                      And where do you find any information that backs up your argumentation?

                    • frenk

                      I am not too sure what further you wish me to contribute to this topic? If you do a ‘basic’ internet search you will find a lot of information on the topic. Of people of working age….around 600,000 are not working in Norway – many of which are receiving generous benefits from the state due to some form of ‘inability to work’….yet…there are 200,000 migrant workers in Norway…mostly doing ‘low-skilled’ manual work……etc…etc….

      • LEONOR

        The US spent a lot for sending their troops to wars, depleting their wealth.
        Whether it is worth or not, hard to say… The fight for what they believe in –
        democracy but it has its price… they become poor!

      • a guy

        Unregulated, self-interested bankers in the U.S. are responsible for the economic conditions, there.

    • Bitter Norwegian Taxpayer

      That’s a well used myth, it’s simply not true, Norway was never poor, Norway always made money from fishing, forrestry, ship building and ship owning, Norway was a well off country before oil. After oil will be another story.

      What oil has done to Norway is ruin it, it’s made the country incrediably wealthy and made it’s people overpaid and lazy. Ever since 1975 industrial production and employment in Norway has been in decline, it’s simply not profitable to make things in Norway, mainly becaue Norwegians expect to be paid similar wages to those working offshore, the country has simply priced itself out of being competitive.

      It’s going to be fascinating watching Norway work out what to do with itself when the offshore industry dies, we don’t make anything anymore, we aren’t a nation of service providers, we don’t have a knowledge based economy the economy is based around sucking oil and gas out of the ground, when it gone what’s left?

      No oil means no money for the welfare state. Think about it for a while.

      • T. Jacobsen

        You are partially incorrect. Before oil, Norway was wealthier of course than many countries outside Europe. It was, however, the 2nd poorest country in Western Europe after Portugal and was poorer than several Eastern Bloc countries, in terms of GDP per capita. It was poor, very poor, by European standards, which is saying something because Europe itself during this period was relatively poor (end of WWII through discovery of North Sea oil).

        Oil did change all that but only because of the policies that governed the development and exploitation of the oil and, increasingly, natural gas resources. I mean, Brunei has a tiny population with a huge fossil fuel endowment yet they are far down most lists of standard of living.

        • Matt

          Nicely put. While a fair chunk of the Norwegian economy is geared to Oil & Gas the bigger risk is surely the bloated welfare state and overpaid public sector jobs.

      • Sam

        I dont know where you’ve been but you are missing key facts. Its not oil that has decimated the industry in Norway it is the evolution of industrialization and of globalization.

        As industrialization has evolved it has moved to requiring massive scale that a country of 5 million cannot provided. And more important globalization itself has shifted indiustrial production activity away from ALL “western nations” and into the “south” and “eastern” countries.

        This pattern shows up accross all of Europe. Only Germany and to some small degree Denmark and Netherlands have been able to adapt and shift to higher tech and design to any apprecable degree. All the rest eg France, Italy, Britain etc have all seen their industrial bases decimated.

        So to run around say it is the fault of “oil” that this happened in Norway is really intellectually bankrupt.

      • Billy

        That is an absolute utter lie. Norway was dirt poor before oil. It was the 2nd poorest country in Europe. It was so poor around the 2 world wars that 1/4 of its entire population left foe America. I dont know if you people are really this ignorant to your own history or just that dishonest.

      • jamesnorway77

        Norway was a poor country before oil i have a danish friend whos father remembers when he was at school they used to send food packages to Norway through the church and red cross.

    • T. Jacobsen

      Mr. Rick Wilkening clearly does not understand.

      Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Iran have enormous oil reserves. Mexico has enormous oil reserves. Russia has enormous oil reserves.

      So why are these countries so different from Norway in terms of the social outcomes the good fortune of resource endowment allows? Why are those other countries highly unequal economically with massive poverty and corruption and in some outright repression and violence on a scale many in the West find hard to imagine? The difference is the sociopolitical context in Norway, that is, the national social democratic consensus, in particular, the redistributive and social investment character of national social and economic policy.

      So, Rick Wilkening is precisely, absolutely, 100% incorrect: Socialism and high taxes have made all the difference. Plus, as another said, the non-oil wealthy Scandinavian countries have superior GINI scores and higher standards of living than most countries in the West.

