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.

‘Annerledesland’
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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  • Rob

    Why must people quote this “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”. Not once in my 5 years in Norway have I ever heard a Norwegian say this, most are actually pretty pissed off at the amount of tax they have to pay and the minuscule amount of benefits they get from it.

    As for Norwegian newspapers not critising the govt most of the papers in this country are left leaning, many of the Norwegians I know are thinking completely the opposite of what you have stated, people are pretty appalled that this event happened so easily, the govt will have to tighten up security, Norwegians will have to stop being so naive, many of my friends recognise this.

    • NorthernVix

      I’ve been here seven years and intend to live out the rest of my life here. I have never once encountered a Norwegian who seriously resented paying taxes. Those that grumbled a bit were genuinely ignorant of how good they had it in comparison to the United States and immediately changed their tune once I explained how very little the average American gets for their tax dollar. I’ve had subsequent conversations with these people and they were, without fail, grateful for the insight.

      I think you might be suffering from a selection bias regarding your friends. Of course they would think similarly to you…they’re your friends.

      Regarding recent events, the general sentiment in my neighborhood (composed of a decent mix of folks) is that while there are definitively some lessons to be learned from this tragedy, the events of last week should not and must not change how Norwegians conduct themselves.

      To borrow an Americanism that has sadly been disregarded by the powers-that-be there: “If we change our principles then the terrorists win.”

      • Richard Enn Johnson

        There are 3 groups of people when it comes to taxes, this is a universal truth, it doesn’t matter if it’s Norway, the USA, or any other country.

        Group 1: Pays high taxes and doesn’t get their money’s worth in return.

        Group 2: The smallest group, gets exactly what they pay for (minus government inefficiency).

        Group 3: Pays little or no taxes, and gets more benefits than what they pay for. Or pays a good amount of taxes and knows how to manipulate the system to get more in return than what they pay for (as many Norwegians do apparently).

        – If you’re in group 3 then I can understand why you’re happy, enjoy it while it lasts. Your free lunch is unsustainable in the long term.

        – If you’re in group 2 why not just keep your tax money, be responsible with it, save it, and pay for your own “benefits”? You would be in exactly the same position as you are now.

        – If you’re in group 1 then I feel your pain, as many hard working expats in Norway do. If you are happy to pay extra to help your fellow citizen, then I commend you for it, but your generosity could be put to better use if you would keep your tax money and engage in philanthropy of your own accord, without government inefficiency and bureaucracy getting in the way.

        You’re right Nina, I just don’t get Norway. But naturally my heart goes out to all Norwegians at this terrible time in their history.

        P.s. There is much to criticize about the late police response, but I’ll leave that for a later date.

        • Trude

          I’m Norwegian, and I can’t even begin to tell you how wrong you are. For the people of Norway, welfare and social security are among the most important things in our society. I don’t know anyone who would trade that with the system in for example the US, where it’s everybody for themselves. We are shocked that people in US have to pay lots of money when they need medical help or medicine, or have to pay a fortune to go to university or college. Here in Norway, everybody pays their taxes as we know how the money is spent.
          And don’t criticize the police, they did the best they could!

          • Richard Enn Johnson

            Trude, you said “I can’t even begin to tell you how wrong you are”, and then you didn’t even try, you just voiced your opinion and then implied that you were speaking for all Norwegians. So please indulge me, how exactly am I wrong? What about my analysis of taxes, government inefficiency, and wealth redistribution do you disagree with? The conservative parties in Norway (those who want lower taxes and less government) are the fastest growing parties, there must be a reason for that. If you and your friends/family love your welfare state, that’s not everybody, that’s not all Norwegians. The US is unfortunately not a bastion of free market economics, so pointing out the problems in the US doesn’t really make your case.

            My criticism of the police service (not the individuals themselves) is below, and I believe it’s warranted.

          • Rob

            I’m not American and don’t like their system but at least in the US when you want to get medical attention it’s done quickly and efficiently unlike Norway where you wait for months or longer. Haven’t you been to the doctors recently, you have to pay unless it’s your children who are sick. And for education the US university system is so far ahead of Norway it’s not funny, in the world rankings for universities there isn’t a single Norwegian university in the top 100, makes you wonder why loads of Norwegians decide to go overseas to the US, UK, Australia, NZ or Germany and pay for a quality education rather than a poor quality free one. As for my high taxes yippee it gets spent on people who are too lazy to work, or given away in foreign aid, what about spending money on the roads, the schools, the trains in Oslo, I really don’t know where my money is going because I can’t see any benefits for me. So please tell me how the money is spent?

          • Trude (Norway)

            http://www.newsinenglish.no/2010/11/08/norway-still-the-best-place-to-live/

            We have a great health system, welfare system and a high standard of education.

            Yes I have been to the doctors lately, but my medical expences are nothing compared to what they would have been if I had lived in the US and didn’t have insurance. I actually have to go to the doctor very often and I always get the treatment I need. I am one of those “lazy persons” who benifits from a great welfare system. You see, I crushed every bone in my body in a car accident. If it hadn’t been for the welfare system I would be homeless living on a bench!
            And I may not be speaking on behalf on all Norwegians, but my guess is 90-95 percent of them. In Norway we believe in helping the weaker or sick people in this country, that’s why we overall gladly pay our taxes. Some taxes are up for debate though, as they may be unfair or unnessecary, but there are no riots over them.
            The education is actually very good, but cannot, of course, be compared to Ivy League schools and such. They do however hold a high standard. Many people I know actually study abroad, like in the US or Australia, because its easier to get into the schools there.
            I totally agree that the police should be funded more, but thats the politicians problem, not the force themselves.
            And the debate about the helicopter is just pointless really. We didnt think we ever needed one, nothing could ever have prepared us for this. We are a peaceful country.

            • Billy

              Man you are so wrong. The only thing fully functioning in the Norwegian education and healthcare system is the socialist propaganda machine manipulating statistics to make it look that way. If Norway spent a fraction of the money on accomplishing that it does faking accomplishment then it might actually make one somewhere. I lived there for 3 years, I have had a child born in both countries. NO, you do not have “excellent” healthcare and I have seen the education system up close and NO, you do not have an “excellent” education system. You have an education system where students cram for 1 finale and learn nothing long term. Norway is a homogenous society an manipulates the system to keep the average high on paper and ONLY on paper.

              • frenk

                I heard an interesting statement yesterday, “Norwegians are masters at creating monopolies…and controlling choice”……

                • Dave Smith

                  Two words ….. Jante Løven

          • NotSoFast

            Trude:
            Hang on a minute. I actually really resent many of the taxes that I pay. Didn’t get any schooling paid for and had to pay for my Norwegian courses myself even though it was supposed to be free. Why? Because as a person who worked during the day full time (paying taxes), had to go at night and then had to pay. So, you see, paid twice. For myself and with my taxes for others. Did not recieve any education here, so the notion that I did get education for my taxes is not true.

            Medical? I paid much less in my country because it was through work which only requires a small co-pay. Now, maybe if I am very, very sick one day will be allowed to be put on a three year waitlist. For now, nada…

            Police? Naw, very little support there. Well, a neighbor did call them once when there were drug addicts trying to hide their drugs in our yard, but the reason there were drugs in the first place is because the city leaders decided to allow a drug/prostitution house open across the street in our city. Gee, there approach was…let’s wait and see how things go. There was no hazardous chemical handling for inevitable syringes, no sigh-in and out sheets, no actual rehab, no other controls. After about a dozen overdoses with one death, finally closed it.

            Even have to pay GYNORMOUS customs fees, fees for fees, fees for forms and other taxes on Christmas/birthday presents from my family outside of Norway. Do you have to pay for your Christmas presents from family??????

            So, you see, I pay a hell of a lot and get very little to nothing back in my opinion. NO child, so nothing there. If you are a single or a person without kids and especially a person who moved to Norway for family reunification only (after growing up somewhere else), you get very little for your high taxes.

            • Billy

              Norway is a very corrupt country with every bit as much crime as other countries. Norway is just very clever at sweeping it under the rug and using misdirection to cover it up.

              • Espen Johnsen

                References?

          • Dave Smith

            Ouch ! Dont criticize the holier than holy Police . They did the best they can ! Tell that to the victims families .
            Another example of sub standard public services screwing up and not getting a huge kick up the arse followed by a visit to NAV . ( Where they will recieve full pay for many months )
            Serious lack of consequences for actions in this bubble society.
            Trude, wakey,wakey .

        • Sunniva (Norway)

          Surrounded by enemies,
          go into your time!
          Within a bloody storm –
          devote yourself to fight!

          Maybe you ask in fear,
          uncovered, open:
          with what shall I fight
          what is my weapon?

          Here is your defense against violence
          here is your sword:
          the belief in our life,
          the worth of mankind

          War is contempt for life.
          Peace is to create.
          Throw your strength into it:
          Death shall lose!

          English literal translation
          By Morten Årstad (2011)

          Surrounded by enemies,
          go into your time!
          Within a bloody storm –
          devote yourself to fight!

          Maybe you ask in fear,
          uncovered, open:
          with what shall I fight
          what is my weapon?

          Here is your defense against violence
          here is your sword:
          the belief in our life,
          the worth of mankind.

          For all our future’s sake,
          seek it and cultivate it,
          die if you must – but:
          increase it and strengthen it!

          Silently rolls the grenades’
          conveyor belts
          Stop their drift towards death
          Stop them with spirit!

          War is contempt for life.
          Peace is to create.
          Throw your strength into it:
          Death shall lose!

          Love and enrich with dreams
          all that was great!
          Go towards the unknown
          wring answers out of it.

          Unbuilt powerplants,
          unknown stars.
          Create them, with spared lives’
          bold minds!

          Noble is mankind,
          the earth is rich!
          If there is need and hunger
          it is by deceit.

          Crush it! In the name of life
          injustice shall fall.
          Sunshine and bread and mind
          belongs to all.

          Then the weapons sink
          powerless to the ground!
          By creating human worth
          we create peace.
          – Nordahl Grieg.

          We believe in the best in everyone, we might have been naive but not anymore. Americans and Brits needs to realize that war creates new wars… Like FDR said; “if there is anyone who doubts the democratic will to win, again I say, let him look to Norway.”

          • Rob

            So Norways not at war are they, Norway has been one of the leading nations in the bombing of Libya, some 15% of the bombs dropped have been dropped by Norwegian F16’s. Norway has also been in Afghanistan since the begining, my brother in law has done 3 tours to date.

        • Trude (Norway)

          Of course you have to pay income-tax on your income. And of course you have to pay to go to private school, where in the world would you not? All afternoon-schools i know are private schools or semi-private. Im talking about regular schools which you attend during the day. They are free, and you get a pretty good scholarship as well.
          And yes, i pay for christmas presents as well from family outside of Norway, thats just the way it is.
          Yor might not feel like you’re getting much back now, but who knows? What if you have children? What if you get injured and have to change career? Ever thought of that?

          • Rob

            What about private day school where you can get a decent qualification like the International Baccalaureate, which will get you into any university in the world, not the rubbish piece of paper the Norwegian state provides.

