Nowegians are proud. Well, most people around the world are proud, of their family, their profession, their country, their leaders, or anything that might make them feel proud. In this regards, Norwegians are not so different. Still they are proud in a slightly different manner. It might go back to what they call the 400 years night. If you hear that expression, it is referred to the joint kingdom with Denmark and later with Sweden. After that, any victory is celebrated as best of the world, or verdens beste.
There is, however, a strange duality in this pride. It can be addressed as naivety, humbleness, or ignorance. As an example, I will refer to the 400 years night. After the freedom from Sweden was won in 1905, everything were celebrated as the top of the world. We were Verdens Beste! We made the first outboard engine for boats, when Eivind Ruud were too lazy to row his boat over Einafjord, a lake at Toten, so he created an engine with a propeller to help him. Laziness is what brings the world forward. Evinrude were a brand name for decades after. Then we had Ibsen, Bjørnson, Amundsen, Nansen, Hamsun, Trygve Lie ( the first General Secretary of UN) and we really thought that we were the peak of the world. We even found oil! Then the duality to it. In 2005 it was 100 years since we parted from Sweden. Wow, that must be celebrated, with verdens beste celebration. Oh how we failed. This celebration could offend the Swedes, so it had to be done with class and finesse. It was. It was done with such a class that no one noticed the celebration at all.
Ok, we are still proud. We are verdens beste. Look at our athletes in sports. We have the most gold medals in the Olympics. Well, Winter Olympics anyway, as we hardly have any summer. But in all the most important competitions! Like cross country skiing, where there are a few Russians, Fins and two Swedes competing. If we do not win, you must be sure that the grand-grand-grandmother of the uncle of the winner had a distant relative that was Norwegian. We are better detectives in finding these connections than CIA, Scotland Yard, FSB, and Mossad working together. So what is it in the sports that is so important to Norwegians? It is actually not so important to win at all, as long as we can beat the Swedes.
This again falls back to the 400 years night. So we have verdens beste as an expression to undermine the fact that we are not. There is Verdens beste cake, much like Pavlova in a way, but do not say that to a Norwegian. It is as insulting as saying that Bergen was not a member of the Hansa Union, they just had an office there. We have verdens beste herring. Well that is a fact, even though the Swedes are more famous for it with their Smorgasboard. Even the Estonians cannot live without their herring, even though it comes from Norway.
We are a big nation, almost the population of St Petersburg throughout the country. If you pin the southernmost point of Norway and turn it around, the Nordkapp would reach Rome. This is the first thing we learn at school. The next thing we learn is that we have verdens beste school, and, well, that is about it.
To find the soul of Norwegians is not difficult. All you need is a map and a compass, and the expression Verdens beste!