Stereotypes of countries around the world

Keep in mind these are tidbits and/or very generalizing and playful stereotypes I’ve come up with by going to these countries and meeting people from them.

– Blunt as a knife.
– Describe distances in driving time.
– Describe time in numbers (5:50 is most times “five fifty”, not “ten to six” or “five after quarter to six”).
– Devout (comparatively to other [especially European] countries).
– Friendly.
– Loud.
– Main exports are obesity and friendliness.
– Mediocre drivers due to medium-priced driver’s tests and licenses.
– Notable music genres include rock and jazz.
– Out of shape.
– Patriotic.
– Slogan: Add sugar to everything!
– Tip most everyone.
– Use big adjectives generously (“Wow!” “That’s great!” “That sounds awesome!”).
– Use the imperial measuring system, often leading to confusion with the metric system.

The British:
– Clever.
– Crazy about gardens, just like the Dutch.
– Cynical.
– Pessimistic.
– Sarcastic.
– Sardonic.
– Tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.

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Taxis and paisas – my time in Colombia

When my friend and I arrived in Bogotá, one of the first things we noticed is the increase in elevation, and the resulting decrease in oxygen! Bogotá is high – a whopping 2640 meters above sea level and much higher than even Norway, the mountainous country I’m used to – and we knew our lungs would have a good bit of change to get used to as soon as we stepped off the plane and breathed in. But of course, my friend (no, not me, my friend!) underestimated the effect it’d have before we got there. ;P

We wandered through the airport toward the exit, and as soon as we withdrew Colombian pesos at the airport ATM, a man walked to us and asked if we needed a taxi. We said yes and followed him, thinking he was taking us to the government-condoned Servicio Publico taxis we had heard about from our online research. Instead, he directed us to a big-boned white taxi that wasn’t in the “Authorized Taxis” section of the airport outside and tried to charge us 60,000 COP (~$23 USD) to take us to La Candelaria, a trip that we ended up only spending 25,000 COP (~$10 USD) for with a yellow Servicio Publico taxi after we rid ourselves of the pushy white taxi guy. Be sure to get the yellow taxis, not the white! Of course, not all the white taxis are scammers or will overcharge, but I definitely recommend the public taxis to be on the safer side.

That said, the taxi culture in Bogotá (and in Medellín, too) is insane! The drivers are fast, reckless, impatient…and very inexpensive, at about $3-5 per your average ride. They’re also extremely easy to get a hold of via the TAPPSI app on your phone; we literally had to wait no more than five minutes for a taxi to arrive to pick us up in most cases. The app grabs the most recent government rate for taxis and lets you calculate what the fare should be based on the distance – you can then show this number to the driver, which is not a bad way to avoid getting scammed! The fare is always a bit higher if you’re being picked up from or dropped off at the airport, if you’re using the taxi at night, or if it’s Sunday.

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Exploring England

England is a funny country. Between using the metric and imperial systems simultaneously (miles, anyone?), speaking like, well, Brits, not being able to decide if they’re a country (The UK is a country! No, England is a country! No, one is a constituent country and the other is a country! Oh, bollocks.), and driving on the left side (ha-ha), they’re quite charming. I jest, of course (but not about the charming bit).

My first experience in the country was a silly one: when my friend came to pick me up from the Stansted airport, I walked around his car, much to his confusion: I had forgotten England drives on the left side! This seemed so ridiculous to me considering I had known this fact nearly all of my teen-and-beyond years, and of course my friend just had to make fun of me for it. So I pouted and stalked to the left side of the car – the passenger’s side – and got in. From the airport, he took me on the not-too-long ride back to his place in a London suburb where I would spend the next eight or so days.

The place in the outer London.
The place in outer London.

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Tips on staying healthy

In light of the controversial obesity commercial recently in the news, I decided to make a post about staying healthy. I’ve been at a pretty good weight for most of my life, and I’d like to share my habits and advice with those who are curious or want to make a change in theirs. This post may be the first of several, or it may be the only one, but here’s stuff off the top of my head:

  • Never go on a “diet”. Even having to say you’re on a “diet” means you’re not planning on keeping it up! A temporary way of changing your eating habits will not change your health for the rest of your life. Work slowly to change a bad habit so you can adjust and get used to doing it a better way before going for more changes. Go for the marathon, not the sprint!
  • Hide treat foods. No, it’s not so you can’t find them, it’s so that you don’t have to see them every time you move around. Self control is a limited resource; do not waste yours by putting your treat foods in full view every time you go to the kitchen. Simply putting them behind another food helps. The goal is not to get you to never eat that food, but to have to think of it specifically before you pick it up in a kind of “Oh my god I forgot we have these, this is the best day ever!” feeling. So many people eat bad foods just because they’re there. Use out of sight, out of mind to your advantage.

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Going to the UK, Poland, and Czech Republic

So the UK is a place I’ve heard about for all of my life, and I’ve seen a number of movies that took place inside of it. Finally, it won’t be just a place I’ve heard of anymore!

