How can you tell the difference between a Norwegian introvert and a Norwegian extrovert? When she’s talking to you a Norwegian introvert looks at her feet. A Norwegian extrovert looks at yours.
I read this years ago, though the joke was about the Finnish. The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Norwegians described the Norwegians in the same way, noted the same joke even. If you’re contemplating a visit, the book is worth the investment. I bought it in an Oslo magazine store and found it entertaining and at times even accurate. Our tour guides were friendly and engaging, which is good because it would be difficult if they stared at our feet all day.
Here is the first of many stories from our journey to Norway and Sweden, stories which come from our guides, our observations, and our experiences, all factual to the degree that any account is, limited by perception, memory, and story-telling.
The Norwegian, the Doctor, and the Terrier
Not far outside Barcelona, a Norwegian man named Gunnar moved into a respectable community of row houses. His neighbor was a doctor from the area who owned a terrier and the dog loved to bark, so much so in fact, he disrupted most of the inhabitants of the row. They talked and complained to each other, but nothing changed.
Gunnar could not sleep. No one could sleep. So, the Norwegian waited by his window one morning, heard a door shut, and saw the doctor leave. Gunnar stepped outside to meet him, asking if he might have a minute of the doctor’s time. He explained his concerns and the nuisance it caused, asking if the doctor could help put a stop to the barking.
“You are a foreigner and I live here, so I make the decisions,” said the doctor. And he strode off.
The man was never friendly and this reaction left Gunnar with few options. So Gunnar resolved to do something, but just what should be done he wasn’t sure. Sleep deprivation drives the best of men to despair, and the need for a good night’s rest can bring about creative and devious solutions.
Gunnar stopped at the pharmacy the next day and bought sleeping pills, then he picked up some sausage at the butcher’s shop. The row houses had attached gardens where the terrier often stayed. Gunnar stuffed the pills into a sausage, waited for the doctor to leave, and he slipped it through the fence. The terrier snarfed it down. Gunnar returned to his house. When the barking stopped, Gunnar carefully scanned the area before he took the dog to his house where he completely shaved off its hair.
That evening, a police car pulled up outside and Gunnar could hear from his open window.
“Someone has taken my dog!”
“Your dog is here, señor,” the officer said.
“Of course he is here, but look at him!”
“He looks fine. What is the problem, señor?” Neighbors watched from their windows and their gardens, craning their heads to see why the police car was outside.
“Doctor. I’m a doctor. And it’s obvious to see the problem.” He was hysterical now, “Anyone can see it! They stole my dog and he is NAKED!”
Photo: Kate Romero
The policeman interviewed the neighbors, a suppressed smile on his face, bigger smiles on the neighbors. They were no help. No one had seen anything; no one knew anything.
The doctor got rid of his terrier.
He moved a year later.
* based on an account from our guide, a former policeman