In an earlier post I observed that elaborate holiday displays don’t seem to be a thing in Norway. I missed the peak of Christmas, and Valentine’s Day isn’t widely-celebrated, so Easter is my first opportunity to better gauge how holidays manifest materialistically. Pastel packages have been infiltrating candy aisles for a few weeks now, but for the first time today I saw Easter stuff.
Fuzzy chicks, giant eggs, yellow candles, and…chickens? It seemed an odd collection of items, and none of it was really displayed, per se. It was stacked chest-high, still half boxed up. Like, it’s here if you want it but I’m not doing any extra work to try to sell you on it. And it was in a weird area of the store: behind the a bread display, spilling into the frozen food aisle.
There isn’t any extra space for a bunch of holiday stuff. There’s hardly enough space for the regular stuff. Everything is just kind of there. Like, Here’s a giant basket of canned mackerel. Here’s some olives still half in the box. Here’s a huge stack of foot-long chocolate bars. Here are some open containers of candy and a scoop–go nuts.
It’s not that things aren’t orderly. They are. But as an American, I’m used incessant marketing, stores trying manipulate me into buying more than I need. As they say, only in America do you go shopping expecting the store to tell you what you need rather than the other way around.
I don’t want to say that Norway isn’t driven by consumer culture, because I think there’s plenty of that. Every day I walk past this gorgeous kimono on display in a beautiful store that looks like a Pier One on crack and IT’S ALWAYS ENTICING ME, but it, probably like everything in that store, is over $100 USD. THAT store knows exactly what it’s doing. THAT’S the kind of ruthless marketing I’m used to. Stores like Kaa from the Jungle Book, marching me to the register, ready to turn over every cent of my most recent paycheck.
It’s not like you notice how stores are working on you while you’re in them. It’s like Alice down the rabbit hole. You’re completely engrossed in meticulous displays and lovely colors and textures and you emerge 45 minutes later with four shopping bags and a hangover. A few stores here have put me in the trance, but the necessity stores just don’t. Even when I’ve got nothing but time and I’m wandering around, prepared to buy stuff I don’t really need. I still end up getting what’s on the list. I don’t feel like the store is preying on me.
I can’t speak to Norwegian shopping habits or cultural attitudes about profligate spending, but I do know that there aren’t nearly as many junky holiday knick knacks in the stores, no towering holiday displays, and no rotating merchandise. There’s something different here; I just can’t put my finger on it. But I’m curious, and I’m keeping my eyes open.