            What I want is to be given the choice, either private or public education and health, unfortunately anything that isn’t state supported in Norway is scene as elitist. I would love to opt out of the public health and educational systems, so far all my experiences have been shocking, especially the complete balls up which happened when my daughter was born 2 weeks ago, it was not a pleasant experience and not what is expected in a first world country, let alone wealthy Norway.

            I think people should be given the opportunity to opt out of the public systems. This would free up space for those that want to use them, those that don’t would be catered for by private firms. Systems like this work very well in Australia, NZ, UK.

            • Trude

              The “rubbish” piece of paper would get you into most schools in the world!:-)

            • NotSoFast

              Rob,
              Though I don’t necessarily completely agree with your entire premise about opting out even though ungrateful types make me sometimes feel the same way, you certainly have my sympathy. Certainly, have never seen a society so completely obsessed with money. Considering they have so much (a huge chunk of it generated from ca. less than 1% of the population, those in the oil sector)you would think they could put it in perspective, but no.

              People like Trude think that it is perfectly fine for you to pay with your blood, sweat and tears for her benefit, God forbid she would do it for herself. In fact, you probably should just post your bank account number on here so that folks like her who decide what is and is not important can just go in and pluck out however much money they need. It doesn’t matter if your child gets dumbed down to the lowest level, your child better not show any signs of being smarter or brighter than the next one, one who may just want to barely get by on others’ charity all the time.

              • Trude

                Now you are just being cruel! You know nothing about me or my life!

                • NotSoFast

                  Trude,
                  You said working at day job people are to pay for school because they go at night, pay twice for you and them. You said people who want to get their medical taken care of in a private setting, and there may be excellent reasons for it, heck your own (x)elected officials go to other countries for medical care, so why can’t people do this in Norway? No, have to go to a private doctor, have to pay twice. You seem to say people only have the choice you want them to have as all other comments not in line with your way of thinking are ‘critism’.

                • Richard Johnson

                  Trude, I am genuinely sorry to read that you were in such a horrific accident, but I am happy to see that you are well enough to sit in front of a computer and type your comments. I must ask you, do you think it is right for the government to reach into my pocket and force me to help you? Wouldn’t you rather have people help you voluntarily, without an inefficient middle man that doesn’t give us a choice? Wouldn’t you rather help yourself? Do you think that maybe if you weren’t so comfortable living off the taxpayers, you might be able to find a way to support yourself?

                  You have a computer and access to the internet, so you can work from home in any number of professions. There are tonnes of free resources online for people who want to learn software development, just for one example, and you could easily work from home doing that, so why don’t you? Weren’t you the one who called yourself lazy? So why should we be forced to support you when we could do much more good worldwide supporting much more people, using the money that we are forced to give to you? I think if you weren’t getting a free lunch from the Norwegian taxpayers you could use your ingenuity to make ends meet. Not to mention that without the government health monopoly private health insurance would be much more affordable, so that would be there as a safety net for the truely debilitating conditions (only for responsible people who buy insurance of course).

                  This is not being cruel, this is just being fair. There are almost 7 billion people in the world, and more than 20,000 children die every day from preventable causes such as malnutrition, I’m sorry but I think they need our help more than you do. In any case, I should be allowed to make that choice for myself, but I am not free to do so. If only 5-10% of people think like me (as you suggest) then just let us opt-out of the government healthcare system, give us a discount on our taxes, and we’ll take care of ourselves. If you really are right about 90-95% of Norwegians loving the welfare state, then there will be no threat to it, very few people will opt-out and stop paying for it. But I think you know that’s not going to happen.

                  • nilsmartin

                    I know this is a very late answer but after reading all of the comments I just had to share my views – An american starting to lecture norwegians about dying children and other global issues is quite disgusting. This is exactly the difference between Norway and USA and the reason that we can never agree – we are a social democracy while in the US there is capitalism, as we all know, but my point is that while in the US a tiny percentage of the population owns almost all the money in Norway the money are more or less equally distributed between everyone. Of course we have some very rich and some very poor people, but the differences aren’t nearly as huge as in the US. Now you’re gonna lecture me about how the Norwegians always speak about money, please don’t, because the bottom line is that it is all about the money – especially in the US. Norway has the highest employment of the two countries, no big financial issues and people are dying in the hospital QUEUES!

                    SO we got to do something right – with a government “controlling” everything we have come out of the global economic crisis the best way possible. People in Norway live longer, they are employed and they are generally happy about their life on a day to day basis. But as I said we die in the hospital queues, that is awful, but at least everyone can get in the queue because we see everyone as an equal and we don’t check their bank account before we tell them if they are worthy or not of medical treatment.

                    Everything said about the government having their hands into our wallets and spending them on everyone else, well that is true, all Norwegians knows it and we are very proud of it. But do not tell us that we are naive and ignorant – I would rather say that Americans are ignorant. No other country, except maybe France, complain more than we do. “We don’t get what we pay for”, “People are dying in hospital queues” etc. We complain about verything, but then again the government and parliament actually listen to us and try to answer are queries. In america you complain, but the government can’t do anything because they don’t have enough power.

                    Norway is far from perfect, but that also counts for the US. And for the record as a student in Scotland, yes I am studying abroad, but not because of the, apparently, bad universities in Norway. It is because the government gives me grants and loans so that I am able to pay my tuition fees and living costs in total – for you see they know that there are not enough room for all the people that want to study in Norway to do so.

                    And just to end this, it got so much bigger than I thought but I don’t like it when people say stuff that isn’t true. Australia and the UK, you said their system is better, so why on earth are they looking towards Norway when they are trying to solve their big socail problems…

              • Billy

                Ugh. I could go on and on about the Norwegian education system. Other than sheep farmers getting grandfathered into the system as teachers there is definitely the heavy Janteloven influence in the education system. Everyone is forced to be unexceptional.

                • frenk

                  Its a simple ‘lack of ambition’ – why learn more if you can’t ‘earn more’….?

                • Dave Smith

                  Twelve years of banging my head at parent teacher meetings , thats my experience of the Norsk education system. Standards are ridiculously low, no incentive to succeed , no consequences for underperforming . Dont ask the kids a question they might not know !
                  And still they belive their ways , standards are ” beste i verden ” , its a joke .

          • NotSoFast

            Trude,
            It is kind of hard to follow your response put way down here, but anyway..
            So, you are saying is that of course (your words) you should get everything you deem important and I should get nothing because I work? What ‘private’ school are you talking about? This is to learn NORWEGIAN as a function of having to HAVE TO LEARN NORWEGIAN. I am here for family reunification. Are you saying that I, like you of course, should stop working and contributing because my job happens to be a day job (which I got completely by myself) in order for me to educate myself?

            Let’s hope I don’t ever need medical assistance from here of a serious kind because unless you are having a baby, the wait is so long that one has to pay for a private clinic/doctor, just like every other place. Oh, with the exception that you don’t have the high taxes that go for so-called medical benes thus paying, again, on both ends. Ever thought of that?

          • Dave Smith

            ” Thats just the way it is ”
            Sann er det bare ….
            Always makes me giggle , this one . I hear it so often, it has become laughable.
            The lack of guts , spark, balls , whatever you want to call it , that Norwegians have to accept what is dished up on their daily plate and retort with that pathetic reply is a reflection on the blinkered , sheep like society this is .

        • Billy

          Someone who gets it. The middle class Norwegian likes to fantasize that they are paying for other people to eat and see the doctor lol. Nothing could be further from the truth, it’s the upper richest percent that really pays for everything.

    • baloo

      I pay my taxes with joy! Now you have read it at least.

    • JackG

      It must be the people you associate with, because everyone I know in Norway does NOT resent paying taxes. And as an American that spends much time here, it is clear that the U.S. (and other countries) have much to learn from Norway. They also do not complain about their 2.5% unemployment rate and relatively high incomes. We Americans have bought a false ideology that low taxes and small government is better. Norway proves this is not necessary true. It matters what the taxes are for and what the government does.

      • Rob

        I don’t advocate the US system, it’s as broken as the Norwegian system is, smart people in the US realise this, however most Norwegians haven’t realised it yet that there system isn’t sustainable in the long run. What would be good is a system which sits in between like what is found in Australia or NZ.

        You also have to remember that the Norwegian system is built upon the wealth generated by the Oil & Gas industry, once this goes into terminal decline in about 10-15 years time what then, do you really think the current level of state expenditure will continue? What industries are going to take over from O&G? Norwegians are too expensive to employ in manufacturing and service industries, tourism isn’t what is should be either, people can’t afford to visit, I worried about my children’s future in Norway, lucky for them they are dual nationals and can easily leave.

        • Trude

          I just have to say, after reading all your posts here, if u hate it so much here in the best country in the world(according to the UN, like 8 years running, why dont you just move? You are clearly not happy and i feel sorry for you

          • NotSoFast

            Trude,
            One good think about the American system is that (well for the most part), people are free to criticize it. Why don’t you develop a thicker skin and see if you cannot actually develop your arguments for your beliefs. We are discussing this in a forum that makes us all have to think a little. People are here for all kinds of reasons, and there is plent that is great about Norway. I just get worked up when I always here the word ‘penger’ first all the time and people want to just pay off for things. Get out there and do stuff. I volunteer my time at a retirement home and try to help out. Just wanting more money and cutting people down for wanting the finer things in life… it just gets old.

            Norwegians should know this better than anyone. You guys have a king and queen for crying out loud. How much more of an example of pursuit of the finer things does a country need?

            • Trude

              I get worked up as well when people complain about such little things. I mean, if your biggest concern is that you do not get “back” all you pay in taxes, then you really have a pretty good life. I dont recommend “getting” ill or injured to anyone. But if you do one day (you never know) then we got a pretty good welfare-system that at least ensures that you still have food on the table and a roof over your head.

              But stay healthy and be happy, and dont whine about your petty little things:-)

              • Dave Smith

                Choice , freedom to criticize, (without being called “special” ), and to live in a society where mediocrity is accepted as the norm ….. are these petty issues ???

          • Dave Smith

            A typical Norsk reply….. instead of getting your heads out of the sand , patting yourselves on the back and telling yourselves how good we have it here ….
            Sounds familiar ?

  • Sam

    The British and American media illustrate perfectly your analysis. The Brits and the Americans were quick to bash immigration and multiculturalism in general and islam and muslims in particular. Asylum seekers make up the largest portion of immigrants, they fled their countries thanks to the invasive US and British military actions namely in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia to suck up oil and other natural resources from their soil and not to restore peace as they claim.

    • Matt

      Hi Sam
      Please show from where you have proof that the Brits and US are in Afghanistan and Somalia solely sucking up oil and natural resources? I think you’ll find the Chinese are doing a pretty good job of building a massive mine in Afghanistan while blowing up and bulldozing priceless archaeological sites.
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/14/chinese-copper-mine-afghanistan-mes-aynak-_n_783315.html
      Or are you too quick to use any excuse to attack the US and Britain to score cheap points?

      • Sarah

        You’re deflecting, which is a typical response. The Chinese and their exploits have absolutely nothing to do with why the US may or may not be in Afghanistan and Somalia.

