A couple of years ago I agreed to do the “skål for damen” (literally toast for the ladies) at the faculty Christmas party. I said yes to this without really knowing what I was letting myself in for, so when I started asked people for advice they just looked at me with a mixture of pity and concern. The more constructive ones suggested that it was a bit of a minefield, you had to be funny, but not offensive. Not offensive but not patronising. Not patronising but not pathetic. I was starting to worry. Now it was obvious why I got the task, nobody else was dumb enough to volunteer. I worked this over and hit upon a plan. I am a scientist, this is a University, I’ll hide behind some research…
So I emailed all the guys I knew and asked them to return 5 adjectives that came to mind when they heard the phrase “Norwegian Girl”. I then collated the results and subdivided them into 3 groups: guys who had never been to Norway or maybe just visited once; ex-pats who lived in Norway and, Norwegians. The results were very interesting and formed the basis for the speech where I introduce the concept and then returned the results by group:
Foreigners (mainly Brits) who had never lived in Norway
Blonde! Was the most common adjective, followed by beautiful, sexy, pretty, sporty etc , coupled with available, free and promiscuous. The overall perception was universally positive, an image of beautiful, liberal mind, Valkerie maidens.
Expats living in Norway
For this group blonde was once again top of the list! They also agreed that these women were pretty, beautiful, sexy and so forth but a few negative terms crept in. Some used phrases like strong-minded and independent (arguable not negative traits) while others resorted to the more definatly negetive stroppy, stubborn, bitchy etc. The promiscuity of the group was also brought in to question by some respondents, who presumably had more experience on the matter than their overseas cousins and replied with cold, cock-teasing and frigid.
Blonde was once again the number one response. This is odd because, while it is true for eastern Norway, on the west coast the Scandinavian gene pool has long be diluted by the dark eyes and dark hair of the Iberic sailors and traders of the middle ages, to the extent that only about half the population is now actually blonde. But regardless of the facts, Blonde was their observation. They also agreed, broadly speaking that Norwegain girls are pretty and beautiful but beyond that they split into two very clear groups. The first group were the patriotic Norwegian males who unashamedly believed their women were the best in the world – strong, athletic, independent, sexy, intelligent etc. The second group came with some unexpected responses and extremely negetive phrases including shallow, manipulative, bitchy, frigid, childish etc. That was a bit shocking, especially since I know these people!
So the conclusion of the research was
1. All Norwegians girls are blonde!
2. Everyone thinks they are beautiful
3. They look better from a distance, the further away the group, the less negetive the response
4. They have a strong independent streak which is valued differently by different groups. Some (expats) see it as a negative trait – stroppy, while others (Norwegian males) see it as a positive thing. This is probably because they have been beaten into thinking that way by strong women ;-)
4. Some Norwegian men are very bitter
5. If Norwegian girls want to be fully appreciated they should move to England
And that was the basis for the talk and I made it out of the hall alive and in one piece so maybe they are not that scary after all…