Relations between Norway and Sweden are officially excellent, but privately many Swedes and Norwegians have badgered and belittled each other for years. Most of the incessant ridicule is based on rivalry and even envy, but now Sweden’s national broadcaster SVT has sent some rare, genuine compliments and congratulations that have caught Norwegians by surprise.
The occasion was Norway’s national day on Wednesday, when SVT broadcast a greeting across the border that its Norwegian counterpart NRK described as being “unusually generous.” SVT featured five specific reasons why Norway is now “hotter” than Sweden. The Swedish state broadcaster even went so far as to say that it thinks there’s been some role reversal between Sweden and Norway in recent years, with Norway taking over as the better and stronger of the two.
GRATTIS NORGE (CONGRATULATIONS NORWAY) was the title of its video (external link to SVT’s website, in Swedish), accompanied by a story on SVT’s website that also admitted Sweden’s deficiencies in several portions of its social welfare state. “Sweden has long seen itself as a ‘big brother’ to Norway,” SVT wrote. “Now it looks like the roles have been reversed.”
SVT listed five reasons why Norway has surpassed Sweden in their “friendly” cross-border rivalry: Its winning results on the ski trails in international competition, its ranking as the“world’s happiest country” in a new United Nations survey, and the international success of its DJ and electropop star Kygo and hit TV series Skam (Shame), which is being picked up or duplicated all over the world.
“The absolutely biggest export from Norway right now, though, has to be the twin brothers Marcus and Martinus,” wrote SVT, referring to the young Norwegian teen pop idols who first took Norway by storm and are now gaining fortune and fame abroad as well. SVT noted that Marcus and Martinus have sold out Stockholm’s own large arena, The Globe, twice.
Oil bigger than Volvo
There was no direct mention of how Norway’s oil and gas industry has long surpassed the size of the automobile industry that long provided Sweden with a stronger economic base than Norway had. It’s now not uncommon for Norwegians visiting Sweden to be referred to by Swedes as “oil sheiks,” and not entirely in a joking manner.
SVT, however, graciously noted that Sweden’s unemployment rate is higher than Norway’s and that Sweden’s state finances aren’t as strong. Norway’s top spot on the list of the world’s happiest countries compared to Sweden’s 10th place, SVT wrote, “despite sinking oil prices.” On the cultural front, SVT also highlighted Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård, whose literary success with his Min kamp (My struggle) series has gone global and been translated into 18 languages so far. SVT didn’t even mention that Knausgård actually lives in southern Sweden, not Norway.
SVT readily admitted that its list of recent Norwegian achievements was somewhat unscientific and arbitrary in nature. “But is is, after all, syttende mai (using the Norwegian words for the 17th of May) and Norway deserves to be hailed,” wrote SVT on Wednesday. Its congratulatory message was reported on NRK’s much-watched national nightly newscast Dagsrevyen Wednesday evening, after a long day of celebrations from Svalbard in the north to Sarpsborg in the south, rooted in the creation of Norway’s constitution, which in turn launched its eventual withdrawal from its political union with Sweden throughout the 1800s.
Sweden’s “little brother,” it seems, has now grown up.