Cultural differences are interesting to get to know, and appear in the strangest of forms, – often on subjects where one has not even considered the possibility of their existence. It is usually mostly entertaining, somewhat educational, and – I will not lie – at times slightly annoying. Anyhow, it’s worth writing about, and I hereby declare that the following observations are based on the Spanish and Norwegian individuals of my own life, and might be totally wrong for the rest of the countries’ population, but I tend to think they can be applied to the greater majority. Prior to further reading; brace yourself for stereotypes, generalizations and (although I hate to admit it) exaggerations.

Watching TV while having dinner

Norway: The taboo among dinner customs; mostly considered the practice of dysfunctional families that don’t care for actual communication. Apathetic faces staring blankly at some kind of useless sit-com or TV-shop woman selling a vacuum cleaner, while not noticing that grandma died in her chair an hour ago. In reality, most people dine in front of the TV from time to time, but they DO NOT tell anyone, due to the shame and social exclusion following such a reputation.

Spain: The TV is on most of the time, also whilst consuming one of the many meals during a day in the life of the average Spaniard. Another family member might be watching a youtube video and a third one checking out a song on Spotify. No one turns down the volume, and no one stops the five conversations that are going on across the room at the same time. Watching TV while eating in Spain is not anti-social, and does not mean that you don’t enjoy conversing with your family members. Spaniards are world champions on multitasking and seem to think that no activity excludes another.

Sleeping with the window open

Norway: Ah, fresh breeze from the window, all year round. Thick duvets all the way up to the chin, winter temperatures in the room, slippers ready by the chunky carpet on the floor. No headaches, no old air (as we like to put it), cold nose but a really, really warm body. And the comforting sound of rain or wind slowly lulling you to sleep.

Spain: For PUTA’s sake do not open the window, are you LOCO? Turn on the heat, make sure the vents are closed, the fan is off and that #noairwhatsoever is let in. If there is a tiny breeze from like, your cat sighing, we will get sick. We will get a cold, sniffy noses, sore throats and probably swine flu, aids and rabies. And we will not be subtle about it. We will complain and we will let you know every five seconds that YOU ARE TO BLAME.

Bringing kids into bars

Norway: The first sign of real child abuse. Call teachers, neighbors, the police, social services and the pope. This child is being molested by every single person inside the family, and it is plausible to conclude with both violence and general psychological torture, all to be blamed on the occasional beer within the presence of ~a child~. All future offsprings will be automatically aborted by the prime minister herself.

Spain: A bar is a social place, where there may or may not be a drunk fellow. Anyhow, your kids will not really notice, nor be frightened by them, considering that present parents won’t treat mentioned drunk people as something shameful nor dangerous. Most people however will have a couple of cañas and some tapas, while having their kids run around just like in the average Starbucks. Parents don’t drink enough to get affected by it, and kids are usually having fun with other kids, while their folks earn a well-deserved break from everyday life. All are happy.

Doing stuff

Norway: Let whoever doing something, do it in peace and quiet. Leave the person undisturbed until the task is finished, unless there is something really obvious you can do to help. When in doubt, just ask, but prepare to have your offer to help rejected.

Spain: Your husband, your mother-in-law, her father’s third cousin’s long lost nephew and his dog are coming with you to do whichever task you have before you. They will tell you how to do it, maybe try to do it for you, or discuss the best way to execute the task. Sometimes while staring at you and standing way too close for you to do what you need to do properly.

The concept of NOW

Norway: Being ready to leave NOW means that you’re standing fully dressed by the door with the keys in your hand. NOW describes the moment of something happening instantly, mostly within seconds, with the exception of the real-time (HAHA) signs belonging to the public transport system. Those were probably made by Spanish workers and auctioned away with Norway as the only bidder.

Spain: NOW is relative. NOW can mean right away or within some hours. You can be waking up from your siesta, naked in bed, looking like an earthquake, and telling your hubby you are ready to go NOW, meaning that you will be ready an hour later. Ironically the public transport system is actually reliable, but after the one-minute limit has passed, the real-time sign goes to zero minutes. Otherwise, no one would know when the transport is actually coming, obviously.

Aesthetics

Norway: A scratch on your car must be fixed immediately. Any respectable citizen will renew the kitchen every tenth year or so. Clothes with tiny holes or stains are simply unusable (Trust me, I worked in retail for eight years).

Spain: In Madrid, people actually calculate distances by slightly bumping into the cars in front and behind when parallel parking. Cars get scratches, and nobody cares as long as they still run. Regarding appearances, it is easy to assume that the good people of Spain can be compared with their stylish fellow southern Europeans in France and Italy, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most Spaniards are naturally attractive and charming, but they are also totally chill and casual, and everything but snobbish.

Rules

Norway: Rules are made to be followed! Five hundred grams overweight when you check-in your luggage at the airport means that you pay, – not for four hundred and ninety-nine, not for five hundred and one, – but for five. hundred. grams. Norwegians like equality, and therefore rarely make exceptions from the rules. They also rarely question the rules, if said rules are made by higher forces (meaning the government, not Jesus C.™)

Spain: If you enter a bar that says restrooms are only for paying customers, you might very likely still get to use it if you ask nicely. Also, getting minor services on let’s say, your car, doesn’t necessarily have to cost you a single Eurocent. If the car repairman doesn’t feel like he has really made an effort to solve your problem, he might just say hasta luego baby and leave, while you, having the role of the confused foreigner, are left with your credit card ready, not knowing whether to feel relieved or uncomfortable. No wonder the country has had some economical issues when they insist on working for free. Spaniards are the mere opposite of square, and their relaxed attitude has them bending the rules all the time, especially if the rules imply more work. Which is also why the airport employees won’t even charge you for five kilos overweight.

