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Scandinavian Hospitality

The most striking quality of Scandinavian character seems to be hospitality. Throughout Norway, Sweden and the far North, the author was heartily received by every one from the king in his palace to the Laplander in his tent.

During five years of almost incessant travel, in the course of which every part of the peninsula was visited, Mr. Du Chaillu was emboli treated only once. The Swedes and Norwegians have the reputation of being reserved and cold, but this is true of them only when they meet strangers of the class best suggested by the word "tourist."

Woman and child in national costume of Norway

To any one whose interest in them can not be measured by a stare or two and a few impertinent questions they are unsuspicious and communicative, as well as cordial to the verge of affection.

Mr. Du Chaillu went among them freely, conversed with them in their language, wore garments like their own, and took part in the labors, sports and ceremonies. The treatment he received in return causes him to speak most enthusiastically in praise of their sociability and kindness.

As in all other countries that retain primitive habits, hospitality in Scandinavia always implies eating and drinking. The poorest farmer or fisherman always has something to offer the visitor, and lack of appetite is generally construed as a slight. The author mentions one occasion on which, to avoid hurting any one's feelings, he ate thirty times in two day, and drank thirty-four cups of coffee. Often strong cheese is offered just before a meal to provoke appetite, and in the cities, a formal dinner is preceded by a smorgas or lunch.

At a table crowded with alleged appetizers. On a single smorgas table the author noticed smoked reindeer meet, smoked salmon and poached eggs, raw salmon freshly salted, hard boiled eggs, caviar, fried sausage, anchovy, smoked goose breast, cucumber, raw salt herring, boiled meat, potatoes, eggs, beets and onions. There were also three kinds of spirits on the table and from these and the various dishes, the guests helped themselves bountifully, and then did justice to an excellent dinner.

An American who would attempt by such means to gain an appetite would be helpless before reaching the dinner table, and his dyspeptics would be one of the most wonderful cases on record; but the Swedes seldom complain of indigestion, and they certainly live longer than their Western neighbors.

Source; Article by John Habberton. in Harper's Magazine, November 1881

Scandinavian-American Culture

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