I wasn’t going to write this post. Linguistically, this isn’t the most interesting word—we already know that barn means “child,” so if you speak English (and I assume you do if you are reading this blog) it’s not hard to figure out that barnevogn is “child wagon” aka “stroller.” And I would really like to move on to some less child-centered words.
I’ve decided to write about it anyway, however, for two reasons. First, as part of our preparation for our first winter in Norway, it has been on my mind a lot. Second, and more importantly, it challenges the stereotype that everything is bigger in the U.S. than in Europe. 🙂
On that last point… My husband says that stereotype only applies to Texas, but I think he’s wrong. Sure, maybe things are extra, extra large in Texas, but the preference for bigger plates of food and monster-sized vehicles exists all over the country, even in our very not-Texas hometown of Seattle.
Except that is, when it comes to strollers. While I doubt very many people go to the same lengths I did to find the perfect not-too-big stroller, I don’t know anyone who intentionally sought out the biggest one they could find. But it sure feels like that’s the way you have to do it here.
When I was pregnant with L, the perfect stroller in my mind was the one with the biggest basket and the narrowest wheel base. The goal? Find something that could handle narrow aisles and tight turns at the market and be used to lug all my groceries home with as little exertion as possible given how hilly downtown Seattle can be. Lightweight would be nice, of course, but I was willing to push a couple of extra pounds if the other criteria were met.
When I finally found that perfect stroller, I was certain it would be the only one (other than a cheap umbrella stroller for traveling) that I would ever buy. But then L outgrew the infant carseat and I started thinking it would be nice to have something lighter weight. So I searched high and low for the perfect “umbrella” stroller for napping in on the go and pushing over cobblestones. That perfect one was a little more than the $40 one recommended in the “Baby Bargains” book, but since this one really was the last stroller I’d ever buy, that was okay, right?
But then we decided to move to Norway.
During our first visit it was pretty obvious that as nice as the new stroller was on cobblestones, it wasn’t nearly as good on slush and snow. So I resigned myself to mostly using the big stroller once we officially moved.
Imagine my surprise when I went shopping just one week after the move and discovered that that narrow wheelbase I spent so much time looking for was too narrow for any of the ramps in the mall. I don’t even want to think about what people thought of me as they watched me bounce the stroller up and down stairs—right next to the too-wide ramps.
As ridiculous as I looked at the mall, I was determined to ride it out and not get a new stroller. L’s almost two, so it’s not like we have that much more time in the stroller, right? Unfortunately, though, the ramps aren’t the only problem. I’m pretty sure those monster wheels make it a lot easier to get on and off the bus—and that the Norwegians look at me and my narrow stroller and recite some variation of “there’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s just bad clothing” in their heads when they see this poor foreign woman trying to lift her stroller onto the coach. And then there’s the fact that in a city that is more than fifty percent forested, it’s not uncommon for Google Maps sends me on an unpaved path to get to my destination.
And so it is that I broke down and decided to buy a new stroller. Unfortunately, given L’s age it wouldn’t be one of those plush prams I feel in love with the first time I came and visited Oslo. (I remember going home—not pregnant and living in a different country than my husband—and trying to find one in the U.S. When I finally did, I was appalled by the price—which oddly enough was less than the amount I actually spent on L’s first stroller.) But it will have monstrously large wheels and a wide wheel base so that it fits in with all the other barnevogn around Oslo.
Nate & Amanda Howard / Stocksy.com (baby carriage outside building)
Do you think the entire U.S. (rightly or wrongly) has a reputation for more of a “bigger is better” attitude than any other country?