Text: Ellen Wild
Since moving up North, I've had my fair share of culture shocks. Some hit me right in the face, while others are rather slow creepers. I don't know why it keeps surprising me so much either. Guess the difference between Western and Northern Europe is a bit trickier than the eye would meet. On a surface level, we are so alike. We more or less look alike, battle the same social problems and have a similar societal structure.
A bubble that only bursts as soon you set foot on Northern soil. Once you get one layer under the surface, you realise that you are in another country. Things have a different edge. But at this point, they feel like accessories. Cultural fluffiness, like that fridge magnet you buy at a tourist shop.
The little details that make you excited when exploring the country. From listening to the local radio in your rental car, to trying to find everything you need in a village grocery store.
And then, just maybe, you move one layer deeper. You take a course, a retreat, or some longer stay that makes you interact with the locals on a day-to-day living basis. It’s only then that things are a bit uncomfortable, a bit awkward. The bluntness and poker-face sarcastic humour. Things that are done slightly different. It keeps you on edge. Breaking in pretty new shoes.
It is only once you decide to live there, once you dig your fingers in their earth, that you realise. This cultural fluffiness? It is not some different accessories added to different places.
Underneath, we are not the same. These people grew up with different experiences, traditions and surroundings. Their culture is rooted deep into their hearts. Always connected with the land.
Culture is not the just the clothes on the people’s body. It is the very blood that runs through their veins. It comes from the soil and the rock that lies underneath it. Once you start moving in this underground layer, you understand. You adopt and adapt. You can never be un-buried. Now you can see the whole spectrum. Their self-reliance but also their stubbornness. Their honesty and roughness. The tight knitted community that brings both support and dirty gossip. The deep connection with the land and the seasons.
However. There is one more layer. When you have dug deep, through the earth and rock, you move into the fire. The very energetic signature itself. Underneath the sameness lies the differentness. But underneath this differentness lies the same fire that runs through all of us.
Creativity, life itself. If we remove all fluff and decorations, move past the conscious mind, then you will find that we are all looking for the same things. That we are all made of the same things. Connection. Deep and honest connection. Freedom of mind and creativity. Acceptance and love.
Those who have follow along with my writings, might know that I have exchanged Icelandic fjords, for old Norwegian ones. While flowing along the stream I encounter many people who think it´s fun to guess my origin. More than half of the guesses place me in Iceland. I think it the biggest compliment I could ever get.
The energy of the places you live in, never leaves you. Wherever your origin. North and not so North. Different, but not so different. So, you keep forgetting. Until everything feels a bit ‘off’ again and you wonder if you’ll ever be at home. Forever between places. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.