I thought I had cracked the Norwegian friend code. I had joined multiple clubs and student organizations, I had formed study groups, I had gone on cabin trips with my study program classmates. But weekend after weekend, I noticed something strange: I would attend a party or two on Friday and Saturday, enjoying the comradery and friendliness of intoxicated Norwegians. But every Monday I was left feeling lonely, an emotional hangover after a weekend of fun. What was this phenomenon?
The Norwegian friendship one-night stand.
The first column: Welcome to Norway – now fill out these forms
Maybe you’re like me, going out every Friday with the confidence of an international student who is ready to take on these cold Norwegians. You know the drill: you can speak a little Norwegian when you’re drunk, you’ve got a pre-party lined up, and you can afford exactly two beers. But you’re still about to get your ass handed to you, because the new friend who just poured out his heart to you and unexpectedly and generously offered you one of his extra beers is not in it for the long haul. Neither is that woman who you just talked to for an hour about her latest relationship, or the girl who helped you find your lost shoe. You thought this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, when it was in fact a friendship one-night stand.
When you see each other in the school cafeteria on Monday, they will not respond to you waving. If you say hello, it will be as if you exist on different planes in separate dimensions. And if you do somehow manage to get them to acknowledge you, it will be as if the night never happened, no matter how well you thought it went.
These «friends» only wanted a night of fun, no strings attached. But then how are you supposed to make friends? Native Norwegians make friends in primary school and never let go. It takes a lot to break in, and the only way is to beat them at their own game.
Norwegians’ primary driving instincts are embarrassment and shame. Everything they do or don’t do is in order to minimize these feelings. So when they see you, they’re remembering the night (if they do in fact remember it) with a lot of «fylleangst,» or «anxiety about their drunkenness.» They have no desire to revisit whatever secrets they divulged to you, so don’t bring it up. You know, and they know you know, but no one needs to say it out loud.
Try to hang out with friends of friends. It will make you seem less threatening the day after, and also increases the chances you will encounter them again, helping to build a connection in contexts other than confessional «1-AM-post-beer-kebab-shop.»
Finally, be ubiquitous. If possible, make friends in your workplace or study program, so they can’t avoid you. The regularity of your presence will make it more embarrassing to ignore you than to finally give in and embrace this burgeoning friendship.
The quest for Norwegian friends is long and arduous. But the day you have a normal conversation after a night out is the day you’ll know you did it.