Sunday, May 24, 2015

19th C. Norwegian Etiquette and Hospitality

Stained glass of "Maid of Norway": On the death of Alexander III, his only surviving descendant and the recognized heiress to Scotland was Margaret, known as the Maid of Norway.
In no land is hospitality more open-handed and more unaffected than in Norway, and, though these features are naturally becoming blunted along the beaten lines of travel, the genuine goodness of heart, fine "gentlemanly " feeling, and entire absence of that sordidness which is so often seen even in primitive regions, cannot fail to strike the unprejudiced observer. Nor is etiquette ignored by even the rudest of people. In the cities the stranger is apt to make many blunders. In the country, however, this is not less marked, though perhaps the visitor will be less conscious of its presence.
Every cup of coffee must be filled to overflowing; otherwise the host would be thought stingy.
One of the peculiarities of the Norwegian farmer is that, when visiting a friend, he must ignore all the preparations made for his entertainment. He will see the coffee roasted and the cups set out, and then, just when the good wife is about to offer him her hospitality, he gets up, bids the family good-bye, and is only persuaded to remain after some resistance. Every cup must be filled to overflowing; otherwise the host would be thought stingy. When milk, brandy or beer is offered, the guest invariably begs that it will not "be wasted on him," and then, after emptying the cup, declares that — "it is too much" — going through the same formalities, it may be, three or four times. 
  
In the farmhouses or upland "saeters," the guest is left to eat alone, silver forks and spoons being often substituted for the carved wooden ones used by the family, and a fine white cloth for the bare board, which serves well enough on ordinary occasions. To a punctilious guest this may not be a drawback, for at the family table, as, indeed, among the peasants in Scandinavia everywhere, the different individuals dip their spoons into the same dishes of "grod" a sour milk; but for one desiring of studying a people, a load of foreign prejudice is a grievous burden to carry about.
In the farmhouses or upland "saeters," the guest is left to eat alone, silver forks and spoons being often substituted for the carved wooden ones used by the family.
When a child is born the wife of every neighbor cooks a dish of "flodegrod" (porridge made with cream instead of milk), and bring it to the convalescent, there being a good deal of rivalry among the matrons to outdo each other in the quality and size of the dish. When any one has taken food in a Scandinavian house he shakes hands with the host and hostess in rising from the table, and says, "Tak for mad ('Thanks for food"), to which they reply": "Vel bekomme" ("May it agree with you.'')
Depiction of a Norwegian bride, 1899.
In many parts of Scandinavia all the guests shake hands with each other and repeat the latter formula; and in Norway, at least it is the fashion for a guest to call on the hostess a few days later, and when she appears, to gravely say : "Tak for sidst" ("Thanks for last time,") great gravity on this formal visit being a mark of good breeding. 
From the Daly Alta California, 1886

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