According to Julie


4 Comments

Mål: Middelmådighet

"Halvparten av studentene satser på å være like gode eller litt bedre enn gjennomsnittet," skriver Aftenposten. Resultatene av Stud.mag-undersøkelsen viser at 48 prosent av Norges studenter studerer i håp om å være som gjennomsnittet eller bedre. 31 prosent satser på å bli blant de beste. (Vil det si at resten satser på å være under gjennomsnittet?)

Det er mye å si om dette. For det første er det et godt eksempel på at journalister som skriver om resultater av en undersøkelse, også må skrive om metoden bak undersøkelsen. Til hvem (hvilket utvalg av studentene) ble spørsmålet stilt? Vil studentene være gjennomsnittlige i forhold til de andre studentene på sitt program i sitt år, eller i forhold til alle studenter verden over, eller en mellomting?

Jeg tror forøvrig det er vanskelig for ganske mange flinke norske studenter å innrømme, selv anonymt, at de har realistiske forventninger om å være blant de beste i klassen.

Ifølge seniorforsker Vibeke Opheim ved Nifustep er det ikke forsket noe særlig på norske studenters ambisjonsnivå sammenlignet med studenter i andre land. Det kan godt være vi er ganske like resten av verden. Det vi vet om Norge er at de mest ambisiøse og de minst ambisiøse studerer ved de samme fakultetene. I USA, for å nevne ett eksempel, er det i stedet forskjell på gode og dårlige skoler.

Rent statistisk kan ikke alle være best i klassen. Innenfor hver klasse må ganske mange av studentene ha forventninger om å være blant gjennomsnittet, ellers vil de aller fleste bli skuffet. Og har man krevende vurderingsformer, gode medstudenter og høye inntakskrav til studiet, kan et mål om å være litt over gjennomsnittet være et amisiøst mål i seg selv. Nå har vi imidlertid ikke elitestudier i Norge. Vi har et system der de aller fleste kan ta høyere utdanning hvis de vil. Og å ha som mål å være gjennomsnittlig i befolkningen som helhet er ikke så imponerende.

– Du hopper ikke høyere enn listen som er lagt. (…) vi regner med å få jobb om vi ligger på gjennomsnittet eller litt bedre, sier Mikal Erga (23), fjerdeårsstudent på allmennlærerutdanningen i Oslo.

– Det at Norge er et rikt land med relativt små lønnsforskjeller og lav arbeidsledighet gjør kanskje at kampen om de beste jobbene ikke er like hard i Norge som i en del andre land, sier seniorforsker Vibeke Opheim ved Nifustep.

Ja, ok, du får jobb i Norge hvis du er gjennomsnittlig i Norge. Og begge studiene artikkelen skriver spesifikt om, lærerutdanningen og jusutdanningen, er rettet mot studenter som skal jobbe i Norge. Men å satse på middelmådighet på norsk forbereder deg overhodet ikke på et internasjonalt arbeidsmarked eller for videre studier utenfor Norge. Og det er det som virkelig bekymrer meg med norske studenters ambisjoner: Alle kan studere, alle kan bestå og de fleste har ikke ambisjoner om å klare mer enn det alle andre også klarer. Jeg håper bare vi klarer å holde disse latmannsholdningene hemmelig for utenlandske arbeidsgivere og resten av verdens universiteter.


15 Comments

I want to live in English

For every language you learn, you live another life. Apparently people who live in Czech say that. I think I want to live in English now.

Most Norwegians understand English, but worldwide practically no one understands Norwegian. This makes Norwegian an inside joke I share with a selection of the people I know.

Growing up, Norwegian was the language I used with the three people who knew me best, the people with whom I barely needed spoken words to communicate with at all. Even though I talked non-stop (still do) in both languages, my parents and my sister could usually understand my face and tone of voice well enough regardless of vocabulary. My mom could tell how happy I was by the way I opened the front door when I came home in the afternoon. So Norwegian was our somewhat unneccessary secret code. American friends thought Norwegian was an angry language, because they only heard it when my parents yelled at me. I preferred English, but my parents insisted I speak Norwegian, because I would need it someday.

These days, communicating in Norwegian is my job. Since moving back to Norway two years ago, I have studied and worked in Norwegian full time. I consider both Norwegian and English first languages, meaning I’m completely bilingual.

Despite all that, after giving Norwegian a serious try, I have realized something:

English is just better. I’m better in English. I like other people better in English.

