Culture of Karolia
This page contains an overview of the culture of the area comprising modern Karolia.
- 1 Society and social attitudes
- 2 Sport
- 3 Music
- 4 Literature
- 5 Painting
- 6 Cinema
- 7 Sculpture
- 8 Architecture
- 9 Fashion
- 10 Eating and drinking
- 11 Further reading and references
Karolians value creativity, hard work, ingenuity and elegance in design, and love anything sophisticated especially if it is unique in some way. The shallow, banal, boring and lazy hold little attraction unless for purely practical function. On the other hand, some humour, whimsy and slapstick is more than welcome even if there is no intellectual content, provided it is genuinely entertaining. There is a certain competitive streak which may explain the widespread love of football and other sports. The typical Karolian hero is simultaneously mighty and accomplished but also flawed in some way and is prepared to ignore those around then to achieve their ends. There is also a great kudos attached to doing things oneself.
Another value Karolians like to demonstrate is their willingness to accommodate and tolerate new ideas and other ways of doing things. This is probably a result of having to accommodate many different regional cultures and languages in the country and that there is still more of a loyalty to one's region than to the nation. At the same time, one's own identity must be proudly felt.
Most modern Karolians are great lovers of technology and machines, especially if there is some clever feature or a sense of the mythical or heroic about them. New cars, trains and electronics grab the public attention. However, gimmicks must be perceived by the Karolian as having been thought about deeply and carefully designed, whatever use they realistically may have, and possession should not be seen as deliberately showing off one's wealth, rather an appreciation for good design.
Symbolism plays a large part in Karolian culture - as might be expected from a nation who wear stylised designs around their necks. Every clique, club and cult has their own secret set of signs and rituals with significant meaning to them. Some common design motifs include swirls, circles and patterns derived from nature (scales, feathers, waves).
Being an extrovert patriot isn't really the Karolian way. Most Karolians would regard their nation as a 'small country' despite having economic and sporting prowess and will readily forgive foreigners not knowing anything about it (they will usually reach for the language barrier to explain this). They tend to keep nationalist feelings for the official public holidays and express them through artistic and sporting achievements. Karolian flags flown from buildings are reasonably common but are expected to be modest - and will be rivalled by the prevalence of the state or city flag.
Karolians are very upholding of gender equality and will treat both sexes as equal (they also aim not to patronise and ignore children either) as well as being ready to point out how successful women are at the top jobs, football, etc. Of course there are some misogynists but their opinions are usually kept private.
Karolians have a reputation for behaving quite differently in public and private. They tend to be reserved around strangers until some kind of trust has been established. However, they will then be generous and loyal friends and be often very open and conversational.
Karolians will usually greet by wishing each other the best (using a phrase appropriate for the time of day) and then asking 'have you kept well since we last met?' or if the person is a new acquaintance, 'are you well at the moment?'. Enquiries about what somebody has been doing or their personal life are normally reserved until a friendship has been established. Indeed, it is not uncommon for two Karolians to be unaware of each other's job, residence or marital status until quite some time into a relationship. The only exception is where a Karolian is intentionally seeking a romantic partner, in which situation everything will be discussed (although not without an air of it being some kind of checklist) in order to ascertain whether the person is suitable. A handshake is normally the only, if any, form of contact between two Karolians greeting each other in public.
Karolians are often quite perfunctory in asking for and receiving things. There is no specific word for 'please' in Karolian and simply saying 'give me one of those' is not generally considered rude. A Karolian will only properly thank somebody if they really like a personal gift or have been done a great service, in which case it is a high compliment. Overseas visitors can often find the Karolian quite blunt and straight-talking if an opinion is asked for, but this is not meant as offence, rather the opposite - the Karolian is taking your issue seriously and giving you a clear, concise answer as a sign of their interest and respect.
Having what is seen as too many friends is considered a sign that somebody does not value those around them enough - how could they have enough time to properly attend to so many relationships? Being in a small group of people who meet regularly and know each other well is the most approved style of social interaction, although one should also see others from time to time. Having friends with which one can freely open up to about any problem or topic and gain a helpful critique is highly prized.
