It’s been over two years since I posted on this blog, and so an overhaul of this online professional portfolio has been somewhat overdue. There’s been a few tweaks to represent current activities timed with a recent relocation to Bergen. Notably, a new professional focus on cornet, and graphic design services being offered.
It’s been two years, because in that time I have been attempting to adapt to a new culture, one in which it seems talking about one’s self in public is deeply frowned upon.
Since arriving in Norway, the cultural differences have fascinated more than frustrated me. I have learned about ‘The law of jante’ or ‘janteloven’ being a concept embedded into Scandinavian societies. It is a subtle yet strong attitude that bonds people together with noticeable contrast to attitudes of UK society. Anyone unfamiliar with it can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Jante
At first I thought it was some sort of folk tale, and not to be taken too seriously. Maybe not so literally perhaps these days, but there is undoubtably some sort of adherence to these principles that holds Scandinavian communities together. I respect and admire that enormously, as do Norwegians genuinely respect each other, the land they live on and the cities they share.
However, it does present me with some serious head scratching. How to talk one’s self up professionally in order to gain employment without in fact talking about one’s self at all?! Discuss!!
As a freelancer; advertising, or ‘self-promotion’ in our case, means survival. Any business start-up courses say having an up-to-date online presence is a must-have. As part of studies at the Royal Academy of Music we were repeatedly encouraged to build our online profiles and marketing techniques. Especially those with solo or chamber music careers. Emphasis was placed on media rich content, youtube hits, instagram and twitter updates, crowd funding… all these modern buzz words to learn to try and keep afloat in a fast changing industry.
Yet when I arrived in Stavanger, colleagues laughed at me for having my own website. “It is a teaching resource!”, I argued, with sceptical response. I still stand by it, as I am proud of the knowledge that is collecting in the blog pages and I often send links to students for further reading. A web portfolio is also much more effective than a business card when meeting someone outside of your usual circles. It is useful tool to have, as a shop window and a warehouse.
In the back of my mind, I imagine my name and accent ties me back to a place growing less popular in the world. I think people here must be viewing UK and American culture with growing contempt as we see people becoming ever more divided and separated. Social media is now flooded with attention-craving wanna-be-celebrities, and to the Scandinavians this can be repulsive. Even some of my colleagues’ quite respectable online media in the UK would I imagine be seen as pompous and full of self importance here in Norway, whereas in the UK it is much more acceptable, even encouraged perhaps.
So my website is updated, and attempting to strip away as much ‘me me me’ as possible. A little left to do on that front, and much yet to learn.
I do concede, it is very difficult to abide by all of the jante laws and I think many Scandinavians agree there. Particularly nos 7 and 10 when trying to operate as a teacher; “You’re not to think you are good at anything” and ” You are not to think you can teach us anything”… So intimidating, I wouldn’t dare!!! (especially when imagining this being read aloud by a 7 foot tall horned-helmetted viking chief).
My conclusion is that it is mostly acceptable to only state how you can serve your community. In my case I hope, a well crafted melody or some assistance in achieving the same. I suppose an element of Kennedy about it, ‘ask not what society can do for you, but what you can do for society’. Cue debate!! I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.