  • MBC

    I’d just like to respond to RC, in broad agreement. I live in the UK but visit Norway regularly, having Norwegian background.

    I too was astonished at the slow, Keystone Cop response of the police and I agree that whilst they probably did their best, their best was nowhere good enough and they need to face up to that. I listened to an interview of the police (in Norwegian) where the police chief said they only had one helicopter but that it could not land on the island (I think, for fear they would be shot in the air?). So why not fly it to the mainland across the sound rather than drive all the way from Oslo to get there quicker??? That would take 10 minutes from Oslo – not one hour. Also, he muttered something that being attacked by a gunman whilst in a helicopter was a matter for the ‘forsvar’ (defence, or military). So why not call in the army? What the heck is it for? Apparently the army were not contacted for help until after the gunman was arrested. They seem to have been very slow to realise they faced a military situation, not a crime scene.
    Not wishing to gratify Breivik’s narrative that he is ‘in a war’, but what he did was as near a military attack of Norwegian citizens on Norwegian soil as it gets! If Norway ever was actually attacked in war you have to despair about what the reaction might be.
    A parking ticket?
    Breivik killed 68 youngsters in about 90 minutes. Every minute the police delayed another few youngsters were killed. If they got their 30 minutes earlier probably another 30 or 40 would still be alive today, since many appear to have drowned as well as get shot.
    OK, so it was Breivik that killed them. But every minute they delayed cost lives.

    • Erny72

      Hi MBC,
      I suspect that Norway is like many civilised countries in having an army specifically to deter threats from abroad, with a useful secondary role providing the muscle and expertise to provide humanitarian assistance following natural disaster; the police to maintain civilian law and order. In a civilised country. The idea of turning the army loose in order to restore order in a civil setting is a little too close to martial law for most people’s liking, no matter how uncivilised the crime.
      Would it be incompatible with the call for ‘more democracy’ for the Politi to raise a group along the lines of the German GSG-9?

  • Fannie T

    Reading this apologia for a country asleep at the wheel despite full knowledge of the long-term threat of right wing Nazi wannabes, I thought I was reading about a new area of Disneyland called Norwayland where bluebirds sing, everyone has a smile and peachy cheeks, and bad things never happen over the rainbow.

  • Ken H

    I have a friend from Norway who was visiting when the bombing and massacre took place. He thinks and feels a majority on Norwegians think the Arbeid party is staffed by a bunch of cartoon characters who have an idea of how the world should be but are completely naive of how it really is. They want to set an example to the world but are slowly gutting their beloved country of Norway. From buying rain forests in Indonesia, dismantling the rapid strike force, infusing 54,000 muslim refugees each year, and on and on. He was devastated by the bombings but feels Cristi Halverson is partially to blame. Mostly because she hates the USA, hates the military, she is against oil drilling, and is actually against wind mills. If she hadn’t gutted the rapid response team and grounding their helicopters probably dozens of those kids could have been saved. Now this madman could be out of his modern country club like jail in 15 years.

  • Rob

    Ken the problem is most Norwegians are socialists and think along the same lines as AP, I have not heard any of my Norwegian friends so much as utter a bad word about the slow responce of the police or think that AP is staffed with cartoon characters, it competely the opposite most people here (inluding the press) think the govt and police have done a fine job, Stoltenburg has been highly praised with skyhigh approval ratings.

  • Ross Campbell

    It is gratifying to see the Labour Party support go up by 10% in the past week. It shows that the Norwegian People are backing their Prime Minister.
    I am confused by some of the posts. Norway always rates in the top three of countries to live in yet some of the posts are quite negative.

    God Bless Norway. By your reaction to this terrorist, you have shown what a great country you really are. Please keep your open democratic society.

  • James (Australia)

    Australia has become a richer nation than Norway under a right-wing government.

    • Matt

      I’m Australian too, but I disagree. I’m a fan of the previous government by the way. Define ‘richer’? We don’t have a sovereign wealth fund. Norway still runs a Trade Deficit even without their Oil & Gas exports! Norway could certainly do with some de-regulation of the labour and agricultural markets though. The average Australian whinges much more than the average Norwegian.

      • Matt

        Sorry ment to say Trade Surplus!

    • T. Jacobsen

      Prove it.