I’m more open and heartfelt and honest in English. Norwegians are so direct it borders on insensitivity, both in culture and in language. We won’t tell you to have a nice day unless we ourselves would really feel happier if you did. We won’t say "I love you" to people we just like. We won’t thank you if we don’t feel genuinely grateful. Any expression of sentiment in Norwegian feels like I’m exposing some secret part of my mind, usually only accessible to Norwegians when we’re drunk.

In English I’m more polite, although I might come off as relatively rude due to Norwegian bad habits. It feels easier to be sincere and emotional in English without feeling like I’m crossing the line into inappropriate. I’m more outgoing and animated, especially when I meet Americans. If I’m in a room full of Norwegians and one American, I might look like I’m giving the American much more attention, smiling and gesticulating more.

If I swear, it’s in Norwegian. If I ever swear in English, I’m just pretending. The one exception is if I say skitt (the Norwegian word for dirt, the sk is pronounced sh) when I really want to swear in secret and I’m in Norway. (Swearing in French doesn’t work at all.) This might be because I used to be American, and as a child I had no reason to swear. 

Privately, I think that all the words I know, in English, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, French, German, Dutch, Khmer, Thai, Italian, Spanish, are all one big vocabulary. Sometimes I can use all my words, sometimes only a few, depending on who I’m talking to. Most of my close friends here in Norway are people who are also fluent in English. I don’t specifically search for bilingual people to befriend, but it’s obvious why it works for us: We have a shared vocabulary, and we often mix up our two languages in conversations.

But despite the fact that most Norwegians speak English, they don’t speak the whole English language. English has more words than Norwegian. So I think in English with an occasional Norwegian expression, not vice versa. And when I speak English, the connection between what I think and what I say is less complicated. So in English I’m more honest, more polite and I swear less.

And you know that scene in Love Actually about American girls who love British men because they speak British? I know American girls like that, but it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that English in general – British, American, Australian, Canadian, any version of perfectly pronounced, flawless, this-is-clearly-your-first-language English – works for me. Hearing someone speak English really well just makes me relax. Compared to hearing Norwegians speak English as a second language, it’s like hearing a singer with perfect pitch and realizing I’ve been listening to off-key music for years.

When I go through old notebooks and crumpled-up napkins at the bottom of my purse, I find quotes from novels I’ve read in English. Paragraphs I had to write down, because they made me shiver a little bit, because they were so well-written. Sometimes they become blog posts. I never feel that way about Norwegian.

Just listen to Stephen Fry talk about anything. Even when he’s making fun of the very topic of language, I just love it.

Sure, there are plenty of wonderful things you can say in Norwegian as well. You can say koselig, nydelig, jeg er glad i deg. And as a journalist, I love the intricacies and possibilities of the Norwegian language. But I love the English language more. Half the time when I’m writing in Norwegian, I am quietly wishing that I could write the same text in English.

So what do I do with this? Move? Try to find writing work in English? I don’t know.

Image: icanread


3 Comments

Love in any language

We have different words because we have differents concepts, but sometimes I wonder if we have different concepts because we have different words. This is especially true when it comes to ideas that are hard to define. Take love for example.

Americans say I love you for all sorts of reasons to many different people in their lives. It’s the same verb for loving ice cream and loving the person you’re married to. Norwegians have two completely different ways of expressing love.

We say Jeg er glad i deg to close friends and family. This sentence means more to me than the English I love you normally does, but it’s still not that one specific you’re-the-one kind of I love you that people make a big deal about saying or not saying. Because for Norwegians that’s a sentence we expect to only say to a very few people during our lives, maybe just one. The Norwegian words for that are almost taboo; even writing them out without a specific person in mind feels wrong. When I was ten, an American wanted to learn how to say I love you in as many languages as possible, but I refused to teach the Norwegian version.

The difference between the two isn’t as simple as one being romantic and the other platonic. Jeg er glad i deg can be romantic, only less so. And because Norwegians are more direct in their way of using language than English-speaking people usually are, we don’t say Jeg er glad i deg to just anyone. Except for teenagers who (used to? I’m older now) finish texts with the abbreviation GID. But this Norwegian, less scary version of I love you is closer to I am fond of you, which I would barely take as a compliment in English. Glad means happy, just like in English, so I suppose there is an element of Your existence makes me happy. We can also be glad i things, but I seldom use the term for anyone or anything I’m not at least a little bit emotional about. I like (liker) my furniture, but I love (glad i) my apartment.

Even after years and years of living among Americans who use I love you as a general greeting with people they just like, it still feels weird to me. I have to stop myself from flinching when I hear an American finish an angry-sounding phone call to a family member with an angry I love you and I automatically translate it in my head. But speaking two languages fluently gives me twice as many ways to think about everything. There are some feelings I can only express in English and some I can only express in Norwegian, but in my own thoughts, I can sort out my emotions using my whole vocabulary. And I’m glad I can.

