David: Life in Norway
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Oslo, etc.
I was bored with my desk job and life in general back in the UK. With very few ties, I decided I needed to make a substantial change before I hit 30. So at the start of 2011 I began looking for work overseas and was lucky enough to have three options – Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and Norway – three very different places! I chose Norway partly for the job, but mainly for the quality of life and to learn more about Scandinavian culture.
The job I moved here for was very similar to the work I was doing back in the UK, so the change was more for the lifestyle than anything else. Over a year later, I’m loving life here :)
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
My blog www.lifeinnorway.net began as a personal journal for family and friends, to save me from writing the same emails over and over again! It stayed this way for about six months, when I began to attract a wider audience. A mix of fellow expats, people interested in Scandinavian culture and most interestingly, native Norwegians fascinated at how an outsider views their society. I began changing my style of writing to cater for the new wider audience.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I love hitting the pause button and reflecting back. 26 Things I Learned From a Year in Norway was fun to write, brought back a lot of memories (even from just a year!) and was shared extensively on social media by all sorts of people.
More recently I’ve launched a series of interviews with interesting people I meet. The first two were with Oslo coffee guru Tim Wendleboe and the folks at Startup Norway – again, both were fun to put together and extremely popular!
Tell us about the ways your new life in Oslo differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
There are many similarities between the UK and Norway, but that just makes the differences even more noticeable! The working culture is more informal with earlier starts, earlier lunch and earlier finishes.
Life in winter is noticeably different due to the weather conditions. The cities appear lifeless at weekends as so many people head to the hills and spend all day cross-country skiing between cabins.
What helped dilute any culture-shock was the ease of communication, as everyone speaks English to a high standard. So if you do find yourself confused, finding help is no problem.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Oslo? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I had very little time to prepare as the opportunity, decision and move all happened very quickly. In some ways this was a great thing, as it forced me to throw myself headfirst into a new culture. I was lucky to know some people living in Oslo and stayed in their spare room for a month, saving me a massive expense and giving me time to look for my own place.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Yes plenty, normally involving alcohol mixed with the Norwegian language! There was one night I built up the confidence to chat to someone in Norwegian only for their perplexed expression to make me realise I was speaking German, a language I hadn’t spoken in ten years!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Oslo?
- Norway is an expensive country to live in, but it’s even more expensive to move to. If you’re not moving here on an expat package, bring a sizeable moving fund with you.
- Pick up a local SIM card as soon as you arrive, even at the airport! A local phone number is essential for many services, not to mention cheaper for you. You can convert to a contract once you are settled.
- Set aside some time in your first few weeks to explore your area. The sooner you understand where you closest shops, bus stops, schools, supermarkets, bars, libraries, hospitals, and doctors are, the sooner you will feel comfortable.
How is the expat community in Oslo? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The money of the oil industry attracts vast numbers of expats, many on short-term contracts. In my experience this group is more likely to stick together and not really involve themselves in Norwegian society.
Others, including those in the oil industry who have made Norway their home, are far more open to immersing themselves in the language and making local friends.
Expats are active on social media, with several groups to be found on Facebook, for example.
How would you summarize your expat life in Oslo in a single, catchy sentence?
It has been a challenge, but changed my life for the better!