  • @Rob: Norway as a nation is still in deep grief and mourning. This is not the time to attack politicians, ppolice or other authorities. No decent norwegian would, out of respect to the poeple who was directly affected by the tragedy at Utøya and in Oslo. Trust me when I say that many Norwegians has views on the slow respons by the police that allowed this phsyco to shot all this innocent children for 1 1/2 hr before he was stopped. They had all resources in Oslo after the bomb, and had no capacity for Utøya. The lack of a helicopter in operation due to vacationtime etc. Even the national news crew had a helicopter in operation, but not the ambulanse/police…That the network could not handle all the incoming emergency calls and lines were clogged…The fact that this phsyco has previously been reported to authorities and neglected..of course all this issues will be adressed. But in due time. And no is not the time. Whether or not we are AP supporters, I think I speak for most norwegians when I say that we are all behind our Jens Stoltenberg, the rest of the government and our royal family 100%. They have all done a fantastic job, and have represented Norway and all Norwegians in an admireable way. They have releyed our thoughts, feelings and grief to the fam & friends of vicitms of Utøya and Oslo in a way that we stand by 100% and are very proud of. Time for politics will come later, and eveything will be adressed. Political elecetions are coming up soon. Rest assured that Norway will get to the bottom of this, and we will not be surprised like this again. For whatever it is worth i am an ethnic norwegian, living in norway.

    • @ James: the goal is not to become the richest nation.

  • MBC

    I’ve been reading more about this business of the slow response of the police. Sorry to keep thrieping on about it.

    Apparently the UN estimates that there should be 2.2 police per 1000 of the population as a recommended security level for civilian populations. No idea how they figure this out. Anyway, Norway’s is the lowest in Europe, 1.15 per 1000. The left wing government is complacent about security, and has actually run down the numbers of police. 430 new police recruits finished college last year and only 13 got jobs. In the whole country. (Not Oslo). There’s no lack of money – this is a political decision. One chap said he phoned the Oslo police about an incident a couple of weeks before this one, an incident he thought serious, and the reply was, ‘We can’t send anybody out for four days as we’ve only got one car patrolling the streets’.

    This in a capital city, seat of a national government, with a royal palace, to boot. No wonder there are all these rapes happening of white girls by non-western men in the open streets in parts of Oslo. (86 in the last year).

    So… embarassed silence when this question comes up, about the poor show of the police, and they all close ranks. The politicians know darn well it’s their fault for running down the police. The police know better than to criticise their political masters. So all shut up and assert ‘the police did the very best they could in the circumstances’. Apparently the left wing government has some teenage 60s-anarchist-type suspicion of the police as right wing fascist ‘pigs’.

    BUT, not all Norwegians are fooled. My sistes got a taxi last Monday in Bergen and the driver was recounting how the boat the police used to get to the island (after having driven all the way to Oslo because they didn’t have a chopper) actually suffered an engine break down and let in water and sank! NOT IMPRESSED.

    • Matt

      Yeah something not quite right there on policing. Surely goes part of the way to explaining all the graffiti, drugs and general unsafeness in Central Oslo.

  • Mert Akin

    This article reflects in a clear but a little subjective manner the ostrich mentality that is pervasive in Norway from top to bottom.

    Lack of critical thinking & self reflection is more present than ever. So it was ok when Norway parachute dropped easy-judging journalists to all corners of the world? Why complain when it happens to us?

    Self praising biased judgements do little to hide the fact that Norway is the only Nato country where a disturbed individual can manage to knock out government buildings, and wipe out a generation of future moderates in a matter of hours.

    Think critically. Norwegians may think they know best and do best, but in the end they also are made of flesh and bones.

    The foundations for the post-oil Norway are being set today. When people will be the real assets instead of cubic meters of oil and gas, the importance of real multiculturalism and diversity will be greater.

  • Just a guy

    Well said my friend. Multiculturalism IS the future. I say a great present in norway, but the future seems dark and cold with so much lack of self-criticism. I invite you to read the article on this webpage about racism. I dont Think you will find any such article in the oficialist local media, which is already talking about hunger in africa to make people here forget quickly what happened. Sweeping the garbage under the rug until it blows

  • Foreigner working in Norway

    As usual, in cases like this, there may well be much the authorities cannot put in the public domain. I have worked near a police training college in Norway and the quality of the recruits I met was of a standard of which many countries could only dream.

