Wednesday, 1 December 2010

the thing about oslo...

Having spent two weeks in Oslo recently, performing and teaching dance workshops, I couldn't help but compare the city to London. Here are some points of comparison...

In Oslo, it takes twenty minutes to cycle from one end of the main city to another, not including the suburbs. The city is on the sea, and it takes twenty minutes on the tube to be out of the city and into pine forests and trails. In London, when the tubes are running on time (so, not that often) it takes an hour or two hours to get from anywhere to anywhere. It takes longer if you're driving in London traffic. When an Oslo local warned us that if we drove out at eight in the morning we would likely hit a lot of traffic, they meant that we would move at three-quarters of our usual speed. Not, as it would be in London, that we would come to a complete stand still and be able to pop in and out of our stationary car and do our grocery shopping and our manicures and our bikini waxes en route to the office. It has its advantages, does London traffic, and its best use is that when you are running anything from twenty minutes to three hours late for something you can run in looking dishevelled and panicky (but with a fresh Braizilian) and pant "traffic, traffic..." and people will look at you with sympathy instead of telling you that you are chronically incompetant. (I don't drive, but I've seen it work for others.)

The main city in Oslo has a population of about 500, 000 people. So, about the average of a London tube in rush hour? You don't see a whole lot of people out on the streets of Oslo at any time, except for any music event and in the local pub, and then people tend to throng there since, as a local informed me, drinking is the national pastime (wait, was I talking about Oslo there or London?) I did one time bump into a little boy in the tube who had seen us perform at his school. He kept glancing sideways at me for twenty minutes, then just as he was getting ready to jump out at his stop, he quickly turned to me and said, "Bollywood?" Is it on my face now, I thought?! But, no, he'd seen us perform.

A main in an Indian or Thai restaurant in Oslo costs approximately three or four times what it would in London. Grocery shopping costs a little bit more, too, but not nearly as much more. The portions tend to be smaller, though that could help explain why people in Oslo generally tend to look thinner and sportier than people in London. While women in London wouldn't be see dead without their six-inch heels, their dirty-teenager look full with ripped tights, black boots, and thick and runny eyeliner, women in Oslo tend to either be sporty-chic in their coordinated lycra ski-wear, or they wear lovely knitted skirts and ponchos and things. Very urban and colourful.

London is an older city, and walking through London you see as many bourgeoius, refurbished, very expensive Victorians as you do skanky council estates and run down streets lined with garbage. The main city in Oslo is full of colourful apartment buildings (pink, yellow, orange, chequered), and the city is very, very, super clean. Out in the suburbs there are wood-panelled houses, similar to the States.

You don't get brown goats cheese in London. Or at least, not quite as easily...On the other hand, you get barely any veggie food in Oslo, no veggie protein supplements, one veggie main in a restaurant if you're lucky, and it was next to impossible to track down hummus...

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