Inspired by Even in English, A Language Gap, in which Jennifer Percy writes for the New York Times:

"He speaks Serbo-Croatian, German and English. Two languages separate us.

I don’t speak German but I’ve said “ich liebe dich” plenty of times and it never does feel like a contract the way saying “I love you” feels like a contract. He, too, has said ich liebe dich to me. When we first started dating, this should have been a comfort to me, but it wasn’t. German sounded strange and ich liebe dich sounded ugly to my ear compared to “I love you.” It bounced off of me, it didn’t stay, didn’t embed itself like “I love you.”

I once tried saying “volim te” — “I love you” in Serbo-Croatian — and he didn’t respond. I asked if I’d said it right and he said I had. Then he repeated it quietly.

That’s the one, I thought: volim te. That’s the “I love you” that works for me, the one that is honest."

Image: xkcd


Leave a comment

Norwegian media – Free, but dependent

I’m spending the first part of this week writing up to ten pages on how the Norwegian government is supposed to afford journalists in the future. Norway subsidizes its media, or should I say part of its media, mainly the media that provides daily news on paper. The media that I think is dying. News sites get no government funding or tax breaks, and the current system of funding provides very little incentive for experimenting with more efficient, modern ways of delivering news.

Writing about this for school means I will probably have to use my own earlier writings as academic references. That makes me feel old and silly, but I have been writing about Norwegian press subsidies for as long as I have been writing journalism at all – which I admit is not that long. My first feature article, back in early 2008, was about the Norwegian system of government-supported journalism. My American journalism professor at The American University of Paris sent me back to Oslo so I could explain to him how Norwegian newspapers could be government-funded and still be an independent fourth estate.

I wrote about how Norwegian journalists considered themselves loyal mouthpieces for politicians up until the 1970s, about the controversy (or should I say controversial lack of controversy in many cases) surrounding the current press subsidy system and about the general Norwegian mentality of trusting the government to provide solutions to everything. After a week of interviewing editors and media experts, I had learned most of the things that would later be on the syllabus of the course for which I’m currently writing an exam.

But I never got around to publishing the article, until now. So here it is, complete with the footnotes I added to further explain Norwegian weirdness to Americans:

Norwegian Media – Free, but dependent (pdf)

Image: Madewell


2 Comments

Sjokktall fra Norsk Kaffeinformasjon

Mennesker som meg "svikter" kaffen.

coffee pain_003

Bildebevis for at svart kaffe gjør denne unge kvinnen glad. Foto: Julie Balise

Hørt på E24 på morgenvakt:

Julie: Jeg er fortsatt i sjokk over tallene fra Norsk Kaffeinformasjon. De påstår at stadig flere unge nordmenn ikke drikker kaffe, men jeg kjenner nesten ingen som ikke drikker kaffe. Det kan være fordi jeg ikke helt vet hva jeg skal finne på med disse menneskene. Man kan jo ikke gå på café med dem. Da bestiller de te, og te fra café er en så dårlig økonomisk investering at jeg ikke klarer å ta tekjøperne seriøst.

Ikke-kaffedrikkende journalist*: Hva? Hæ? Påstår du at kaffe er en bedre investering? Er det ikke mer økonomisk fornuftig å ikke drikke kaffe i det hele tatt?

Julie: Kanskje, men det er et annet spørsmål. Jeg sier bare at det er dumt å betale 25 kroner for at noen skal legge teblader i kokt vann for deg. Kjøper du kaffe på café, betaler du i hvert fall for bruk av baristaferdigheter og kaffemaskin som du ikke selv har fra før.

Kaffedrikkende nyhetssjef: Men ikke begynn å tenke på hva du betaler for at noen skal sjenke øl i glass for deg. I hvert fall ikke mens du er student.

Julie: Poeng. Og apropos, kanskje jeg skal jobbe litt. Men jeg må nok blogge om kaffe når jeg kommer hjem.

"Bare rundt´én av tre unge drakk kaffe siste syv dager, og unge jenter leder an i utviklingen. Det er en halvering på 20 år, viser tall fra en ny undersøkelse," skrev E24 i går morges. Andelen unge mellom 20 og 24 år som drikker kaffe er halvert de siste 20 årene. Kaffe er for gubber, sies det.

