Column – Americans in need of Norwegian perspective

Julie Drechsler, Julie Drechsler, and Julie Drechsler

When President Obama was elected, people all across the globe were glued to their TV screens.

In my country, Norway, people stayed up all night to see the results. Americans, however, seem to be oblivious to anything that happens outside their borders.

I know that by saying this I am risking being harassed for the rest of the semester, but I simply have to get it out. The U.S. must be the most self-centered nation I have ever experienced.
As an international student in California, I am frequently questioned about my living conditions. Apparently Americans are under the impression that we live in igloos, have winter all year round and polar bears walk in the streets.

It would not surprise me if you were wondering about the same things as you read this column.

Let me enlighten you. We have summers just like you do, although they might be a bit chillier. We live in normal buildings made of concrete and wood – not ice. We even have McDonalds!

Okay, Norway is a small country compared to the States, but we still have an impact on an international level.

I bet you didn’t know that Norway is one of the main components of the global oil industry, and has been since the early 1980s. That is something you can keep in mind the next time you fuel up your car.

On the other hand, Americans seem very interested in foreigners, even fascinated at times. As soon as they notice the accent, they immediately start asking questions about where you come from, and almost every time the person either has relatives or knows someone from Norway.

“Oh! My friend is from Norway! His name is Lars, do you know him?”

Norway’s population is more than 4.6 million. How could I possibly know this guy named Lars, who lives somewhere near Oslo, and went backpacking through Santa Barbara last summer? That would be the same as asking if you know my friend Ally from the Bay Area near San Francisco.

Incidents like this simply frustrate me, and they happen fairly often. Maybe I’m asking too much here, but to me, much of this is considered common knowledge. I bet if you asked 10 Americans to show you where Norway was, half of them wouldn’t even be able to point it out on a map.

Geography is one thing, but what about history? Why do American high schools only teach U.S. history? What about the rest of the world?

Even though your country isolated itself during WWI, doesn’t mean that the war never happened.

According to the U.S. State Department, only 27 percent of the United States population has a valid passport.

Just because your nation is known as “the melting pot” doesn’t mean there isn’t more out there!

I do not mean this as an insult by any means, but I see a lot of things that Norwegians could teach Americans.

It wouldn’t hurt to get a broader perspective on the world, even if it means adding chapters to your history books.