Planning to go through Pakistan is, of course, a serious matter and something which requires a well planned and well executed Visa-application process. This is why we during the last few days have visited both the Spanish- and the Norwegian embassies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
After first visiting the Spanish embassy, where we were well received by a Spanish representative (from Spain) and issued the document we requested within 15 minutes or so, we arrived, for the first time, at the Norwegian embassy on the 53rd floor of a highrise downtown Kuala Lumpur.
I must admit that I always feel very Norwegian when I visit Norwegian embassies or consulates abroad. Maybe because it usually offers a chance to see a Norwegian flag, a photo of the Royals and a poster of Norwegian nature at its best. And so too in Kuala Lumpur. The setting was just right and I felt good being Norwegian.
At the reception, I politely explained my errand in Norwegian, but was met with questioning eyes. It quickly became evident that the information officer did not speak Norwegian at all and I was politely requested to state my intentions in English. Our objective was straight forward, simply a request for a letter of introduction. That is, a simple written statement confirming that I and my children are Norwegian citizens with valid passports.
The fact that the Embassy´s information officer was not Norwegian was of course no surprise. That she did not speak Norwegian, not even “god dag” was not surprising either, after all we are few and Kuala Lumpur is far from home. Being the only ones in the embassy´s reception area, and presuming that there are not too many Norwegian families passing through, I was nevertheless a little surprised to observe several Norwegian-looking individuals, probably diplomats, walking slowly and without any urgency behind the bullet proof window without showing the least of interest in what was going on with us. After 10 minutes discussion, and several telephone conversation with someone else in the embassy, the information officer, in English of course, informed us that the embassy could not assist us. So far so much for assisting your countrymen abroad!
I guess I am too blue eyed and too much of a Norwegian patriot, but I would have enjoyed a chat about Malaysia, Norway and international affairs in Norwegian after 10 months on the road. After all I found myself in a Royal Norwegian Embassy with an empty Innovation Norway office next door. The lack of attention and interest in us was a little, lets say, uncomfortable.
As a little anecdote, I strangely got more attention from an eighty year old Chinese former sailor running a food-stand in Singapore. The old man had 40 years experience from Scandinavian ships, among them many years with former Bergesen in Stavanger. He was an inspired old man, who´s first expression in good Norwegian was “fy faen, er du Norsk?” (I´ll skip the translation, though admitting that the first part of the sentence is not too nice, but neither uncommon among sailors). Of course, the situations are not comparable and the Chinese sailor, after all, had learned the language while serving for many years under Norwegian officers. He, however, showed much more enthusiasm for Norway and was more eager to speak our language than anyone at the Norwegian embassy.
Well, the story did not end here. The next morning we lined up at the Pakistani embassy and after shuffling a little in the queue and arguing with the officials and security personnel, we were finally told that we needed the confirmation that the Norwegian embassy had already refused to give us. Next working day, we were at the Norwegian embassy again at their opening hours, meaning serious business. Again, we explained our case. After some minutes, a middle aged Norwegian lady came running out of an office asking us without any introduction what we wanted. No time for neither good morning nor how are you doing. In a very Norwegian and little polite manner (I´m sorry to say), she went straight to the issue at hand. We explained again what had taken place at the Pakistani embassy. First, she tried to tell us to come back the next day because she was very busy. However, after some pressure from us, she reluctantly agreed to type up the confirmations we needed. The Indian looking clerk of the embassy, handed us our documents after about 8 minutes. However, no one from the Norwegian embassy staff (that is someone from Norway) had time to say goodbye – after all they already told us that they were very busy…
To round of this little essay, I suggest that Norwegian diplomats and embassy-personnel show at least a minor interest in visitors from the old country and take the time to say hello unless other urgent diplomatic affairs prevent them. This would not only help maintaining a positive image of Norway abroad, but also be good for business (this with reference to the still completely empty Innovation Norway office next door).
I arrived at Norwegian territory in Kuala Lumpur in an upbeat mood and in company of Norwegian family-members. However, I finally left with mixed feelings and no longer quite so proud to be Norwegian.