Born in Norway, Wind Øyvind Aamot has lived in China for almost 7 years. He even lost his early years memories there due to amnesia. Feeling local in at least 4 countries yet preferring to be identified with any of them, he calls himself a modern borderless nomad.
The Nordic Page talks to Øyvind about his extra ordinary life.
As far as I know you went to China during a
sailing trip in 2000, what made you jump off from the boat?
That was before I lost my
memory. Later in China, I had a severe case of amnesia, so I do not know much
before that. I think I was fascinated by the country. During the months we were
sailing down the coast off China and went to the Philippines and
Indonesia. It’s from there I decided to
get off the boat and go back to China. I didn’t know much about China before. It’s
just because I had a good time during the trip along the coast and then I
decided to go back to know more about the country.
I know you continue to visit China from time to
time, what’s your main work there?
I went back to China in
2002. I had an understanding that when cultures meet, it’s good to both give
something and get something in return. I found out that many Chinese like their
traditional folk music, and I learned several Chinese songs. I went out to
perform and added some Norwegian, Spanish, English songs. In Nanning, Guangxi, I
was invited to TV shows. There were not many foreigners, especially those who
can speak and sing in Chinese. In a sense, I got famous in this province.
Then I went out of the
province, met people, started cultural collaboration projects and applied for funding.
My knowledge about the culture and
language was growing, and I started working more and more as a China
consultant, helping people and companies who wanted to do business in China. On
one side, I organized events. On the other side, I helped people with outsourcing,
media production, logistics, negotiations and, contracts and sometimes even
taking people on cultural trips to China. Nowadays I do a lot of individual
work. I give lectures, do workshops and documentaries,
and develop and implement new projects.
My beard works as an icebreaker in several
continents. People are curious, they come up and talk about my hair and beard,
and very often we talk about some other
things, too. I get many friends this way. And you have no idea how many
hundreds of free drinks I have gotten because of this hair and beard, says
Do you plan to keep developing your involvement
Yes, absolutely. I have lived
there for 6 to 7 years. There is a big potential cooperating with a lot of
companies and organizations coming to China. I can work in China based on the
customers I already have. In addition, on a more cultural side, we have an
organization called Cosmic Wind Cultural
Collaborations, which is based in Norway and running a creative studio in
Guangzhou, open to use for anyone with ideas of collaboration and creativity
Is it difficult for a Norwegian to do business
In the beginning of the millennium,
there was a big enthusiasm towards any kind of foreign business in China.
Foreign business is still welcomed now, but has been more restricted after
2007. It doesn’t mean necessarily difficult. It’s still a nice climate, but it
might not be as open as it was. It’s also difficult if you don’t know the
culture at all. Since it is a very different world, you need to have some
people to open the doors for you in the country.
Please name 3 things you like best about China
and 3 things you don’t like.
There are so many things. I
will start with diversity. I think I
stayed in China for so long that it’s the most diverse society I know. Since I
like and work with diversity both at artistic level and professional level, the
Chinese society suits my being very well. And within diversity there is everything
else. I like all of the differences, the contrasts, you know. You can see the
past, the present and the future in one city. You can go into the wildest
woods, and you can find the most futuristic setting. Chinese food is good,
also. I like the general hospitality and curiosity of the people.
I don’t really want to give
3 things I don’t like. I would say this is an advice. I generally don’t have
don’t likes. I don’t see things as black and white- it’s like a person; there
are never only one or two sides of a person. A person is so complex, so is the
world we live in. But I would say there are some challenges.
I think a lot of people work
too much. An advice is to find something other than work in life. I know many
of them do it because they have to, or
they are required to do but now there is a bigger and bigger group that doesn’t
have to work so much.
Another challenge that the
country needs to deal with is its pollution, which is now spreading all over
China. This is a challenge which both Chinese and people coming to China need
to collaborate to solve, instead of just saying they don’t like it. The Chinese
society also has the challenge of making people care about others. If they would
care more about human life and care less about money, it could be a nice thing.
I guess this is valid for the whole world actually.
A Pizza Hut on Nanjing Road of in Chinese city, Shanghai| Photo: Ole Bendik Kvisberg;
Building bridges with culture and arts
You also work with an organization called
Kulturtolk. How does Kulturtolk work? What kind of people or entities do you
help or cooperate? In which areas do you operate?
