Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hello Internet!

My name is Merete and I’m a first-page-only-diary-writer. It’s taken me a quarter of a century to acknowledge this condition, but it sure feels good to finally tell someone. The attic of my house is filled with boxes of beautiful diaries containing maximum a week of writing. I guess what I’m trying to admit is that I’m really bad at making habits and sticking with them. But here’s the deal: In May, I returned to Norway after some years in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and I can already feel my English slowly drifting away due to the fish balls, knitted sweaters and brown goat cheeses of Norway.  This is upsetting, because I really like English. I mean, a language where “flabbergasted” and “rambunctious” are actual words is hard not to love. Therefore, despite my sad history of journaling, I’ve decided to give it another shot. If it fails, I’ll only be cluttering up the internet, which is good because the attic is filled to its brim.

Moving to a new place is always a challenge, much like putting on freshly laundered jeans, and when the new place is a different country, that only adds to the challenge. The biggest cultural shock I experienced when I came to the States was the fact that everyone there was so darn friendly. Don’t get me wrong, Norwegians can be friendly as well, but having lived at remote farms, hidden in deep valleys or on mountaintops for centuries, we are just not used to being around other people. Coming from a country where the norm is not to acknowledge the existence of strangers, a small town in the friendly Midwest is quite the change. All of a sudden, strangers were greeting me in passing and the cashier at the grocery store asked me about my day; I was terrified. Stuttering through the English I knew from school and failing miserably at the concept of small-talk, I slowly transitioned into American college life.

I know that to native speakers, English seems easy and simple enough, but boy is that wrong. Unfamiliar sounds and completely illogical pronunciations are just the tip of the iceberg. Theresa is not pronounced as you might think and I once held a presentation where I told the class to use thongs to remove hot items from a furnace. My American friends found my linguistic struggle as funny as I found their complete lack of knowledge about Norway. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to realize why they would all giggle every time I talked about the rec center. Both my medical vocabulary and knowledge of whom to trust improved after I learned that the Student Development Center was not called “the STD”. The fun they had at my expense was balanced with all the joy I got when they believed literally everything I told them. So, if any of the people that lived in my hall first semester are reading this, I want to clarify: I can leave the house without a shotgun; the polar bears don’t live in suburban Oslo. Calling 89462 will not give you the Walrus-Excrement-Pick-Up-Service; I’m pretty sure their shit smells horrible because of their diet, but they too live further north. And we do not think midgets are troll-dwarfs that will haunt you until you catch them and feed them to a polar bear. I apologize for any embarrassment this false information may have caused you, I’m sure it’s nothing compared to having to explain that feeling sore because you’ve “been to the STD” is not a euphemism.
Until next time,