How the day works

Norway: It is almost socially frowned upon to have a job that does not take place between the hours of eight and four. At five people have dinner, and most of these workers go to bed before eleven, after having put their kids to bed at eight.

Spain: People generally work later, not to mention have dinner no earlier than ten. Before that, they have what they call lunch, which is basically the first dinner of the day. The lucky and/or traditional ones also sleep the famous siesta after dinner number one, and people (including children) go to bed way after the majority of Norwegians are already asleep. It’s like the whole day has been moved three hours ahead, like the primal Spaniards overslept and their descendants never managed to catch up.

Greeting

Norwegian: No one is introducing me. Maybe I just say hola. If I’m in a good mood I’ll wave from afar.
Spaniard: No one is introducing me. Better take matters into my own hands.
Norwegian: Oh-oh, Spanish stranger approaching. What does he/she want?
Spaniard: Why is this person reversing like a car?
Norwegian: Fine, I’ll do a handshake.
Spaniard: Handshake? What are we, politicians? (Damn politicians de mierda) Come here, amigo!
Norwegian: Why is his/her face approaching mine? What are you – ? What? No. No! NOOOOO
Spaniard: That was a good kiss! Now let’s do the other side.
Norwegian: Now what? I thought that was it!
Spaniard: Good thing I didn’t let go of that hand. Better pull. Ngh –
Norwegian: You gotta be kidding me!
Spaniard: There! My work is done.
Norwegian: This trauma will forever haunt my soul.

(Play this inner dialogue in very fast motion to know exactly what happens when a Norwegian and a Spaniard meet for the first time)

Conclusion

Norway Pros:
• Being on time, and actually knowing when people arrive.
• Being left alone when you need to.
• Getting to sleep without sweating through your sheets.
• Routines and rules.

Norway Cons:
• Hysterical and slightly judgemental attitude towards people doing things differently.
• Being left along when you actually do need help.
• Living in a society that basically discriminates everyone who is not an early bird.

Spain Pros:
• Being a part of a very inclusive society, without even trying.
• Not stressing about anything, – no pasa nada! (nothing will happen!) is a very comfortable life motto.
• Having the opportunity to live life as a night owl.
• A life dominated by variation and adaptiveness.

Spain Cons:
• No one is ever on time. On the bright side, that means you don’t have to either.
• Not being given much space when you need it.
• Having your car scratched more frequently.

I guess the pros and cons mostly depend on how one is wired, but I tried to be as objective as possible. That said, I know where I belong.

So, my turn to comment on the latest hashtag trend. Few people can protest to the advantage of focusing on the abuse and harassment of women. And those who do, I dare call assholes. Simple as that.

But, the recent campaign has made me aware of a few things, that I’m not yet sure what to make of.

Number one. I have never in my life felt sexually abused, harassed, or even discriminated against because of being a woman. I have seen sexism, but I have never felt like a victim of it, of any kind. Maybe it has happened, maybe I am dreadfully naïve, but if it has, it has certainly passed by without me noticing.

Seeing how many women are putting #metoo on their current statuses, has made me ask myself if there is something wrong with me. Sure, once a dude did grab my ass in a bar, but I didn’t even turn around, thinking it was my husband. Later my husband joked; wow, sexually harassing you is a real challenge! We laughed at it. Perhaps I should have felt violated, but I honestly didn’t. Especially because the mentioned bar was kind of semi gay, and the ass of my better half had already been grabbed by handsy fellas three times.

Second. #metoo doesn’t separate between getting a slap on the ass, being raped or let’s say, constant childhood abuse by a close family member. I’m not sure I would have liked to be compared to the first category, had I been of the latter. Is it correct to put them all in the same box? Maybe. But I’m not sure.

It would of course be difficult to add nuances to a five-letter hashtag, and even if it wasn’t, the worst stories probably wouldn’t even be told. Sadly. But these are not insignificant nuances.

I might be the luckiest woman on earth, not to have a single #metoo situation to show for. I conclude with that being a good thing, and that I feel happy, safe, and proud to be a woman. And I deeply sympathize with my fellow sisters that have actually experienced harassment, abuse or rape.

Edit: Months after writing this post, I recalled a situation where I actually felt harassed! I was almost excited to realize that it had happened to ~metoo~. I was sixteen years old and very insecure about my body, especially because back in the days I had a huge rack that I later reduced significantly surgically.

I was walking up the stairs of my high school when I looked up and found an asshole guy taking a photo of my cleavage from above. He then ran away to have a singing lesson, and I sprinted after him, furious. I barged into the classroom of his singing teacher and he looked at me all mortified, holding up his phone while deleting the photo and showing me the process. I nodded and left, and was kind of done with it honestly, but then his FEMALE teacher came at me all pissed about having disturbed her sacred lesson, uttering the words NO ONE DISTURBS MY CLASS LIKE THAT.

Of course, I tried to explain to her what he had done, but she wouldn’t listen and told me it didn’t matter; the reason for my disturbance was irrelevant.

What upset me most about this situation was not the fact that a hormonal and horny teenage boy snapped a shot of my monster tits, because although I was also young, I knew that teenagers are stupid sometimes and I kind of forgave him for it. But having a grown woman tell me that her precious teaching was worth more than my personal boundaries, pissed me off to the core. I still feel certain anger towards her whenever I think about her.

I hope she feels embarrassed if she reads this.