Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Appears I am hypomanic - eager to talk, creative, rushing of thoughts, grandiosity/ego, inability to connect with others.

Prone to day dreaming and not being able to self actualise, but rather focusing on either what is negative or that which is ideal...this in a cycle of ups and downs.

Inability to concentrate on other's conversations, instructions etc. Taking out personal tasks or refusing to do them. Deprioritising tasks. Inability to see the task and the quality required to polish it off, Lack of attention to detail, bullwhitting himself on that which is complete/satisfactory. No memory for details, and a lack of focus on the quality which should drive the detailed ways of doing tasks to completion- previously very poor to complete things, learnt he had to

also tinged with hypermania- completely loosing the plot over small issues, or bottling it up and taking it out on those at home!

Pessimism, but intense insight and 'reading' of other people and potential negative situations to a major skill! 9/10 correct on my so called paranoia. Sometimes huge optimistic foresight /interpretation.

Both an intuition and people-reading / chess like thought pattern which can be self fulfilling, but is more often not trusted as a skill. Seen as paranoia, the gut feeling followed up with evidence and the potential for a hidden plan

Like a pig on antibiotics, fitter, happier more productive

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tae the Lassies

Really the history of modern women in the work place came about with the war for the big three economies – UK, Hitler’s germany and the USA. Post war other countries faced either labour shortages or an economy rapidly industrialising from an agricultural base, as was the case in Scandinavia.

In the latter case, women in Scandinavia and France and other such like countries were used to a division of labour wherein even hard labour could be tackled by a woman in the largely agricultural and rural societies and artisan city lives. True families may have been large, and this was the reserve of the woman in her 20s, but they shared tasks and mutual respect.

In the former case, war-work let women see the camaraderie and feeling of accomplishment men had enjoyed in manufacturing jobs. Money was no longer a matter of house keeping pennies, with the man in control, it was a matter of personal triumph and autonomy. Even if those early wages were often unequal to men, they were a far more inflated and disposable income than the weekly housekeeping. The novelty never wore off, did it girls?

After the war women were by in large in the big three economies, back in their place with the soldiers taking the helm of bread-winning once again. Collective working class housing and close communities re-inforced the stereotype of pre-war women at home. The middle class idyll of man with pipe and slippers after the commute home to the ‘burbs was reinforced by the media, run by, er middle class blokes travelling home and expecting their dinner on the go and some time with the racing pages over a pipe!

However, the Barbera Castles and organised women in Scandinavia and later the USA took on the righteous fight which would bubble on until the watershed legislation in the mid seventies. This is all good in my books and I must say I enjoy working with both sexes, the majority of my roles actually being in women dominated departments!!

Women from everyday life could aspire. No longer would it be an up hill fight or pure chance, or family money which could propel a woman into the career market. But Equality took time to catch on. Still there are some roles seen as ‘traditionally female’ which have long standing low pay- mainly in health sectors and primary or nursery education. Still there is male predominance in engineering. The glass ceiling is only cracking and not breaking. I come back to this after a digression.

Women in developed countries have had a 3 decade love affair with careers and the working life style. Men on the other hand have had a long standing culture of scepticism to work and bolchy-ness on how much they are getting paid and where else they might get more. That is a male thing. Discontented but winning, most often, the majority of the bread for the family and so a little stuck in what they are doing. The mid life crisis comes along for most when they realise they are still in an every day struggle to fight either heavy office politics or quenching boredom.

Women have a different perspective. It can be quite subtle to spot the differences. I think it probably relates to women having a strong will for recognition and a feeling of common feminity while being actually quite individualistic in their working ethic.

On the ‘shop floor’ men tend to be far more into camaraderie, they tend to bond together like a rugby team given long enough together and out of the immediate gaze of management. There are common conversational queues, such as of course the football. Once a conversation on politics breaks out all sorts of opinions are offered. So men behave like a pack of dogs with the alpha male knowing on them once in a while, barking once and again and only showing downright dominance and humiliation to the worst offenders.