I have come back from China to Norway in 2009,
and I was introduced to Kulturtolk by a friend. We found we have many points in
common and I started work with them. In Kulturtolk, we do workshops on
international group building, culture building, teamwork, etc. We have
customers from Norwegian companies and organizations like University of Oslo,
Oslo Chamber of Commerce to international companies like ABB, veritas, Statoil
and many others. Sometimes we teach new
international employees how to integrate in Norway. Sometimes we work on cases about
China, India, South America, Africa and Europe. Integration, Intercultural management, human
resources, team building and communications are main areas of Kulturtolk.
What do you think about the sour relationship
between China and Norway? What should be done to rebuild the bridges? What’s
your perception as a person who can evaluate the issues from both sides?
I think using culture and arts
to build bridges is a good idea. I work with various kinds of artistic collaboration
in addition to my work with Kulturtolk. We focus on culture, because culture
and arts are all about people. Doing cultural collaboration is a way of getting
people together, and it’s also good to show this significant ideal to the
audiences of both China and Norway. In a sense,
it can be used as a functional tool to bring both groups of people, and
two nations together.
Any advice for Norwegians who want to know
about China and the world?
Now we are in a time when
it is very easy to get online information which stimulates your interest, but
going to a place and experiencing it physically is completely different. You can
go there for leisure But if you are interested in doing something more, the
most important thing is to have good people with you.
East Nanjing Road, Shanghai. The bustling pedestrian street is full of
tourists, scam artists, families, prostitutes, salesmen, foreigners, beggars,
and photographers. Photo: Khalid Albaih
Modern Borderless Nomad
You seem to have explored the world in a way filled
with interesting journeys after high school, traveling around the world, how do
you feel about this lifestyle? Has it changed over the years? What are the most
interesting things in your life today?
When I look at my life now,
there seems to be a lot of similarities with my past. But now I’m moving around
the world more related to different specific projects, then only traveling, and
finding ways of sustaining my movements.
Maybe it’s true that it is
a lifestyle. It’s a little bit like I am a modern borderless nomad. More and
more people now realize there are too much emphasis on national borders. Actually, we can have different bases. We can
feel at home in more than one place.
My own life is very
interesting. Now I’m sitting outside and doing an interview with you and I will
go back to my other work later. You know life in general is very interesting,
so unlimited!.. and there are so many opportunities which we can makes use of
it if we are aware of this fact. Actually just being aware of this is even fantastic
Do you feel deeply rooted in Norwegian culture?
Do you find a culture you feel most close to? How do you perceive “culture”?
I feel at home in many
places. When I try to tell myself I’m Norwegian and I use that expression, I
don’t really get too much feeling. When I tell myself I’m Chinese, I don’t get
too much feeling either. When I’m in Norway, I feel local. When I’m in China, I
feel local. When I’m in Sweden, I feel local. When I’m here in Austria, I also
feel local. There are differences, but in the differences there are similarities
also. Maybe it seems too big to me, when I try to tell myself that I am certain
nationality, as the whole of that in away is the sum of all experiences of all
people in that country.
So, the borders for me are somewhat
artificial. “Borders” are creating so many unnecessary conflicts and
differences. Culture is more like melting into each other. If we look at countries,
they are all divided. But through culture, they are more connected. While
countries’ boundaries divide people, culture keeps humans together.
In the future, it’s most
certainly going to be different, exactly it is difficult to say how. We don’t
have to repeat history as human beings, all the hierarchical ways we have seen
in the past can be reinvented and come out as something else we believe in.
We do not have to do it
again in the same way we did before, because we are humans with big potential, very
adaptive and clever enough to understand what is good for all of us.
While doing this, it important
for the people and for the world to collaborate, because we share a limited
amount of resources. This is kind of a common border or namely common limit we
There are a lot of interaction going on in the
world right now, mainly by commercial activities. This will probably increase a
more human centered understanding. But to make sure that happens, there needs
to be a balance and we need to have a long term focus. Short term ego-centric
profit is obviously outdated.
Now it is high time to act
quickly on this new path with a broader focus, and to be constructive.
There is a
documentary about Øyvind Aamot’s loss of memory due to amnesia. the name of the
documentary is Hunting Down Memory
(Norwegian: Jakten på hukommelsen). Film blog: jaktenpaahukommelsen2009.blogspot.no