Det er papirutgaven av Dagens Næringsliv som i utgangspunktet skriver om dette, og her er en chai latte-drikkende 20-åring intervjuet. Hun mener unge dropper kaffe fordi kaffe er dyrt. Jeg skjønner ikke det. Har te på café blitt relativt billigere? Jeg tror heller flere har begynt å drikke god kaffe, og god kaffe er dyrere enn dårlig kaffe, og dermed har vi fått det for oss at kaffe generelt er blitt dyrere. Men dette er bare noe jeg tror.

Det neste hun sier er interessant (klippet fra DN):

Hun merker også en tendens til at unge får sitt kick gjennom en espresso om morgenen, men drikker annet gjennom dagen.

– Det er ikke en kultur for å drikke masse kaffe, sier hun.

Selv drikker jeg en dobbel espresso om morgenen og kanskje (stort sett ikke) en dobbel til senere. Vi kan si at mitt gjennomsnittlige daglige kaffekonsum er 2,5 espressoshots. Det er ganske lite sammenlignet med de fleste jeg vet om i generasjonen over meg, både i mengde og i koffein. Hadde undersøkelsen sagt "Vi drikker mindre kaffe enn før, og det er nok fordi unge har sluttet å drikke kaffe", kunne jeg sagt: "Tull! Vi bare velger kvalitet fremfor kvantitet."

Men jeg må ha kaffe hver dag. Det er tydeligvis færre som meg enn jeg var klar over.

Kaffen har uansett en spesiell stilling hos nordmenn. Det merkes når disse tallene omtales. De unge "svikter" kaffen, som om vi skylder den norske kaffebransjen å følge opp det høye nasjonale konsumet som Norge tradisjonelt har hatt siden midten av 1800-tallet.

Jeg liker å fortelle turister, spesielt tedrikkende briter, om kaffens historie i Norge. Nordmenn har drukket kaffe siden 1700-tallet, men da var det en cafédrikke for de rike og urbane (og det var ikke så mange av dem i Norge). I 1842 ble kaffen en folkedrikk. Da ble det nemlig forbudt å lage hjemmebrent.

Den sammenhengen bør vi imidlertid ikke snakke så mye om. For jeg vil ikke at ungdommens sjokkerende kaffesvik skal brukes som argument for strengere alkohollovgivning.

* Jeg vet! Utrolig, men sant. Jeg møtte min første ikke-kaffe-drikkende journalist forrige vår. Men han passet godt på redaksjonens kaffemaskiner, lagde ofte kaffe til meg og ga meg et fantastisk koselig kompliment i januar. Så han er godkjent likevel.


3 Comments

Jakten på en død manns liv

Men hvem var du, egentlig? Hadde du noen? Det skal ta Magasinet 550 telefoner, en flere uker lang, tung reise ned i Oslos glemte verden, før vi nærmer oss noen svar.

22. oktober 2009 ble Jan Erik Fosshaug begravet uten en eneste venn eller pårørende til stede. Bernt Jakob Oksnes har skrevet om letingen etter den ensomme mannens livshistorie i Dagbladet Magasinet.

Jeg er glad for at norsk journalistikk kan være så stillferdig, grundig og rørende som dette.


Leave a comment

Fur issues, part 3: Organic, fair-trade, free range coats

I’m surprised the Norwegian fur industry hasn’t gotten its act together by now.   

Let’s examine the evidence:

1. Norway is a rich country, but Norwegians claim to be down to earth and sensible. So Norwegians love politically correct, expensive status symbols.

2. A Norwegian writer recently used this country’s winter weather as evidence that God’s world-creating talent is grossly overrated. You would think we were willing to buy anything that could keep us warm.

3. Free range meat, eggs and dairy are sold in many Norwegian supermarkets. This indicates that plenty of Norwegians care about animal rights, but are still ok with killing animals so human beings can be happier.

4. Vegan footwear exists. Marketing fashion as politically correct seems to work.

5. I count Norwegian tap water among my favorite drinks. I miss it when I’m outside the country. But selling Norwegian bottled water to people in Norway who own sinks, turned out to be a successful business plan. We will clearly pay money for anything.

In all seriousness, why does the fur industry not attempt to capitalize on the consumer demand for "ethical" luxury?

After a dissapointing fall season for the fur industry, the unusually cold winter has driven Norwegian fur sales up, leading to more debate about animal cruelty. In this VG article, a spokesperson for Pelsinform says fur farmers who mistreat their animals are a far greater threat to the industry than animal rights activists or fur boycotts are. I think that’s true.

As I’ve tried to explain before, killing animals for fur isn’t basicly any worse than killing them for meat. But if the fur industry really is crueller than the meat industry, then of course they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

My advice: Make sure the animals are treated well until they die as peacefully and painlessly as possible. And then make sure consumers know about that.