    I have worked as far north as Tromso and as far south as Kristiansand and Sarpsborg and, I’m afraid, and I don’t care how big your sovereign wealth fund is, Norway will be ruined by the Norwegians who refuse to work who get paid by the state to renovate their houses which they sell at a profit when the market is good as well as working black. Seeing this happening on such a huge scale demoralises those who are paying at least 38% of their income to support these spongers (who, as far as I can see are mainly Norwegians who can afford to come to the places where I work …. I can’t afford to be a customer in the places where I work in Norway!)

    UDI has been trumpeting triumphantly how many foreigners they’ve managed to get out of the country yet most of the foreigners I know who used to work in Norway have already left Norway, some with their Norwegian spouses and kids. Perhaps a family of four can live comfortably on Norwegian social security in Spain. I don’t know.

    Norway may have a “Labour” government but how left wing was the UK under Tony Blair? Many of Norway’s laws are interpreted in what I would call a right wing way. Norway is an OK place to live if you were born a Norwegian but eventually, it will be a country where generations of Norwegians have just done very little because they didn’t HAVE TO to be comfortable. The foreigners will have left or been sent home apart from the asylum seekers who were given permission to stay (I’ve worked in Norway for 22 years but my residence permit renewal was refused because my work takes me out of Norway sometimes which means I’m rarely in Norway for more than three months and therefore “don’t need a residence permit” to quote the message from UDI, even though I’ve had a house here for 14 years?) I work in Norway and pay my taxes and want to leave. So do most of the other foreigners I know here.

    It’s also remarkably common for foreign workers to have their Norwegian tax deductions stolen by Norwegian employers who are never prosecuted when these deductions are not passed on to Skatteetaten. I have also, on a few occasions been told to “*&^% off” back where I came from by Norwegians who would prefer a Norwegian to be doing my job. It’s shame they don’t go round to the house of Norwegian, too sick to work yet painting their house and ask them why they’ll work for themselves but not for Norway?

  • Wesley

    @ Foreigner working in Norway:
    Here’s someone who dares calling a square a square and a triangle a triangle! People who love to hate on immigrants and keep bashing them night and day, are you raeding this??

  • Bjørn14

    Apparently one Norwegian does not pay his taxes joyfully….Odd Nerdrum to the tune of 14MM NOK. Let’s not forget the 1000s of Norwegian’s who changed nationalities to avoid paying Norwegian taxes.

  • Christy

    Hi Nina,

    I sincerely appreciate your analysis of the frustrating response of the foreign media covering the tragedy in Norway. I have found myself irritated at the rash judgments made about Norway and the after-effects of the terrorist attacks, but I couldn’t put words to it. You were able to do it eloquently. It’s been an eye-opening experience – if we feel that the foreign media is inaccurately portraying Norway, how do other countries feel when they are suddenly thrust into the world’s spotlight?

    Thank you for your excellent coverage of the events. You were the first news source I turned to when I heard about the attacks.

  • Sugar coating

    As a foreigner living in Norway I get tired of articles like this.

    You get this silly notion of Norwegian Exceptionalism thrown around all the time at the end of the day its just rubbish. The security in Oslo was poor, the police were crap and underfunded.

    You won’t hear many Norwegians complaining about it, not because it isn’t true but because they are indoctrinated from an early day on the infallibility of the system in which they live.

    • Sam

      I would have to say that “Suagar coating” is spot on – the Norwegian police are both inept and underfunded. That’s not news. However in light of the NOKAS robbery, the situation shifts from ineptitude to criminal negligence. The country should have learned the hard lesson from NOKAS that they were not prepared at all.

  • Helen (UK)

    This article is excellent, as was your item on the polar bear investigation. I didn’t have the heart to follow the news on the recent massacres, it was too much to contemplate.

    However, in the weekend surrounding the polar bear attack on some of the UK’s teenagers, the Norwegian handling of the incident has been inspiring. In three days they have rescued a traumatized group, provided medical treatment, investigated, communicated their findings with great openness, dealt with grieving relatives, and managed to get over 80 teenagers out of Norway and back home.

    We don’t have efficiency and openness like that in England.