I’ll be arriving in the Stansted airport of London tomorrow, June 11th, and staying with a friend until June 22nd. I’ll be spending most of this time in London, with perhaps a short trip up to Cambridge. I have a couple of things I definitely want to do or see, but I’m also in no rush to catch them all in one go, partly because I’m fairly certain I’ll be back – there are many reasons to go to London! Besides that, I’m more of a stay-in-one-country-for-a-long-time person, and even though this trip will be rather short, not seeing too many tourist attractions wouldn’t bother me all that much. Wait, though, there’s more in store for me yet! On June 22nd, I’ll then be heading to Poland, where I’ll see a few separate cities before likely visiting the Czech Republic. I’ll return to Bergen in Norway on the 2nd of July.

There is so much exploration to be done and so many new experiences to be had! This will be my first multi-country hop (not including those times I just hopped airports), and also my first time taking Ryanair (from Oslo to London and London to Katowice), the budget airline known for its extra fees. From what I’ve seen so far, though, as long as you’re fine with no extras whatsoever, such as no checked bag, no choosing your seat, and also having to print your boarding pass yourself, then they don’t add anything to your fee. I actually am excited to have my first experience where all I can bring is one backpack; it’ll test my ability to know what I use and what I need on my travels. A bit of mind-stretching is never a bad thing. 🙂

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My Norwegian resources

Here’s the Norwegian equivalent for my Swedish resources and my Korean resources:

  • Sons of Norway – Norwegian in 5 Minutes a Month: Used from the very beginning. It teaches you useful vocabulary and starting phrases, as well as covers the Norwegian alphabet. Give it a go! =)
  • LingQ: Used to start learning words. This can be used from the very beginning! LingQ is a fantastic site that allows you to hover your cursor over words in their different language lessons and stories and see the meaning. When you feel comfortable with a word, you mark it as known and move on. This is also the tool that gives me those nifty, auto-updated language badges on the right sidebar.
  • Google translate: Used all-the-freaking-time to define single words. Here’s how it normally works for me: I see a word in LingQ or hear a word in a podcast (also coming up), and then look it up via Google translate if I know how it’s spelled. I hardly ever use Google translate for translating phrases, because if you give it more than one word, it often messes up. For best results, translate FROM your target language INTO English, as Google translate tends to have a better grasp on English than some of the other languages. It’s also decent enough to use vice-versa, but I don’t trust its English-to-Norwegian, etc. translations as much as the reverse. Remember, in the beginning, when translating something in Google translate, don’t use ambiguous sentences that can be translated in multiple different ways; try to stick to simple sentences until you can tell when Google translate is wrong, at which point you can feed it more complex things.

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First impressions of Sweden

So, Sweden is a pretty incredible place.

I just came back from Stockholm where I stayed from Thursday (Aug. 1st) to Sunday (Aug. 4th), and I can say with confidence that Sweden isn’t entirely what I expected it to be…it’s more!

We arrived on Thursday at noon. Immediately, we converted 200 Norwegian kroner ($33.72) to 210 Swedish kronor (not including the exchange fee, of course; that made it only about 180 Swedish kronor), but it turns out we didn’t need the cash during the trip as cards work perfectly fine just about everywhere. This includes on the plane itself. My conclusion is that I don’t think it’s necessary to have more than a small emergency stock of Swedish cash on you in Stockholm, likely because Sweden is a pretty high-tech country and Stockholm is a very international city.

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My favorite quotations

Today I’d like to share some of my absolute favorite quotations from a variety of people. These all have either struck a chord with me, are particularly thought-provoking, or resonate as especially true in my life, and they’re not just cliches to me anymore; I have come to realize the personal truth in all of these through my own life experiences.

“To thine own self be true.” – Polonius, Hamlet

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain

“Anyone who feels anger must also feel sadness.” – Ougi, Code Geass episode 11

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

“We see them as we are, not as they are.” – Unknown

“We want happy paintings. Happy paintings. If you want sad things, watch the news.” – Bob Ross

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Bjørgvin Marknad

This summer I went to Bjørgvin Marknad, a viking market that takes place in Bergen (Bjørgvin is the old name for Bergen) in Norway at the end of May/beginning of June every year. Despite the extremely characteristic Scandinavian fog, Sindre and I enjoyed ourselves and didn’t get too cold, even though I had been silly enough to not bring a jacket due to the past couple of days actually being warm (a shocker for early June! :O). We saw a viking ship as well as people dressed as all kinds of citizens of a Lord of the Rings kind of era: rangers, elves, warriors, and the like. Some people were also testing out the archery range with handmade bows and arrows that were sold at one of the larger stalls. Here are some pictures, though you can find more in the gallery folder):

A viking puppet show!

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Roadtrip across southwest Norway

My incredible Norwegian family was kind enough to take me on a roadtrip across some notable areas in southwestern Norway one sunny Sunday. We took quite a few ferries to visit Odda (where my Norwegian family used to live) and saw tons of waterfalls along the way (because they’re my favorite and the people here know this by now, hehe). Here are some pictures (by the way, slow Internet users, there are a decent number of them) of the gorgeous scenery we came across (you can find many more in the gallery folder); really, it speaks for itself, so I didn’t really bother with captions:

2013-05-19 10.23.10

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