‘Typically Norwegian to be impolite.’ Impoliteness according to whom?
This article discusses claims by immigrants in Norway that Norwegians are impolite from the book entitled, Typically Norwegian to Be Impolite? (Aambø, 2005). These claims are compared with other sources and discussed using theories primarily from linguistic politeness research. The overall aim of the article is to add to the limited research on (im)politeness in Norway and to increase awareness of Norwegian behavioural and communicative norms about (im)politeness.
The study finds that some of the behaviour that foreigners deem impolite is considered impolite by many Norwegians too. Other behaviour, it is suggested, is not generated by indifference to politeness or an intent to be impolite, but rather, the opposite: to show consideration through a ‘distance rule of politeness’ that respects others’ autonomy and personal space. Concrete manifestations are not disturbing people with excessive talk, especially those one does not know well; not disturbing people with things one can manage on one’s own; not disturbing people by taking up their time; and, for shop assistants, not disturbing customers who have not asked for help. Verbal forms of politeness become less important when it is considered more polite not to talk at all unless one has something ‘proper’ (i.e. truthful, informational) to say.