When studying psychology you hear about cultural differences over and over and over again. The two BIG opposites are here the Western, individualistic countries (USA!) and the Eastern, collectivistic countries (China!). In the Western countries personal growth and independence is valued the most, in the Eastern countries it’s the interdependent cooperation and not to be different. So my teacher asked me what Norway is like. I answered that it is Western individualisic, for sure. Not so different from USA, really. Today I talked to a new friend, Judah, who is in this class with me. He asked me what big differences I’ve noticed between Norway and USA, and if there’s something I find weird over here. Yes! People are oversharing! I have heard more about my classmates lives over here in one month than I know about my Norwegian classmates after two years. “I’m a virgin and I love it!”, “My father is an alcoholic, and my sister has been in a mental institution her whole life!”, “I have this weird condition where I cannot digest apples!”- that is how it goes on and on, in class and out of class. I am sorry, but I don’t wanna know. I don’t even know these peoples names! I sometimes feel like I’m in a Ricky Lake show instead of class.
So I’ve tried coming up with an explanation for this talkshow-behavior. It’s not a psychology student thing, as Norwegians don’t do it. It is not that they have so especially exciting things to share either (“I have a food-texture-phobia. I don’t like textured food. So I can’t have raisins in my oatmeal. Like, I just can’t.”) So is it just that it’s so competative here, everybody wants to stand out, be heard and seen, be special? I believe so. So Judah asked me how Norway still is individualistic, then, when we’re not supposed to stand out, or brag about our achievements? How is it different from a collectivistic country? I didn’t really know what to answer. Is Norway mini-China, and I just couldn’t see it all that clear before I went over here? What is really up with Norway? And should I be embarrassed to not really know?
Norway isn’t even on here, might there be a reason for that? Is it too far out?