A while back I had a comment from one of my lovely followers saying that she had Norwegian and Swedish ancestors, but that she wouldn’t speak with me about the Swedish ones, because she knew how Norwegians felt about Swedes. This struck me with a pang. Had we really become known as enemies, the Norwegians and the Swedes? This was a very foreign concept to me. Sure, I have been known to gloat when Norway beats Sweden in any kind of sport. And yes, now that you mention it I did announce loudly to anyone who'd listen that "I'm Swedish" at one occasion when I made a complete fool out of myself on the Parisian Metro... But this is all friendly banter. Norway and Sweden are like brothers – Sweden is the big brother, and Norway is the little one that wants to be just like his older sibling.
Let me explain it to you (prepare for a history lesson..) :
Norway and Sweden (and Denmark) have always had a lot of interaction. At one point we all had one king. At one point we all had one queen (which I believe is still the last reigning queen Norway has had). Then Norway and Denmark merged into a union (Denmark clearly ruled the party), while Sweden played superpower in the Baltic Sea. Norway was under Danish rule for about 400 years. Then came along a little fella named Napoleon. He caused a lot of havoc on the European continent (you may have heard about it). Unfortunately for poor, little Norway, the Danish king decided to side with Napoleon. If you know anything about ABBA, you know that Napoleon had to face his Waterloo (he couldn’t escape if he wanted to). Sweden, on the other hand, had picked the winning team. As a consequence, Denmark was sentenced (or blessed – depending on the point of view) to give up Norway in favour of Sweden.
Just like that – without anyone bothering to ask what the Norwegians thought – we were handed away like a gift basket you didn’t really want anyway.
At the time, this gift basket was a very poor, very rural, very “uncivilizised” country. But the winds that had been blowing on the continent (and in the US) for a while had reached Norway at last. Words like “freedom” and “democracy” were making you popular at parties. Because of these winds, the Norwegian people (or the social stratum that had money and education, but no noble blood) decided it was time to write our own constitution. They gathered at Eidsvoll in 1814, ate good food, drank wine, and in between wrote the document that ever since has been the guiding principle for legal matters in Norway.
Regardless of this, however, Norway was still forced to enter a new union with Sweden. Granted it was a relatively free union - we got to keep our Constitution, our newborn parliament (the Storting), and basically everything else we would have had as an independent state. Norway shared a king and foreign policy with Sweden, but that's about it. The union lasted for almost a century - in 1905 Norway finally gained its full independece.
We were in an absolutist union with Demark for 400 years. With Sweden we enjoyed much more freedom, and the arrangement lasted less than 100 years. And yet it is with Sweden we hold the grudge (we even picked a Danish prince to be the first king of the free Norway)...
Blame it on the relative recentness of the Swedo-Norwegian union. Blame it on Norwegian jealousness for Swedish (again, relative) success with music, industry, sports. Blame it on the fact that Norway always gives Sweden twelve points in the Eurovision Song Contest, while Sweden NEVER gives us more than eight... In the end it is impossible not to acknowledge that there is a certain something going on between Norway and Sweden. But I still maintain that it is of the friendly kind.
To underscore this, I will end this post with a list. A list about things I love about Sweden. It pains me to admit it, but there are certain things Sweden does better than Norway. Like potato chips. They have dill flavoured potato chips. That is almost impossible to get here. So, with no further ado:
Things I love about Sweden:
-Dill flavoured potato chips
-Music (ranging from my favourite band, kent, to ABBA, the Cardigans, Robyn, the Hives, Broder Daniel, Mando Diao and not to forget the immortal Cornelis Vreeswijk)
-Stockholm, which is a much more "continental" city than Oslo, and frankly, it's also a better place to go on vacation (I can't believe I just said that...)
|Swedish: "house"; Norwegian: "palace"|
-Swedish. Their language just is prettier than ours. Norwegian and Swedish are closely related, so we can understand virtually everything Swedes say (but for some reason, they don’t understand Norwegian as well). Sweden used to be a big shot country in Europe, though, so their language is much more influenced by the language of the nobility, French. The boring Norwegian word for sidewalk/pavement – fortau, is more more exotic in Swedish: trottoir. Likewise our dull window (vindu) is fönster in Swedish. Also, I think Swedish sounds more lyrical than Norwegian. Ironically, the Swedes I’ve spoken to about this say that Norwegian sounds like we’re singing all the time…
-Swedish literature. One of my very favourite authors in the world is the Swedish children’s book author Astrid Lindgren. In addition to such memorable characters as Pippi Longstockings and Emil from Lönneberga, she’s written about Ronja Rövardotter (my favourite), The Children of Noisy Village, and many, many more. Both her books and the movies made from them (I highly recommend the English version of Mio in the Land of Faraway, with Christopher Lee and a young Christian Bale) have given me countless hours of entertainment. But Lindgren is hardly the only one. In addition to her, Sweden has fostered Nobel Laureate Selma Lagerlöf, and more recently several top crime novelists, such as Stieg Larsson.
Basically, I love Sweden.
There. I said it. I still reserve the right to be thrilled when Norway kicks Swedish butt in the next Winter Olympics, though. Tough love is the name of the game between siblings...
|The border between Norway and Sweden. Extra points if you can tell me which is which (I have no idea).|