Friday, September 10, 2010

On Sweden

First things first. No, I am not Swedish. No, Norway is not the capital of Sweden. It’s not the capital of Copenhagen either. And no, it is not irrelevant whether you refer to any of the Scandinavian countries as Sweden, Denmark, Norwegia (it’s called Norway!), The Land of Snow and Ice, Mordor or Nordica. We are separate countries with separate cultures and very separate prides. So please try to remember which is which (for the record, I’m NORWEGIAN. Norwegian!).


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)

-Grocery shops

-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"
-Their architecture. Sweden has a much larger tradition for nobility, and thus they have mansions and castles (but also charming, little cottages) everywhere. Is pretty. 

-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).

26 comments:

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Are you sure Norway is not in Sweden? Sweden is where you have those huge mountains, isn't it, and I remember seeing you post pictures of mountains.
The next time, do write about the Swedish chocolate, please.

M.J. Nicholls said...

I love Sweden. For some reason I always make my academic characters come from Sweden. It has that pall of authority, whereas Finland and Norway seem fluffier nations.

Cruella Collett said...

Natasha - oh, no, you didn't!!! You almost had me going for a minute there...

Mark - fluffy? Finland?!? Have you ever been there? Fluffy is possible the one word I can think of in the entire English language that describes Finland the least. That and oscillation.
As for Norway vs Sweden in fluffiness, I can sort of see that. Norway is definitely the naïve younger brother. Sweden is more wordly. Authority? Yeah, why not.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for the history lesson! Understand the rivalry. Hey, if we can kick Canada's butt in hockey, we feel mighty good!
And there's some seriously heavy metal bands that come from both Norway and Sweden.

Clarissa Draper said...

Well, actually, Canada will kick both your butts combined at the next winter Olympics.

I've never been to either country but would love to visit both. I love Pippi and yes, Abba.

I learned a lot today.

CD

Michelle Gregory said...

of all places, i saw this rivalry in a card i found in a little Norwegian shop in my grandmother's little berg in Wisconsin. the card was explaining all the reasons a Norwegian would use the expression "Uff Da." among the many reasons, one was when a Norwegian saw a Swede using lefse for a napkin.

Jen said...

Wow who knew I'd learn so much this morning!!! Every place has a rivarly, some who take it that extra mile to where they make a point to hate one another, but most of the world gets along, but rivals can get along directly after a game, it's just the way of the world.

In Iowa it was Iowa vs. Iowa State, to colleges that competed against one another, Hawkeyes vs. Cyclones, it's a crazy fest during the game, but a party to celebrate the win and loss, nothing personal.

If only life were easy. I choose the left side of the picture to be Sweden... just because I'm calling it so :)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Thanks for a most interesting post, have learned quite a bit today, Thanks for sharing.
Yvonne,.

Boonie S said...

Swedes and Brussels go well together, and look good alongside your Yorkshires, but Norway/Norwegian??? Never heard of it, although didn’t the Beatles once say that a Norwegian would? – if so I don’t believe them.
Nice quirky post. Thanks.

All the best, Boonie

Jan Morrison said...

thank you for being generous with your knowledge. As a Morrison, my ancestors were kings and queens of Norway so I've always felt a special affinity for the place even though obviously those ancestors were turfed out and made to cross the bitterly cold sea to Scotland who immediately made us dance for Tetley tea commercials or something...oh, I'm so confused.
Thanks for your knowledge - it helps us confused types.

Us Canadians know about sibling rivalry. Why our poor younger brother United States is always having big fat temper tantrums but we just look on, mildly amused. Jeesh. In my dreams.

Melody said...

Wow! I really appreciate this; I'm an American and thus don't know a whole lot about the history of Norway. You told it so succinctly and gave me a glimpse of the culture - thank you!

H.B.Markor said...

I love it when you go into history! I feel as if you have a talent explaining why everything is the way it is just by looking back at what has happened before.

Interesting post!

nonamedufus said...

I'm most impressed by your endorsement of your fellow nordic country. That was very Swede of you. By the by, what's a Nor weigh?

Hart Johnson said...

I loved this, Mari! See... having equal parts Norwegian and Swedish blood, I can now claim to having sibling rivalry even though I have no siblings *shifty* And I like being both fluffy and authoritative. And I want to go both places, but I want you along to show me around (I will ply you with plenty of wine in Sweden so you can speak properly).

I'm pretty sure that pic is looking north, as the sun is behind the photographer, and the sun would never be north of this border, so Norway is left and Sweden is right, but that does not make Sweden right...

Cold As Heaven said...

When it comes to Swedish literature, I like some of the books by Ulf Lundell, in particular Jack. Many nice things in Sweden ... but the ice cream sucks

Cold As Heaven

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

I didn’t know you were Danish! This was a totally delightful post.

LTM said...

lol! I think it would be kind of nice to be told you sound like you're singing all the time...

wow. In all those years I lived w/Jenny & Tove (Sundqvist) we never once discussed the Norway-Sweden-Denmark connection. I do remember once we were all out at a bar and this really hot guy was there and Jenny was talking to him and when I bounced up I didn't understand A WORD they were saying... He was Danish. :D

She also spoke in Swedish in her sleep, and I tell ya, not a word...

