Gisele: An Expat's Norway
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Norway, etc.
I am a French-Salvadorian living in Oslo since 2006. Love brought me here, and Norway’s way of life convinced me to stay. I work as an IT Consultant and in my spare time I love working out, baking but most of all learning and writing about cultural topics, especially adaptation.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging about my life in Norway a couple of years ago, when I wrote my first article about raising a child in a cultural setting different than your own.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I am always tempted to edit any old posts I read again. With each post I learn and try to write better, but of course some of them I’ve enjoyed writing more than others. Here are a few examples:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Norway differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Once the honeymoon is over and the dust from your arrival begins to settle down, you see things from a new perspective. I must say I underestimated how challenging adaptation can be, because I never really thought about it. I never realized that my attitude at work could sometimes be misleading and wrongly interpreted. I started becoming conscious about it when I got feedback about my communication style.
It is difficult to realize these things in Norway because it is a non-confronting culture where you can do many things “wrong” without anybody telling you anything. On the other hand, this is what enabled me to adapt, interestingly enough. Thanks to people not correcting me all the time, I gathered the courage to speak Norwegian even though I was far from fluent. I was also relaxed and ok with being myself and still felt (and feel) like a part of the group, not the “exotic Latin chick” who doesn’t have a clue.
I am still discovering and learning about new aspects of the Norwegian culture as a resident, a mother, a wife, a tax payer, a professional, a friend, etc. That is what I love about being an expat!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Norway? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was not prepared at all when I came to Norway. I read no blogs or tourist sites. I only had my boyfriend’s stories and insight as a native. I trusted our relationship, my instincts and my capacity to move on if the first 2 went wrong.
I had only been to Norway once, during Christmas holidays. My now father-in-law invited me to come back but I had other plans. I did not know at the time that I would be moving indefinitely to Norway the following summer.
I would not change a thing in my decision-making process. I don’t think you can make yourself a genuine opinion before you try something out. I am aware it is not always possible. I was on my own. There was not much at stake and I could allow myself to take big risks at the time. If I had had children, I would have investigated Norway a bit more.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
So many! Seeing a couple of butt-cheeks swimming in a nudist beach in the Oslo Fjord; trying to ski and not getting further than the parking lot; blurting out a great idea at a work meeting only to realize the person next to me had just said the same thing…
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Norway?
- Try to live in the city so that you don’t feel isolated. If you like nature, it is within reach, you don’t need to move to the outskirts for that. In order to get to know people and build your network, it’s best to live in the city at least at the beginning.
- Learn Norwegian even if you already have a job. It will open doors later if you want to stay. The language is more than a communication tool. It is the best way to understand the culture and make your first friends at school.
- Figure out what networks are out there that you could join: InterNations, Toastmasters, Facebook groups, etc. You can also find out through your embassy/consulate if there is one. And of course, don’t forget reading blogs from people who already live in Norway!
How is the expat community in Norway? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
In Oslo, there is an ever-growing and very social expat community. I had no trouble at all making friends. They are expats and foreigners for the most part, but I have also made Norwegian friends at work.
Making friends and meeting new people depends a lot on your personality though. Someone more introverted than me might take a longer time to build a network, but there are plenty of resources. “90% of the job is showing up” as Woody Allen would say.
How would you summarize your expat life in Norway in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in Norway is like being inside a changing snow globe with snowy-white Christmases, bright summers with juicy strawberries and harmless newspaper headlines!