        Or are you too quick to use any excuse to deflect any criticism of the US?

        • Matt

          Ha no, not deflecting any more than Sam is. It’s just so typically lazy to use any excuse to attack the US (remember the current US President was given the Nobel Peace Prize by Norway) and Britian. And Neil has it spot on. All British Media are not the same, but for same that may be too much hard work to figure out!

    • Neil

      The BBC (BBC World at least) was very careful to point out that they didn’t know who was responsible when the attacks took place.

      You must be thinking of “The Sun” newspaper when you refer to the British Media.

  • Mal

    What Norway has undergone on the 22nd of July was horrific and I sympathize wholeheartedly with the families who have lost their loved ones. And it was also admirable to see the citizens of the country band together, to share the grief and start the healing porcess.
    But there is one question that has been in the back of my head. Would the reaction or the response to this crime be the same if it was carried out by a non-Norwegian?

    • Sarah

      We’ve already seen the eraction/response when people “thought” the terrorist was a non-Norwegian (or was an Islamic extremist).

  • Matt

    It’s understandable foreigners ‘don’t get’ Norway, when despite the massive taxes they pay and the massive windfalls from the oil. Their police/special forces didn’t have a helicopter in their capital city to use? If I was a taxpayer I would be livid.

    All countries have pros and cons but perhaps the laid back approach to security shouldn’t have needed a freak incident like this to show the shortcomings?

    • Norwegian

      Well, there generally is no need for a helicopter like that. They have a helicopter for surveillance, but not for transporting officers. Having one for transporting officers might be nice, but the need for it would be minuscule.

      • Rebecca

        Dear Norwegian. I absolutely sympathize with you and the rest of Norway as a result of this unspeakable tragedy and crime. But it is still a fact that if a suitable helicopter had been available a lot of Norwegian families would still have their children to hug and love who now don’t. The media can afford a helicopter for their journalists, so why can’t the police budget for similarly adequate transportation? Many children’s lives are worth the “miniscule” need as compared to funerals and grief. This isn’t just true in Britain, South America and the US. It’s the way it is in the 21st Century everywhere.
        Again, I am so sorry for your loss and sadness.

        • NorthernVix

          Media helicopters are, to put it bluntly, little more than fiberglass shell with rotors. They are cheap to buy and cheap to maintain. The pilots need basic flight training and that’s it. You can load up and go in five minutes, especially because there is room for only one or two people in them. The fuel tanks are tiny and fill up pretty fast. They’re small and you can keep them in small hangars.

          The sort of helicopters required for armed assaults are hardened military machines. They are stupendously expensive to buy and the amount of maintenance required per flight hour is not something that civilians tend to take into account.

          The pilots need specialized training to protect the helicopter from ground fire (they’re not bulletproof) and to protect the occupants during rapid unloading. This training isn’t cheap and it takes a special sort of pilot to become proficient.

          It takes time for an assault team to gear up. It takes time to fill the large fuel tanks and it takes time to get the helicopter warmed up. Not many places have the equipment and infrastructure to maintain a helicopter of the type needed for assaults, so it takes time to get from home base to where it is needed.

          Maybe it’s just me, but it seems completely stupid to spend millions and millions of kroner on the materiel, infrastructure, training, and maintenance of something that you might need once in fifty years.

          So in short…people need to knock it off with the armchair quarterbacking on things they haven’t devoted more than thirty seconds of thought to.

          • Richard Enn Johnson

            We’re not talking about an assault on the Taliban in the middle of Afghanistan, something we seem to be able to afford quite well. Neither are we talking about hovering above a flotilla ship so soldiers can descend down some ropes. We’re talking about getting at least 2 or 3 armed personnel (for starters) from point A to point B, I’m pretty sure any pilot capable of taking off and landing should be able to handle that. I may be an “armchair quarterback” but I see medivac helicopters flying over all the time, helping out hikers in the middle of nowhere in Norway, so the idea that we can’t get people from Oslo to Utøya in under an hour is astonishing to me.

            The police have apparently been complaining for a long time about not having a transport helicopter, among other lacking resources. I think people are rightly appalled to see that in the richest country in the world (with such high tax rates) we couldn’t get a couple of armed personnel to help out some children who were clearly in a life-threatening and agonizingly desperate situation. Yes, we didn’t know how big the threat was on the island, and the emergency services were already stressed, but they should have expected that the worst could still be yet to come, and planned accordingly. Anything can happen anywhere in the world, those who say “we never expected this in Norway” are too naive to be tasked with protecting our children. To be clear, I applaud the heroes that took Brevik down, but I question the bureaucracy, red tape, and lack of foresight of those in power.

            Let’s just agree to recognize the mistakes that were made, and to learn from this terrible experience. Thank you for your insight NorthernVix, I respect your opinion even if I don’t entirely agree with it.

          • John

            Just a quick question Richard. If you can afford it, how come US have such a big debt?

          • 8 months in Norway

            Not sure where this reply will end up… so whoever felt that spending millions of kr on a suitable helicopter, training, and personnel was not worth it – would you be saying the same thing if your child was murdered at Utoya? I doubt it.

            After spending the last 8 months in Oslo, I could see how Norwegians value family, time off to spend together, share national pride as displayed on May 17th, etc, etc. A year off with full pay for having a child with 3 months minimum for the father is another example of of how the government supports the family priorities. However, I fail to agree that it is ok to continue to justify a lax attitude toward security and the naive assumption criminals can all be rehabilitated – this is the 21st century and Norway should be more prepared for attack from both internal and external sources. As for rehab, Breivik has already talked about his next attack after release. Failure to have laws on the books to deal with these extreme cases is short sighted and an example of Norwegian arrogance. If the people and family ares of such importance, then surely there should be laws in place to protect those values against the eventual outliers.

            As for the cost of a proper helicopter, personnel, training, maintenance, etc – I find that argument also in contradiction of Norwegian values – if just one life at Utoya was saved, would it have been a waste? As for usage, I am sure it could also be used for search and rescue missions.

            Norwegians can fool themselves that this was a one time event and all has returned to normal for ever and ever like some fantasy or they can accept they are just as vulnerable to extremists from inside and outside and need to make some changes.

          • NorthernVix

            @8 Months:

            I love how you have all these concrete ideas about how Norway should conduct its business after having been in Oslo eight months and then start accusing the natives of being arrogant.

            If Norway had the naive assumption that ALL criminals can be rehabbed, then there would be no such provision as ‘forvaring’, which is an involuntary and indefinite protective custody tacked on to the end of the usual 21 (or now possibly 30) year jail sentence.

            Protective custody? Yes. Protective custody that is protective of society, not of the prisoner. Forvaring can last for life, if deemed justified by the court, and cannot be appealed.

            So yes, there ARE laws on the books to deal with these cases. Norway just uses them sparingly and on an as-needed basis.

            And as the person who made the assertion about not spending millions of kroner on helicopters, personnel, etc…yes, I would have the same opinion if my child was on Utøya or my spouse was in the gov’t plaza. Don’t pretend that you know me.

            When you look at how often this sort of thing has happened in Norway, it’s suddenly far and away more likely that a person would get hit by lightning than to die in a tragedy like this one. However, you will never see me advocating that a lightning defense shield be constructed.

            The goal of people like ABB is to reshape society into their image: paranoid, hateful, suspicious of motives. However, it is impossible for them to achieve this goal if we rise above the provocation and do not lover ourselves to his level.

        • Rob

          The police in my town are so broke they have to sell there police boat to be able to fund a new police car, funny I always thought Norway was a wealthy country. So when the goivt can’t even pay for a car you have to be having a laugh expecting them to pay for a helicopter.

          Norwegians don’t get value for money for their taxes, they still have to pay to visit the doctor, the roads and public transport systems are broken and in terrible repair and the quality of education is low.

          • Kim

            “We’re not talking about an assault on the Taliban in the middle of Afghanistan, something we seem to be able to afford quite well.”
            Can you? I’t doesn’t seem so from this part of the world. I’f I was paying taxes in usa, I would also expect some better service in return, not tanks, helicopters, warships, bombers, and a hell of alot of kids in another country, to find WMD, or to save them or whatever. Making alot of enemies as well.

            About the helicopter thing, and the police not arriving until quite late, we are all awaiting answers.

            The prices for visiting a doktor here is very low, and you dont have to pay insurrance. The math kind of works out quite well. Ofcourse alot is lost on red tape, but I dont mind it so much when I think about the alternative. What would I do if I was sick, or even dying, and the money I needed was in your pocket? Would you give it to me, or keep it your bank, or in your hummer, or in your bigger is better lifestyle?

          • NotSoFast

            Err Kim, there are plenty of wealthy people in Norway owning big cars. Many people who know how to work the system collect a lot of money whilst sitting on collective asses.

            You must be the pillar of your community, volunteering and taking care of everyone, huh? Otherwise, you should be leading by example instead of telling everyone else what they can do. A hand living in another’s pockets does not have the hands owners or society’s well being in mind. Not in any way, shape or form. Actually, that attitude about what can you do for me is selfish and very arrogant.

        • NorthernVix

          @Richard Enn Johnson: it seems that nested replies are only permitted to a certain point. Hopefully, this lands in the right spot.

          For starters, I believe the minimum number of team members required for a Delta Force raid is between five and six, not your estimate of two or three.

          Second, medievac choppers buzzing around picking up lost hikers are not having to fly tactical and are not potentially being shot at. It is a VERY different skill set from that required of pilots flying to the site of a raid.

          It is also for this reason that none of the search and rescue Sea Kings at Rygge Flystasjon could be pressed into service. The pilots are not trained for landing raid teams and the helicopters are not meant to be shot at.

          The helicopter from Rygge that the police apparently covet so badly is a Bell 412. My husband at one point held a maintenance certification for them and the cost of keeping them running is not something easily slotted into a police budget.

          Helicopters MUST be flown quite regularly or they tend to break down. The cost of flying a Bell 412 runs at somewhere between $1500 and $3000 per flight hour in the US (fuel and oil only) and is probably a lot more in Norway. And, the more you fly them the sooner they need scheduled maintenance.

          That is why the police ‘rent’ them from the air force. There is no way it would be cost effective to have their own chopper. You can’t just stuff the things into a closet and take them out when you need them.

          • Rob

            But Norway is a very wealthy country, at least that’s what the politicians always tell us, so the police operating a Bell 412 shouldn’t be seen as an unnecessary luxury.

            The search and rescue helicopters operated by search and rescue are Sea Kings which are a naval helicopter and I believe are better protected than the 412, the pilots are Airforce, some have probably been in Afghanistan…….

          • NorthernVix

            @Robe: Let’s just say I have a personal understanding of how things are at Rygge AFB and leave it at that. People stationed there could take a sharpened guess as to who I am based solely on my nationality.

            You’ll just have take my word that I might have some insight on these things.

      • Neil

        I’m sure they’d find a way to ensure it was used frequently and efficiently if they had one.