THANK YOU for clearing all this up. Esp. the part about Norway not being the capital of Copenhagen~

Carolyn Abiad said...

I voted for Alexander Rybak - do I get points for that? Of course I prefer ABBA and worked for ABB, where I learned that Norwegians and Swedes can understand each other.

PS. The fjords are in Norway, right? I think those are pretty cool.

Cruella Collett said...

Alex - heavy metal isn't really my thing, but I have come to understand that it is one of our top exports!

Clarissa - ..if Norway's hockey team even make it to the olympics... Hockey is one of the sports where I actually can cheer for Sweden...

Michelle - haha, that is brilliant, actually. One thing I didn't mention in the post are the many "Swedish jokes" we make - using the lefse for a napkin sounds like the punchline of one of them (though the Swedens have them about Norwegians as well, so I don't feel so very bad about it...)

Jen - that sounds familiar, yes. Many Swedes and Norwegians have bonded over an after-game beer ;)
(And you might be right - as you can tell, the difference between Norway and Sweden isn't that big)

Yvonne - you're welcome. Hope I didn't bore anyone with my history lesson...

Boonie - Brussels? Yes, we opted out of the EU, but Sweden didn't.. (That WAS what you were talking about, yes?) And who is this beetle you're talking about? I never knew a beetle. Or should I say, he never knew me.

Jan - you was our queen? You must come back and claim the throne, it's been too long since we've had a proper royal battle in these woods... And even if you don't, perhaps you can offer your brother some Tetley? I'm sure all that coffee can't be good for him...

Melody - glad you liked it! I skipped a whole bunch of details, of course, but I'm glad my point came across :)

...to be cont...

Cruella Collett said...

...inued..

Maria - maybe my six years at the university have been worth it after all, eh? ;) I suppose it's the "writer meets historian" thing kicking in. Glad you liked it :) (And now you know why I like you despite the fact that you make me read Swedish... :P )

noname - oh, you poke a polarbear... Yes, yes, my Swedishness is very un-Nor weigh ish of me. (Here's a secret - I probably have Swedish blood running in my veins too...Shhh, don't tell anyone!)

Tami - split personality much? And I would LOVE to show you both Sweden and Norway. Hing, why don't we toss in Denmark and Finland for good measure? And maybe Iceland to make the Nordicness complete (plus I've never been, so it would be cool. Literally). Thanks for clarifying with the picture - you're probably right!

Ketil - I'd have to agree that Norwegian ice cream tastes better than Swedish, but I kind of like the selection in Sweden. They just have such different and weird things there. It fascinates me!

Holly - gee, thanks for reading :P I should have known I was putting my head on the block by admitting how sensitive I am to not be properly acknowledged as a Da.. NORWEGIAN! Now you're making ME say it wrong as well...

Leigh - yes, it was sort of nice. I should also have mentioned Swedish guys... Not that they are better than Norwegian guys, of course, but they make a nice supplement ;)
And I don't think that Denmark and Sweden has the same branch of rivalry, actually. At least it seems less.. less something. I can't say for sure, but perhaps Denmark is more like the other older brother - the one who gets all the respect?

Carolyn - you definitely get points for that! (I have a secret soft spot for Alexander Rybak. Not so secret anymore since I write it here, perhaps, but...) And YES, the fjords are in Norway - more extra points to you ;)

Cold As Heaven said...

Cruella, maybe I can fill in a little bit about Scandinavian metal, since I've have been listening to these bands for 20 years, and still does, every day.

As Alex mentioned, metal is big in Scandinavia. The general trend is that Norwegian bands developed black metal whereas Finish and Swedish bands had a major influence on death metal. In Sweden a melodic sub-genre known as Gothenburg metal emerged. It all started about the same time, in the early 90s.

Here’s a list of bands that makes a good start for anyone who wants to dig into this (my subjective list of favorites):

Norwegian black metal bands: Mayhem, Burzum, Satyricon, Gorgoroth, Taake, Arcturus, Thorns, Dimmu Borgir

Swedish death metal bands: In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Ethernal Oath, At the Gates, Opeth

Finish death metal bands: Children of Bodom, Rapture, Amorphis

Jemi Fraser said...

As a Canadian I'm very familiar with this kinds of 'sibling rivalry' - we have something similar going on with the States. :)

Stephen Tremp said...

Thanks for the geography history. I love history and geography, especially of Europe. I was pretty darn good with capitals of other countries.

Stephen Tremp

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

I know it was evil. Shame, shame on me. :)

Cruella Collett said...

Cold As Ice - excellent! I have heard of a few of those bands, naturally, but certainly not all of them, and I was completely oblivious to the different genres. Thanks :)

Jemi - yeah, the Canada/US thing sounds similar.

Stephen - geography has never been my strong side, even if I have always been fascinated by it. The history part, though, is more my thing.

Holly - shame! ;)

Alexandra Crocodile said...

Ugh, I friggin HATE Sweden. Sweden sucks!

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