A common stereotype that Norwegians have about Americans is that they are superficial. Norwegians think that Americans express feelings they don’t really feel and regularly ask personal questions without really desiring to know the answer.
Expressing feelings they don’t feel
I met an American guy at an airport a few years ago. Let’s call him Kevin. We started up a conversation and since we sat across from one another on the plane continued to talk together. After no more than half an hour one of Kevin’s travel mates walked past us. Kevin stopped him and said, “Hey Bill, I’d like you to meet my friend here, uuuh…..” And turning to me asked, “What’s your name again?” Norwegians laugh profusely at this situation as it would never occur to them to call someone they just met a friend, let alone someone they didn’t know the name of.
Personal questions without waiting for an answer
Growing up in the States I grew accustomed to being greeted by friends, acquaintances and strangers with, “How are you?” or the less formal, “How you doing?” or even less formal, “How goes it?” Often the question would be asked as we passed each other with no opportunity to answer. Or if there were an opportunity to answer the expected response is, “Fine.” or “Good.” Or “All right.” To which the original questioner would say something like, “That’s nice.” without any thought to what was said. This is something Norwegians find amusing, at best and insulting at worst.
Now, the reason I’m sharing this is not to expound about cultural differences between Norwegians and Americans, but rather to suggest an alternative to the standard, “Fine,” as a response to the question, “How are you?” Instead, how about answering, with a big smile, “Well enough!” It’s just different enough that many people will stop and ask you what you said or comment on what you mean by that statement. I’ve found this to be a nice ice breaker. You can then go on to say that “Well enough, “means that life could be better, it could be worse, but I am content with the way things are.”
Try it sometime and see what happens :-).