For the past month or so the tax details of every Norwegian resident have been available for all to see online in the form of Skattelisten (the tax list). It happens every year in October. Anyone with internet access can search anyone by name. Not only do you get to see how much someone declared in earnings, how much tax they paid, and how much they are worth in assets, but also the year they were born, and how their earnings rank in their post code/ local authority/ age group. Yes, it could be a real comparison-fest.
The first time I discovered this, I had a great ole time searching everyone I knew. I discovered that in some cases, despite the old car they were driving, people I knew well were earning multi-millions, whilst others with brand new cars were not – far from it. Not that cars are an indicator of anything - clearly they are not - but you get what I mean: conspicuous consumption. Of course after five years the novelty has worn off this caper, and I’ve decided that I’m no longer interested in delving into people’s financial details. In fact it feels kind of yeuchy, like financial porn. I use the changing room analogy.
Just because Norwegians walk around the dressing room at the gym buck naked doesn’t mean I stare at their bits and pieces, does it? No, of course not. Nobody seems to talk about the skattelist, no more than they talk about each other physical traits. I can hardly go up to a friend and say: 'gosh that’s a really ugly scar you have on your butt', no more than I'm going to say, ' gosh you don’t earn half as much as I thought you did'. So just because Norwegian society actively encourages that we all compare and contrast our fiscal values/cellulite, doesn’t mean we should. Right?
There is one thing though. Just as the body can be a give-away on the old age question, so is the Skattelist. This year, I allowed myself one sneaky peak to see how old one of my gym instructors is. I mean, how could I resist. Anyway, it turns out that she's 50! Much older than I thought. Bet she looks great naked too, but I ain’t lookin'. Honest!