After the terrible city fire that razed Oslo in August 1624, King Christian IV proclaimed that the new city would be rebuilt near Akershus Castle Fortress. He also decided that it would be best to segregate the rich and the poor into different areas on opposite sides of the city.
The West End evolved from the commons area west of the Castle Fortress and belonged to the wealthier classes of society. The East End developed around new industries, especially along the Akerselva River, and the corridors to the east were inhabited by the working class. By the 1890s, the divide was very prominent indeed.
This division has had a greater impact on the city than King Christian IV could ever have foreseen. Over the centuries, this division of rich and poor has led to a polarisation or perception of disparity that is reproduced on the East End and the West End to this day.
The story is told through two groups of teen girls from opposite sides of the city. What is it really like to grow up in Oslo today? How do young people deal with the class distinction in the city? What prejudices exist? Why do we think we are different? Are we as different as we think we are?
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE EASTSIDE
“When I take an honest look at what I think about different things, when I think about my prejudices, I must admit that they do, in fact, exist. Girls from the East End might be described as what I should not call tacky, although that is actually what I think. Mind you, that is just my impression. For example, on the 17th of May (Norway’s Constitution Day), they wear these short dresses. They wear very heavy make-up and exten-sions, all very overstated. At that point, it strikes me that she couldn’t live in this area, because when things look that fake, you tend to look down on them. You are not pretty, when it is obviously make-up that makes you look nice. Ouch, this makes me sound downright nasty.”
Emilie, age 18, from Ullern on the West End, about her prejudices with regard to girls from the East End.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE WESTSIDE
“I automatically get a picture in my mind of long, straight, blond hair, a Michael Kors or Louis Vuitton handbag hanging casually on an arm, Uggs and pink Juicy Couture sweatpants. They talk as though they are better than the people they are talking to. I assume that they are talking about hair, make-up, clothes, money and parties. I think they have a very superficial attitude to money because they have never had to work for it. They get everything they want, and they are very spoiled. They act like they know it all, I mean, they think they know everything in the world, but they don’t really. They have weird morals, putting material things ahead of what is really important.”
Connie, age 18, from Rødtvedt on the East End, about her prejudices with regard to girls from the West End.