Men tend to view their careers as also working with a bunch of mates, having some longe term friendly banter, or maybe as a steady slog towards the top with no given right to get there. Women on the other hand see the whole workplace as a highly competitive environment, where individuals must be seen to be getting along with everyone but actually relentlessly looking for promotion and ways to be more equal than the men.

Often through breaks in career for travel and children, lower university performance in vocational courses ( still true ladies!), less valued qualifications or lower level of tertiary education , a perceived lack of aggression and will to succeed or just plain incompetence in wage admin and policy women still end up earning less than men in the SAME roles.

But more often now feelings of injustice are focused on comparison between “traditional” female roles, most often in health and social care, and other male dominated roles. This man drives a machine. This women is a nurse. They get different pay. This is unfair. It is the same level. Of course it isn’t- the man knew that the gadget operators job came with a rare bit of training and paid better in the long term. The women took a stereotypical role, and accepted in the out set that this was shite pay. If women don’t vote with their feet, like men do in the economic up cycle and leave low paid jobs or not take them in the first place, then they will be locked into a cycle of false hopes and lining union officials and lawyers pockets.

Men are far more likely to say, “fuck this for a game of soldiers, the pay is shite I am off to be a plumber” than women. Women see the vertical in career, with the only thing holding them back from breaking the glass ceiling being all that prejudice and sexism.

This is where I make my key point about this fucking glass ceiling. The majority of those above are still men. However, those men represent a tiny fraction of the male working population. Senior management is not only peppered with women there is a huge raft of eighties career girl graduates being promoted into VP roles and finding higher roles outside their firms today. The very top is a tiny amount- just as there are few genii and they tend to be male.

Let’s face it, do you really want to go there? Most men don’t. Is it really a natural, seemless progression up the ladder with the only thing holding women back being sexism and the urge to take three years on slow to cuddle babies? More men would be quite happy to give up the time to stay at home of the kids than you would believe. Ok, many won’t entertain the idea. But the majority who would probably can’t because they are locked into keeping their job and the mortgage rat-race.

Women being in the work place was a Morgan Freedman dream come true. A massive de-restriction in the labour supply, a boost to all those competitive conniving situations which make capitalism really work, and most of all a massive boost to the capital lending markets with rocketing house prices. Oh yes, you are to blame Ladies.

I bet on that you can tack house prices with the number of women entering management by a proportional or even exponential relationship on a graph. There is equality of wages, yippee, but not equality on real estate. Supply from the new found spinsters, the bachelorettes and the DINKYs fuel those rocketing house prices. And you pushing the family for a bigger place for the next baby. Hubby wants a Doberman and the new play station 3. He’d live in a student flat the whole of his life if it wasn’t for wife and kids, and new bachelor does just that!!

Some people get lucky- couples can afford a lovely dream house or move to the country by transferring their jobs in the public sector to a cheaper council and selling up their wheelie bin of a flat in docklands. Most just struggle and first time buyer yuppie not only has to lie to get a mortgage, but finds out that one bedroom space capsules are actually not that desirable to anyone else than yuppies and their wages aren’t going up right now. They are also virtually unrentable- at a profit at least. Stuck in your hutch, starsky!

But women in my experience within my (ex) professions are genuinely better at the job!! I mean that. They are better at not appearing to take issues personally while trumpet blowing is greated with smiles from their male colleagues and ‘one up for us girls’ from the tit and fanny brigade. On the bad hand there it is “the situation” whereas a man may take responsibility and get a tad defensive or guilty. On the other it is jumping up and down for attention and recognition, where a man might appreciate a pat on the back and a beer down the dog and duck from his boss.

Women are better at getting all soft and apologetic with customers and other departments whlist at other times showing a level of anger and aggression which would not be tolerated from a deep voiced burly man! In a woman it is mysteriously called assertiveness whereas the male body language (unavoidable) and louder voice, and less bitchy more fisty cuffs and forget it approach is taken.

