Oslo’s Inferiority Complex – 55 Years On


Cast your mind back 55 years. Can't do it? No, me neither, I wan't born then! But stick with me for a while.

Last week the New York Times website published an article about Oslo, part of their retrospective news series. It was originally published in the International Herald Tribune (the international edition of the New York Times) way back in 1959.

Titled Oslo’s Worry: What Will Tourists Think?, the article is an eye-opener on what life was like in small-town Oslo, decades before I was born, let alone moved there. It describes a quiet city with few bars and not a single nightclub, suffering from a lack of identity and a lack of tourism.

Oslo is the Little Orphan Annie of the northern capitals. Stockholm is the “Venice of the North,” Copenhagen, we all know, is “wonderful,” but Oslo has no such label — and it feels the lack most bitterly. It is always panting to catch up.

While modern Oslo is a much livelier place (although still not a patch on most other European capitals when it comes to nightlife), does Oslo still suffer from the same inferiority complex as was identified back in 1959? There's certainly an argument both ways.

When tourists decide to visit a Scandinavian city, it's almost always Copenhagen or Stockholm first. If Norway appears on their itinerary, a stop in Oslo may only feature due to the Oslo to Bergen railway and ongoing experiences in Fjord Norway.

Oslo has some justification for its inferiority complex. It feels, often rightly, that people only visit it because they are on their way to other parts of Norway

Yet modern Oslo has a hell of a lot going for it. There's the world-class skiing facilities at Holmenkollen, the access to nature (nordmarka, østmarka and the Oslofjord islands) unrivalled by any other European capital, the sheer number of festivals, and the growing arts and cultural scene.

The article finished like this:

And perhaps one day Oslo will get over its disappointment that it is not a Paris, a London or a Rome — or even a Stockholm, or a Copenhagen.

So what do you think? Does Oslo still have an inferiority complex? Or does it now sit proudly alongside Copenhagen and Stockholm?

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

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