When we finished our fourth year at our training hospital three of us decided to take time out before we started our midwifery training. This was in the days before the “year out” became so popular, so it was regarded by our peers as a bit odd!

I had been to Geilo in Norway for a skiing holiday and had fallen in love with both the country and the people, so I persuaded the other two that we should start our travels with a summer there. It was a small village which became very busy in the winter season, but returned to being a  more peaceful village in the summer season and catered mainly for tourists who stayed for only one or two nights as they travelled around Scandinavia or as the Americans said  “were doing Europe”.

We were offered jobs as chambermaids for the summer season. The hotel was (then) the largest in the valley and had a small permanent staff and the rest of us were seasonal workers. The majority were university students or recent graduates and were mainly British and Scandinavian all of us in our early twenties. There were three in their thirties J1  had been a teacher in England, who had met and fallen in love with a Norwegian a few years before. By the time the love affair was over she had fallen for the country and stayed on. J2 was a legal secretary from Edinburgh who had seen an advert in the Scotsman and on an impulse replied to it. K  had gone on a skiing holiday5 years before and never gone home again!

We got on well with our fellow workers and had a very happy time, spending our off duty playing tennis, walking and generally enjoying an outdoor life. It was a great contrast to our previously hectic time on the wards (and was actually better paid!) The biggest responsibility we had was keeping the guest rooms clean enough to satisfy the very particular housekeeper, so it was fortunate that we had been so well trained by the ward sisters 🙂

We all wanted to learn Norwegian and the Scandinavians, who had all learned English in school, wanted to perfect their accents, so we had a mutual help society where they spoke to us in English and we tried to answer in Norwegian. Some words are spelt the same in both languages but pronounced differently so it was always worth trying to “blag” your way by using the appropriate accent. Sometimes it worked but other times it produced strange or embarrassing results.

One of my bloomers came when one of  the guests on my “station” (set of rooms I was responsible for) asked me to vacuum away a mess of crumbs which his children had dropped in the corridor outside his room. The housekeeper saw me taking the vacuum cleaner and asked what I was doing as she had already inspected my rooms. I could not remember the word for cleaner,so, thinking that maybe they used the trade name of the cleaner just as we say “Hoovering”,  I substituted a shortened version of the trade name and thought I had done quite well until that stern face cracked into a smile. The name of the cleaner was Nilfisk and what I had said was that I was going fishing in the corridor for a man!

Johanna substituted the Norwegian word for dirty when she came round collecting the dirty sheets for the laundry bag by calling out “Has anyone got any sh***y sheets ?

Lars however made probably the most embarrassing bloomer. We had just finished our evening meal and, as he leaned back, he gave an enormous burp. This turned him pink as he apologised, ” Excuse me please, but I always rape after a big meal”  When one of the boys explained what he had said his pink blush turned crimson!

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