They are better at getting the hell what they want and showing everyone what the hell the have done, making sure they get “what’s in it for me” and all that effing trumpet blowing and ‘we won’, ‘our latest corporate PR in plumbers weekly’ cc e-mails. Good at communicating- read talks a lot and tries to make everyone feel good in doing that before actually achieving anything.

9 parts hot air to one part action is actually what is required these days in the delayered multinational where “managing without authority” has become the norm, even when people have titles like ‘ project manager’! It’s all about motivating other people into doing a win-win job ! Yeeehah! It’s all about getting the touchy feely people on board and thinking they are going to get something out of it ( read, a footnote of recognition on a girly e-mail) while cajoling, patronising, and bullying the others to join in. It’s all about getting the girlies behind you while getting the men’s bosses to tell them to obey you.

To sum up on that rant, women are better at doing all the superficial stuff and nurturing the touchy-feely atmosphere. Many even know that this is necessary pre-requisite, others are just good at being glib. Charm is used for bosses above them at all times. Charm, get them on side then ask for what you want.

Also they are as I said above, better at managing by proxy and accordingly better at getting things un-decided. Men still have some stupid notion of fair play and taking things on face value. Meetings have an authority in their own right, and decisions made should be stuck to. Women know that things can be turned with a bit of leg work round the office, and that meetings rarely actually get things done. To them meetings merely catalyse ideas and let them know what their opponents think or want to do. Meetings are like being in court with real action being done in the anterooms!!

So now you are 35 Miss, or Ms. Gen X. You work a twelve hour day with some later t-cons you wouldn’t want to miss happening once a week. You have your cappuccino machine and your cat in your flat and those nice letters from your ex boyfriends you never had time for. You watch the once cute single guys go home at 5 to play with their kids. You get paid the same, but hell, you’re a woman and you have to work twice as hard to stay where you are and three times as hard to get promoted. Come on girls, stop lying to yourselves.

In terms of wages, men know that the only way to really get on is to play hard ball. Women will sit longer on a pay band and accept more responsibility of the same pay because of the dream of promotion.

You are conspiring with the Morgan Freedmans and the “less is more” capatilists. You are effectively keeping other girls out of the work place and negating the company’s actual need for a promotional hierarchy by doing all the work. You have no one to manage. You do it all. Men knew all along that it’s about selling your life to some bastards. Women thought they were buying a life.


So women, bloody well train to be an engineer! Sit through nights of maths and nothing to get touchy-feely with. Put up with taciturn colleagues who don’t like being told what to do (by anyone) Mingle with the unwashed males, the hectic hormonal females, the neurotic failures on both sides and the bitter spinster-bachelor-divorcee crowd in the dull, dreary work places of former ‘male’ professions.
-Put up with a bit of the old boy network and, wait for it , a more capable and political-able female being parachuted in to the role you had cosseted for your own promotion!!!!!! Put up with the boredom of day to day work and the de-layering stifling promotional opportunities.
Grow old and bitter and hateful of the 9 to 5 and start a little hobby in a small wooden house at the foot of the garden to get away from this and the kids thrash metal. In short, become a man. Otherwise just carry on in nursing, teaching, personnel or marketing.

The Old Dogs and the Wee Dolly Birds

This is actually the second time that I have been discriminated against. Well that I know of at least. Other interviewers may have just looked through me. My CV may have been left unread. Invader name, ageing. Not a young bit of skirt to have around.

The first time was fairly unsubtle but at least they would have had enough excuse not to employ me. My norsk language was not really up to it, and despite being an international office with publications and all documentations being in English, lack of day to day communication ease would have been enough. Instead of me, with 9 years experience and a business masters all appropriate for the job, a pretty young girl with 18months experience as a drug representative was appointed. A ‘fighting girl’ as they put it. I got considered for a temp position after this.

