Happy city folks shatter rural myth

Bookmark and Share

Norwegians have long viewed themselves as descendants of fishermen and farmers, who are supposed to be happier out on the land or sea than in cities. A new survey shatters such “politically correct” thinking, and suggests that the vast majority of Norwegians are far more urban than they’d like to admit.

Residents of Oslo scored their city especially high, something researchers attributed to the civic pride and solidarity shown after last summer's terrorist attacks, when hundreds of thousands decorated the city with flowers. PHOTO: Views and News

The survey, conducted by Sentio Research Group and reported in newspaper Aftenposten, shows that residents of Norway’s six largest cities – Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger, Tromsø and Drammen – are more satisfied with their municipalities than the national average. Those questioned were asked to measure their satisfaction with the level of government services, the quality of life, security and their sense of belonging in their place of residence.

Oslo scored especially well, with survey respondents giving it a score of 76 on a scale from one to 100, compared to just 68 in 2010. Arve Østgaard, chief executive of Sentio, linked that to the solidarity shown by Oslo residents after last summer’s terrorist attacks.

“I have no doubt there’s a July 22-effect we’re measuring,” Østgaard told Aftenposten. “After the terrorist attacks, Oslo folks have felt a stronger sense of belonging to their city.”

‘Cities on the upswing’
The clear trends of satisfaction extend to all other urbanized areas, though, with the only portion of the survey scoring lower among city dwellers than the nation as a whole being security. That’s where participants in the survey were asked to evaluate hospital and emergency services and the risk of being subject to crime. Those living outside cities felt more secure on a daily basis than those in the six largest cities.

Otherwise, according to Østgaard, “it’s just a myth that the good life is lived on the land. The bigger cities have clearly been on the upswing in recent years.”

Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen, a social anthropologist at the University of Oslo, found the survey results “interesting,” saying they document a gap between Norwegians’ image of themselves and reality.

“We Norwegians aren’t so different from other Europeans as we perhaps like to think,” Eriksen told Aftenposten. “More than 75 percent of us live in urban areas. We enjoy the urban life, with all it has to offer and all its meeting places. We just don’t like to admit that to ourselves.”

Rural roots getting harder to maintain
The image of longing for a life in the mountains, on a farm or along the coast is perhaps upheld, according to Eriksen, “by our fascination for winter sports and the tourism industry’s ads for fjord and mountains.” Many Norwegians also continue to invest in holiday homes (hytter) in the mountains, by the sea or in other rural areas, but most now demand more of the comforts of modern urban homes.

Maintaining the myth of roots in or fondness for rural areas may become more difficult, Eriksen noted, as more and more children born in urban areas have both sets of grandparents in the city as well, and “can’t travel back to a family farm at Christmas and confirm their sense of self.”

Neither Østgaard nor Eriksen were surprised by the results of the survey called borgerundersøkelse that was conducted by Trondheim-based Sentio last fall. “We see that people keep moving to the cities, which are growing rapidly,” Eriksen said. “They are clearly attractive, and where people want to live.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

Please support our stories by clicking on the “Donate” button now: