As I described back in February, I got a little taste for Sweden when I was over there for a few days. It was like love at first sight. With Norway I’m having a similar affair, but it’s more like when you hear about the perfect man and fall in love with the idea of him.
My friend, Ingrid, another au pair, is from Norway, and she has managed to convince me, without even trying, just through casual conversation that there is in fact a perfect (or nearly perfect) society on earth.
Over sushi, Ingrid and I discussed how we were both quite homesick, and a little bit of why. She asked me what it was that I liked or missed most about American society, and I was unable to give her a real answer. I said something vague about the opportunities we had to succeed, nothing very concrete. My homesickness, I explained, was more linked to missing my parents and friends than the culture or society exactly.
I began to ask Ingrid more about Norway, throughout the conversation, and kept being taken aback by how perfect it all seems.
She asked me a bit about what I thought about capitalism, and I gave my best explanation of its value, and why I would still consider myself pro-capitalist (mildly, but nonetheless). Then she explained to me a bit about the Norwegian Socialist system. Essentially there is a huge middle class, and then some really rich and some really poor on either side. The rich are extremely highly taxed and that money goes indirectly to the “poor.” But let me explain what it means to be poor in Norway. If you live off the government, you still have a reasonably good quality of life. You can have a nice apartment, etc. You’re taken care of. Ingrid told me about a guy she knew who didn’t work, but had a nice apartment and played video games all day.
In America, we try to avoid people taking advantage of the government funds, making it essentially impossible to live off of them. In Norway there are obviously people taking advantage of this system, but there will always be people taking advantage. I came to realize that in America, the people profiting off of us not having a more equal system are the rich people. So if either way, someone is going to profit, shouldn’t it be the people who actually could potentially need it?
Never in my life has socialism made so much sense.
But then I told her that I would be scared to live in socialist America, because we would have to give up so much of our power to the government, which was a terrifying idea. Not only was our country founded on principles that kept the government from getting too much power, but I can’t fathom the damage that our corrupt politicians would do to not only our country but to the world.
“Oh, but in Norway we trust our politicians,” Ingrid replied. “I am always surprised when I read about how corrupt the French and American politicians are.” Their politicians live among them instead of being some sort of modern royalty. Ingrid has often met her Prime Minister just walking in the woods, no big deal. And his daughter and Ingrid have many mutual friends. The politicians are their neighbors, not corrupt liars that we watch from afar.
I have perhaps a very simplistic understanding of Norwegian elections, but here’s a brief explanation of how that works. Apparently they don’t vote directly for their prime minister, instead they vote for a party. But for a party to get control, they must have 50% of the votes, which is very difficult seeing that there are about ten parties. So instead the parties join together to get 50% of the votes, and then those parties come together and pick a prime minister. Right now there are three parties in control. No one party is able to get too much control at anyone time, also perhaps giving the governmental system more stability.
Norwegian health care? Don’t even get me started. Similarly to France, they pay almost nothing for their doctor’s visits, a little more for specialists, and nothing at all for going to the hospital. Ingrid told me about one of her teachers whose daughter had a rare disease. The doctors in Norway were not able to help her, but her father found some doctors in America who could. So the Norwegian government paid for everything, the doctors, the flight, the stay. The primary role of the government is to protect and take care of its citizens, so why do we in American still have citizens who can’t afford to get the medical care they need? We’re obviously tragically behind.
Not to mention, Norwegian maternity leave is a year and a half long. Many European countries have long maternity leaves though because it’s their way of encouraging their citizens to have more babies. So I looked up online to see if Norway had a low birth rate. Au contraire, they have one of the highest fertility rates in Europe. So the length is perhaps more a matter of respect for motherhood, than out of necessity.
But in Norway not only do they take care of them when they’re sick but they also work to prevent illness. I remember a while back, someone gave Ingrid a blue candy, and she exclaimed how strange that was that it was blue. In Norway they aren’t allowed to use blue food coloring because it’s bad for you. Wait, the government actually stops companies from poisoning its people even when poisoning them is financially profitable?
Ingrid told me how she always had to be careful about what she bought in France, food-wise, because she was scared about things being unhealthy. Like when she buys apples she was always worried about how they look so polished and waxed. I laughed because I always felt safe in France compared to America with food. I told her never to go to the grocery store in America.
Another thing that Ingrid misses is the sense of security back home in Norway. She is tired of always being scared of getting robbed here in France. Wouldn’t it be lovely to live somewhere where you were able to feel safe?
Education in Norway actually more accurately fulfills the term “American Dream” than education in America does. It isn’t a matter of affording university, like in America, it’s a matter of having the grades. In Norway you know if you can get into a school or not just by looking at your grades, as simple as that. Then once you’re in school, the government pays for it unless you start getting bad grades, then you have to pay them back for you education.
I told Ingrid that she’d done a good job at selling Norway to me and that I would probably move there if it wasn’t for the cold weather.
“I’ve actually suffered more through this winter in Paris than in Norway because we are prepared and know how to make it comfortable,” Ingrid explained to me when I told her that Norway sounded perfect and I would move there in a second if it wasn’t for the cold weather. But she quickly helped me make up my mind, ”You know how in San Antonio, it’s really hot but you guys have made it enjoyable or at least livable? Well it’s the same in Norway. We have things that make it less cold, less unpleasant.“
Well, now I’m convinced and know where I’ll be moving next!
I could keep singing praise for Norway, but I don’t want everyone else to immigrate over there before I get the chance to and make it hard for me to get in.