Now, once again in my shakey career path, my gut instinct told me that I shouldn’t go to the snidey recruitment consultant for the third party, and unnecessary interview. They gave me, unlike my colleage moving to this new department from the old company set up at the Uni’ , a damn hard time. He told me it was a cup of coffee and a chat. The job was mine.

But the job wasn’t mine. It went to a ‘wee dolly burd’ as the old timers of my dads generation would have put it. I had no leg to stand on and was unemployed with only evening courses to keep me busy. In Norwegian, of course.

This time round there is a more subtle and insidious approach to it all. There has been a lot of squirming around trying to make enough smoke and mirrors to get me out the door and the new person in without alarm. Management have done what they wanted and abused the systems and procedures to make try to make me feel that I was agreeing with them to leave!

Okay they preferred someone else, and I wasn’t the nicest guy or most clarent bloke to work with.

But all the liberalness in Norway leaves the sharks on the reef with easy pickings and little if no pay-back. Because of the tight laws and regulations concerning employment and termination, ordinary punters just go along in the assumption that employers firstly abide by the law and secondly show fair play. They of course do not, especially when it comes to immigrants.

The cigar classes of herre-middag (gentlemens’ dinner season in the autumn) like to have a bit of fluff about the office or to pretty-up their team. They like the soft-touchy feminity and the lack of aggressive challenge and overt amibition males show. Women see the biological clock and want to start using the fruits of their humble collaboration and super-hard work they have precieved they needed to do to get on as far as a person with a penis. The cigars wafting bosses use this, as they do in other countries all over the place where equality is a legal phenomenon. Women want up the damn ladder and are prepared to sacrifice more than the average man who gets there. But more on that in another lecture.

Business in Norway is not very sexy. Business men are portly, arrogant swarthy types with open collars on expensive shirts that should have a tie in place. Successful women are hyper pushy and cut throat in my experience. It’s all a little dynasty-dallas soap opera on the back of the fact that no one really needs to work for a living here. Not sweat, long hours and putting the job first in life like many in the UK, germany and the USA. It is a means to an end and all floated in the idyll of the oil berg. Norwegians are in effect sitting in a bath of money waving piles of $1000 dollar bills about themselves. Everyone lives in a luxury, all be it that this was the case before oil in terms of quality of life. People still go skiing and live the summer in little huts like they did in the austere 1950s, they just drive there in an X5 or range rover. So in the midst of the cauldron of cash and boredom, the odd bit of eye candy gets preferential treatment. No one will notice. The sharks can go in, take a bite and swim on as an imperceptible shadow over the coral reef that is our oil berg.

Pretty girls don’t know what the hell to do with themselves because so many of them are pretty! Applying for a job they aren’t really qualified for, and being arrogant, spoilt and with over realistic expectations is no problem for a cigar class boss! Great a little fluffy to mould into the shape I need.

It must be great waving your cigar about the place talking about what foreign firm you ripped off, which contracts your old mates awarded your firm, where the next gravy train of public money is coming from and appointing the next bit of eye candy ahead of someone actually experienced to do the job.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More on Norwegian Work Place and Work Culture

Norwegians have a work place culture which places them at odds with their non

scandinavian neighbours and of course the USA links with the oil industry.

The key centre to this is that they are into consensus and recognition. This means

that everyone must be involved, decisions are never hurried, other people must be

consulted outside the meeting and an agreement must be at least large majority,

consensus or by mutual agreement. This colours many of their business decisions and

it means that quite ordinary evaluations and decisions can take time.

When a good decision is made or a project settled, then recognition is important for

all contributors. As many in person should be mentioned in the rolling credits. The

one thing the presentor avoids is use of the first person singular- they cannot take

any credit directly. Usually they will have flowers presented or the like and someone

will call for a round of applause.

Taking initiative, as an individual is positively frowned upon. If you are a

foriegner it is grounds for major behind the scenes pow-wows and final dressing downs

on quite minor issues. Ownership must be carefully driven by skillful managers

otherwise there are outright diffusions of responsibility and dissolution of

enthusiasm and engagement.

