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.

Having just finished my exams, I thought this would be a good moment to share my groundbreaking knowledge on how to procrastinate. I have indeed learned a lot from my studies this far; I have gained a profound insight into arts management and more or less mastered the theory behind project management, and, – I have once and for all got a confirmation on my insanely well-developed ability to procrastinate. My talents are indisputable. She’s born with it.

(This text will be absolutely life-changing for productive people. You should sponsor me.)

• First and most importantly; wait until the very very very very last minute to do just about anything other than what’s on this list.

• Make sure to always snooze when your alarm goes off. One hour, two hours. There simply cannot be too many snoozes.

• Have insomnia. If you don’t, think about that thing you said fifteen years ago that might or might not have offended someone.

• Have cats (I cannot say this enough times). They tend to lie on you, on your books, on your computer. Follow the house rule of any decent cat household. ~Never~ move the cat.

• Make sure to have access to Netflix, HBO, and absolutely every other streaming service that exists. Side note: documentaries are technically like reading a book.

• Have a messy house. This will require you to do chores, and you will enjoy doing them for the first time in your life. (The same rule could be applied to working out.)

• YOUR SOCK DRAWER NEEDS ORGANIZING

• Contact friends you haven’t seen in a while. Your guiltiness will justify prioritizing to go out for a coffee (slash wine slash vodka slash drugs) with them.

• Make sure to rest and reward yourself after each goal you reach, which makes it totally logical to put very.many.goals.everywhere.

• Social media is your friend. Buzzfeed is your friend. Google is your friend. Memes are your friend. This site is your friend. The quiz What kind of butter are you? is your friend.

• Forget your glasses. Or lose them completely (you may prefer stepping on them by accident). If you don’t wear glasses, poke yourself in the eyeball with a fork.

• Spend months organizing your future progress. Buy fancy folders and other inspiring office equipment. Make sure to never be inspired by them.

• Call your mother. No further elaboration needed.

• Share a bottle with a random child or lick the used cup of your colleague that isn’t in today.

• Have daily selfie sessions for your resumé. Tell yourself it will help your future job search.

• Do some volunteering. No one can argue with volunteering.

• Make your husband/boyfriend/parent/friend/cat dinner. Disguise it as a simple act of love, but know better. Laugh like Dr. Evil within yourself.

• Make a blog that nobody reads. Write stuff like this, and tell yourself it’s educative.

Told you I’m good. Thank me later. Later.

Unfortunately, we live in a country where we are lucky (but oh so unlikely) to get three months of summer. The rest of the year consists of different variations of the concept of Winter. Everything from Hey, it’s a sunny September day, last chance to wear shorts and get out, only to realize it’s freezing and you should consider yourself lucky not to die from pneumonia kind of winter to the sneaky It’s covered in white, today must be cold so you put on three wool sweaters but no rubber boots and go out, only to find that it’s not so cold, so you spend the day smelling your own sweat and hence cannot remove mentioned sweaters, with wet shoes and socks underneath kind of winter.

Oh, the joy.

Some alien-like people actually enjoy this. But I don’t. In fact, I did not sign up for this. Marry a foreigner, they said, it will be fun, and so on. So I thought until I realized he’s more attached to my country than I am. He freezes less than me and never wears a scarf or a hat, not even gloves. (And you call yourself Spanish?!)

I on the other hand need a full stash of mechanisms, a kind of mental-physical survival kit to get me through this time of year. I refuse to believe I’m alone, so I decided to share it. Here it goes.

• Get ready for having the Michelin man as your fashion icon for six months. Just accept that even if you’re really slim, you. will. look. HUGE. It’s a fact.

• Don’t be cheap about your winter clothes. This is the time to invest in some real chunky wool sweaters and admit to yourself that sheep were a gift from God to cold people. Check the washing tags when you consider making a purchase, and for His sake, stay away from acrylic, nylon and polyester. Synthetics are wool’s evil doppelgänger.

• Have cats (this seems to be the answer to a lot of issues). Cats have a much higher body temperature than humans and are great to literally put upon yourself when coming home to a cold house.

• Gain some isolating winter kilos. Fat people freeze less.

• If you have installed heat in your bathroom floor, try moving your kitchen and living room in there. Get comfortable and stay put until April.

• Make sure to use blusher or rouge on what little of you is visible when you go outside, – I for one am quite content with looking like a corpse only when I actually become one.

