Norway is a mere 4.5 million people. The population of British Columbia in one third of the area. This is a country that punches well above its weight. Recent events are proof that bad things do sometimes happen to good people.
I have traveled to Norway for twenty years now and the last two companies I was part of founding, have been listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. I count among my best and oldest friends people from Norway. I love Norwegians. Norwegians are both the proudest and humblest people I know.
As a small country, Norwegians are proud of not capitulating in the war and they still have mandatory military service. They are far more interested in peace but there is no major support for the idea of reducing their military.
At the same time they are the ‘nice people’ of Europe. I wonder if Swedes sew Norwegian flags on their backpacks when they travel.
I can pass for a Norwegian until I open my mouth. Dozens of times in restaurants and bars a Norwegian has started talking to me. I awkwardly respond I speak English. Without fail the Norwegian will apologize and switch to English. So typical that Norwegians would apologize for speaking their own language in their own country. And they say Canadians say sorry too much.
I have spoken at international conferences on the benefits of being listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. In my opinion there is no better exchange in the world for resources, oil services and fish farms. In explaining the entrepreneurial bent of the exchange, I always tell people that what you get when you cross a Viking with a socialist is a modern Norwegian. It’s mostly Norwegians who laugh – I think because they know it’s true.
Norway really took off during the Medieval warm period when Vikings roamed the world and even discovered Newfoundland. My Norwegian friends tell me the women in Norway are so attractive because the Vikings took all the best looking ones from Scotland and Northern Ireland. I can’t really tell if they are serious but I admit it explains a lot.
Things went down hill during the plague and mini ice age époques. A small fishing nation took off again when the English ran out of wood for their fleets. Norway has been a successful exporter of its natural resources ever since. Canada even has Norwegian fish farms off the coast of British Columbia with its similar geography to Norway right down to the fjords.
At one of our events in Quebec an opponent to resource development suggested rhetorically “let’s assume for a moment we are as smart as Norwegians”. Like it’s so easy to be as smart as Norwegians.
Norway is virtually 100% powered by hydro-electricity. They have respected and protected their natural areas. They have extensive and comprehensive social benefits. I rarely see homeless people when I visit. They are highly educated. On the UN human development index Norway scores at the top with Canada a close eighth. By any measure I can think of, Norway provides a superior standard of living for its citizens.
Norway does not do this by taking foreign aid or transfers from Europe. Norway has parlayed its initial successes in timber, shipping and fisheries in to a major resource exporter. As one example, Quebec relies on Norway (and Venezuala) for oil imports. Norway is not only one of the world’s major exporters of oil and gas, they are also the world’s best at deep marine drilling. Today rigs in the North Sea, some of the harshest conditions in the world, can be operated from shore with technology developed in Norway.
Norway is the model for modern resource development. As a result Norway is rich. They have not squandered their resource wealth and boast the third largest sovereign wealth fund in the world ahead of Saudi Arabia as well as Alberta at number 23. With Norwegians’ social conscience, it is in effect the largest ethical investment fund in the world.
Norwegians can be found all over the world investing capital and transferring technology. They were the initial risk capital that led to the discovery of shale gas in Quebec. While they may be frustrated with losing money on successful drilling no one understands better the importance of protecting the environment in oil and gas operations. They are big foreign aid players too.
Oslo is a small city. Under a million people it has the feel of a city the size of Quebec City or Calgary. Everyone seems to know everyone. Business competition is tough on the pitch but off it, people are friends.
My friend’s niece escaped the recent attack there by swimming for the main land. I am sure that everyone there personally knows someone touched by the disaster. For a country that has done so much right for its citizens and the world without asking for anything back – the attack was seen as an attack on Norwegian identity. How everyone asked ‘could something like this happen here?’
What I know is if an attack like that can happen in Oslo it can happen anywhere. Bad things do happen to good people and it can happen in Quebec, Calgary, Vancouver as well as London or New York.
One more thing that makes Norwegians great – the attack united them instead of dividing them. We should all do so well as to be as smart as Norwegians. I love Norwegians.