However there are sharks swimming in the placid commensual society of the working

coral reef. The culture of consensus and consulation is abused to slow up decisions

or to muddy waters. The senior male manager in Norwegian companies can be a real

bastard and the current rack of career climbing females can be ruthless manipultating

bitches...hey what's new? Well the thing is these are the wolves in sheeps clothing.

Norway is great for bastards and those normal mortals with a protestant work eithic.

The wolves are actually all around. On the face of it people are fair and open and

honest, but if you want to get on in management you have to play the game. You have

to steer decisions carefully like a boat in a confused tidal stream. You let the

eddy's of opinion and passing concern move the boat seeminlgy off course, before they

inevitably subside and you can get back to where you are going. It is a bit like

working in a never ending city council environment, but there is a good level of

cooperation and involvement from staff. They just expect to be in on the decision and

recognised at the end.

So to use the oft' cited struting of business personality and behaviour people show,

most norwegians want to be circles but are really squares with secret ambitions to

one day be a triangle. Few are 'squiggles'. It is the triangles who really get the

job done, and they are usually quite high in management.

Also the average norwegian office worker or public employee is lazy. A bit like

working in a city council or a university admin department, flexitime, pregancy leave

and psychologically caused sick leave are widely abused. Family and freetime come

first. Job and any idea of actually working hard to be recognised and fulfill

ambition are secondary. Graduates are worse after a couple of years of having any

individual initiative dragged out of them. They rest on their laurels and the women

look forward to their first baby and upto 18 months off work, while the men look

forward to up to five weeks off in a row over july-august, or the next ski trip

'bought' with dodget flexitime.

Harder working norwegians still don't often work very long hours. Few work even 10

hour days. THis is healty. What they do actually practice is good priotisation and

ignoring the background noise which brits and low ranking yank employees busy

themselves about. E-mails go largely unanswered if they are not from someone

important or follow a direct verbal instruction relating to their contetn and intentd

actions. I've seen many managers work clever. They prioritise. They don't buy

bullshit and after all, I must agree if anything is that important someone would have

phoned their mobile about it.

What they are bad at is delegating shitty tasks always downward and making everyone

else prepared for deadlines so that they don't need to panic unless things

change...they would rather have the job repeated with the new circumstances taken

into account than wait to have a pressured deadline.

Norwegians probably work the shortest annual hours of any developed country in the

world. THis has actually many plus sides- management and key workers can be focused

and fresh in their daily responsibilities, and their health is a lot better than the

opposing middle-aged yank for say. It means operation level workers can come into the

work place as organic growth in demand naturally entails new employees. Norwegians

won't tolerate being told to work 10 hours to take up the slack. They will just not

do it, no matter how bad the employment market is, and at time of writing they just

will go get another job as soon as the pressure is on. Pregnancy leave means that

many people can get valuable experience in new roles, periods of unemployment or in

streatcing their responsibilities up to management level. People can be very

motivated to get work and projects effectively finished or defined as psotponed in

order that they have an uniteruppted 3 weeks in july.

Norway AS (inc, PLC) basically is shut for the summer. Even the oil industry ashore

is on skeleton staff. Because of the spirit of consensus and fear of making decisions

, this means that one boss is often agreed absent in July with the other having

August and no decisions effectively being taken until september 1. This obviously

has an effect on the economy. Not that their service and tourist industry benefit

much. Norwegians are either content with a trip to the asutere cabin for the summer

or a wilder tour to the far east or australia.

Thats another thing. Service industry is seen as a poor cousin, and staff are mostly

of low motivation and down right rude. In the US Chain 'TGI fridays' the staff are

noticeably attentive and polite and helpful. This is not the norm. Norwegains despise

taliking to tourists and generally don't like communicating much with anyone who they

don't know. The plus side of this is that for example, many of the seven eleven

franshisees are business graduates in their 20s cutting their teeth on a business

which often can't fail to line their pockets. Even skiing for foreign tourists is

very much an afterthought and they try to manage it to fill capacity at off peak

times outside norwegian mid term and easter for example.

