An INTJ in Norway, Land of the "Nice"

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 07, 2016
Category: INTJ

I live in a culture of people who deem themselves “nice”. Why else would the Nobel Prizes be given out each year in the “nice” utopia of Norway? In most respects, I concur with the “nice” label. But occasionally the niceness mutates into either avoidance of issues or passive-aggressiveness. Both of which I, as an INTJ, deplore.

There is an old Norwegian joke about a woman who was so angry with her husband that she almost told him that she was angry. Norwegians are so passive aggressive that they use the same word for marriage as for poison. As a neighbor explained to me, this style of interaction is a defense mechanism. Norway does not have a large population, and many of the people live in small isolated villages where, no matter what you do, you cannot avoid all of the annoying people (or your relatives). So rather than confront each other head-on, Norwegians keep the peace with passive-aggressive approaches to problems.

(I will not divulge any specific details because I already know that by writing this article, I have angered some nearby sweet-smiling person who will destroy my flowerbed during the night and blame it on a moose).

The truth is, the thought patterns of these blond-haired, blue-eyed ski junkies are alien to me. Having spent 10 years in the military, I am accustomed to being direct. Although I have learned from many years' worth of failed interactions that sometimes there is a need for me to rephrase my thoughts so they can exit my mouth in a more diplomatic and supposedly constructive way. Living in Norway has required me to reach a new level of word-smithing.

In truth, I get along pretty well socially. My Norwegian friends are attracted to my sense of humor: sarcastic and blunt, with a tendency to point out the elephant in the room. And, even though I am actually more of an Introvert, my naturally friendly Californian personality comes out in social situations—so the more reserved Norwegians feel very comfortable in labeling me the loud, Extraverted American. It doesn’t bother me too much, except that when I have a problem with a situation that I deem important enough to address, the advice I always receive from my Norwegian friends is that the situation definitely needs to be addressed but, maybe, I should not be the one to address it.

In these situations, my very tall, kind, red-headed, blue-eyed Norwegian life partner is eventually deferred to for problem-solving. He then employs the ever-popular strategy of “letting the problem work itself out.” This strategy is known to us INTJs as avoidance. And sometimes—let’s just put it bluntly—we see it as cowardice.

Hmmm, that was not very high-minded of me. Let me rephrase that. My beloved has his own tried-and-true method of approaching a problem where the offending party has an excellent chance of never knowing that they are doing something offensive.

But what I have learned from my Norwegian partner is that sometimes (I cringe to admit) there is a certain strength in avoidance. You can allow people to be properly wrong, and as long as they are not harmful to themselves or society, they can sit and stew in their wrongness. And, many times, by a little nugget of wisdom from above (or in many cases, social alienation), these people will eventually find the way out of the paper bag resting comfortably over their head and become their own solution.

I do not appreciate dealing with issues by proxy. But, I am truly making an effort to study and understand this alien culture. It is a new adventure that, for the most part, I have embraced wholeheartedly. There is a great amount of empathy and kindness that Norwegians bestow on others that so many cultures should take note of.

The truth of the matter is that, as an INTJ, I am the actual alien. Empathy is not my knee-jerk reaction. I will never whole-heartedly embrace being passive aggressive, but I am grudgingly learning some aspects of avoidance. I guess my Norwegian friends are allowing me the space to find my way out of the paper bag resting comfortably on my own head.

Evie Hester

Evie Hester is an INTJ who is somehow lucky enough to live in beautiful Norway. She has an active life with the forest as her daily companion. Her loud and rambunctious family is her inspiration and joy.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Merlot (not verified) says...

I really enjoyed your article and as a INTJ I can really relate. Although I have often been described as being nice myself, it is something that I have had to work on (that and trying to hide the RBF).

I am wary of people who are perpetually nice and who avoid conflict (I agree with you cowardice comment!) because they sometimes tend to have vindictive ways (yes, nice people can also be mean) at getting back at you instead of just facing you head on.

I guess the hard thing is to find the balance between sincerity and diplomacy. But, as with most things in life I guess we should never stop learning and trying to better ourselves!

Meegs (not verified) says...

It's so refreshing to hear from a fellow female INTJ, and I relate to so much of your experience. I lived in Germany for 3 years, and I always counted myself lucky because Germans are not nearly as interested in "nice"ness and empty pleasantry. Interesting point about the advantages of avoidance. It goes against my nature to let things work themselves out, because I think us INTJs know that things don't just happen without action. I have top say this strategy would probably save many of us a lot of anxiety! I hope you keep up the blog!

Mary1245 (not verified) says...

An interesting article but as an INTJ it still infuriates me when people avoid being direct. A friend just confided that she is being harassed at work by her boss. Some of the racist and sexist comments he's made would get him fired if she were to put in a complaint. But she's said it would just be her word against his. I suggested she needs to talk to the other staff in the department since these people rarely spew to just one person, but she refuses to since she "feels" it would jeopardize her own need for privacy. So I suggested just telling the guy (which is what I'd do) something like "how dare you use those despicable derogatory words for ethnic groups or grab yourself inappropriately while telling me things I don't want to hear. You ever do it again and I'll be sure to put in a complaint along with all the dates and times you have previously done this." But she won't do it and instead is making herself sick. And I'm having a hard time understanding what prevents someone from just spelling it out. By the way, I worked for this employer and know that she would not be penalized for putting in a complaint.

Nessan (not verified) says...

Any recommendations of countries/cultures that would be complementary to an INTJ?

T (not verified) says...

Only the Nobel Prize is awarded in Norway. Nobel was Swedish and the prizes are therefore awarded in Sweden.

Jim_INTJ (not verified) says...

This was a great article for me.  I recently moved from New England to the Pacific North-West, I was considered excessively blunt in New England.  In this area I tinhk people think that I am just an angry robot ;)

Caroline (not verified) says...

As an INTJ as well, I find it funny you enjoy living here. Not only is what you said true ("they let problems figure themselves out"- Even though they clearly do not) but they are simply just innefective in literally every area of business or meeting/scheduling that exists as no one bothers to communicate properly or do their job. Even in legal matters. It is a nearly a joke, that someone could literally break the law, and the police wouldnt give a single F. People here could literally be directly asked to do a specific thing in a business transaction and instead of doing it, they will nod, breifly say yes, then go off and completely ignore it until you have to deal with it yourself, then they will not even respond if you inquire them about why they didn't do it. This is literally the opposite of what INTJs like, which is effectiveness. That links to passive agressiveness, as according to Hofstedes theories from books on culture I have read is just considered an aspect of "non confrontational". Hence why this country had a horrible economy and they were all poor before they found oil and decidied to sell it whilst calling themselves eco-friendly. 

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