Willy-nilly

I've never eaten at McDonald's as much I have in Norway. Ironically. You'd think I'd be a regular when I lived in California, but no. Meanwhile, in Norway, McDonald's has been vote Best Employer for 2016. If Burger King had moved into my local mall some 20 years ago, I'd be eating Whoppers. But it was a McDonald's, and Quarter Pounders. And I am now admitting my guilty pleasure: I do eat McDonald's stuff often—up to once a week.

One reason is that the place itself fascinates me.

There are five cash registers, but rarely are there lines in front of them. Because the registers move at different paces, and people don't remain at them to wait for their food, people don't line up in front of them. Instead, they hang back in a loose group and wait for an employee to call out "Next customer" (actually, they call "Available register"). Whoever was first (as defined by everyone else literally watching each others back) moves to that register. Because the people waiting for their food and the people waiting for a register tend to stand around willy-nilly on the same part of the floor, people often have to ask if you are waiting in line to order or to get your order. There is no "fast food" in the American sense, i.e. all ready and handed to you while you are still at the register.

The employees are friendly and smiling, and very, very often not Norwegian, and mostly young. If I want to know what ethnicity has moved into my neighborhood lately, a trip to my local McDonald's will reveal all. It delights me to see so many different people, some more fluent in Norwegian than others, all getting along and all giving the same good service. And McDonald's has won Best Employer due to its focus on and promotion of diversity in the workplace, under the motto of being a "good neighbor" in their neighborhood. (Their own comment on this in Norwegian.)

So today, the smiling cashier who represents one of the other 79 ethnicities besides Norwegian that McDonald's has hired, served me while wearing a T-shirt proclaiming "Great Place to Work". It's also not a bad place to be a customer.

Daily Prompt: Willy-nilly

When your co-worker's country is in the news

As an American, I sometimes get asked what I think about some happening in the US that has made the news in Norway. What it is about Americans and guns? Or all the whining about increased gas prices? These questions are fairly general and therefore comfortable. Being questioned and criticized as if I was directly responsible for whatever unpopular man got into the White House, was and is not comfortable.

Currently, we are in a project at work that involves an Indian company, and so I have spent two weeks listening to the lilt of Indian accents and English spoken with rolled R's and thick L's and have another week to go. At the same time, the news from India reports two sisters have been sentenced to be raped by a local, unofficial village council because of something their brother did; the sisters are from a rural town outside Delhi.*

I have chosen not to bring this up. As friendly as we are with each other, I know from personal experience that what gets into the international news does not necessarily represent reality as the natives know it. A government is not its people and vice-versa. I also know that it is natural to want to defend one's nation even if one doesn't agree with everything it does. I don't want to put our Indian guests and colleagues on the spot. Unless you're there, unless you live it, it's hard to explain why Americans do what Americans do. Or why Norwegians do what Norwegians do. US history is so different from Europe's. And India's history and challenges are also so different from the West's.

A Norwegian co-worker did ask me how it was going, with us two women from Norway dealing with three men from India. And I could honestly say that absolutely nothing in their behavior suggested they had any issue working with women. I reminded my co-worker that the Indian company had also sent female employees to Norway. The men's manners are somewhat old-fashioned, so I have to let them hold the door open for me, but I've noticed they are getting the hang of Norwegian customs; they let me open the door myself more often. (I'm never sure if I should be happy about that.)

Never mind what gets into the news. I don't feel that bringing that up is my place to do or appropriate in our work situation. We have a good work relationship, with a lot of ideas and knowledge moving back and forth—and some laughs too. Good enough.


*) I was happy I didn't bring this up, because it turns out that we may not have the whole story.