Part One: What to Be Afraid of in Norway
Everyone knows that the first thing to figure out about FOREIGN places is what to be AFRAID of. So I am here to help you figure out what an American should fear in Norway.
Norwegians have begun to complain about crime in recent years. But if you are afraid of crime in Norway, just go read the crime stats. (For instance Norway’s murder rate is .6 compared to the US rate of 5 per 100,000 people each year. Heck, in Norway apparently you can’t even completely kill a person in a year. You have to do the other .4 the following year.) The majority of Norwegians feel safe walking alone at night, almost 70% of them. Not so with US citizens, where only around 40% of people feel safe walking alone at night, which means that 40% of people in the US are crazy and that doesn’t make me feel any better. *
Here’s my advice about fearing crime in Norway. Don’t worry about the crime. You’re from the US. They should be afraid of YOU. Comparatively speaking you are suddenly a lot safer in Norway than you are at home and they are probably less safe every time an American visits the place. I mean some of us have to be committing those murders here at home. Statistically speaking, just stay away from Americans while you are there.
So am I saying Norway is a completely safe place to visit? No. There are some things you should fear.
The Two Wheeled Menace– People in Norway are generally polite. They don’t push you out of the way or grunt at you in disgust if you hesitate like people in New York might. They don’t mind if you smile at them like Chicagoans might. They probably won’t run you over with their cars if you attempt to cross in the cross walk like Memphians. But put one of them on a bicycle and you better get the heck out of the way. Stop lights, Stop Signs, Stopped Pedestrians, Traffic. None of these matter to Norwegians on Wheels. THEY WILL RUN YOU OVER. Although they are quite polite and gentle about it. They want you to enjoy those last few seconds before they hit you without fear. I think I only heard one cyclist say “on your left” while I was there and only one had a bell.
Trolls – Trolls will eat you (although according to the movie “Troll Hunters” they don’t eat atheists…I don’t know why. Something about the flavor I guess. Agnostics, I just don't know if you're safe but I wouldn't want to test it.) Did I actually see a troll? Well…not exactly but there are plenty of tunnels and caves that have every appearance of being totally rampant with trolls. I’m pretty sure lots of Norwegians get eaten by trolls every year. The population density is pretty low. (They rank 188th on the charts.) My own take is that this is likely due to trolls.
Uneven surfaces and thresholds - Door thresholds are the real menace. They are all uneven. Every once in a while there is an even threshold in Norway. These few flat thresholds are only made level to fool foreigners into assuming they might pass through other doorways without looking down. They are simply there to help keep you off guard. Don't fall for it. The next doorway you walk through is probably an ankle biter.
And not only are thresholds uneven, all walking surfaces are a little tipsy. We were in one department store which appeared to have been designed by M.C. Escher. The stairs started off as rectangles with regularly spaced treads and then slowly morphed into triangles that get closer and closer to each other with lower and lower treads. Once you manage to get off the stairs without injury, if you are that lucky, you notice that the floor itself forms a bit of a trough. I can kind of forgive the crazy uneven cobblestones at the medieval castle. It's pretty dangerous. Obviously, attacking armies would be lying in the lane nursing sprained and broken ankles. Great defense system for a castle. But how often are modern department stores ransacked by invading armies?
And outdoor spaces are the same way. Essie went down at the harbor. The concrete forms small troughs and she took a spill on the way to dinner. She is still in a knee brace. Somewhere, I feel there is a special video channel that shows nothing but pratfalls by foreigners visiting Norway.
That’s pretty much the list of things you should be afraid of in Norway. Next time we can move on to things to enjoy in Norway.
*Here’s where I got my crime statistics