Talking too much about trivialities or in general unless the subject is right (ie a passionate debate about politics or arts) is also frowned upon, and there is no awkwardness in there being a long pause in a conversation - if there is nothing interesting to be said, one should wait until there is rather than blather trivialities.
Having some 'alone time' is something to be respected. A Karolian might take an all-day hike across a remote part of the country, or simply avoid contact for a few hours in order to contemplate.
Karolians do, contrary to some foreign reports, possess a sense of humour. Jokes will often mock authority figures and petty officials - a typical quip goes: 'Did you hear about the bureaucrat who cleared his desk?' 'He was getting fired, right?' 'Well yes, but when they saw what he'd done they promoted him for hard work!' Mockery and satire is a common tool of political activists and more sophisticated critiques. Irony is also frequently used, sometimes in a very subtle way that will only make sense to those 'in the know'. For urbanites, those from the mountains, or more frequently, Kyoris, are the butt of jokes about stupid country bumpkins, whilst the country folk laugh just as much about the stupid tourists who get lost in the mountains and can't understand the local dialect. 'How do you spot a Kyori in a car wash?' 'He's the one on a motorbike!' will be countered with 'Did you hear about the Säntjanas who climbed Radavaarli?' 'He looked all day but still couldn't find the ATM!' (Radavaarli, the highest mountain in Karolia, is also the name of a bank). Sometimes Karolian humour may come across as dark and even slightly cruel, but the Karolian would argue that making a harsh joke implies that you have the strength of character to take it, that it shows the strength of friendship - and that everyone needs bringing down a bit from time to time.
There are many jokes along the lines that alcohol makes the difference between the two sides of the national character.
Karolians are generally averse to great public displays of affection and tend to keep relationships subtle when not in private. Whilst younger couples may be less demonstrative of this rule, holding of hands is generally the most intimate adult Karolians will get in public. In private, the opposite seems to apply, and indeed in recent times the country has gained something of a reputation (at least on the Internet) for being host to myriad kinky activities, open relationships and innovative sexual orientations - indeed, even of having a population with an unhealthy obsession with sex (research seems to indicate that Karolians have more partners and copulate slightly more frequently than the global average, but not to the extent alleged by some hysterical overseas reports intended to titillate). Karolians also like to party every so often (but again only if the occasion is right) and in this situation most of the social and romantic reservations of normal character are abandoned once the necessary quantity of alcohol has been consumed, with the usual gradual building of trust between a couple being replaced by a more rapid conversational check-over which is (usually) followed by a visit to the bedroom as the real test for suitability. The next morning the couple may well resume the usual reserved interactions of normal life as if nothing has happened.
There has been some concern amongst some more conservative commentators that young people are given sex education and are encouraged to discuss sexual issues at too early an age. But it seems unlikely that this will change either the social welfare programmes of the government who state that it reduces the risk of STDs and accidental pregnancies and removes stigma about sexual orientation, or the fact that plenty of groups of teenage couples are going to go into the woods on Midsummer Night.
Marriage is an increasingly less common occurrence; only about 55% of long-term couples get married.
The family is another area in which the Karolian attitude seems to be contradictory. The average number of children is 1.8, with around 40% of couples choosing not to conceive at all and the rest having quite large families. However the extent of the childcare and education provided by the state and the culture of women being given equal opportunities to return to work means that the children spend less time with their parents than in comparable countries and will have a 'split' in their teenage years, usually when they leave home to start university. Sometimes teenagers in their last year of high school may live in each other's houses or at dormitories for a time. What contradicts this apparent detachment between generations is the attention given to the elderly members of the family, who will almost always get a weekly or even more frequent visit from the rest of the family and in quite a few households move back in with a younger generation. Nursing homes are quite rare and are only for the seriously infirm.
