I read an interesting article about how Norway has survived the current recession by saving and not spending. I had the chance to observe and learn about all of the Nordic peoples while at our embassy in Finland. I came to some short descriptions of each: Swedes viewed themselves as the leaders and trendsetters of the group, Danes saw themselves as fun lovers, far removed from their status as the most savage and barbaric people 1000 years ago - the Vikings, Finns wanted nothing more than to top the Swedes, and the Norwegians lived the motto of Gold´s Gym, “No pain, no gain.”

To understand how Norwegians came to this state, one has to remember that the country became independent only at the start of the 20th Century and at that time was one of the poorest of the countries in Europe. This nation of fishermen, lumbermen and farmers expended much blood, sweat and toil in building one of the highest standards of living in the world.

But a funny thing came in the 1970s, Norway found great reserves of oil and gas in its territorial waters. By now the country had already achieved one of the highest income levels in the world. Finding petroleum was the icing on the cake.

Fearing that the easy money from oil and gas exports would undermine their carefully built stolid pursuit of the good life, Norway chose to husband much of its petroleum income. The practice paid off. While all the world is desperately going deeper into debt to overcome the recession, Norway is simply dipping into its reserve funds.

Perhaps the Norwegians will now be able to lighten up a bit and be more like their fun loving cousins the Danes, who also enjoy a high standard of living, but spend less time at Gold´s Gym.

Leo Cecchini
May 2009