There is a reception centre for asylum seekers near our house. It’s where newly-arrived immigrants live while their applications for asylum are processed. I’ve often seen groups of them – sometimes families, sometimes not - walking up and down our road with yellow carrier bags from the local shop. I feel sorry for them at this time of year because of both the chilly weather and the chilly reception they get from some of the locals. However, having talked to some women from Afghanistan, who could hardly contain their excitement at having arrived to hopefully start new lives after a nine month car journey without passports, I gather that maybe these newbies aren’t as sensitive to the weather and the welcome as I have been. Then I’m a newbie with money which makes a big, big difference. My landlord, for instance is campaigning to have the reception centre shut down on the grounds that it isn’t good for the environment (of his million Euro plus houses). Well yesterday I saw another example of how some local people welcome foreigners.
At the checkout in the shop, there was a very well-dressed guy about my age trying to get to grips with the price of tobacco. The cashier was explaining to him in English what the different prices were. Then an old lady who was loading her shopping bags, piped up and said in English, completely deadpan, “We don’t smoke – in Norway. It makes us ill”. Which sounded like you’re a scummy foreigner who shouldn’t be smoking and we know better here in Norway. Of course, we do, that’s why every newsagents and supermarket sells cigarettes. I bet she wouldn't have said that to a Norwegian buying cigarettes but an asylum seeker is fair game.
I was appalled, so appalled that I ended up helping the guy understand the different prices of cigarettes, muttering that the old woman was exaggerating, and almost encouraging him to buy as many as he possibly could. (Ten Marlboro Lights are 38 Nok by the way.)
I hate cigarettes but I hate rudeness even more.