  • AndyinThirsk

    I am an Englishman with a passion for Norway, its people and culture. I have visited the country more times than I can count and have a number of Norwegian friends. It is true that the outside world does not understand the Norwegian mindset and attitudes and there is a good reason for that. Norway is light years ahead of much of the rest of the world and is the place to look if you want to know how mankind can and is improving socially. Indeed all of the Scandinavian cultures shine as examples that the rest of the world should aspire to, especially the British and Americans who arrogantly believe themselves to be the arbiters of right and wrong and the benchmark by which others should be judged. Wrong! Look to the north. Look to Norway for how a mature civilisation deals with its social problems and learn…

    • richard albert

      So you are saying that light years from now the whole world will be out of butter? (Or will they still be able to get some of the wonderful stuff from N. Yorks?

      • AndyinThirsk

        No. I am saying that in the future we will be a more tollerant humane species that deals with the likes of terrorism more effectively and with quiet intelligent dignity, instead of sending our armed forces round the world starting wars. Norway may not be perfect, but they are setting a good example in my view. As for butter … Benecol lowers cholesterol. The Swedes taught us that!

        • Norway bombed the crap out of Libya, they also have soldiers in Afghanistan, Norway is stepping up it’s participation in Nato and other UN sanctioned interventions.

          • AndyinThirsk

            Like I said before, they may not be perfect but they are, certainly in my view, setting a better example. That’s all I have to say.

          • Espen Johnsen

            When you’re saying “bombing the crap out of Libya” it sounds as if Norwegian military interventions was done blindly, tho it wasn’t so and I assume you are a rational being who understand that? So, instead of shouting out blind accusations try to examine what was the targets of Norwegian bombs, who they defended, what is the result and then come up with an updated rational response please.

      • John Palmer

        Skip the butter. It isn’t too good for your health. 🙂

  • Erny72

    AntiTrollDevice, I respectfully suggest the rose tinted glasses come off now old son.
    There is plenty to boast about living in Norway right now and the public reaction to the Utøya massacre has been correct and dignified, but the social generosities you are gushing about are sustainable only as a result of the lucky geological accident which enabled the oil adventure and the tax windfall it generates, not on account of some higher state of humanity of Norwegain society.
    Prior to 1969 Norway was one of (if not the) poorest nations in Europe; where was the generous, enlightened socialism then?
    As Notsofast correctly points out, roads (and I’ll add public transport in general) are poorly planned, shoddily executed and usually inadequate to meet their demand (particularly in view of how much is invested and indeed charged for their use), public health is lethargic and of often dubious quality, and I am am generally hard pressed to see where my substantial tax burden is being gainfully deployed other than in leaving urine stains on a wall somewhere.

    • yes. Prior to 1969 Norway was a fairly rich nation with a well maintained infrastructure. Now Norway is a nation with huge funds, but the prizes here has goine wild, the average Norwegian is in deep dept, we have got a mastodontic burocracy, our infrastructure is totally worn down and our health service is generally downright dangerous for the patients.

    • Dave Smith

      Well said .

    • Espen Johnsen


  • Tipo from bangladesh

    I want come in Norway with is my own profession as a interior designer or interior it possible for me?how can i come in Norway.I have no idea what can i do.I am complete my graduation with in interior architecture is my study subject.Now i am continue my my job and my designation is interior designer.Am i go any agent with in my country.for help me about of job in Norway?i don’t know what can i do but i want to know please let me know something and help me for my better future………..I AM AN MUSLIM.How much will be cost with go to in norway.?

  • jayjay

    Norway is an incredible nation with a beautiful culture. They’ve had some luck with the oil discoveries in the last few decades, but look at how the central bank acts. Their currency is becoming a powerhouse next to the Euro (and for a while, the dollar) so they intentionally work to deflate the value of their currency to maintain trade harmony between themselves and Europe, while pushing away safe haven status. Compare that to the US who has been destroying their currency (the wealth of their people – except of course for the wealthiest) for forty years and only now is seeing a revision to the strength of their currency – why? – because they are COURTING safe haven status.

    Norway’s Central Bank policies lead to a very smooth and continued economy.

    The US Central Bank’s policies are begging for disaster (what happens when the Euro is either dismantled or the ‘crisis’ is solved? Every one leaves the dollar and the economy tanks from rapid inflation).

    This one difference in how two critical institutions handle a similar problem shows the differences that lie at the heart of these cultures. Norwegian culture seeks to maintain balance, the US is always looking for advantage and imbalance.