        • Rips (Norway)

          Norway is a large, stretched-out country. It’s 2600 kilometers from Nordkapp in the Arctic north to Lindesnes in the south – like the distance from Oslo to South Egypt, or quite a bit longer than the distance from New York to Washington. From North Sea in south to the Arctic Ocean in north. Svalbard/Longyearbyen is only 1200 kilometers from the North Pole.
          That’s Norway with nearly 5 million people. I think Norway is a difficult country for helicopters. A helicopter in Oslo has limited range. We have police in all municipalities across the country. The police have a good relationship with the population of the municipalities and will be there quickly, if a crisis occurs.
          I love my country and support my prime minister when he says we will return violence with more openness, and terror with more democracy.

          • Matt

            But the majority of people in Norway live within an hours helicopter flight of Oslo. Surely it is not too much to ask for one helicopter to have at least one pilot on standby 52 weeks of the year?

      • Bjørn14

        Please tell that to the 77 who died on Utøya.

    • Hans M

      What Norwegian have already said – up until Friday there wasn’t a need for one. Taxpayers would be livid having to pay for an asset that frankly haven’t been needed up until now.

      The Delta Troop (what people in the US would call a SWAT Team) have an agreement with the RNoAF to use military helicopters on an as-needed basis. However when the information about the shootings came in, the helicopters were at Rygge and it would have taken LONGER to get them airborne, fly to Oslo, pick up the police and then go to the island than it took them to use cars. Funny how that works – we might be a small country but we got some distance to cover even so.

  • Thib

    Thank you for this article. I live in the United States having moved there from Africa. I can tell you that unfortunately one thing that Americans in general (this includes not just the people but the media and corporate organisations of America) are generally believing that their way of doing things is not only the normal way but the best way to do things. Thus, you have people like American reporters going to Norway and finding it incredible that Norway works like that.

    Here’s one thing that all of those Americans criticising Norway should actually think deeply about: given that this is the first terrorist attack or the first devastating situation in such a long time in Norway’s existence in modern times, Americans should not actually be criticising Norway and rather be marvelled that such a country has been run in such a different manner for so long and nothing much happened. Just because one incident (admittedly a horrible incident) occurs does not mean suddenly everything needs to be changed.

    I live in America but there is much about the American mentality that I really hate, the number one being how much American mentality chooses to assume that its way is the best and only way.
    I am glad that the Prime Minister said that the extremist views that Breivik had is perfectly fine but that the way he acted was not. You know, in America they are going to say it’s not even okay to have those views just to have them. Look at Pamela Geller and her “anti-Muslim” group of associates and the kinds of things they perpetuate in small-minded America.
    There are things I like about America but there is a lot I also despise of it.

    • Karolv (Canada)

      Well said.

    • C Solheim

      @Thib

      You are correct. Most Americans do not travel abroad and do not have any idea that there may be other ways to do things.

      Also, unfortunately, Americans have short memories. If you were to look back at the 9-11 attacks, there were lots of things that didn’t work well in the response to those attacks, including police and fire responders not being able to talk to one another. I am not sure that any nation can completely prepare for this kind of attack. I am sure that changes will be made in Norway in response to what happened.

      Another thing that most reporters did not consider in their reporting is that topography in Norway is also a challenge and their are simply parts of Norway where it would be impossible for them to build the kind of roads that would have made it easier to get to Utøya faster. I am sure that ABB took all of this into account when planning his attacks.

  • Ann Odegaard

    Yes, watching US media coverage was at times funny, infuriating, and sometimes downright perplexing. I have answered quite a few questions about Norway over the past few days, but having only been there twice for a total of about 3 weeks, I am most certainly not an expert. What I saw was a lot of what was said in the article-citizens that might grumble about taxes, but were grateful when they realized how much better things were there than in the States. There are no worries about how to finance their children’s college education, or how much it will cost for an expensive medical procedure. The recent tragic events in Norway will change things somewhat, but Norwegians will survive, perservere and thrive. Never forget the precious children who died, but to honor their memories, I see Norwegians moving forward.

    • Rob

      The big difference between a user pays health system and a public health system like Norway has is waiting lists, if something goes wrong and you require surgery in a private system you can get it done immediately, in a public funded system you have to wait, sometimes for months.

      I’d prefer to see a system where people have the choice, they can be part of the public system or they can heve private heath insurance and medical care, ditto for education.

      There are no universities in Norway which would even make the top 50 list in the US.

      • Karolv

        @Rob- RE: University Seriously? Upon what do you make that judgement? And, for your information, “if something goes wrong” and it’s an emergency, there is no waitlist. Same in Canada. Elective procedures, yes.

      • John

        You can get private healthcare and private schooling in Norway if you like

      • paz (Spain)

        Rob, you have made your point about the inadequacies of Norwegian public health system more than enough. You say you prefer a system where people can choose, and that’s nothing but a capitalist way of seeing things. Health and education cannot be consumer goods.

        We have to agree that Norway is a country to look at as an example of doing good and fair things for their people, not for some of them. That´s why Norwegians are commited as citizens and pay their taxes, maybe not with joy, but knowing that is necessary that everyone is contributing to keep their society as equal as it is.

  • And this is precisely why I feel so out of place here in America, my own country. I need to find a way to get to Norway.

    • Miss Pippi

      Come to Norway 🙂 We are in need of people who want to work! The salaries are good, but everything is expensive here.

      • Rob

        The salaries are only good if you’re an unqualified person, anyone with a profession i.e. engineer, doctor, lawyer is much better off living somewhere else.

        • Hans M

          Funny then how my primary doctor (fastlege) is an immigrant, and one of my in-laws is looking for engineering work in Norway…

          Yes, I’m sure you can earn a higher paycheck working in the US. However, once you deduct taxes (yes, they do pay them abroad as well, and not that much less than in Norway), health insurance (God forbid you have a pre-existing condition), putting aside something for retirement and all the other things we cover through taxes here in Norway… guess what? You won’t have that much more left over at the end of the month.

          Our social security network costs money to run, and is funded by the taxpayers as well as the oil. For some people the knowledge that it is there makes it worth living in Norway. For some people it don’t – in which case, they are free to move somewhere where the social politics suits them better.

          Win-win really; they won’t have to complain, the rest of us won’t have to listen to them.

          • Richard Enn Johnson

            It’s funny how people think their immediate circle of friends/family/doctors etc. are representative of the entire country and all its people.

            Again you’re pointing fingers at failures of US policy as if someone implied that their solution was the perfect solution. That’s what we call a straw man argument. If you insist on discussing the USA, then I can tell you that the most highly qualified engineers prefer to immigrate there. It is much harder to immigrate to the USA than it is to Norway, which says a lot about which is the more desirable option. Highly qualified people are better off in the USA, whereas the average unskilled worker is better off in Norway, that doesn’t bode well for the future of this country.

            Your “if you don’t like it then leave” argument is typical, and a huge departure from “more openness and democracy”. If you don’t like listening to opposing points of view then don’t read the comments section, and don’t live in a democratic society.

            Some of us see a lot of potential in Norway, and we also foresee the eventual pitfalls of wealth redistribution. As others have mentioned, Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe before the economic activity spurred by North Sea oil. With your aging population, and heavy tax burdens deterring qualified migrants, your current welfare state is unsustainable in the long term.

          • NorthernVix

            @Richard Enn Johnson

            I don’t see how you get Hans M.’s opinion that one should move to suit one’s social politics to somehow be the antithesis of the concept of “more openness and democracy”. Honestly, that didn’t make much sense. Please rephrase.

            I can’t say I disagree with his opinion either. Hearing people bitterly complaining about the way things are done in Norway when they VOLUNTARILY moved here is pretty ridiculous.

            The only thing more ridiculous is hearing people bitterly complain about the way things are done in Norway when they don’t even freaking live here in the first place. 😉

          • NotSoFast

            Good luck collecting that pension if you decide to go home.

  • Don

    I’m an American. I have never been to Norway, though I have always wanted to because it is the home of my paternal ancestors. Americans are quick to criticize and judge other nations, even though my country is literally disintegrating before my eyes, so I urge Norway to continue being as you are. I admire your spirit of independence and nationalism. Don’t change a thing.

  • Mar

    I totally echo what Don has just posted, although I have been to Norway a couple of times, and absolutelly love it. They are baffled by Americans viewpoint on many things, which I find understandable. I would love to live in Norway.

  • Debby

    Thank you so much for this story! I returned from my first visit to Norway the day after the tragedies. I did a lot of reading about Norway before my visit and came to love Norway so much. I felt so much sadness over the loss and suffering in Norway. I have been really appalled by the US coverage and even more appalled by a BBC interviewer’s apparent antagonism during a really hostile interview with Jens Stoltenberg. Usually I turn to the BBC when the US media fails, but not in this case.

    When I arrived at Gardermoen, I was asking the bus driver who brought us to our hotel about how Norwegians feel about Americans. He drove us past the heavily fortified US Embassy in Oslo, and told us that after 9/11 there was a mountain of flowers there. I found that very moving.

    I have been looking at media coverage of US response to the Norwegian tragedy and aside from Obama’s phone call, his signing of a guest book at the Norwegian embassy, and the ringing of the Bell of Hope in NYC, I don’t see anything but criticism. Every day I have turned to news coverage on this site and subtitled speeches on YouTube by Stoltenberg to give me hope about a country that offers love, support, and a positive, open response to insanity and terrorism – something that I have never seen in the US.

    • Tim

      There has not been a lot of criticism of Norway at all here in the media. And people here are horrified by what has happened, and deeply sympathetic towards the grief and the loss Norwegians have suffered. It was a terrible thing to happen – mostly young people at a summer camp! I am truly sorry. Norway looks like a very beautiful place and the Norwegians I have known are very good company.

      Please try to avoid unnecessary and unpleasant insults directed at Americans. That is not what this thread is about.

  • John Palmer

    My advice to Norwegians is to continue to make improvements, of course, but to remain fundamentally unchanged. As for criticism from ignorant foreign reporters, “Talk is cheap.” Ignore it. I am glad you do not adopt the US attitude of revenge.

  • Sarah

    I am echoing the last six posters. I am an American, of way-back Nordic ancestry. I abhore some of things going on in this country. I have visited Norway and was absolutely bowled over by just about everything. Stand firm, Norway; keep fighting with even more democracy, and don’t let this change you in any essential way. To paraphrase your awesome prime minister, you may have been naive, but you’re not going to become frightened.

  • Leonor Siragusa

    Norway protect yourself because most part of the world live in stupidity. Norway and Sweden are among the few exceptions

  • Kaja

    I’m quite happy to pay taxes. I feel safe. There will always complaining people that are never fully happy with our solutions.
    Best regards, Norwegian blonde

  • Leon

    To put it simply, Americans seek to impose their way of doing things upon anyone and everyone. They assume that because the Norwegians are not reacting the same way or that they are handling it differently it’s somehow wrong. The Americans are wrong in this instance. While their country is collapsing from within because of complete innefficiency of government and lack of fiscal respisibilty, they will take the time to criticise Norway’s handling of these events. It seems to me that with the tremendous economic stabilty and efficient approach Norwegians have that Americans should be looking towards Norway as an example to emulate rather than criticise. This is just my humble opinion though. My heart goes out to Norway at this time.