Marriage rates have fallen dramatically in favour of co-habiting and civil partnership arrangements in the last fifty years. Nonetheless, the rate of divorce is lower than in comparable countries. Homosexual marriages for both sexes have equal status under law and are quite common and socially accepted by the vast majority of people. All sexual and gender identities are protected in law.
Women's equality is strongly protected in Karolian law and sexism is frowned upon (or even illegal) in normal society.
Karolia is definitely a 'bike nation'. It wasn't always this way, cars started to get very popular in the 1960s as people got wealthier, but after the problems they caused became apparent, strong and far-sighted governments decided that two wheels was the way to go in cities, so nowadays Karolians drive in the country and cycle in towns. The infrastructure isn't perfect everywhere and cycle provision is definitely better in some regions than others, but you can reasonably expect segregated cycleways and light-controlled crossings in urban areas. Basically, everyone older than five in Karolia rides a bike, and it might seem at some times that they outnumber pedestrians. Cargo bikes or trailers are used to deliver mail and anything that doesn't require a van, whilst children are carried in seats over the handlebars or 'tow-bikes' behind the adults. The scale of cycle parking is epic (and still often full) at big stations and city centres, and there are plenty of times a half-empty car park has been turned over to bike parking. Helmets are not compulsory and for adults are regarded as a bit weird by Karolians, since riding a bike is so easy anyone who falls off is either drunk or stupid, and it's proven every day that going 45km/h down a street with two kids, a dog and a violin on the bike, using one hand to steer and the other to make phone calls, is a completely safe activity for any normal human.
Sport, either watching or playing it, is a major pastime in Karolia. Football is the most popular game by a long way, and one can reasonably expect both men and women to have a loyal, even obsessive, attachment to a particular team. It is considered okay to follow more than one team if they are several leagues apart, for example an amateur side and the Liiga 1 side in the same town, or the respective male and female teams of the same club. A 'proper' fan is expected to know the entire team by heart and preferably some past teams, own at least a couple of football shirts, scarves and other merchandise, and most importantly have a repertoire of several stories of having personally witnessed a famous victory or dramatic game.
See Music in Karolia
Music also plays a hugely important role in the Karolian national character and society. It is an expression of national and regional identity, an expression of oneself and a creative and social outlet. Going to concerts and gigs is an important social adhesive and allows Karolians to demonstrate both a tribal loyalty and a willingness to engage with other cultures.
The traditional myths and legends are a very important part of Karolian culture in all its forms.
Many Karolian peoples from prehistory to the early twentieth century followed nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyles. They would live in family tents which were constructed from birch frames and had several layers of stretched animal skins, plaited reeds and other textiles foxed over them to create a weatherproof structure, at the centre of which was a wooden flue to allow smoke from the fire to escape without letting cold air in. Such tents would be large enough to accommodate between six to twenty people and amongst richer individuals would be hung with decorated tapestries. The traditional permanent Karolian dwelling took the form of either a box house made from interleaved wooden planks over a frame, or wattle and daub on a wooden frame, or else partly sunken stone and turf houses with a shallow wide roof. Later as construction technologies developed, two distinctively Karolian styles emerged: the 'triangle house' with a steep roof from the apex to, or almost to, the ground; and the octagonal house which is usually built in the style of a pagoda with two or three stories and a domed roof.
Classical style buildings (not without particular Karolian features) appeared after Unification, particularly in the rebuilding of Paliiso and expansion of Säntjana.
In the late nineteenth century a distinctive Art Nouveau style became widespread, particularly in Säntjana and Kyor, with use of natural motifs and tinted stone. This was followed in subsequent decades by Modernist designs also incorporating natural and traditional ideas, such as the use of copper and bronze combined with wood and the brick of several factories in Lapise.
In modern times the part-sunken house has made a revival in rural and urban new builds, often combined with the use of recycled materials and off-grid energy supplies. The Karolian government has released grants to facilitate experimental construction schemes for this type of building. Various revivals of other historical styles have also occurred in the last fifty years.
