May 17th, 2016: Constitution Day (Independence day) for Norway
“And I thought the United States was patriotic.” I surprised myself by saying to my evening hosts. Immediately upon arrival in Oslo, Norway- Norwegian Air gave a special shout out for Constitution Day- i.e. Independence Day. Although there were many similarities between July 4th in the United States and May 17th such as the plethora of drunks, hot dogs, ice cream, and flags, there were some significant cultural differences.
First of all- anywhere I walked, I felt I was reading a magazine. Men were all dressed in their finest suits and women either fancied up in traditional Norwegian dress or fancy dresses and skirts. I felt severely underdressed to say the least; mostly because I didn’t have a drink or a flag in hand.
I unfortunately arrived late to the party. Right when I arrived into Central Station and dropped my items off at my Air BnB, we found we had barely missed the King and Queen’s two hour waving appearance. Royalty in Norway is very similar to the English royal tradition. Although no one actually knows what the King and Queen do for the country or even in his or her spare time, thousands traipsed across the King and Queen castle and the Norwegian parliament, just down the road, was barren.
Due to my given need to try Norwegian ice cream, phenomenal by the way, we walked to a nearby park where we found probably a couple thousand Norwegians picnicking with their little grill contraptions, playing Frisbee, dancing to music, and enjoying each other’s company. Due to my need to utilize the water-closet, we decided to grab something to eat. To my surprise and utter regret I did not try it on the train at the airport, all public transportation was free on Constitution Day. They could not have cared less. All doors completely open. Ganesh, my host, told me it was his first time ever seeing so much alcohol on a train at one time. Usually, Norwegians are more reserved and established, but not today.
We happened upon one of their festivals, tried various foods, and walked to the Opera House where I literally walked up onto the building. I ought to mention, I visited all of these places 3 pm and later… when I returned back to the house, it was 10 pm and the sun was finally setting. In the next month, the sun will be up from 3- 3:30 am to 11 pm at night. The temperature reflected Norway’s northern geographic location- it was 50 degrees and I was chilly most of the day- and it is mid-May!
Then, Ganesh took me out to see nightlife. Everyone was out even though they had work and classes the next day. We went to a place called Horgan’s. I danced to all American, French, and English music. Luckily because everyone sang along to American lyrics I was able to “pull-off” being Norwegian. One guy in particular spoke to me for 5 minutes in Norwegian until I finally told him I spoke English. I tried some Swedish cider and Norway’s beers for the heck of it and danced the night away. What I love about European nations is their love of dance. It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone dances and has a great time.
Some other stellar attributes the US ought to pick up from Norway is their free internet on trains and quick international security service. I got a ticket for a train at 10:50 am, got on my train at 10:58, arrived at the airport at 11:25, checked-in and made it through security by 12:05, in time to grab a sandwich before boarding at 12:30 pm.
Onto Dubai, next. Now this may be more challenging to navigate.