If you're looking for a way to practice your Nordic language skills, but don't like the idea of going to class or having homework, this is it. The Twin Cities Nordic Happy Hour is a casual way for individuals to practice their Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Finnish, and Danish skills with others who want to do the same. Hosted once per month, all levels of experience are welcome so no need to feel deterred. The location rotates around the cities to different breweries and bars making commuting convenient for as many people as possible.
I recently attended my first one at the Norway House in Minneapolis, MN where I met a number of people with interesting journeys that brought them to the happy hour. One of those people was Jodie Larson. In speaking with Jodie she said that she has Norwegian heritage on both sides. "My grandpa was Norwegian which is what got me interested originally. I had worked in China for awhile and couldn't pick up the language as quickly as I thought I would so I decided at that time I would pick a language that I had more personal interest in," said Larson. As we spoke we connected on the desire to learn more about both our families and ourselves and thought learning the language was a great medium to do so.
Another individual I met at the happy hour was Ross Johnson. In his initial introduction he said "like a lot of Swedes, I'm a real character." The previous get together had been hosted at a brewery where Johnson works. "I learned a little bit about the group and found out it was open to everyone so I thought I would check it out." I asked him what he thought and his response was surprising, but fitting "I am shocked at how many Norwegians in America don't like pickled herring!"
Ross Johnson and Christina Melander taking the Julebrus
Since typically these events are hosted at breweries or bars, drinks are purchased as desired, however this event was a BYOB (bring your own beer) event therefore individuals got creative. Christina Melander brought her own cocktail to share "I named it Julebrus. It is a mix of apple cider, cinnamon, bitters and Bulleit Bourbon." She offered a taste of the Julebrus to each attendee.
Richard Skarie, another attendee, took Norwegian for five years at Mindekirken Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis, MN until there were no longer classes left. He enjoys coming to practice because "when I travel to Norway I want to practice Norwegian, but as soon as I get stuck on a word (his relatives) switch to English and that is the end for me." We learned that we both have relatives on the island of Karmøy and swapped other training opportunities as well "I listen to NRK news podcasts. I may understand all the words, but still not understand what they are talking about. I need context to help fill in the gaps so I read one crime book in Norwegian every couple of months to keep sharp."
In speaking with Ethan Bjelland, Marketing and Development Assistant at Norway House and one of the coordinators of the event, I learned that typically the event is mostly just conversation and making connections. "It often starts out with more language practice, but after a few hours it ends up being mostly English." We both speculated that the switch was likely due to the alcohol consumption as the night progresses. Interestingly Bjelland also mentioned that there is typically an Icelandic group that comes together. "I think they text each other and plan to come as a group so they can ensure they have someone to practice with."
Robin Cole, Lis Brotten, and Cookie Lithyouvong
Lastly I spent some time meeting three women with varying reasons for attendance. Lis Brotten said she attends happy hour to maintain her roots while Robin Cole, the Administration and Membership Development Manager at Norway House remarked "We at the Norway House want to get a different population more involved at the museum. The happy hour is a great way to get the community involved in terms of making a connection to this group. Hosting a happy hour just made sense and personally it is a platform for me to explore my Norwegian-American roots." Cookie Lithyouvong mentioned her reason for attending as well "I was told about this group through another member and thought it would be a great way to network and make longterm friends." Lithyouvong doesn't have Norwegian roots, but that is ok. The group welcomes anyone and everyone who is interested in learning more. On that note, for more information on the group, dates and locations for upcoming events, join the Nordic Happy Hour group on Facebook.