29.11.08

A new stereotype for you

One of the few ways I have managed to 'break in' to Norwegian society is through my Barselgruppe which is the baby group put together by the health centre soon after children are born. My group still gets together regularly and I see two of them several times a week at the kindergarden. This week we met up for dinner. 
One of our number has recently given up full-time work as she just couldn't manage it with three children. I used to see her racing to school for drop-off and back again at 1530 for pick-up, always driving with her phone to her ear as if it was as essential to driving as the stick-shift. I asked her what she was doing with her time now, thinking she must be lonely being the onl Norwegian woman I know personally who doesn't work at all; she has a Filipina au pair so I knew she wasn't cleaning. 
She said that she meets up with friends to go to the gym and have lunch. There's a group of them with kids at the local school. It seems that there are plenty of ladies of leisure in Baerum who don't need to work for financial reasons and so don't. I've seen them about in the shopping centre. They have kindergarden and school places for their kids, drive BMW X5s or Volvo C90s, and have au pairs. They workout at Elixia and go away on girlie weekends a couple of times a year. Of course, they have cabins in the hills for those winter skiing weekends and probably a boat moored somewhere for summer outings. They also tend to have three of four children.
OK so it's a stereotype, which is a lazy way of seeing the world, but it's a different one from that I had previously of Norwegian women. So, it's a second stereotype of women here. 
Another conversation at the dinner table was about vasectomies. As most of us in the group are finished with pro-creating, it's a topic of interest. Unfortunately, my Norwegian wasn't up to understanding the nitty gritty so I can't pass any juicy gossip along. Clearly, I need to work on my language to really 'break in' and get beyond the stereotypes. Clearly.

8 comments:

Michele said...

Well, it's not so much creating a stereotype as it is reporting what you see. That's different, right? Seems to me you're honestly describing images of some of the women you're meeting in your daily life. I guess if we, your faithful readers, then assumed that ALL Norwegian women were like the women in your Barselgruppe, we'd be the ones doing the stereotyping. :-)

BTW, I'd love to know what they were saying about vasectomies! Ahhk, the frustrations of language.

Michele said...

Doh, I forgot to ask. What was your first "stereotype" of Norwegian women?

Caroline said...

Very unusual for Norway but very 'mod'.

Hey - keep the car, just give me the au pair and I can talk vasectomies any day of the week!

Joanne said...

Give me the car, the gym and even au pair the way I feel at the moment lol. My hubby had the deed done 6 weeks after Erin was born under a local he went back to work a couple of hours later and came home with blood all over his pants I laughed it was very levelling (I am sooooo glad he doesnt read your blog)

Simply-Mel said...

LOL at Jo's comment....

So do tell...what was your first impression/stereotype of Norwegian women.?

Here in SA every 2nd person has a nanny/au pair. And a cleaner. And a gardener.

OSLO said...

Thanks for all the comments girls. My first stereotype of (middle-class) Norwegian women is: working full-time in between year-long maternity breaks during which they roam in packs and sit in cafes. Norwegian women are rarely to be found struggling with toddlers in the supermarket because the toddlers are in kindergarden and they dash to the supermarket between leaving work and childcare pick-up. They drive Tourans or estate cars. They wear wellies a lot. They wear some form of boot for 10 months of the year - they are rarely glamourous because they are too busy working to be anything other than practically dressed. They do not do manicures or blow-dries. Their husbands share the school-run. They are nearly always in a hurry. They over-indulge their children at the weekend out of a sense of guilt and the inability to set boundaries - will probably get flack for this one. I'm NOT being judgmental, just observational. I do not envy them at all and frequently wonder how they manage to juggle the demands of gender equality and motherhood. Clearly none of my friends read my Blog or I wouldn't be writing this :-)
Joanne - your poor husband
Caroline - do tell more about the big v
Michele - thanks for making me feel better
Mel - labour is expensive here so any sort of help in the house is a real financial outlay. Even au pair's salaries are taxed for the family who pays them, as well as the value of the accommodation and food provided to them being taxed, so it's a really double whammy.

Michele said...

Hi Johanna. Funny comment about your perception of norsk women. You need to come down to Sandefjord for a day, where the majority of women don't seem to work at all. And they dress quite well. I guess because they have so much time?

Hey, I miss your blog posts. Hope all is well with you and that you're just busy with holiday stuff. Merry Christmas!

OSLO said...

Michele, I've also discovered that the majority of Norwegian women working in engineering offices wear badly-fitting jeans to work, no matter what the shape of their butts. Dear, oh dear....