I was told by a Norwegian that alcohol was so expensive in her country because of the heavy taxation stemming from strong religious beliefs held by a minority of the population. This contradicted the what I had read about the majority of Scandinavians identifying as Lutherans, but few actually practicing religion at all. If any country should have a polytheistic tradition, it should probably be this one. If the Norwegians were polytheistic, they would worship the sun and make offerings to the gods of darkness and rain to keep them at bay, or, in this case, fjord.
Every Norwegian I met, made sure to tell me how lucky I was with the weather. For the week that I stayed in Norway, it was nothing but 16°C, blue skies and plenty of sunshine. Apparently, everything you’ve ever heard about dark and bleak Nordic winters is absolutely true. The Oslofolk (does anyone know the actual/a better denonym?) are only too eager to tell you how their city slumps into depression into the winter and becomes a completely different place. Every guide book recommends visiting Norway in late May but when the sun arrived unexpectedly early this year, I got to see the Oswegians (my own portmanteau) leave behind hibernation and come out and play.
Oslo may be the most expensive city in the world, but the hottest real estate come spring is the park. The people don’t seem to be picky about what else is in the park; all they want is one expansive piece of grass. Once this property has been attained, they use it to do their two favourite pasttimes: makeshift tanning and barbequeing. The lack of sand and water doesn’t discourage Norwegians, male and female, from getting into swimsuits in parks. I have never seen people so desperate to get a tan.
When they’re not roasting themselves, Norwegians also enjoy roasting sausages and fish burgers on tiny disposable barbeques. The barbeques are aluminum trays filled with charcol and a small grill covering it and the hottest item at the grocery stores. (Especially since one goes for 30 kr.) This is the quintessential Oslo experience: fighting the expensive cost of living by self-catering and self-imbibing and doing it in the sun. Cost and time efficient.
It’s not all sunshine in the spring though; it does reveal a darker edge. The trash cans in parks are overflowing with used barbeques and waste neatly packaged in plastic bags from the nearest supermarket. It’s not uncommon to see people walking around with bags to collect picnickers’ empty cans and bottles to return for the 1 kr deposit. I saw two young girls collecting empties, but couldn’t tell if it was a means for extra pocket money or way to make ends meet. Still, there are worse places in the world to be scavenging for money.