This is Part 3, in which I give the fur industry some marketing advice. You should also read

  • Part 1, in which an ethical dilemma turns up literally on my doorstep, in the form of a white rabbit fur vest
  • Part 2, in which I make a more serious attempt to discuss fashion as if it were a topic in ethics class.

Photo: .jowo. CreativeCommons


Leave a comment

Barack Obama, and other awkward party guests

If President Obama really had to get a gift postmarked Scandinavia this month, he would probably, on the whole, have preferred the Olympics. At least at the Olympics the judges wait till after the race to give you the gold medal. They don’t force it on you while you’re still waiting for the bus to take you to the stadium.

We can take it as a sign of what a lucky fellow our President is that winning the Nobel Peace Prize has been widely counted a bad break for him.

– Hendrick Hertzberg in The New Yorker, October 2009

I’m still a political geek. I stayed up until 1:30 AM watching a documentary on Barack Obama’s election campaign last night.

When the Peace Prize was announced, my first reaction was that whoever put my FP Morning Brief together had made a serious journalistic error. But I didn’t get all that worked up about silly Norway, thorbjorning the President just so he would pay us a visit. I didn’t really get excited about the visit either. Honestly, as long as I don’t get to meet someone, there is no practical difference between being separated by the wall of City Hall (+ security) and being separated by the Atlantic Ocean. It was still pretty unlikely that I would run into Barack at the coffee shop.

And so I’m actually surprised at myself by how annoyed I am as Obama cancels event after event here in Oslo. I would like to think that it’s the journalist in me fuming at the fact that there will be time for exactly one question from the Norwegian media. But honestly, the journalist and the election geek sides of me are pretty calm compared to my inner party hostess.

It’s like when you invite someone to a dinner party, and you kind of get the impression that the invitation is a slightly awkward surprise, but they still accept right away. So you think everything’s fine and that all awkwardness can be avoided if you just set a place for them at your table and make a serious effort in the kitchen. Until they show up late, pick at their food and refuse wine, avoid talking with your other guests, keep their eyes and hands on their cell phones and disappear just as the party is about to get going, often effectively killing everyone else’s party mood. Wouldn’t it have been more polite to just decline the invitation?

“The American president is acting like an elephant in a porcelain shop,” said Norwegian public-relations expert Rune Morck-Wergeland. Yes, that is awkward.


Leave a comment

Når en pepperkakebaker baker pepperbakekaker…

"Outrage as vandals wreck gingerbread town" – The Norwegian Gingerbread Crisis explained in English by Kristine Lowe.

Den offisielle engelskspråklige julekalenderposten kommer senere i dag, men her er en liten julesangbonus til nostalgiske nordmenn som har Spotify:

Hele pepperkakebakehistorien fra Hakkebakkeskogen er på Spotify.

Jeg regner ikke pepperkakebakesangen som en julesang egentlig, men pepperkaker har vært så fremtredende i media at jeg synes jeg burde blogge om dem.

Her er oppskriften på pepperkaker ala Thorbjørn Egner:

  • 1 kg smør eller margarin
  • 1 kg farin eller sukker (fordi farin er det samme som sukker)
  • 8 eggeplommer
  • 1 kg hvetemel
  • 1 teskje pepper

Smelt smør eller margarin i en stekegryte. Rør sukkeret sammen med det smeltede smøret. Mens smør og sukker skummer, rør inn eggeplommene og hvetemelet. Slipp til slutt pepper i gryta. Rør omkring og tøm deigen på en fjøl. Kjevl deigen så flat som en pannekake. Ta mann- og kone-former og lag mann- og konekaker. Legg dem på kakebrettet og stek dem i stekeovnen.

MEN: Denne oppskriften lager ikke gode pepperkaker. Den ble testet av en flink kokk i fjor, og det ble ikke bra.

Noe annet som ikke er bra, er standarden på norske pepperkakehus. Det melder Aftenposten. SINTEF Byggforsk råder oss til å bake etter forskriftene.

– Etter at pepperkakehuset er oppført, oppdager mange svakheter som det er vanskelig og tidkrevende å utbedre. Dette kommer gjerne på toppen av et allerede sprengt tidsskjema i ukene før jul. Bakingen blir en hengemyr, sier forskningssjef Kim Robert Lisø ved SINTEF Byggforsk.

Heldigvis har de laget en anvisning (pdf) så vi alle kan lage pepperkakehus på en forsvarlig måte. Men uansett, ikke bruk Thorbjørn Egners oppskrift.

Oppdatert 22.12.2009: Aftenposten har testet begge oppskriftene. Se videoen!