There’s an app for that!
In the modern technological age, it's possible to do nearly everything through apps. One international student thinks Norway takes things a step further.
Presumably ever since the first foreigner set foot in this country, it has been a favorite pastime for people to make good-natured jabs at Norwegians’ reserved nature. Just ask any international student what they think about Norwegians, and they will, without fail, mention this fact in some way, ranging from “they’re kinda quiet” on one end of the spectrum, to “they never say anything, I feel like they’re quietly judging everything I do” on the other end.
The reason I bring this up is because it is my personal belief that the fact that Norwegians are very reserved has, at least to some degree, led to there being an app for just about anything you could want, thereby reducing the amount of human interaction one has to deal with on a day to day basis.
You want to order a pizza? There’s an app for that! Need to check for updates from your university? There’s an app for that, too! I was curious as to how far this went, so I searched for an app to call an ambulance, and sure enough, there’s an app for that! Hell, I’m not even able to call my doctor’s office to make an appointment anymore, I have to log into their website in order to do it.
Now, some might argue that Norway is hardly unique in having an app for everything. I may even be coming across as an out-of-touch grandpa right now, still trying to get the hang of these fancy new phones with their touchscreens and their wifi. After all, one could accurately point out that every other developed country probably has an app for just about everything, too.
However, I think what makes Norway unique is the way that Norwegians have integrated these apps so effectively into society in such a way that everything works smoothly, and I think that this is best illustrated with the public transport apps.
When was the last time you (or anyone you know) missed a bus or train because you didn’t have time to buy a ticket? Unless you’re past retirement age, chances are you’ll have to go further back than you can remember, because with an app you can buy a ticket even after you’ve boarded.
Furthermore, you could go out and physically print a ticket from a ticket booth, but we all damn well know that we would prefer to avoid having to potentially stand in line sandwiched between a bunch of people, and just use the app instead. Sure, many other places have public transport apps, but nowhere else is the use of them as widespread as in Norway.
This was made painfully clear to me on two separate occasions, when I travelled to Budapest and to London, and both times, when I had to take public transport, the people I was travelling with brought me to a ticket machine. Both times I asked why we aren’t just using a travel app instead, and both times, I was told that there was no app that anyone used. Having lived in Norway for a pretty long time, I had become all too used to being able to buy my ticket on my phone. I felt a level of discomfort about this that exceeded reasonable proportions. I even had to physically talk to someone at one point to get my ticket, and hand them physical cash. I felt as if I had been thrown back in time, to an age where people still rode on carriages and churned butter by hand.
Now, before this starts to sound like an advertisement for public transport apps, I should point out that yeah, there are more than a few concerns that one can raise about developments that trade off social interaction for greater efficiency. Maybe by making these developments, we’re isolating ourselves from each other and facilitating loneliness. However, for good or for bad, it seems these developments are not going anywhere anytime soon, and perhaps the most productive thing we can do is to try and find ways to coexist with these developments and remain healthy, happy human beings. If worse comes to worst, then at least we can still avoid physically buying train tickets!