Thursday, July 2, 2009

Språk og kultur / Language and Culture

Today we've got a great post from Cultural Advisor Colin Thomsen, wherein he discusses the meaning of the Norwegian word, nærgående.

nærgående (adjective)
prononunciation: nair-GO-en-eh

There’s no way to sum up the meaning of the Norwegian adjective nærgående with just one word in English. To say that someone is nærgående is to say that they are a little obnoxious, too personal, or too interested in other people’s business. The person who tells you their whole life story in line at the supermarket? You could call them nærgående. The nosy neighbor who asks how much you paid for your new car? Nærgående again. Translated literally, nærgående means ”close-going” and the fact that it’s used to describe such people shows that in Norwegian culture, it’s polite to maintain a little more personal distance than what most Americans are used to. While Americans are generally accustomed to making small talk with total strangers, that’s much less common in Norway. For example, while many Americans (especially Midwesterners) are known for greeting strangers passing on the street, the Norwegian custom is to walk by without saying a word or exchanging a glance. Even clerks and waiters – to make a broad generalization – rarely go out of their way to chat with their customers. But it’s not that Norwegian society is unfriendly, it’s that the standards of when it’s appropriate to be friendly are a little different. If you meet an acquaintance on the street in Norway, the general expectation is to stop and have a fairly involved conversation. For Americans, to tell a friend “we should get together some time” doesn’t necessarily call for making a plan. For many Norwegians, it sounds like an invitation. Friends and family are treated with special attention in Norway, and if you’ve ever spent a holiday with Norwegian relatives, you know what that means. And that’s not nærgående at all.

1 comment:

MJ said...

Great word. Takk!