    • NotSoFast

      Leon,
      there are more Norwegians in the U.S. than there are in Norway, i.e. those ‘Americans’ – a lot of them are Norwegian. Ya know? They helped the other Europeans…that’s right…EUROPEANS..build up the country like it is (let’s face it, including the part about stealing it from the Native Americans), so maybe we ought to look at both sides of the equation?

    • Tim

      Oh no – more insults directed at Americans. Surely this is not the place for bigotry?

      The grief and the loss suffered in Norway is terrible. This should not be a place for indulging any type of prejudice – whether it is anti-Americanism or any sort of “anti” sentiments.

      Americans are NOT criticizing Norway at this time. I have not heard a word of criticism.

  • In the past week since I returned from a visit to Bergen, I have only heard people in Minnesota express great sadness for the tragedy in Norway. Please understand that the US is a very large and diverse land and Fox News does not represent us all.
    Our deepest sympathies to our Norwegian friends.

  • Kanat Jumagali

    It’s a wake-up call…

  • Milan, Serbia

    Hi,
    I am from Belgrade, Sebria.
    Norway is a country which has always aroused in me admiration. Because it is a country that is built into their culture empathy, compassion, love of life. Because the system of moral values ​​raised above the need for self-preservation. Above revenge, hatred and anger. Because in their culture incorporated the need for social justice, equality and democracy and rose above the narcissism and egocentrism.
    This tragedy has shown how deep and strong spiritual unity of your people there. I am therefore deeply moved. But I was inspired. Norway see it as a beacon of humanity in the patient indicates which direction to go. Without poetry, without flattery, and enthusiasm, I believe that the world has a lot to learn from the Norwegian people.

    As children choose their hero from the cartoon, so I was like a big kid (human) chose Norway as my ideal.
    Norway is in my heart.

    • Roberto (Spain)

      I’m from Spain. I’ve been to Oslo twice, spending a couple of weeks visiting some English friends that lived and worked there, and I share your view of Norway. I deeply admire the respect for everyone, the sense of community and their love for nature. I wish my country was similar in any way, but unfortunately it isn’t.
      People who have never been to Norway can’t know how things are there. It’s the same reason why I can’t judge i.e. Egypt from my comfy couch. From what I’ve seen I can’t consider Norwegian police making any mistakes, because that thing happens in my country, which is overpopulated compared to Norway: just try calling the police from any village just 25 Km away from a capital town. It would take them an hour to get there. I’ve seen that: a mad gunman hijacked a bar in such a village and it took the police one hour to get there and 2 more hours to reduce him.
      Please let alone Norway when you expect them to do things like they’re done in your country. They certainly know how to take good care of themselves.

  • BW

    It’s a bit of both I think.
    Yes, on the one hand, Norway is misunderstood, esp. in an ever Right-leaning U.S. now politically hi-jacked by Tea Party wingnuts who would rather see their fellow citizens die in the streets than pay a nickel more in taxes.
    But on the other hand, I have to admit, I cannot square myself with a view that this Breivik can only serve a maximum of 21 years (that’s approx. 3-4 months per life he took) in a rather luxurious “prison.” (Yes, we’ve seen the news stories as well about sound studios, jogging trails, and cooking classes in Norwegian “prison.” Surely, there must be some punitive/deterrent aspect to the criminal system? You can’t be a mass murder and then by sent away to, what sounds like, … camp?!!
    I love Norway, I’ve lived there, and I will be living there again soon. But I do think there is some element of naivety. I liken it to a newly, extremely wealthy person (a lottery winner, perhaps) who must now be on guard against all sorts of sneaks and crooks who wish to separate the person from him/her newly-acquired wealth.

    If you look at history, Norway has never been one to draw too much attention to itself. Historically, it was one of the poorest European countries, which spurred much migration to the U.S. in the 19th-20th centuries. In fact, it was not until the late 60’s/early 70’s that oil came to Norway and changed it forever. Now, it is regularly listed at the top of quality of life lists, best salary lists, etc. The quality of life for the people has sky-rocketed (ask older Norwegians who remember what life was like during the war, for example). Everyone has a nice new car, nice home or flat, life, other than the 75 NOK beer, is good.
    But as is the case with a man with new-found wealth, those who seek to take advantage of him will inevitably crawl out of the wood work and find him. They will use every ruse in the book to deceive him. And the man must be more vigilant now than ever, because he now has a target painted on his back.
    There is a reason why UDI is such a pain to deal with. There is a reason why Norway wants no part of the open-borders EU, or the singular Euro monetary policy. Norway wants workers, not shirkers who only want to come and coast off the excellent social welfare system, without contributing to society. And good for them. It is from these natural issues that all these probelsm stem from.
    Norway has been naive. Norway has wised up a lot. Norway still has plenty of wising up to do. But to wise up to the realities of an ever-shrinking global world, where Norway is no longer inconspicuous as it has traditionally been, does not necessarily mean that Norwegians have to lose their eqalitarian society and peaceful nature. At least, that’s what I sincerely nope …

    • NorthernVix

      I saw the same news story and promptly banged my head on the desk. The prison featured in the pictures is the Halden Fengsel, which is a fairly new medium to low security prison serving the Østfold district. Simple murderers don’t even get to go there. For the US media to present it as an example of the sort of place that ABB will be going is fairly disingenuous.

      Also, I suggest you look up the recidivism rates in the US and in Norway. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I seem to recall that it’s around 19 to 20% in Norway. In the US, it’s in the ballpark of 50+%

      The punishment is in the confinement. Human nature is that we do not like to be confined. How often is it mentioned in literature about the intolerable nature of the gilded cage? Even the nicest places can become overwhelmingly stifling when you can never leave.

      • Rob

        Most people in Norwegian prisons aren’t Norwegian, they are foreign, once released they are deported, so the recidivism rates in Norway are probably much lower due to the simple fact that the criminals are here to commit new crimes.

        Halden Fengsel is one of Norways most secure prisons, this is where the baddest of the Norwegian bad will go, I don’t know where people get the idea from that it’s a medium or low security facility. I know a lot about this prison, a good friend of mine works for the prison service, this is probably where ABB will end up, the other option is Ringerike.

        People also talk about containment, might I suggest they look up Arnfinn Nesset, arrested for killing 27 people, convicted of killing 22, admitted to killing 138 people, given life, yet released in 2004 after 21 years. If ABB repents, apologises and the authorities think he’s rehabilitated there is every reason to believe he could be allowed out in as little as 11 years.

  • Ingvild

    For those who really can’t understand that this guy only will be in prison for 21 years, here is some news.
    He will never see anything outside a prison. By the law “we” can imprison/keep him in prison as long as he is a threat to himself or others. Thanks to his “book” and that he is not regretting he will never be seen as safe to let out, so he will stay in prison until he dies. Since i believe the Norwegian people always will remember this, there will be people who want him dead, another reason to not let him out.

    And as for a Norwegian as myself, go ahead and be critical against us, we cant turn back time.. No system or country is perfect, but we are in a situation we consider we all stand in and will stand togheter. No, we should stop try to get a better country, we have to learn from mistakes and continue with things that seems to work. Maybe other cultures/countries dont get us and our way to react, but i do not see it as a answer to go on witch-hunt. Im proud of beeing a Norwegian and see how people trying to take care of each other and not want to sink at his level. And i’m overwhelmed how much support other contries have shown us. i will never forget that.

    Many ask how we would react if it wasnt a norwegian who did this, never easy to say.. Hope we never find out either..

  • Sverre

    I am norwegian and I love paying tax – I just love it – and I love how well-functioning our society is. I went 6 years to university – drinking beer and reading books – just love it – now I’m paying through my nose for it and I love it – all of it. I just love Norway and I like that the rest of the world can see how great our project/society it right now. Love how we can stay strong together. Different colours and religions and all. Just love all of it. Hate that guy though.

  • Karolv (Canada)

    No way I’m going to criticize Norway. And, I think foreigners should keep their uninformed comments to themselves. I very much admire the way the Norwegian PM and everyone else is handling this horrible event. I wish we here in Canada had the same kind of leadership. Norway is not North America. Thank goodness.

  • –Nick/

    I’m American and have had the pleasure of working with Norwegians, several of whom since have become friends. My visits to Norway, always starting with a “Welcome!” on arrival at Gardermoen, have only been highly positive. And that’s an understatement. My interest has led to a lot of reading about Norway and learning enough of the language to read (slowly) Aftenposten. But I’ve never lived and paid taxes there, so I certainly don’t know what’s under the surface.

    With that disclaimer on the limits of my insight, my comment is simply this: I have followed this catastrophic event rather closely in the US, French, and German press, but I have not seen any great amount of criticism of Norway that seems to be the thesis of this article. In fact, it has been overwhelmingly the opposite.

    Yes, there has been some criticism, but it has been such a *small* amount that it has been swamped by the ink used to describe the details of the sad events and the admirable response of the Norwegian people. In fact, you’d have to actively search for the critical press. I think that anyone who thinks otherwise must be unduly sensitive to the relatively few criticisms that have been raised.

    One other thing: I very well could change the title of this article to read “Foreigners just don’t ‘get’ France/Croatia/Montenegro/…or even — yes! — the USA. I’ve argued this on *many* occasions with foreign friends; i.e., speaking English, watching re-runs of Friends, visiting L.A., and not liking George W. Bush doesn’t mean that you ‘get’ my country of over 300 million!

  • Mena and John (South Dakota)

    Thank God for the Norwegians –their society stands as a beautiful example of the way the world SHOULD be and I am so proud that my grandfather was born in Oslo and my grandmother was born in Stavanger..
    God bless you beautiful souls.
    Mena and John from Desmet, South Dakota

  • Loren

    When countries get in trouble the first place they turn to is America.
    And America responds overwhelmingly time after time after time.
    Where did the hundreds of thousands of Norwegians emigrate to? Yes, America.
    Nobody in America thinks that they way we do everything is the best way. A Republic is a messy way to do things sometimes.
    How this thing got turned around into an America hating thing is another example of the insanity of these leftist/socialist countries and people.
    Jante loven.
    Kids were sacrificed at the altar of socialist incompetence. You can spin it around in your head anyway you want, but the facts are there for everyone to see. You can’t hide them.
    And for those of you who live in America and hate it so much.
    Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out. There are millions and millions waiting to get in to take your place.

  • Rob

    @ Trude I’m not sure how you can say Norway is a peaceful country, at the moment we have fighter bombers bombing Libya and have had soldiers in Afghanistan for years. Norway also has a fairly significant weapons industry.

