Norwegian expression of the day: Flink pike

Norwegian expression of the day: Flink pike
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Why, to Norwegians, being a good girl is a mental health condition.

Why do I need to know flink pike?

Because it’s a huge thing in Norway. Today the expression itself is thrown around in everyday conversations, but it also has a deeper meaning that says a lot about Norway and how Norwegians perceive themselves.

What does it mean?

Flink is the Norwegian word for ‘good’ or ‘clever’ and pike is an old-fashioned word for ‘girl.’ (No one really says pike anymore except perhaps for some people above the age of 65.)

But a few years back flink pike went from being an outdated way of saying ‘good girl’ to become a label stuck on a mental health problem that seemingly had infested the whole nation.

Huh?

A few years back, studies found that young Norwegians teens were saying they felt depressed now more than they had done in previous years.

As a rich country with low unemployment rates that prides itself of offering free education for everyone to give equal opportunities for all, Norway was puzzled to see that so many teens said they felt insecure, depressed and anxious about the future.

Why, Norwegians asked themselves, were so many young people – girls and boys, but mostly girls – feeling so miserable when they – compared to other teens in less fortunate countries – had so much?

What had gone wrong? Who was at fault? 

As the national debate raged the answer got a name: flink pike-syndromet (the 'good girl syndrome'), which today is known among psychologists as the certified mental health condition FSJ.

At fault was prestasjonssamfunnet (the 'performance society'), which had turned Norway into a nation of perfectionists.

Free from the burden of having to fight to to keep their democracy or job, in a society that was more socially liberal and gender equal than most, young Norwegians wanted to thrive academically and professionally, but also emotionally and through their looks – both physically and virtually.

As a result, Norwegians were excessively concerned about working out and eating well, as well as putting up glossy pictures that scored lots of likes on Instagram and Facebook.

Standing on the top of the Maslow pyramid, Norwegian teens were feeling unhappy because they were subject to a crushing, self-inflicted pressure to reach the very tip of self-realisation. (It's a slightly cruel generalisation, but you get the idea.)

After a nationwide self-reckoning with tons of people coming out as flinke piker (good girls) – not just young girls, middle-aged men too – after a documentary titled Flink Pike illustrated the tough life of a woman with chronic depression, after tons of articles slamming the term as pejorative against girls who performed well, the thing ebbed out (kind of).

The solution to the problem was anyway itself pretty depressing. To avoid flink pike-syndromet, all Norway had to do was chill out a bit. And in the world of perfect, who could afford to do that?”


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