• Snuggle. I do this all year round, but it’s even more important in the winter, being that I mostly interact with other living creatures over the edge of my scarf.

• Party like an old person and swear by beverages that warm up your throat, like cognac. Bonus for classiness.

• Be a little extra friendly, and invade the intimacy zones of yourself and others. The power of body heat shall not be underestimated.

• Avoid public transport. They are usually cold and tend to stop a lot during this time of year. If you have to use it, go back to the previous advice.

• Complain. In the winter, complaining about the weather is the greatest ice breaker (couldn’t resist that pun) there is. You will make new friends.

• Do not ever go to cottages. People will make you ski.

• Make an effort to blow up the coziness scale by drinking lots of tea, eating candy, and lighting a fireplace. Cover yourself in blankets, be lazy, and feel great about it.

• Leave. The country, Europe, Earth. Just make sure you go South.

Sincerely, good luck. I mean it.

I love sloths. Not only are they adorable, quirky little fellas, but they’re also my spirit animal. Sometimes I consider myself a sloth born in a human body. Can I put that in my passport?

I was born lazy. I hated going hiking in kindergarten, but loved to sit quietly inside, drawing pictures. Preferably on a couch. The day my parents put away my stroller, I recall not understanding why they would do that to me; making me walk when I had a perfectly fine vehicle where I could relax while enjoying the outside. Little did I know that the societal pressure to move oneself only gets worse with age.

My husband has spent the last nine years trying to get me to do sports, with very little success. My laziness is unbeatable, chronic, and definitely a very dominant part of my whole being. I consider working out masochism, and the gym a foul place where evil flourishes.

So, maybe I’ll die in my thirties, or maybe I’ll live to a hundred, having the heart of a newborn baby. It is actually considered one of nature’s great mysteries that I’m not the size of a whale. (Although on some days, I do feel like a small whale. A sperm whale?)

It would probably be a good thing to point out that I’m not talking about general activities. I’m quite active, mostly working with my hobbies, and my job (whichever job I’m working at) is really important to me. I’m talking about physical movement, and on the other side of the scale, the beauty of relaxation.

To share my insight, here comes a small presentation on how to lazy like a self-declared pro like me.

• If you live in a city, – memorize all the metro, bus and tram lines. These can help you get from one place to another with minimum effort. Always work against it when the city decides to change a line, as this easily can result in planning errors that again can result in having to walk places.

• If you have regular stops where you get on and off, always get in on the end of the vehicle that takes you closer to your final destination. Meters saved are never to be underestimated.

• If you like me have heard people say that one hour of working out prolongs your life with one hour, ask yourself this question; do you want to live that hour now, when you’re young, or when you’re old, weak and possibly senile?

• When needing to buy something, always go to the nearest location. Do not ever walk further to find a grocery store instead of a kiosk; the extra money you might end up spending is a small price to pay for not having to move more than absolutely necessary.

• Take escalators and elevators. If you’re claustrophobic, consider it therapy. I used to dislike elevators myself until I realized that my laziness totally beats my fear.

• Always shower at night, so you can sleep longer in the morning. I would tell you to make your outfit ready too, but because my body sometimes feels like a gift from God, and other times like a ball of fat, I cannot do so myself.

• Marry someone with a driver’s license and a car, but do not ever take your own license. This way you can remain a happy passenger, always enjoying a glass (or bottle) of wine, before napping while being transported around by your spouse.

• Have cats. Cats are lazy and sleepy creatures that will support your way of life. Sloths will also work, but I tend to recommend cats for obvious reasons.

• Get an injury. Injuries make great excuses not to move. When I was sixteen a girl in my class had a back operation and legally skipped gym class for a year. I was so jealous. Damn you, healthy body!

• If you are blessed with a meaty ass like I am, sit on it. That’s what it’s for. A meaty ass provides a comfortable cushion on whichever hard surface you need to rest upon.

• If you really need to do sports (y tho?), find one that appeals to your lazy side. Like biking; you sit while you’re working out. Or yoga, lying down half of the workout session. It’s on the borderline, but I can accept it.

• But preferably, devote yourself to activities that require you to sit down. Like drawing, writing, or something else where no one will question why you’re not moving.

• Never ever go to the mountain.

And lastly, never hide your laziness, celebrate it!

