On a recent trip to Oslo, it didn’t take long for me to recognize that it is a city filled with art. As public art becomes more and more common in the United States, it was fascinating to see how Norway has been far ahead on this concept—even in areas outside the capital, public art was a huge part of what made Norway as a destination so interesting to me.
Of course, you couldn’t escape the vast political difference between Norway and the United States, and with the presidential election front and center and socialism making headlines, it was interesting to visit a country where that has been the norm for years. We happened to get round-trip tickets to Oslo and back for $300 USD, and so we decided to take a look at the country that has held the highest standard of living in the world for years.
According to Statistics Norway, the country has a population of around 5 million with a 4.7% unemployment rate. Free tuition for college, health care, a 21-year maximum prison sentence, and a number of other factors made Norway seem idyllic after the corruption and difficulties we have been facing during this election cycle. However, the longer we stayed, the more we started to realize how this system could never be fully implemented in the United States. Our Couchsurfing host, Henning, pointed to a bulletin board in his apartment complex. “Oh,” he said, “Trash pickup is this week.”
I was confused, so I asked him what he meant. “We’re all required to do some form of community service,” he replied. “Whether that’s serve in the army or cleaning up trash.”
At that moment, I realized it was impossible for a pure form socialism to survive in the United States—simply and clearly because of mind set. While Americans would happily volunteer their time for community service or serving in the military, we were not about to be told what to do. The concept of choice and the freedom to make our choices is what our nation was founded on. As United States citizens, we have this innate feeling of independence—to serve as an individual and to celebrate this individualism as opposed to working as a collective.
We’re a nation of too many in order to make socialism work, and while there are aspects of Norwegian culture that I wish we would at least consider (and give up some of our stubbornness in order for the greater good) such as universal health care and reduced tuition costs, it’s unrealistic to hold Norway as an example for the United States to follow. It’s like comparing apples and oranges—and I think each can learn a little something from one another.