So all in all a lazy old bunch of awkward sods, but plenty of opportuity for enterprising folk with the general competition for this starting new businesses or "running with the ball" quite low.

Little Norway


Famed for their open mindedness, honesty, lack of prejudice and ability to negotiate fairly.


I have just had one hell of a couple of years dealing with the subtle xenophobia of the Norwegian work place. What people say in public and all the good ‘opinions’ are actually really at odds with their practice of attitude against foreigners.

Outside the oil industry and education, you will find few non-norwegian names in private companies other than bus drivers. In truth they are loathed to take on foreign staff to positions of responsibility.

My summation is that they have a couple of key drivers here. Nordmenn are not overtly racist and hold strong opinions on those who persecute the underdog and generally hold a torch for the economically oppressed, dark skinned landsfolk. But when it comes to little Norway, back home they don’t like strangers living in their ‘oil berg’ and a black face is an instant trigger for prejudice. Secondly they have a fear in the work place of breaking with consensus, and there is an impression that generally people will disapprove of the appointment of a foreigner.

My god, their Norwegian may not be perfect! There may be misunderstandings!! Tasks may take many seconds longer to achieve. They don’t understand the culture (?)

Most of all they don’t want to be seen to be the one who made the final decision to employ a “furrrinerr.” A bit like Britain in the 1950s they need labour, have screaming wage inflation and demanding BE business brats yet see only bus driving and pizza shovelling as jobs worthy of a foreigner.

Speaking Norwegian doesn’t help much, in fact the reverse. They feel you have won one over them, that you have gone over the doorstep- they pride themselves on their English, yet on average it is actually pretty poor. I’ve seen quite senior managers give presentations tantamount to an episode of Allo’ Allo’ dedicated to that local gendarme. Misunderstandings are frequent. I had one boss who use the completely wrong word for ‘Scenario’ in a high tech business. He made it sound like a bus tour operator by saying the like of “ In two years time we must discuss the scenery, and it has improved then we can invest”.

And going over the psychological doorstep is what it is about. Norwegians, on average, are actually intensely private and closed people. On the surface they are polite and even initially friendly. But if you try to invite yourself in over the threshold to their invitingly cosey parlour then you go over the mark. Speaking Norwegian is a little too in their face. You are no longer a guest in their land- you are an ‘invanndere’ and the word sounds terribly near to invader- take it to mean the same. You are intruding on their nice little set of hypocrisies- on the outside they are liberal, non racist and welcoming. But when you intrude on their patch they let you know. As for asking someone down the pub for a beer….well that is usually well over the mark and greeted with polite declining.

Norwegians are terrible xenophobes. They are racist to the core and don’t even know it! How can this be the case? Well their opinions, their educated attitudes and politically correct atmosphere is very anti racist. But their ‘walking down the street’ and rubbing shoulders in the office feeling is deep xenophobia. Until the last fifteen years they were pretty sheltered and racially pure, The “boat” people were welcomed at first and held up on the usual prolitcal pedistal. In reality they often faced discrimination and exclusion. With the opening of labour markets and acceptance of refugees and asylum seekers, Norway got exposed to a steady flow on obvioyslky foreign peoples. This challenged their political correctness, and some became overtly racist. Most were just nimby’s and ‘not with my daughter or son’ types. Black people get treated like shite in Oslo. People push through them. There is huge unemployment despite often good Norwegian and a shortage of cheap labour.

They have a thing which is very like Scots Presbyterianism – Jantes’ Law. This is all about not getting too high and mighty in the eyes of god. Friendly furriners give them something which only reinforces their need for modesty and understatement. They have something to define what they are NOT. Defining what Norwegians ARE is harder. Even for themselves.