As a bonus, I will reveal that although I am a complete disaster at most sports, there is one I’m actually ridiculously good at. Ping pong.

I hereby present two of my most common traits; I tend to personify things. I tend to have some level of insomnia.

Insomnia might not sound like such a big deal for those who have not had it. But in addition to messing up your nights (hence also your days), insomnia is both a cause for and an effect of mental diagnoses like anxiety and depression. Believe me, I’ve had it all, but I still don’t know if the chicken or the egg came first.

Well, all of these things can be cured one way or the other, but the trauma of insomnia is what still haunts its victim, even in the healthiest of times.

I love sleeping, and if nobody wakes me up or if I don’t put my regular three alarms, I can still sleep like a fourteen year old full of raging hormones. This would be a good time to mention that I have checked my vitamins, changed my diet, and so on. So, sometimes, being more than averagely spaniardized, I take a nap. A good old siesta.

And I fall asleep within minutes. I sleep deeply and heavily and I struggle with getting up. When you remove the pressure of going to bed at night, the thought of the consequences of failing, I’m a sleeping machine. More than I would like even, I tend to think most people live years longer than me, counting only waking hours.

When you have or have had insomnia, the bed is your enemy. No matter how comfy it is, no matter how expensive your silky bedsheets are, your bed is a monster, and it tortures you and gives you the feeling of performing an impossible task. You go on stage in front of a million people with an instrument you have never played before. You know you will fail and you know that it will make you desperate on surviving it and that it will ruin your day. Tomorrow too, probably even the next one.

My body becomes alert. If I go through every part of it, I can feel how my mouth is twitched in a grim, how my forehead is wrinkled and my fists closed. When I go through each one of them, they have twitched again as soon as I reach the starting point. The feeling of lying down doesn’t feel relaxing anymore, instead, it feels like rays of lightning inside my body are making me want to change position, only to change again and again.

I sleep on the bus. On the train, on the tram, and on the subway, even on cheap Ryanair flights with absolutely no space for my way longer than average body. In fact, I may relax so deeply that I start drooling on the shoulder of my neighbor. Most of the time it’s my husband’s, but not always.

So I have started imagining my Zs as evil little bastards that for some reason despise my bedroom, and live to mess me up. They make up for it by showing up at absolutely any other opportunity. In class. When I read. And don’t even get me started on mornings. It’s like they return after a hard night out partying, only to have invited a hundred more of them to an afterparty above my head. They’re physically holding me down. Tired is just not descriptive enough. I feel sick. I feel depressed. I feel like I’m dying. And the world is just not made for my kind of folks.

On the bright side, my asshole Zs make me sleep very lightly when I actually do sleep, which results in a number of vivid and complex dreams every single night. I remember them in detail, and I very much enjoy having my slightly overly developed imagination go wild, bringing me new stories every time I beat my enemy and actually drift off. It is indeed a useless and energy-consuming (oh, the irony) kind of sleep, but it is definitely interesting. Being a creative person, I often find them inspiring, and I try to write them all down.

I have of course found several tricks to beat my Zs. For some reason, these things seem to keep them where they should be for long enough to let me relax;

• Meditation apps, – but not all of them, and if I listen to the good ones too long, they stop being Z magnets

• The music from the original Blade Runner movie, – mostly successful, but the same goes here, – do not listen to it every night! If you learn every musical gesture by heart, the Zs will leave

• Counting, – not sheep, but breaths. Listening to one’s own breath can be very soothing and it’s difficult to get higher than about five hundred before you a) fall asleep, or b) get desperate and go nuts

• Staring at the inside of your eyelids, – this tends to work, but beware! Doing this for too long can make you see some weird and potentially scary LSD-like shit that might wake you up and leave you even more nervous and tense. This could definitely be something that just happens to me, I might be insane or possessed or something, but there is a chance I am not alone, right? Just say yes.

So, those were my tricks. Do them stealthily, so the Zs don’t realize that you’re putting them in a cage. Seriously, whistle unsuspiciously or something. Don’t underestimate them. They’re mean. At least mine are.

Ok, time for bed. Good night. Or, enjoy never getting those wounds that paralyzed people that lay still for too long get. While getting to know every little detail of your ceiling, accompanied by the snoring beast beside you. Every insomnia victim has an anti-insomnia sidekick.

Unfortunately, I’m the main character in this story.