Mar 12, 2008

A couple of Norwegian oddities (for Victoria)

Victoria is a fellow expatriate who has just gotten a new puppy and is about to experience her first Easter in Norway. She posted about that and since I know something about the matter(s), chose to reply here, rather than fill up her comments.

I am fairly familiar with the weirdness that is the Norwegian attitude to spaying and neutering. Up until 1995 or thereabouts, the rule was not to neuter a pet because that would infringe on its right to choose. I kid you not. They made birth control pills for the cats (bitches don't go into heat just because it's a Tuesday and a tom is yowling) and I remember giving those weekly to a cat we had when I was a young teen. But those things caused cancers so the powers that be finally decided to encourage spaying cats. The aforementioned cat probably died of something like that because she didn't make it past her third year due to "tummy trouble". Because cats are more likely to stray/become strays, neutering and spaying of cats now is normal and encouraged, and the local Animal Rights group will capture strays and have them fixed.

I wish I had known of the change in the law when I got Sammy in 1990, but in her case, she got the pill only when she started to go into heat. She was an indoor cat, so that worked. I'd generally give her half a pill, mixed in with her food. I could tell a full dose made her feel unwell.

For dogs it's an entirely different matter. There doesn't seem to be a problem with stray dogs and there is no dog catcher in Norway. There is also no dog license. It fascinates me that Norway somehow manages to avoid strays. But I often get the impression Norwegians respect the dog more than the cat because I'll meet people who think cats can take care of themselves, i.e. do not need us so no need to bother with them. Which may explain the stray cat problem.


This is a segue: My Sammy sniffing a daffodil I bought. The daffodil is called Easter lily (pÄskelilje) in Norwegian.

Now, about Easter: Be grateful it's not the 70's, Victoria. The whole country went into hibernation for five days straight, and everybody liked it. (They still do; I'm finally getting to like it too, so my frustration is waning.)

Easter is the big holiday in Norway: Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and the Monday after Easter Sunday (Easter Monday) are all holidays, i.e. everything closed. Grocery stores are generally opened a limited number of hours on the Saturday squeezed between them (Easter Eve), but that's it, and any newspaper you buy then, was printed the Tuesday or Wednesday before. (Sort of like how the Sunday papers in the US are available on Saturdays.)

When I was a kid, Easter was a nightmare, an excruciating experiment in unrelenting boredom. You know how Christmas is always associated with snow and snowmen and snowflakes, and how the Christmas movies always show it starting to snow on Christmas? Well, Easter is the time of sunshine and snowy mountains and glorious ski trips. For those who have cabins in the mountains, or skis - or money. When I came back to Norway in 1981, I learned over the next five years how important the Easter tan is for status: Post-Easter you'd see chocolate brown faces and hands in bright white sweaters. A successful Easter holiday! They'd happily slide a sleeve up to show you the original winter-white skin just so you could just how fantastic their holiday had been.

Fortunately, the combination of increased awareness of skin cancer and an increasingly urban (and lazy) population made showing up flaky and snow blind at the lunch table less common. But Easter was still about as excruciating as I remembered it.

Easter can be wonderful. A mini-vacation, often extended by taking the preceding Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off as well, which school kids do. But if you are stuck in your home (and it's raining), it could be boring and annoying - because not only was there no daytime TV to speak of, but they changed the menu to something wholesome and holiday-related. There was one reprieve, late in the evening: The Easter mystery. Each channel runs a mini-series on TV, and this is usually when I got my dose of PD James and her detective Dalgliesh or Ruth Rendell and her Wexford. Nowadays the novelty has worn off; we are served up mysteries and murders every night, but Easter still reigns as the time to do some sleuthing. This is also obvious in the bookstores: The proper Easter reading fare for when you are snowed in and not getting a tan is some mystery or other. Even the Norwegians aren't too sure why murder and mayhem comes at Easter, but since I love detective stories, I'm happy for this particular tradition.

As we entered the 21st century, Norway no longer remained as shut down for the holidays. Now, gas stations and movie theaters and 7-11 type places are open every day of Easter and whole malls are open on Easter Eve, not just the grocery stores. You still have to beware of the early closing on Wednesday; myself, I work half day at the office that day.

PS: In trying to verify how to spell maundy, I searched for "mondy" and got my own post from 2006 on Easter as the top hit. What are the odds?

4 comments:

Victoria said...

Thanks Keera (do you go buy Keera or Keera Ann?). That is really good information. I can't get over that about the pets!! I mean I can sort of understand the mentality of not wanting to "make choices" for the animal however I'm not of that mindset when it comes to spaying and neutering - not at all.
That is really good to know about Easter too. Since the puppy is so young we aren't going anywhere so I wondering if I needed to stock up on groceries, etc. Good to know! Thankfully we have season 3-6 of Six Feet Under dvd's to watch! Thanks again for stopping by my blog and for posting all this great info!
PS - Sammy is so cute!

Keera Ann Fox said...

Just Keera. We were absolutely flummoxed when the vet told us humans had no right to override the instincts/needs/whatever of the animals. Like letting them make little ones that have to be put down is somehow more natural?

Stock up. You may get to a store on Saturday, but there are no deliveries (AFAIK) so don't expect fresh whatever. And those DVDs will come in handy, I'm sure.

Sammy was cute, yes. I lost her in 2005. If your Norwegian is up to it, you can read my page about her. (That's where the link from her name goes to.)

Sparkling Red said...

A very interesting post! Not only is Norway very different from North America, it's different in ways that I never would have even thought of. I still can't get over the clumping queues.

That's a sweet picture of your cat with the daffodil. Do you have a different cat now?

Keera Ann Fox said...

Spark, it's funny what will stand out as "not like home", isn't it. I didn't get a new cat. I sometimes think I'd like to, but I'd need a decent cat sitter so I can travel, and I don't know any at this time. I'm prioritizing travel for now.