No, it’s not actually. I often told a few trusted friends the situations I ran into during the first years with together her. They kept saying it must be a culture thing. It wasn’t really a culture thing. It was a personality thing. She just had some quirky personality traits I couldn’t wrap my head around.
However, her home country had some drastic differences to mine. Security issues, density in population, massive traffic, pollution, extreme heat. Perhaps the biggest difference of all; communites so vastly difference from each other to the point you wouldn’t really think you were living in the same country at all. The diversity was something alright, and it’s not all positive. But then again, she could pick friends totally to her liking because there were so many to choose from. She always said that in Norway, you just had to become friends with whatever because there would be no one like you around anyway. She had a point. Her friends were all highly educated people. Bordering on nerds, but not in an obvious way. I was a nerd as well, but not like that. I never excelled in school and never had a lifegoal of becoming a doctor. My nerd factor came from my hobbies, not academia. My friends came from all sorts of places. None of my friends had anythying in common except knowing me. Her friends seemed to have lots in common. She had hand-picked them. I was just pleased I could make friends at all.
Mass-immigration from Russia combined with a growing Arab community made for natural segregation as people tend to seek out their own kind. It’s definetely a warning signal to countries like Sweden who have basically kept an open border policy for cultures so different that they could be from another century. Her country had communites within communites, and none of them really spoke to each other. To me, it felt like 10 or 20% of her countrys population, (mainly the secular, highly educated part) pushed the country forward while the rest simply went along for the ride.
However, all of this didn’t really give us problems. I can point to one important factor why; religion. We were secular. I was more athiest than agnostic. She was perhaps more agnostic than athiest, but it worked. So, no, it was never either about religion or so much about culture. The difference between western countries are really not that huge. We surf the same web, watch the same TV shows and follow the same football teams.
The differences may be in each countrys wealthfare system or how doctors do their job. How you send in your tax report. How much or what type of groceries a small town supermarket got, or whether there are pubs around or not. Whether or not you can go out on a Saturday night depending on the cost of a fancy burger. Coming from me, this is one of the things I’m quite proud of. We never had issues about culture differences. Perhaps it was easier for me since she came to live here and not vice versa. I would definetely have had issues living there, but this also because I’m not keen on living in large cities. I’m not keen on steel bars on your windows either. Speaking of burglaries, she was scared of being alone in our apartment for some time so she even locked the bedroom door with a key at first. Is this culture or personality? I think it’s the latter.
While working at a school she was shocked that the school did not have a fence around it. Most countryside schools simply don’t around here. It’s just nature that surrounds it anyway. She was surprised children stayed out and played in almost all weather conditions while in her country the kids were rushed inside once a spot of rain appeared. Yes, this is culture. But, all these differences were easy to get used to once she knew the system of the community she lived in. The nature and level of trust people had between each other. In her country, it didn’t feel like anyone trusted anyone. But who does in large cities?
It wasn’t about culture.