My reference points are mainly shaped by my upbringing in Ireland and living in London for over 10 years. So my past experiences shape the version of normal that I know, how I expect people to behave, or not, as the case may be. It takes a while to create a new version of normal in a place. Since moving here, I have enjoyed being woken up a bit and questioning why and what normal is normal, if you know what I mean.
When I needed to buy the almost Arctic sleeping bag for my daughter before she started in barnehage, a specific Swiss brand called Mammut was recommended. It was after the normal August start of the barnehage year so they were sold out everywhere, offline and online. I eventually found one on a website called skittfiske.no. The website name means dirt fishing. I ordered it and I was asked if I wanted to pay by card or by faktura, which means invoice. So if I paid by faktura, I could get delivery of the sleeping bag without paying for it upfront and then pay within 2 or 3 weeks of delivery.
For some reason I was stunned by this as this method of payment had been abolished years ago in the UK and Ireland because it was too risky. You see, my version of normal up to that was that a certain percentage of people would be incredibly creative in finding ways to nick stuff by giving false names, claiming deliveries were lost in the post or were picked up by someone else so that they wouldn’t need to pay. Or even if people weren’t really that crooked, the retailers lost interest in waiting to find out and just removed this as an option.
So was it that fisherpeople here were particularly trustworthy and were so dedicated to their craft that they would never bite the hand that feeds them by defaulting on payment? Perhaps.
Well, not exactly. It turns out that it is a widespread practice here to offer payment by invoice when you buy online. They normally charge a bit extra to pay by invoice but they are happy to send out the goods when the ONLY details they have on you is your name and address. So online retailers are clearly not haemorrhaging money through defaulted payments and massive account team overheads for chasing people.
And then there is the T-bane, or Oslo’s equivalent to the tube or subway. You obviously need to buy a ticket to ride on the train. The price is around the same as any major city and of course you get discounts if you commit to multiple journeys and spending days on the train non-stop. What amazed me is that there are ticket barriers in all the central stations in town but they are not active. So there is no turnstile to only allow you train-side when you have a valid ticket. You just walk on by. There is no need to swipe your card, make it beep, have money deducted or enable any other bean counting mechanism to ensure you have paid. People just walk on and off trains and buses and even some boats out to islands on the fjord which are all covered by the same tickets. Free as birds.
There is of course random ticket checking and you can get fined a hefty 900 kroner if you have no ticket which is about €96 so it is enough to hurt. And the ticket inspectors tend to travel in gangs so there is nowhere to run if you are nabbed. But the random nature of ticket checking surely means a lot of lost revenue. My version of normal was that there would be a lot of people chancing their arms and not buying tickets. A virtual free for all.
Now who knows, maybe some clever person ran an algorithm behind all of this calculating the likely loss against the cost of maintaining and staffing barriers. Or maybe there is enough money to absorb the potential lost revenue although I doubt very much that this is the view.
Or maybe I got it all wrong and am just over complicating things. Here in Norway, there seems to be an inbuilt ideology to trust people to do the right thing, some sort of mad wild institutional trust. Maybe it’s as simple as that. I mean, in fairness, why on earth would you expect to buy good or services and not pay the agreed cost for them? Of course you have to pay, you crazy person. It’s a decent normal, isn’t it.
As for the fishing website, skittfiske.no, I am still subscribed and enjoying weekly product updates. It was the start of my dream to become a fisherwoman one day. Who wouldn’t want to buy Gulp Alive Bloodworms. Or the Panther Martin Frosk fake frogs to catch pike, I fancy the yellow one. Or the Bumbershoot Umbrella Rig that looks like a shoal of fish and is good to catch predators. Imagine, I could bring home my very own shark one day. There is a whole world of exploration in Nord-Norge awaiting.