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Feb 11 2010

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Is Faroese Silence Rude?

Today I said goodbye to Threes Anna – a Dutch writer and film director (view her website here: www.threesanna.com). She leaves tonight with the ferry Norrøna after having done research for three weeks in the Faroe Islands for a future novel.

Threes Anna and I have met four times while she was here – and we have talked a lot about the Faroes and the Faroese people. Yesterday we talked about the fact that she had sent Emails to a lot of Faroese people prior to coming to the islands but she got no answer back from most of them.

She was not complaining about it – only wondering how it could be, because at first glance it seems like a rude way to behave but when she had met some of these people they turned out to be really nice and sweet people. So she asked if this was a special Faroese phenomena.

It got me thinking. I have heard other foreigners say exactly the same thing. So here are my thoughts about Faroese silence – I wrote it in an Email to Threes this afternoon:

It’s true that the Faroese often choose just to say nothing (like not answering Emails!) because that’s (in their opinion) the safest way to behave. They really don’t think that their opinion matters that much to anyone else. So they choose just to say nothing. Then there is nothing to argue about either. Writing is even more dangerous because you can’t see (or foresee) the reaction of the receiver, so people prefer to meet in person before they say anything.

This often proves to function well locally in the Faroes, where nobody expects anything else and people easily bump into each other by chance all the time. Here people also have developed a kind of silent body language between them. They read each other by their body language and thereby know what other people think (or at least they think they know). There is no need for saying that much.

The old men sitting on the bench by the harbour can sit there beside each other all day long saying nothing and still think they communicated very well! :-)

But this does not work in the rest of the world! That is what people here will have to understand – IF they want to make other people feel more welcome, they need to be better at communicating with words!

I think, though, that the young people understand this better. Many younger people are much more outgoing than the older people. If you had met Sunneva from the bar Sirkus you would have met an example of exactly that.

Visit: http://www.faroeislandsreview.com

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