I remember one of my first bussiness meetings in Norway when I started working in construction bussiness. I was 10 years younger, 10 kilograms lighter, 10 shades blonder and 10 times more feminine. Skirts and dresses and shoes with high heels were a part of me outfit basics.
We were asked to a meeting on a construction site. I was wearing a black DKNY dress, strapless sommer shoes and white pearls around my neck. You can image I was the only one dressed like this on that meeting. All the other female were wearing pants and those ugly safety shoes, helmets in their hands. They looked at me like I was an alien. And I felt alien. But in my mind this is how people went to bussiness meetings. Dressed nicely. It doesn´t probably surprise you that I pretty soon also had to wear helmet and those ugly shoes. There I stood in the middle of the construction site wearing pearls, the ugly safety shoes and the awful helmet.
I learned pretty fast that you don´t dress up when you go to bussiness meetings in Norway. Whether it´s in office or at construction site, restaurant or a hotel lobby. You don´t dress up. Unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb. Or from Eastern Europe. So I learned to use jeans and sneakers or at least dress more casually in Norway.
Well. I was an a maternity leave for three years. Although you probably don`t expect this from me, but I´ve always felt like construction is what I can. No, not in a plumber, carpenter way and I may not know much about airtightness of an wooden element or u-value of an aluminium window or other good qualities wood/steel/aluminium/glass may have or not have, but customer relations have always been my strong side. So this year I decided to get back in bussiness ( I feel like Lynette Scavo when I say that – a desperate houswife who wishes to proove she still has it).
Oh, but have I forgotten to mention that I am an Estonian. Who knows Norwegian and for last year has lived in Norway with my family. No, I am not married to a Norwegian. Somhow it is always the next logical question to ask if I am married to a Norwegian when I say I am living in Norway. We are all Estonians. To make a long story short I just can Norwegian. It has been another advantage I have and led me to where I am at the moment. Back to Lillehammer. Owning a little handicraft shop there.
Although Lillehammer is probably known to most of the world thanks to Olympics in 1994 and now the Youth Olympics 2016, it is a small sleepy town, far far from the city. I mean fashion- and lifestylewise. In actual kilometers it´s only 180kilometers – 2 hours by train from Oslo, the capital of Norway.
I have once earlier made another „fashion mistake“ in Norway. Wearing skirts and high heels in Lillehammer. You don´t wear clothes like this town. You wear your pannebånd, backpack and boots with snowshoe bindings. It is cold, slippery and steep in Lillehammer. In wintertime. Or actually also summertime. That is why „practical comes before fashion“ in this town. Living there for a year now has made me fit in like this. This is how I dress. And of course this is how I dressed for a bussiness meeting in Oslo today. Go back to the beginning of this post, if you have forgotten the dresscode for Norwegian meetings (and I do have a 10 years experience in this).
When I came to Oslo, I was probably looked like I was an alien. Remember, it is always cold, slippery and steep in Lillehammer, snowshoe bindings are your basic equipment. In Oslo I felt like an idiot when my shoes sounded like a tap dancer´s shoes on pure asphalt. The bindings had to go!
And then I came to the office building of the customer. I have visited their offices n+1 time, but now they had moved to a new building. I honestly felt like a country girl with my backpack and wintershoes, thank God I had forgotten my „topplue“ (the knitted Norwegian hat, which is another basics for my outfit choices in Lillehammer. Remember practical!)
I was the only one dressed let´s say casually, to not make me feel worse, in the building full of people wearing black suits, ties, skirts and dresses. Talk about a fashion mistake from my side! Have you read the book „How to understand and use a Norwegian“ by Odd Børretzen? ” No? Well, let me summerize for you then. As you can understand from the title, it is about how to understand you are dealing with a Norwegian when you meet him/her in the world. Once upon a time you could recognize a Norwegian by the fact that he/she always wore a backbag and a knitted hat. They were called Ola/Kari Nordmann and they smelled of fish.
I didn’t smell of fish and did forget my hat at home, but I definately felt like Kari Nordmann today. So there I stood once again on a bussiness meeting standing out like a sore thumb. This time not as someone from Eastern Europe, but as a country girl first time in the big city. A Norwegian poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson has decribed Oslo as dangerous for people from the countryside going there for the first time. Today I understand the town can be dangerously fashionable. Maybe not compared to fashion capitals of the world. But definately compared to Lillehammer.
And I swear to God, Peer Gynt was waiting for a train on Oslo S. He probably also was back to safe little hometown of Lillehammer after a bussiness meeting. I wondered if his meeting had been in same fancy bussiness district as mine or in a more hipster environment of Grünerløkka?