I visited Norway in August on the invitation of Pakistan Velferds-Organisasjon Norge (Pakistani Welfare Organisation Norway). The first thing I observed after landing at Oslo’s airport is that it is an under-populated country, which gives a deserted look to a Pakistani going there for the first time. I joked with my cousin that is there a curfew put in place in Norway? I was told that population growth rate is extremely low and population is uniformly spread in urban and rural areas as level of civic facilities is uniform across the board.
The moment the PIA’s plane entered Norwegian aerospace, I started spotting numerous fresh water lakes. Wild life and nature is revered in Norway. The Norwegian government believes that nature is essential for the survival of its citizens. Trees are not just plants for them; they are investment for future generations. Not even a single tree can be axed without the permission of the government. Wildlife and jungles are in abundance. The control on air pollution can surprise any Asian visitor. Cargo vessels that enter Norwegians waters are required to shut off their gasoline engines and generators. The coastal authorities provide electricity to the anchoring vessels.
Using private transport is discouraged. You have to pay a lot of taxes if you take your car to city center. Parking space is scarce. The scarcity of parking and high taxes are compensated by a strong public transport system. The public transport system comprises of electric trains, buses and trams. Trams and buses are the government’s top priority as they have less maintenance cost and can carry people several times beyond their capacity. They have never been considered as a source of income by the government. Trams and trains are as noiseless as can be imagined.
The government encourages the use of electric cars. The import duty on an electric car is considerably less. There are separate lanes for buses and taxis. These lanes are usually fast as they have less traffic. Electric cars can use the lane reserved for buses. There are no toll taxes for electric cars.
The long term policy of the government can be witnessed from everywhere. Trees are preferred over shrubs and flowering plants as former provide more oxygen and require little or no maintenance. Being a plant lover, a minutely observed their green belts. You find trees in city centers, along the roads. Green belts, comprising of tall trees, are present where there are dwellings. Tunnels are in abundance. The best ground for making a tunnel is a few minute of a short commute.
Paper is being abolished. Norway is aiming to eliminate paper money by 2020. The courts are going paperless, which means no file before the judge and no brief in the hand of lawyers. The train tickets are on your mobile phone.
Norwegians are crazy about health and fitness. If I am asked to write down two most common sights in Oslo, my answer would be gyms and boats. People are super fit. You can see joggers and runners everywhere. Gyms are in abundance. Usually a fully equipped gym and a jogging track are within one kilometer radius of your house. Weekend is usually an outdoor time. One can see boats, bikes, caravans being towed behind the cars on Friday evening. I spotted people doing exercise round the clock and everywhere. It was summer time when I visited. A lot of people were doing skiing training. Having a boat and a hut in jungle are two benchmarks for being rich in Norway.
Days are very long in the summer and short in the winter. During the twenty days, I spent in Norway, I could not guess the time of the day by looking at the sunlight. What was noon to me, was evening on the clock. Even the few hours of night time were also well lit.
Pakistani community is progressing and well integrated in the society. Khalid Mehmood, a Pakistani by birth, has remained a member of the Oslo city parliament for more than two decades. He has also remained member of the Norwegian Parliament.
Art has a special place in the Norwegian culture. Sculptures can be seen at all the unexpected places. Frogner Park is a large art park in Oslo spanning over 45 hectres. It has bronze and concrete statues of humans in every possible emotion. The most popular among those is a statue of an angry toddler. Due to its small size and popularity among tourists, the statue of angry toddler has been stolen a few times. A high reward on its recovery brings it back every time. Some mischief keeps happening to the little boy. When I visited the park, his one hand was painted in blue colour.
The country is so well managed that it out-weighs all the management books taught in universities. Those, who think that there are some affairs that are unmanageable, must visit Norway.