Oslo is particularily unfriendly. I worked there six months with only one invitation to a ‘pay cheque’ beer night, and that was by accident of departmental e-mail. Depsite other foreigners, (who had played it right- getting to know people in English first before going into speaking Norwegian-) I was the both the new boy, the stranger and the threat. I was an unknown quantity, an intruder. A wolf in the woods. I was an outspoken Scot, with a need to be sociable. People picked up on my expectant pauses and little leading conversations and this was all too over the doorstep for them. They love someone in need, but not someone who is needy. They rallied round each other and got me fired.

Privacy is a central theme. Family and the extended version, are the thing they are most taken up with either in front of or just behind ‘friluftsliv’- outdoor sports. Then comes old friends. Nostalgia is a national sickness but they don’ just wallow in it, they seek out new common experience with old friends….to the exclusion of new.

The other thing is they are not only clannish but pretty snide when it comes to

foreigners. In social circuits they will often talk openly behind your back. At work

coworkers or other departmental bosses are quite likely to go over your head on your

language abilities or any misunderstandings or cultural issues i.e. demonstrating

personality and flair, or taking initiative.

I noticed this at University in Glasgow. You met norsk blokes out at night often enough, but the nice looking birds were always chaperoned by a few hangers on from Norway. Like sheep dogs they kept the flock safe from the wolves, and the poor shepherded girls revert to type and pair off with their engineer or agriculture compatriots.

Norway has a lot to defend. It is a good life in Norway, with or without oil. It is all the outdoors life, on boats, mountains and woods. With boots, gun, a canoe and a cabin both sexes are very happy. Skit trips or serious mountaineering are as common and banal as going to the cinema is in the UK……… and the women are beautiful and the men slim and handsome (often rather petite pretty boys than bawdy Viking raiders!). People live not only longer lives, but much richer retirements are anticipated in health, activity and financial terms.

Students are cosseted until many emerge like rip-van-winkel butterflies from their crysali not before they are in their late 20s. This is after rounds of high school till 19, military service, college, university and finally master grades. The average age of people starting PhDs must be six years higher than the UK.

So they do go through a period of expanding their social lives and opening the doorsteps. But collective life is short lived as they return to make their own little womb and haven to build a nest for children. Their social set becomes quite locked, even to other Norwegians. Courting within these social groups can be quite a dragged out affair with a lot of macho posturing, passive aggression or moody glances across party rooms. Lots of false starts and denial and drunken encounters which are politely forgotten. Things can I have heard in small towns, get pretty much like arranged marriages or north African bride sales, with friends being the go betweens.

However, this is one side of the story. The other side of the story relates to alchohol and having a contact or better a good friend from university days.

Having an anchor-man is part of the culture, especially in business. It is a kind of necessary ice breaker in the protocol of business introductions. “ I was speaking to Ole Olsen and he mentioned your name and that you have been operating in…” is a tyĆ„pical opener. However vague you are. Name dropping in a farily blunt way to network your way in worked for me- I mentioned a professor I had never actually met, with some clever ambiguity and opened a door to my first taste of high Norwegian salaries. It was all a lined up- my friend spoke to the professor and spoke to me. It was a bit of a lie. It worked.

Having a good Norwegian friend with a good social circle is the best thing in the world. Once you break into a young social circle, a pre two kids time crowd , you have paved the path to a rich period of parties, ski trips, cabin tours and general nights on the town and availability of introductions to other singles or couples at a similar stage. People get rather enthusiastic about you and showing a bit of Norway off to you. They pare you off from the crowd and give private invitations to maybe share a passion for Monk Fish hunts or teaching you to “telemark turn”. Infact we had friends-of-friends who actively competed over our attention!

Even a friend-of-a-friend is enough as long as the two links ( or even more) are strong. If you are talked about, especially with some of my student and yuppie day antics and sexploits, you become a mini legend and people put you up on a pedestal (not that I am comfy with it but it helps with breaking the ice)

BUT, try and make a new friend from cold and 9/10 you are locked out. Branded over friendly, even strange. You are needy.