  • Flossie

    “Norway is light years ahead of much of the rest of the world and is the
    place to look if you want to know how mankind can and is improving
    socially.” Rubbish. Complete and utter tosh. The treatment of people from other backgrounds and nationalities is utterly disgraceful. When I lived in Norway I felt that I’d stepped into a timewarp taking me back fifty or sixty years…………..and not in a good way!

    And the police are utterly corrupt.

    • Sara

      Fully agreed with your comments. Now that i’m living here, i’m completely living this reality. It is definitely a time warp. I’m deemed an an American foreigner and I doubt i’ll make it far in life here. I feel worthless and completely out of place in this far distant land.

  • Norway is far from any good country, and we Norwegians are very much used to tragical happenings of various kind where something criminal is an ingredient. The now famous massacre is not even the worst of these. The abundance of tragedies happening in this country has made the reaction of people somewhat dull.
    Regards Knut Holt

  • Billy

    Gah Norwegians always claim to be misunderstood when criticized. I lived there for 3 years. If Norway was 10% as good or ideal as it claims then it would be 10 times as good as it actually is. Medical care is NOT completely covered. Most of the people are “happy to pay taxes” to help the “needy” because almost all of them ARE the needy. Like any nation the richest top percent pay an insane tax rate (like 60% in Norway I believe) which covers the cost for the rest of the population. Most Norwegians probably think they help pay for all that social welfare but the average Norwegian doesn’t have the understanding of economics or politics to see or know how it actually works. They cover up things like their insane rape rate, something like 90% of all rape cases never got o court because those rape cases are against Norwegian men. So they over prosecute and convict foreigners, ignore cases against Norwegian men and then claim they are a peaceful society burdened by violent foreigners. BULL. Parenting is a joke in Norway. The Norwegian government claims to give all these awesome benefits to parents like daycare, time off etc because they are a culture focused on family. Also complete and utter BULL. Their lack of family values is exactly WHY the government had to bribe the people with such benefits to get them to have children. There are exponentially more Norwegian descendents in the US than in Norway because Norwegians are too selfish to have children. 1 in 5 of all pregnancies in Norway end in abortion. Parents take their gov funded vacation time and then the schools and daycare raise their children for them. The Norwegian government spends all kinds of money trying to advertise some kind of society where children are the focal point, yada yada yada and that is such a ridiculous and utter lie. They claim they have mastered the art of discipline because spanking is illegal there but the rates of substance abuse, date rape, etc are insanely high amongst Norwegian teens. Everything positive they say about this country other than that the fjords are beautiful is such an utter lie. Yes it sounds like I’m being harsh and I probably am but it’s so disgusting to see what a false front is being pushed not only this country but FOR this country by people who have no idea what they are talking about.

  • Espen Johnsen

    You are shouting accusations without argumentation for them, so I assume your speech is empty and rather paints a picture of your self instead.

    • Billy

      That’s a pretty stupid attempt at a rebuttal. How about I sum it up with 2 words, “Jante Loven”. Your country spends more money on making itself look good to the international community than it does trying to solve problems like a lack of police force, the crazy amounts of alcoholism, date rape, etc. Don’t act like it’s not there. You people might be able to lie to the outsiders that don’t know but for those of us married to ex-Norwegians and who have lived there we know exactly what your country is about.

      • Espen Johnsen

        Janteloven only exist if you yourself is a total narcissist. And btw, where is your sources behind all your so called information. If you use yourself as a source it’s pretty much invalid for the rest of us so better not be shouting it out in public because it tells us more about yourself and your own dogma.

  • John Palmer

    I love the culture in Norway!

    • frenk

      They have ‘completely destroyed’ Sunday’s……as a ‘potential’ day of the week. What a waste of life……

  • frenk

    Judging Norwegians on a performance basis is not possible…because of egalitarianism/collectivism…this is the ‘kulture’ here…it is not therefore possible to be critical about the state….because it is impossible to judge the performance of the state. Norwegians are ‘masters’ at manipulating/massaging statistics and figures.

    Where I work, for example, there are lots of women in management/semi-management positions…and no one is too sure exactly what their roles and responsibilities are…..but ‘statistically’ these woman are ‘managers’ and this makes the statistics look amazing! Welcome to Norway…..