Whitney: Thanks for the Food
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Norway, etc.
My name is Whitney and I an originally from Tucson, Arizona. I was actually born in Kansas but moved to Arizona with my parents before my first birthday, so Arizona is home. My journey to Norway is an interesting one, but I moved here in 2007 after 2 years of living in northern Germany and a few months in Vienna and Prague.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging right after I first came to Norway but stopped after my then boyfriend and I broke up. I started my food blog, Thanks For The Food in 2009 and have never looked back. I can say that blogging, and food blogging especially, has changed my life in many (positive) ways. I wouldn’t be where I am today professionally speaking without having started my blog in 2009. I almost decided to quit in 2011, but didn’t and I am very happy about that.
Due to my experiences as a food blogger, I’ve recently started my own online marketing and copywriting consultancy firm in Stavanger. My firm is called digital [w]ord and is stylized as such to show a play on terms in Norwegian and English. Digital refers to the online nature of the marketing channel while word and ord (the Norwegian term for "word") communicate what my work will focus on in the digital community.
digital [w]ord is my attempt to more formally share the knowledge I have gained in the last 3 years through running my food blog, share the knowledge I have gained whilst writing and researching my MBA Dissertation on social media marketing and share the knowledge I have gained whilst completing various projects on my MBA course in regards to running a competitive venture.
I would not be where I am today with owning my own firm had I not started as a food blogger in 2009.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have a few blog entries that I am especially fond of, but my favorites are the ones I did to document my time as a jury member at the Gladmat food festival, in July 2012. Gladmat is one of, if not the, largest food festival in Scandinavia. Being able to join Gladmat as a festival juror was an honor. During the Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting Eyvind Hellstrøm, not once but twice. I was completely star struck since he is the most famous chef in Norway and one of the most known chefs in the world as he is a former president and occasional judge of the Bocuse d'Or.
Being a Gladmat juror really made me feel like I was a part of the city of Stavanger and reminded me why I have chosen to make Stavanger my home during this time in my life.
Here are some links:
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?
Generally speaking everything is different – and everything is the same. Arizona and Norway are complete opposites in terms of weather conditions, the outdoors and scenery and from a cultural perspective. But, having said that, day-to-day, there are a lot of similarities. I still have my daily routines like going to work, enjoying leisure activities and going to the gym.
Norway was a lot easier to get used to than Germany. Germany was very difficult for a variety of reasons, but looking back, I am ever so thankful for that time because it prepared me for Norway. It took me a few years though to let Germany go and really experience Norway for Norway so to speak – but I am glad that I did.
I have to say however, having lived outside of the US since 2005 – nearly 8 years now – I can say without a doubt what has made a difference for me was learning to manage my own expectations, being kind to myself and those around me, showing gratitude for all opportunities – no matter how small and spending time developing my hobbies.
I suppose one finds their own path to a “new normal” over time, without a magic cure for things like homesickness, loneliness and various waves of culture shock, but those of course take time and a lot of effort to manage through. Learning to make my favorite Mexican dishes helped me considerably – especially during the long and cold winters.
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 wasn’t fully prepared. Not even close but I think I was better prepared since I had lived in Germany for two years prior. Germany very much prepared me for life in Norway regarding work, accommodation and visa issues as well as things like making friends in my new city and dealing with waning connections from my old. Norway therefore wasn’t as much of a shock as it would have been had I come straight from the U.S. but I still wasn’t fully prepared.
When I moved to Norway in 2007, I had already taken 6 months of Norwegian courses which really helped when I was looking for jobs and in day-to-day life. If one plans on moving to Norway or anywhere else, making an investment in language classes is always worthwhile. In general however, I’m very doubtful that there is ever a way to be 100% prepared for a move. My advice? Do your best and take things as they come.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I have had many – probably more than my fair share and most involving snow, hiking or outdoors activities (lol). During my first wintertime mountain cabin trip I blurted out “Whoa – real skis!!” in front of a group of Norwegian colleagues since I of course had never seen a pair on human feet (in the snow) before. Pretty embarrassing!
Also, I went skiing last winter for the first time and I think several of my colleagues had a great time laughing at/with me as I tried to put my snow boots on.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Norway?
- Try not to take things personally. Manage your own expectations in terms of social concepts such as courtesy, friendliness and humor. Norwegians get a bad wrap as being “cold”, but really they are very endearing and curious about people from other places. Let the best parts of you show through and have a sense of humor when culture clashes occur.
- Knowledge is power. Do your research about the local area and about the country.
- Learn some of the local language before you arrive. Please, thank you and knowing how to count can get you very far in your first weeks.
How is the expat community in Norway? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
My experiences here in Stavanger have been plentiful as there are several expats here from all over the world due to the oil and gas sectors. I’ve had a relatively easy time here compared to northern Germany and Vienna, Austria due to the sheer number of expats in Stavanger. I have to say as well however, that I have really made an effort to meet people and make friends too. If you want to meet people and have a social life as an expat, be prepared to try new ways to meet people and make connections.
How would you summarize your expat life in Norway in a single, catchy sentence?
As the locals say “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Considering the annual rainfall figures in Stavanger, I think that may in fact, be true.