  • Neil, we do not mind comments on Norway’s weapons industry. We generally welcome comments and publish most of them.
    Some we choose not to publish, including comments that are racist, incite hatred or encourage violence, comments that solicit, and comments that are off-topic.
    I take this opportunity to thank all those who have commented on this particular article, contributing to one of the best discussions we’ve had.
    Best,
    Morten the moderator (volunteer)

  • Richard Enn Johnson

    @John and Kim

    It should be abundantly clear to anybody reading this comments page that I am an expat living in Norway, i.e. a Norwegian tax-payer. I am also not an American, so please don’t jump to conclusions. It looks to me like you didn’t even read the comment you’re replying to, wherein I clearly stated that medivac helicopters fly over me all the time here in Norway. I also stated earlier that I am among the expats in Norway that pay high taxes and get nothing in return.
    When I say (paraphrasing here) that “we can afford a helicopter in Afghanistan, but not in Oslo” I mean “we the Norwegian tax-payer”. For your information, Norway has forces in Afghanistan too.
    The purpose of government is to provide security, and to protect our rights. That’s it. Not to provide health insurance, not to force its hands deep into our pockets and redistribute wealth, not to subsidize inefficient farmers and engage in protectionism, not to make cars prohibitively expensive, the list goes on. It seems the Norwegian government does absolutely everything except what its real job should be. That is to protect us here at home.
    Thanks for your input, but I will no longer be replying to comments from people who don’t do me the courtesy of reading mine first.

    • Carl

      Actually, you’re wrong. In a democracy the people determine what “the purpose of government” is, not one individual like you. And the Norwegian people have throughout the years. Unlike you, they don’t want to others to fall prey to the harms of unfettered capitalism, and don’t believe that philanthropy (i.e. charity, i.e. making people listen to Bible verses before you feed them) is enough.

      • Richard Enn Johnson

        Carl, I’m not a Christian, why do you insist on making straw man arguments? I wouldn’t make anybody listen to Bible verses before helping them, not all charities do that, especially not the ones I contribute to. It’s clear you have never contributed to a charity from the prejudiced attitude you hold toward charities. Also, kindly let go of your stereotypes of fiscal conservatives, it’s unbecoming and rude.

        I never advocated unfettered capitalism, I advocated free market economics, there is a huge difference to the person who bothers to educate themselves on the topic.

        Yes this is a democracy, so I have the right as an individual to state my opinion on the role of government, and there is plenty to support my assertion. Incidentally, the tide is turning in my favor in Norway.

        • Carl

          First look at my post I never stated you were a Christian. You’re the one who stated that people should give to “philanthropy of their own accord”, which I took to mean both Christian and secular charities as you didn’t state any exceptions. So that being the case, those in need who want to get fed will have to listen to Bible verses, unless now you advocate the closure of certain Christian charities.

    • 8 months in Norway

      well said Richard – in Norway, the gov’t controls every aspect of life… one example is imports – the lack of selection of groceries is glaring – drive 2 hrs to Sweden and the selection (and prices) are far better – and no worries, no one stops you at the border to check so feel free to import some illegal aliens as well!

      Based on those I met there, the pay-scale in Norway compensates for the high taxes so businesses have to charge more thus compounding the high prices. Granted most of those I met were professional types.

      Some excesses boggle the mind – I find it inconceivable that a husband/wife is given a year of full pay for having a child – no wonder you see baby carriages every where you look – like backpacks, bicycles and spandex they are everywhere you look! A year off at full pay! So a business hires a young person and once they decide to start a family, the business is stuck paying their full salary even though they may only see that person at work for bits and pieces of time over the next 5 to 10 years. Add in something like 5 weeks of holiday and it is a wonder they ever manage continuity.

      Another govt created hit on prices – the 5 year warranty on electronics – compare prices and you will be sure to find that in Norway electronics are far more expensive than just due to the 25% taxes added – mfg’s have to raise the prices to account for the 5yrs of coverage.

      I thought the govt was intrusive here in the US, ha… I truly appreciate far more the freedom from excessive govt control after spending time in Norway. Norway is a great country with great people, but they are too full of themselves to see just much they have hand-cuffed their freedom.

      • Rob

        This is where people get it wrong, you only get full pay for 10 months, should you choose 12 months leave you get 80%, but there is a catch the maximum they will pay out is 475,000 NOK (I think) if you earn more you won’t get it, I know this from experience, my wife is on maternity leave now. The govt also force the father to take 12 weeks, now if like me you make over 475,000 NOK you take a huge hit in the back pocket, this is social engineering at it’s finest. I want to spend time with my daughter but I don’t want to be forced into 12 weeks, (6 weeks is fine by me) nor can I afford it.

        Don’t get me started on cars, I’ve just had to replace our 18 month old Volvo V70, I can’t fit 3 children with child-seats in the back, so hallo VW Sharan 600,000 NOK down the drain on a car that should cost max 350,000 NOK, if you think my inflated salary makes up for this you’d wrong.

        Next up is the 1500-2000 NOK per week on poor quality highly expensive food, bought from a supermarket with next to no choice. Gurrr makes me mad every time I shop.

        What about housing, I’m so happy I don’t live in Oslo, finding a property for a family with three children and a cat is going to cost the better part of 8 million, prices for 30 sqm bedsits in central Oslo are near 2 million, how do graduates afford something like this, I really feel for young people entering the workforce today, they are screwed every way they turn. It’s only going to get worse.

        Norway is a great country for people with little skill, my first job in Norway was delivering the newspaper, 300,000 NOK for 30 hours work, 55,000 USD to deliver papers crazy, and people wonder why this country is so expensive.

    • Hans M

      “The purpose of government is to provide security, and to protect our rights. That’s it. Not to provide health insurance, not to force its hands deep into our pockets and redistribute wealth, not to subsidize inefficient farmers and engage in protectionism, not to make cars prohibitively expensive, the list goes on.”

      Excuse me? Isn’t it up to the Norwegian voters to decide what the purpose of the Norwegian Government is? After all we are a democracy – if you don’t like how some politicians think then you vote for someone who’s ideas are more in line with your own.

      And seeing as how the Norwegian State DO in fact provide cheap healthcare, social security, paid maternity leave, five weeks vacation and many other benefits… I’m forced to conclude that the majority of Norwegian voters (who happens to be, y’know, tax payers) think that our current level of taxation is worth what we’re getting in return.

      If you disagree, well, it’s your right to do so. But don’t expect Norway to change because you’re complaining.

  • Nita

    My daughter & son-in-law moved to Norway three years ago (they had lived in the US up to that point). My son-in-law pays a lot in taxes but he also earns a lot. I hear the arguments from both sides. It’s not perfect, but they love it there now and probably won’t be coming back to the US anytime soon. I miss them, but at the same time (with our government’s finances going to h___-in-a-handbasket) I’m glad they live in Norway. They have been very kind to my daughter and son-in-law and they have grown from it. Hopefully, one day (when h___ freezes over) our government will get their spending under control and they’ll return to the US.

  • If you are interested in Norway’s tax regime and how locals feel about it, Views and News had a story on July 14th that also attracted interesting response:
    http://www.newsinenglish.no/2011/07/14/norwegians-most-hated-taxes/

  • Norway certainly has a right to the government it wishes, but much I learn about it is puzzling, and none more than the Mullah Krekar. He has been there for years, while being wanted back in Kurdistan for murdering and torturing hundreds of westerners, including children. Norway’s high court labels him a threat to national security and the UN calls him “a terrorist.” The reason given for not returning him to Iraq is the latter will not assure he will not be executed as they did eleven of his fellows a few years ago. For now, the Mullah carries on against the west from an apartment in Oslo as Kurd justice is denied and it appears he will die in Norway as she carries on her “moral compass” role.

    • NotSoFast

      Travis,
      ..and apparently he’s been back several times and survived the trip, no problem. Go figure?

    • Rob

      NBC program The Wanted did a story about him a few years back, they even got a guarantee from the Iraqi govt that he wouldn’t be executed, but he’s still here at taxpayer expense, we also pay for his wife and kids, it’s disgusting. What about justice for his victims, that’s why I don’t have much faith in ABB staying in gaol longer than 21 years, justice in this country is all about the criminal with little or no consideration given to the feelings of the victims or there surviving family.

      There was an English family living in my town, a couple of years ago the mum and dad were killed by a truck driver who was driving on the wrong side of the road, the couple left behind 2 young children. The truck driver who used a heart condition as his excuse (both his dr and employer knew of it but it wasn’t deemed serious enough for him to be disqualified from driving) lost his license and is now on 100% sickness benefit, no gaol time, no fine, nothing, he killed two people, left two children orphans and is now going to live on the taxpayers dime for the rest of his life. Yup justice in Norway is broken and about as effective as a slap over the wrist with a wet bus ticket.

      • Rob

        nice to see the moderators are working quickly or should I say selectively!

      • NorthernVix

        I think you typed ‘justice’ when you actually meant ‘vengeance’. Because that’s the only way what you just said makes any kind of sense.

  • Feh

    Seriously, don’t listen to a single word any American says about how best to govern a country. Considering the current state of the USA, it’s perfectly obvious we’ve completely lost any sort of high ground on that argument.

    While I am sure that Norway is not perfect, I can only hope you continue to be a society based on openness, tolerance and fellowship with a government that supports those ideals. There are plenty of opportunities elsewhere in the world for people who wish to be greedy, selfish, mega-millionaire jerks.

    • Richard Enn Johnson

      Really? “Mega-billionaire jerks” like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet? Their entrepreneurship and philanthropy has done more for the needy worldwide than all the Norwegian tax-payers combined. Moreover, calling people jerks for having a difference of opinion says more about how childish you are than it does about anybody else.
      I’m not an American, but if I was, why should that disqualify me from voicing my opinion on taxes in a country in which I pay boatloads of it? Actually you contradict yourself, you say don’t listen to a single word Americans say “we’ve” lost the high ground, so I guess you are an American, fair enough, we’ll ignore your silly comment as you suggested.
      Acting like socialists are the only people who can be selfless, and calling everybody else greedy is extremely arrogant. Many fiscal conservatives would rather keep their tax money, because we know we can spend it better than the government can, and with less inefficiency. We would rather help 100 starving kids in Africa through charity than pay for 1 Norwegian to be lazy. Who’s selfish and greedy now?

      • Loren R.

        Richard,
        Excellent post! Why are so many trying to stifle our speech? Because we are breaking through their delusions with the truth.
        It is not only Warren and Bill that give so much to the rest of the world,there are thousands and thousands of small churches in communities throughout America that send untold billions each year to poor, suffering people all over the world. Year in and year out. And you are right on when you say fiscal conservatives would rather give our own money away rather than have a corrupt middle man dole it out for us. We have tried that for 50 years here in the US and it looks like it might bankrupt us.
        Government is the problem, not the solution. Socialism is a delusion which leads to the defeat of the human spirit. (Which is what I witnessed in my time in Norway).

        P.S. Good job moderator!

  • Norwegianfamily (Canada)

    I come from a family background of Norwegian and French. I am Canadian, and here we have a great health system..this also fails us at times. I spent 6 months in Norway, and believe its one of the best countries in the world. Every country will have its defaults. We can all criticize, how certain things were not quickly looked at when there was this assault on this country. But we need to all come from an understanding that Norway was not prepared for such a huge act of terrosim. They are learning from it, and they are acting very calm, and decent about it. I think its beautiful, and it shouldn’t change.