The traditional use of tapestries has found its way into much Karolian interior design for the last five hundred years. Even today it is common to find at least one room decorated with wall hangings, although these are often made of synthetic materials rather than the expensive wool of older times.
Traditional dress in Karolia, like many other cultural elements, varies between the mountainous and the plains areas of the country.
In the mountains, the traditional costume is considered to contain some combination of the following: for men, woollen leggings, often with cross garter strips; sheepskin boots, a woollen shirt woven in traditional patterns, and a thick long coat trimmed with wool, usually sheepskin and decorated with embroidery (also worn by women). In summer a sleeveless variant of this (also often decorated with embroidery) can also be worn by both sexes. Women would wear a woollen shirt similar to the men and long skirts, traditionally red in colour using the dye of the red lapweed flower. The item of clothing most associated with the region, the sheepskin hat trimmed with fur, was actually not introduced until the nineteenth century and was adopted by the local population after loggers from elsewhere brought it to the area.
On the plains, textiles tend to be lighter due to the warmer climate. Men wear white shirts and light jackets, and loose-fitting trousers. Women traditionally wear long dresses and headscarves. All these items would be decorated with floral designs commensurate with wealth and status. Wealthier men and women adopted a style of jacket in the seventeenth century which would often be in quite rare colours such as blue and bright green, which had a higher cut at the back to facilitate riding and often no collar. This has made something of a comeback in recent decades. Felt hats, which can sometimes be quite tall, are a part of the traditional Plains costume.
Karolians today pay quite some attention to how they dress, displaying elaborate and intricate designs. Modern Karolian fashion often incorporates elements of folk costume into designs. It is common to see fabric using patterns found in traditional dress or siikesilla designs. Medieval-influenced dresses and jackets with gold leaf-shaped decorations applied are also in fashion. A particular Karolian style is 'fish-fin' fabric, which is almost translucent and has subtle 'ribs' fanning in a triangular shape. This is often incorporated into the sleeves of dresses. Karolians in everyday situations tend to dress in a way that is casual but still stylish, and men will usually only wear a necktie to an important meeting or interview rather than regular days in the office. Ever pragmatic, this shows they are giving special attention to the serious occasion. For a special occasion, highly elaborate clothes may be seen. Rock-influenced styles have long been popular with the young or those trying to look young, which has not been lost on designers. In recent times there has been a revival of making clothes oneself, mostly amongst women and teenage girls but with plenty of men doing so as well. Naturally, the elaborate and unique results of this DIY approach meet with considerable praise from other Karolians.
Hair and beauty
In recent years there has been a fashion amongst younger Karolians for decorating around their eyes with elaborately coloured makeup. There has also been a revival for women with long hair to adopt a Kyori style of tying it in several places along its length to create a series of knots or bulges between the plaits. Other elaborated styles of braiding and knotting hair have their origins in folk culture, such as colouring (nowadays highlighting) some strands and pinning into a spiral above the ear. Men often grow their hair to shoulder-length and artificial colouring of hair is fairly common, particularly amongst the young. The prevalence of ginger/orange and blonde hair is higher than average in the country.
Eating and drinking
Main article: Food and Drink in Karolia
Visitors are traditionally given sweetened bread and milk upon arriving at a Karolian home.
Karolians enjoy both tea and coffee in liberal amounts and in many different forms and flavours.
Bread is often flavoured and sweetened, either with butter and honey or with sugar and spices such as nutmeg, clove, cardamom, anise seed, and cinnamon, as well as fruits. Every region has its own specialties of bread and pastries
Karolians will normally say "rauha, terviis, ustäväd!" ("peace, health, friends!") as a toast.
Further reading and references
- Reed, Salma: The Mystery of the Karolians, Worldview Books, St Richards, 2008
- Karolian National Census 2011
- Kaychek, Borisa: Prehistoric Uletha, Kamaraya Historical Publishing 1994
- Karolian Culture 1789-1853, Riiksmuseo Bibliootekka 2011