Jan 8, 2003

Some things about living in Norway:Norwegians don't decorate their houses with Christmas lights American-style – yet. They do do lights that mark Advent and that are kept up until the 13th day of Christmas (Jan 7) or sometimes 20th day. The picture of the snowman who appeared on New Year's Day this year, shows two types of lights commonly displayed for Advent: An eight-pointed star and a seven-armed mock candelabra. (This is the view from my living room window. My apartment building is similar-looking.)

I went to do a little bit of shopping this evening. A large number of grocery stores stay open until 9 pm (21:00) now. But in Norway, the sale of alcohol (which means beer) has to stop at 8 pm. Like that makes any sense. There are still powers in Norway that want to hang on the old way of thinking, which means Alcohol Is Bad. (Curiously, one of the senators in the US who suggested Prohibition, was apparantly of Norwegian descent.)

I'll bet you're thinking all Norwegians get in the way of booze is beer. Not so. But beer is the only thing allowed sold in regular grocery stores. Ales and other spirits that have an alcohol content higher than 4.5 % have to be sold through the state monopoly Vinmonopolet (literally, "the wine monopoly"). This leads to another tradition: The interminably long lines before major holidays and weekends to buy booze, even an ordinary table wine. However, the personell are specially trained, and so are as much consultants as clerks. I haven't been steered wrong yet. The Vinmonopolet is a good place to people-watch, too, because it's the one store where all walks of life shop.