    I went to the university in Trondheim, and they have one of the best Enginnering schools in the country..people come to get there masters. Do some researching before saying they don’t have good education!! As in any country, people want to experience education, culture in different ways. It doesn’t mean the education is poor. Norwegians are full of knowledge from a lot of cultures…and may want to learn more, and enjoy traveling.

    They did the best they could with the means they had. It is sad and unfortunate that it took them long to get to the island..but we shouldn’t criticize so much, as we weren’t there to all experience this huge shock!

    I love Norway, and feel there system will not fail them in 10 to 15 years. And yes maybe all systems need re-looking. And that is anywhere and everywhere in our world today..unfortunately.

  • Martijn (The Netherlands)

    In the Netherlands we had the same naive attitude you have up til the 1990s when you could still walk around parliament without visible security, streets were relatively safe etc. Then we got the influx of Eastern European criminals, more violent crime from the already present minorities. The rise and murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, The rise of Geert Wilders. Our eye shades went off. Yours will too. Look at the Netherlands where Norway will be in 10 years time. You won’t like it, neither did we.

  • Line (Norwegian)

    I’m a Norwegian living abroad and was approached by an investment company who wanted me to let them invest my money in tax-havens to ensure my pension money. I politely said no thank you, that the Norwegian welfare state will make sure that I get the pension I need and that I despise tax havens, because as a socialist I think paying taxes is a good thing which contributes to a fair distribution which benefits those who need it. The lady looked at me like I was freak. What can I say? I’m Norwegian.

    • You need to work 30 years in Norway before you get a decent pension, if you’re not working in Norway or paying tax in Norway the Norwegian state isn’t going to give you enough to support yourself in retirement. I can understand why she looked at you like she did, you’re paying tax in another country not to the Norwegian state, so why should Norway look after you when you retire, they haven’t had any benefit from you whilst you were working.

  • Rob

    Line I hope you’re also saving money in a private pension fund, the days of people getting pensions which they can live on are over, there is no way I could live on the 270,000 NOK my pension will be a 67. You’ll also pay tax on your pension, not fare is it, tax on money you’ve saved and already paid tax on.

    • Matt

      Wow the Pensions are that bad? Guess that’s why so many of them live elsewhere in Europe.

  • Wanda

    Why are you knocking Norway? It’s a wonderful country and the people like the way their government is run, the taxes that they pay, in order to receive the welfare programs that they want. My cousin had a health problem and he had surgery the following week. He didn’t wait to get in to see the doctor. That’s a misconception. His wife started having problems with her vision and she had an MRI two days later and surgery soon after that. They also are able to stay in the hospital, until the doctor feels that they will do well at home, not when an insurance company tells them they need to leave. I wish we had universal health care, but in a country the size of the United States, it’s difficult to do. There is not another country that is as populated as the U.S., that has universal health care. It’s easier for smaller countries to do. I love visiting Norway and I will be visiting there again very soon. To the people of Norway, I’m very sorry for what happened to you and you are in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Mark Lincoln

    Of course people have trouble understanding a stabile, sane and content nation. A nation where the idea that mutual responsibility and tolerance are the basis for common good.
    Don’t let jealousy get to you.

  • karl helgeson

    Some of these correspondents are very pro-America and critical of Norway and they have written a jumble of unconnected facts to support their arguments; one being that Norway was poor historically and Norwegians emigrated to America; this is true but irrelevant. America was not even a country a little over 200 years ago; this is also irrelevant, and such statements can be continued without contributing to the discussion.

    However both countries have, since 1945, developed in different ways: Americans now live in a state of continuous fear with a bankrupt economy and a society radically divided by wealth; its culture is one of blame, punishment and vengeance both internally and across the world; a world in which it has made for itself many enemies. Norway lives without fear (still), with a strong economy in which its wealth is, for the most part, distributed throughout society and invested for the future; its culture is one of integration, inclusion and rehabilitation; it has few (if any) enemies internationally. These statements can be argued with various instances of detail, on both sides, but in general they are fair descriptions.

    Both countries are the consequence of their policies and of the way in which they reflect the will of their peoples. That is democracy, and Americans (of all people) should not criticise Norway just because they don’t like the Norwegian choice.

    The conduct of the Norwegian police is being criticised by people who seem not to realise that the largest explosion in peacetime Norway had just occurred in Oslo; an event partly designed to delay and inhibit the reaction of the police to the later shootings. Reaction of any kind always has a finite overhead which will be increased if there additional situations, such as the bomb and its obvious effects.

    The helicopter argument is specious: apart from the logistics of getting the response team to the helicopter (or vice versa) and the helicopter prepared for action, it would be a questionable tactical decision to send in an aerial team against an unknown target that may already have demonstrated a capability with high explosives.

    Finally, those critics might also consider the police reaction response in the USA to, for one example, the Columbine high school shootings in 1999. Then and now one is dealing with normal human abilities. The systems and the officers are not perfect: perfection is the prerogative of the uninformed.

    (I have lived an worked in the USA, the UK and Norway during the past 40 years. I admire Norway more than the others and I much prefer its society; now even more).

    • –Nick/

      “…both countries have, since 1945, developed in different ways…”
      Indeed, you are correct. I cannot explain exactly why this is, but perhaps part of our difference (I’m American) is owed to our greater diversity and much larger size: It would seem harder to manage a larger, more diverse society in an equitable manner than a smaller, more homogeneous society.

      That cannot explain everything, of course: There are many other relatively small and homogenous societies that do not achieve anything approaching the standard that Norway has.

      But I’m also struck by the fact that the very real responsibilities that the USA inherited, beginning around 1945 and certainly through the fall of The Wall, has shaped our national character in important ways not experienced in Norway.

      Younger people today who know only the serious mis-steps after 9/11 — and who can safely Monday-morning-QB the history of Korea, Vietnam, Mossadegh, the Soviet missiles in Cuba, Pinochet, etc. — indeed may not understand that, whenever it ‘hit the fan’ anywhere on the planet during that period — and it did — the USA was not afforded the luxury of sitting back and criticizing. We were depended upon to project real force, not flowers; that responsibility has shaped our national character and our economy — as accurately predicted by Eisenhower in his farewell address — to this day.

      Personally, as should be apparent in my previous comment on this thread — and the fact that I visit this site — I’m a fan of Norway. But I wouldn’t want to live my life in your system. (Don’t interpret that as a criticism, as the more sensitive on this thread likely will!) Why? It’s the Janteloven, or at least the degree to which I think it’s reflected in the government today: I do not want to be a same-sized poppy in the field, even if that guarantees that someone will water me, weed the field, and generally take care of me.

      For our part, we’re in a rough patch now and have a lot of problems to solve — problems we’ve made. We’re open enough that everyone around the planet can see our dirty laundry every day and offer their criticisms, many of which we’ve earned. But we’re a pretty resilient unit, can handle criticism, will solve our problems, and do just fine. Mange hilsener!

    • NotSoFast

      karl helgeson,
      I feel like your comment is some kind of veiled arrogance or superiority the way you disregard people’s, for better or worse, jumbled arguments.

      Okay, so you say this or that argument should be disregarded or is specious or whatever? BFD. People have real problems with real events from their point of view of the issues. Maybe they don’t have the intelligence to decipher the problem and wax on lyrically the way you do or via exactly the same methods you use, or maybe they go through the labrynith by way of a different path, but so what? And, it makes me want to repeat Nick’s eloquently stated comment in this thread when talking about same sized (big-headed) poppy… no offense…

  • Jennifer

    I’m an American and I have never set foot in Norway so I’m not going to pretend that I have enough knowledge of the country to make specific recommendations about what the police should be doing or what the money should be spent on. I have very rudimentary knowledge of your tax system.

    However, it appears that regular citizens in their own private boats did a fair amount of the rescuing before the authorities were even there. So I think the suggestion that even a basic helicopter that can transport 2 or 3 police officers quickly is a far better suggestion than no helicopter at all because of the cost.

    Maybe it’s that I’m an American and we’re used to crisis here. I don’t know. We have our share and then some of tragedies here that we constantly look back on and analyze and try to find ways to prevent them or at least respond better. But I think that while Norway doesn’t WANT to change their outlook on crime, or alter their way of doing things, it stands to reason to at least look to places like the United States who’ve had these types of situations and ask themselves, “What did the Americans do after this to respond better”?

    By the way, I hate that we Americans have experience with these things. It’s not something we are proud of in any way. But we have had to alter the way we live to a degree and that’s the trade-off for being an open and free society much like Norway.

    Just to fend off any responses that might suggest otherwise, NO, I don’t think that any country should look to the United States for pointers on many other things (especially our economy and tax system) but on this one issue, response to crisis, I think we have some experience that other open societies should learn from.

  • Dhaara (Germany)

    Dear Norwegians,

    I`m from Germany. Reading this article I was taken aback. Since I was deeply touched by the events which had happened in you country I have followed the news in a variety of German (and international) newspapers in the last seven days. I cannot remember a single criticism related to the Norwegian way of life. It was more the opposite actually.

    In this article it says: “Some foreign media portrayed Norway as naive, or downright odd. Why weren’t people more angry, full of fight or seeking revenge?”

    Never did I read any words like naive or odd. The words which where used to describe you as a nation were exemplary, considerate, proud, perfect crisis management, stunning, loving to name just a few. Also it was never discussed why you reacted in such a way, but that it is something that makes Norway special …
    The articles (and comments) were filled with admiration for you and your country.

    Having lived in Australia, a country also famous for its laid-back, open-minded, open-hearted lifestyle, I can imagine what I must be like to live in Norway. So I would say, I can “get” what Norway is about. But having read all these articles here in Germany (and in other countries) I would say, so do all the people who read them too (journalists included). I must say that I`m really sorry about this artcle since in my eyes, it doesn`t reflect the world`s reaction properly.

    Of course you will always find some people being critical but one shouldn`t forget that the absolute majority is full of compassion and admiration for you and your country. I hope you can succeed in your admirable way of life!

    • Rob

      Dharra living in Australia is nothing at all like living in Norway, Australia is a laid back relaxed country, it’s people live a laid back and relaxing lifestyle as you know, Norway is nothing and I really mean nothing like Australia at all. Norway is a different from Australia as Australia is as different from Germany. In fact I think you would find Germany is a lot more like Norway than you think.

  • just a guy

    Hello, I believe this is a great country, its nature is fantastic, and the winters are awesome. There is just one thing I don’t like: why does everything have to be perfect in Norway? Since I got here I have had to hear infinite times that this is the best country in the world, with the best economy, the most beautiful people, the best food, the best and warmest people, that even the sausages are the best in the world! Is it such a sin to point out things that perhaps are not the best here? Every land has it’s good and bad things, and Norway is no exception to that. I see no problem in having civilized arguments about this issues. But many norwegian (not all) seem to turn the conversation elsewhere when you speak about this with a “your country is worse” message. I call that intolerance. And intolerance leads to hate and resentment, both from norwegians and from foreigners who live here. It is very sad that 77 people were the victims of intolerance, and it is even sadder that no-one in the local media or in this webpage speaks about this…
    My heart goes with the victims of intolerance, and hopes that it will bring unity to this nation so that we can feel that their lives were not spent for nothing…

    • Debby

      Just a guy – Not sure if this is what you mean by:

      “It is very sad that 77 people were the victims of intolerance, and it is even sadder that no-one in the local media or in this webpage speaks about this…”

      But several Norwegian authors have published Editorial-type articles in the New York Times in recent days: Jostein Gaarder and Thomas Hylland Eriksen submitted an editorial called – A Blogosphere of Bigots.
      Also, there is an interview with Norwegian author Anne Holt on Public (TV) Broadcasting’s News Hour’s web site. The interview quotes from her article in the Wall Street Journal called – Is The Accused Norway Killer One of Us?

