When you think of Norwegians as a people, you likely picture blond, healthy and slim people… am I right? When Norway hosted the Olympics in 1994, there was one broadcast after another showing healthy lifestyle habits and smiling Norwegians outside.
When I moved to Canada from Norway many years ago, I was often asked what main differences in lifestyle I noticed. Back then I was in my 20’s so I noticed that girls in Canada were a lot shyer and less comfortable with their bodies than my friends and I were back home.
Once I got married I noticed things like I was always seated with my husband at dinner parties and at restaurants, even when we were in a crowd, whereas in Norway, you would never be seated with your spouse, in the interest of getting to know more people.
When I started having kids and traveled back to visit my family I immediately noticed the outdoor family culture there vs here. Honestly, I had forgotten. I had already lived in Canada for 10 years the first time I went back with my children. We went in the winter and memories flooded back as I saw families on the weekend heading to “marka” – the vast local forest just outside Oslo, where all the locals go on the weekend with their kids to ski and generally have fun in the snow.
The winters when I was 16 and 17 I worked as a x-country ski instructor teaching children, and British tourists….guess who did better..? It really is a way of life there. Just like Canadian children learn to skate early on, we learn to ski.
Studies and articles show that because Norwegians choose a more active lifestyle and activities with their families like hiking, biking, skiing etc – all of which can take hours, they are overall more active every week than most other populations in other countries. A British magazine used the Norwegian term “Friluftsliv” to explain this. Basically, we, Norwegians, believe the outdoors is our home, it explained, and we love to spend time outside doing various activities. In the end, this results in more active hours of fun and family time than a trip to the gym every now and then.
In fact, the trails can get very very busy on the weekends with hundreds of families out enjoying this most of traditional Norwegian sports.
I feel the value of this kind of family time and also this more natural active lifestyle is lost here in North America in general to some extent. Too much focus on each child’s individual activity. Children are participating in a variety competitive sports, with parents running themselves down rushing from one practice, recital, tournament, game to another. I did it for years with my boys who all played ‘rep hockey’. Exhausting and not family friendly. But look at the picture above of the family out doing something together… That is really the way it is.
I had fun taking my boys out skiing and teaching them. Thankfully they still enjoy participating to this day.
What is your favourite active thing to do with your kids and the whole family?