It’s my first full winter in Oslo…almost. After all, I did get away for a few days in December and I will be away again for a few days in February. So even after this winter, I still will not have spent an entire winter in Oslo. The other winters over the last five years, I’ve spent considerably more time away.
When it comes to winter in Oslo, there is one thing that you’ll come to expect, and that is the gravel sprinkling of Oslo’s pavements. For this winter, we’ve set a record.
So while I’ve set a personal record for the number of winter days I’ve spent in Oslo, Oslo has set a personal record for the tons of gravel sprinkled over its sidewalks. Evidently it adds up to roughly 22,000 tonnes so far!
In case you’re reading this and you’ve never been to Oslo in the winter before, sometime after the first snow, the municipality of Oslo begins to sprinkle the gravel on the pavements to help pedestrians keep their footing as they navigate the slippery surfaces.
It looks like some parts of the city went a few days without paths for pedestrians to avoid traffic. But that’s another story, which I read in the papers, but didn’t witness for myself.
Isbrodder: shoe spikes
Closer to the city centre, sometimes the municipality doesn’t have the chance to sprinkle gravel on the pavements yet. With the snow melting and then temperatures freezing again, the surfaces can get super slippery. That’s where isbrodder help to keep you keep your footing.
These stretchy plastic overshoes have spiked soles that increase the coefficient of friction as you trounce across any icy surface. I hardly ever slip at all while wearing them. I don’t have to look strategically at the gravel to try to plant my foot on just the right spot to get a solid grip. I can even take shortcuts in parks across solid ice wastelands.
One of the strange things about walking around Oslo with isbrodder for too long, is that when you lie down to rest, you just might find yourself experiencing sensations of motion similar to what happens when you go spend a day on the rides at Tivoli or when you’ve spent a few hours on a ship in rough seas.
Another thing I debate is whether to put on the isbrodder. Sometimes the conditions are just easier without them and it just makes sense to aim for the gravel.
Because of the great weather and brunost, of course!
Norwegians may seem to enjoy asking that question to all who move here. In late January, I was at an event that we arranged in conjunction with Startup Grind at MESH. Sean Percival, the author of the “Loud American, Working with Norwegians” was the guest for the fireside chat.
Sean said to the Norwegians in the audience…and it seemed that only about a third to half of the audience was Norwegian…not to ask foreigners the question ‘Why did you move to Norway?” at least not in some sort of negative amazement as if there is something wrong with moving to Norway.
Norway ranks high in terms of quality of life. So there is a lot to be grateful for when you live in Norway. Of course weather and the length of winter nights are not factored into the quality of life reports. Even with the dark winters and Norwegian weather factored in, Norway would still score likely score in the top 10.
The happiest country on the planet
So no wonder Norway topped the list as the ‘Happiest Country on the Planet” for 2017. Whether you look at data from the OECD or EIA’s Quality of Life Index (from the Economist), or the Eurostat Regional Yearbook, Norway has what makes for a happy country.
So if weather is the major thing to complain about, it makes sense that it can become a part of regular conversation in Norway. People who know Norwegians well know that Norwegians aren’t into small talk. If you want to connect easily with Norwegians, don’t expect to do so with small talk.
Sometimes we need to make an effort to connect. So there is one thing I’ve noticed that can bring a smile or a chuckle to a Norwegian that I don’t know. To build rapport with a Norwegian stranger, I can joke about the weather.
On a summer day with bad weather, for example, I’ve been known to get a chuckle with det er ingen vær for utepils. Since we can’t get away with that joke in the winter, I’m in need of some other material. As I mentioned this particular winter is the snowiest I’ve known since in my five partial winters in Oslo.
Those of us who have the privilege to spend this winter in Oslo are even witness to the record for sprinkling gravel on the pavements of Oslo.