      Jo Nesbo published an OpEd in the New York Times as well, but his article touches more on the loss of innocence in Norway than on bigotry.
      When I read these, I just assumed that all these writers had published their opinions in Norway as well. Holt tackles the issues of intolerance and the power of violent language head-on. Are these issues not being discussed in the Norwegian media also?

  • Bubba Heinz

    Having read most of these back and forth comments about the US and Norway and having also been to Norway and the US several times I can honestly say I would chose Norway hands down over living in the US. The illusion of the US being a free market economy is finally evaporating with 1 in 7 relying on the government to feed themselves, similar to many African nations. Any American ranting about socialism in Norway seems to forget that fact. The US economy relies on loans from Socialist nations to survive, the same socialist nations that some of the commenters here love to criticize. Stop those loans and it would be no different than Nicaragua. This has always been the case, the US has never been able to afford its false economy, it’s all BS. At least Norway’s is real and Norway will be there long after the US collapses and breaks up. The comments about the police are hilarious, the US is a police state where it has become routine now for 15 head shaved goons to tackle and taze someone for something as petty as some drunk mouthing off. I’ll take Norway police any day over the militarized goons doing the govt beatdown in the US. The US lost to the terrorists with the ‘Patriot’ act and put up little resistance to having their children and grandparents felt up by more uneducated govt goons. Land of the free my @$$. More like land of the broke, fat and felt up. Throw in skyrocketing poverty and you have something similar to a banana republic. The only business they are in these days is making war and they suck at that too. Any American criticizing Norway is a fool and should be looking at their own immense mess of a country to criticize .. while they are still ‘free’ to do so.

    Ta ta

    • Rob

      If it’s 1 in 7 in the US relying on govt aid I bet it going to be more like 1 in 5 in Norway, there are hundreds of thousands of long term unemployed in Norway who the govt pays sickness benefits to.
      I wouldn’t be so sure about Norway being around long after the US collapses, the Norwegian property bubble is getting pretty close to popping, interest rates are rising, there are tens of thousands of people who took advantage of no deposit 100% loans with interest only payment terms buying property which they couldn’t afford, it’s going to interesting seeing the outcome of this.
      The only business Norway is in these days is sucking oil out of the ground, long term this isn’t a sustainable business, the problem is what happens when it’s all gone?

      • Espen Johnsen

        Show me the statistics that back up your quote regarding 100% loans on property please.

    • Stuart Spitz

      If I recall correctly Norway went from bankruptcy to bankruptcy before they found oil. The oil will run out and the economy will revert to type.

      Socialism never lasts after the money runs out, and the system itself prevents people trying too hard because of the capped socialised wage structure that fails to recognise exceptional performance and the generous welfare system that prevents proper punishment of underachievement & laziness.

      I am not saying America is better, but I would not be so quick to proclaim that Norway is superior. Both have problems, but the difference is that Americans expect to work hard for a living, and compete with each other to be the best at what they do.

  • Bente

    Wow Rob, you truly have a horrible life in Norway, don’t you… Who put the stick up your ass?

    • Rob

      I don’t have a horrible life in Norway I have a great life, however my great life could be made even better with lower taxes, better roads, better education and healthcare all things which my high taxes are supposed to pay for but the Norwegian govt don’t want to provide, they would much rather save money for a rainy day, spend it on people who are too lazy to work or give it away in foreign aid.
      I love living in Norway, I won’t be leaving anytime soon.

  • just a guy

    Hello Debby, I have not seen this articles in Norway. I read mainly Aftenposten and VG (the two main newspapers) and watch the local news. The general idea is that this acts were perpetrated by “one lunatic” that has nothing to do with norwegian culture or society. But just two weeks before the attack in the cover of the Aftenposten there was an article: “one out of two norwegians wants to close the borders for foreigners”. This radical extremist only took very seriously and went too far in one concept shared by many in this country (but not all, only 50%): that the norwegian society is to be lost forever if it is “mixed” with the blood of other cultures. I hope that the reason for this lack of self-critism is because the wounds are too fresh and that in some weeks some decent debate about intolerance can be seen on the local media. I am sceptical though, many norwegians (not all) consider themselves too perfect as to have any “flaw”, and any bad comment about this country is seen as unnationalistic to many. To me, it is only by debate and self-criticism that democracy is ensured. But that’s only my humble opinion of course…

    • Debby

      Hello Just a guy –
      Thanks for your reply. I am really astonished, because there is a lot being published in the US media by Scandinavian writers about intolerance, and the roots of far-right, anti-immigrant sentiments.
      Here is a link to another interview with Anne Holt on National Public Radio. The interview is called Crime Writers Expose Scandinavia’s Dark Side:
      http://www.npr.org/2011/07/27/138756602/crime-writers-expose-scandinavias-dark-side
      She seems so vocal in the Public Radio and Public TV interviews and in the article in the Wall Street Journal, that I can’t believe that she won’t make her voice heard in Norway. This is the quote they have highlighted on the web page:
      “This boy [Breivik] is born in the best and richest country in the world, he has had every single chance of being happy, perfectly adjusted human being, but something went terribly wrong and we have to ask ourselves why.”
      – Anne Holt, Norwegian crime writer and former justice minister

  • RC (UK)

    I am from the UK and have been living in Norway for the last few years. I am utterly amazed at the lack of criticism towards the police and security services. At the very least some form of enquiry has to be launched as to why so many errors were made.

    Certainly the UK and US press are often over bearing, however you have to look at the facts. Specifically that news helicopters were able to get to the Island whereas the security services firstly could not find a helicopter forcing them to drive. Even worse, after arrival they did not have a boat ready which itself finally broke down! After all this the police are asking Norwegians with boats not to interfere; thankfully most of this idiotic advice was ignored with lots of small craft heading out to pick up stragglers in the water who would otherwise be dead.

    What riles me further is the misinformation provided. When I watched NRK news they were asking why the Polish police did not query why so much potential bomb making materiel was being shipped to Norway. An article I read in the English broadsheets indicated that both Interpol and the Polish authorities had flagged this to the Norwegian security services. This information was flagged as irrelevant by the Norwegian security services.

    Clearly this is a new experience for Norway and it is incredibly difficult to plan for such events, but we can’t hope that similar events will not happen again. I am sure the security services did their best; but frankly you have to ask whether their best was good enough for us. If we had better personnel, training and procedures would it have saved 1, 10 or 50 lives? Even the nutcase himself admits he did not expect to get as far as he did.

    I don’t harbor much love for the UK and US press, however when there is clear scope for an enquiry they make some noise. I have thus far been extremely disappointed with the reaction in the Norwegian press so far. We need to ask why so many mistakes were made not because we want a witch hunt, but so we cannot rule out such atrocities in the future so we need to make sure that Norway has the level of security services it needs and deserves. If this means we have to lets some heads roll at the top and (finally) drop the usual promotion of staff based upon age and service as opposed to skills then so much the better.

    • Dave Smith

      Here , here !!

  • Martijn

    From what I heard the Norwegian press is under political control even more than the press here in the Netherlands is (where most of the editors are card carrying party members, in fact for most high jobs you need allegiance to the clique of established parties). So it’s not surprising there is no criticism, after all in a perfect state which Norway claims to be the security services are also supposed to be perfect, even when they are not.

    The other side of the pendulum (having media moguls control the press like in the UK and USA) is not preferable as well but at least the government is more likely to be scrutinized than in a country where editors of news papers are close to the ruling government and are likely not to rock the cradle.

  • heath

    Don’t worry Norway, I’m with you. Just ignore the American and English view point, because one can’t out argue them.
    I saw how the the dignified Japanese people went about their business after the tsunami tragedy and now the Norwegians. I am happy that people exist who have a completely different outlook on life and living. I hope to visit Norway soon because of what I’ve read recently I definately want to see your beautiful country.
    I wish well for you Norwegians but I would also like to add that multicultualism is not healthy especially if less educated people immigrate. I also agree that if people go and stay in a different country then they should conduct themselves according to the rules, customs and laws of that particular country and show respect to the women of that country. I also think that Norwegians did a good thing by not joining with the EU coz if you did that then you would have more problems of illegal immigration and Norway would have become just another dirty country.

  • AntiTrollDevice

    Ignore the criticisms, Norwegians. They are coming largely from these strange magical creatures that exist only on the internet, called right wing ‘trolls’. Generally, they only appear after midnight, or on internet message boards. These trolls are usually not who they say they are, nor are the ‘friends’ they are quoting real. They make them up, because on the internet you can pretend to be anyone. It’s a trick they learned from FOX News in the US which says things like ‘News stations are reporting Obama is a Nigerian witch doctor” when they simply mean other people at FOX. In truth, they are angry, bitter people in other countries who can’t believe that a country could possibly exist in way that is contrary to *everything* they preach and yet (a) people are generally happy to pay taxes and take care of each other, (b) the government does not respond to a national tragedy by imposing a inflicted wound of increased authoritarianism, like Bush did after 9/11, and (c) despite having a socialist country the standard of living is higher and life is more abundant than their own country according to almost every possible social and economic indicator. Please understand, they have to criticize you because they live in dysfunctional capitalist-extremist countries with massive unemployment, inequality, limited freedoms, and rampant untreated illnesses. In trying to discredit countries like Norway, they are simply taking the old line: “Misery Wants Company.” So, please excuse the trolls.

    • NotSoFast

      AntiTrollDevice,
      Trolls are one of the really cool things about Norway. There are plenty of people who don’t like how things are going over in the U.S. and I dare say the U.K., too. Many of us who hate the banksters and the ultra right wingers, so you can crawl off of that high horse you’re straddling.

      Single folks and folks that got their educations elsewhere get very little back from tax dollars paid in. The older population get very little (I volunteer in a retirement home). The roads are crap. Hospitals are so-so. Services, police, the representatives who don’t do their homework, etc, pretty crappy, Norway has nothing on the states in this area…

      A false economy? The cost of living is always in the top of the list. 1/3 of the population working in govt jobs. Many do not work at anything (will say some instances the laws are punitive toward any work, some opt not to work at all). Well, I believe, as a moderate and Obama supporter, that people who only want to take from everyone else are actually the selfish, arrogant ones -including banksters, some business people, ultra-right wing-nuts, etc….

    • wghaole

      You have to be a member of the FB site Americans in Norway.

  • Bitter Norwegian Taxpayer

    Antitrolldevice you’re forgetting that some of us are actually Norwegian residents and taxpayers, people who probably know more about the over taxing and under delivering that goes on in Norway than you do.