I don’t know what works other than waiting for an invitation or holding a party. For the latter you have to get am exisitng gang leader to rally the troups, don’t do it yourself. People will soon start to pop into your office or call you to ask what time, if they should bring food for you and if they can perhaps stay over if they become a little tired.

For the former- waiting to be invited- a good deal of modesty and reverse psychology is needed. If you speak Norwegian , when asked what you did or are going to do of a weekend, it is wise to reply “ Nei, men…” and go into how quiet it was, how you are unsure of the area and where to go but will have a nice cosey quiet time on your own no doubt with a DVD and a pizza. Once at an evening out or a ski trip it pays to be phsycially and psychologically at the boundary of all but the most sociable and boisterous groups. Charm the hell our of anyone who smiles to you, don’t be afraid to chat away about skinning fish to the Britt Ekland look-a-like. Infact, come to think of it girls are far more approachable in general! Especially with an introduction. Beware. Watch out for some of those arranged marriages I talked about. Get the social lay of the land before you make anything that could be taken as a pass.

Speak English the first time you meet people. This is important. No matter what or how long you have lived here it pays to speak English. Norwegians are a bit snobby about crap three-weeks-at- evening-school-pronunciations. More advanced norsk ability is seen as down-right showing off and threatening. They like to let you come in slowly and will use speaking Norwegian to exclude you a bit. Speaking English makes you a valued guest in their country and not an invading threat. It’s also a damn good way of getting rid of tele-sales! Speaking good Norwegian or at least simple, proper understandable sentences will win you huge brownie points but on the first introduction or couple of days in a job “keep it in the bag”

After you have an “in”, remember it is tentative. In effect you are horse wispering. Move in with your body language a bit focused and maybe even say something a little brash and challenging, then face away and relax your body and gaze. It’s not like say Scotland or London where a colleague who would always buy you a beer as you walked in the bar, share the results of the footie and the latest office giggle, would never consider asking you on holiday with them. It is the opposite. People are not very keen on you could say superficial relationships, or the useual friendship and camaraderie people strike up in most English speaking and latin countries. But once you crack them after a few nights out, some recipricol dinner parties and the mandatory ski trips, you may find yourself being asked to come for a whole holiday. Now you are a friend and as a guest to Norway you are honoured.

Weird double think, but actually quite sincere way of thinking. Just extremely frustrating for Brits, frogs, diegos and spic’s. Yanks don’t fair very well. Kiwis thrive.

Office culture tends to be a bit like working on an industrial estate outside town. No one ever mentions going for a beer, there is a clique who have, for example, virtually mesonically organised cross country ski trips you only hear about after the event. “Drinks later in town” are whispered about so that the old dog bosses with wandering hands and big cars don’t get near the totty, and the new, strange foreigners get a definite black-balling.

If you aren’t in oil, things are even harder. I’ve heard stories of it taking 2 years for an otherwise normal, sociable brit to make any headway with friends.

There is however a very notable contradictory exception. Many very pretty Norwegian girls like the attention and charm of the englishers and the latinos. They are fed up with all the macho shite I mention above- which is really a result of shyness, lads culture and pure lazyness. Also many Norwegian men prefer the feminity and softness of non Scandinavians. Partners often fair badly on social terms as the couple enters parenthood and the inevitable and never ending round of family occaisions. Fluent oral ability in not only standard norwegain but the particular dialect of your in laws area is an essential if you are not to go quietly mad.

This relates to the biggest contradiction of them all. Young nordmenn, like mayflies, appear in a totally different guise once a week. This is the famous Saturday night, when all the temperance and modesty goes out the window. They go out

So being “we” and having a nice set of international socio-political values is how they are. We are here. You are there. We agree and help the world solve the obvious problems. Just don’t cross the doorstep without an invitation.