Emily: Three Minutes Of Apricity
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Norway, etc.
My name is Emily. I’m a mid-20s Australian who moved to Oslo in March 2013. Like so many expats here I came chasing a partner, but in my case it was a fellow Aussie and not a Nordmann who pulled me literally as far across the globe as you can go without going back the other direction.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’d thought about blogging right from the get-go, but lived in Oslo for three months before I actually got started. I’d worked as a TV and radio journalist at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and I missed writing so much. I was studying norsk but having no luck cracking the job market: it’s tough to work in journalism and communications when you cannot actually communicate. I’ve since learned from fellow non-engineer/IT/accountant expats that it often takes about two years of language practice to land professional work. This blog’s not going anywhere for a while, then…
While there are already some great blogs about Oslo, I was still struggling to scratch the city’s surface. I wanted to know where the Weegies eat, cool places to shop that aren’t part of a global conglomerate, or where to find locally-designed gifts to send home for birthdays. How do I explore the city’s northern forests like a local? Where can I learn to cross-country ski while limiting my risk of death? What’s a hytte tur? Where can I see a moose? Why can’t any of your blogs tell me this? Long story short: I found a niche.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Towards the end of August, some friends and I travelled to Jotunheimen National Park to hike Besseggen. Apparently it’s the most popular trail in Scandinavia. Fair call: it was breathtaking. It was also terrifying. My Besseggen blog post is my favourite so far.
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?
Adjusting to life in Norway was a strange process, in that Oslo felt totally alien but also quite like home at the same time. First of all, there’s about a 40 degree celsius temperature difference between Norway and Australia in early March. I don’t know how to walk in snow. I can’t recognise a treacherous ice patch. The wind was slicing my face in half. Why are you all packed in the doorway when there’s a whole tram to spread out in? Why won’t anyone make eye contact on the train, but happily hold in-depth conversations with strangers out in the forest? Yet like my home in Tasmania, Oslo is a small city, it’s easy to run into people you know, the air’s fresh and the water’s clean, the landscape is stunning and the people are wonderful once you get to know them.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Norway? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
There is no way I was fully prepared for Norway life. For starters, I thought my law degree and broadcast news experience made me highly employable. If the courteous job rejections include feedback, they always say I need fluent Norwegian. I wish I’d started learning before I moved.
I would have saved much, much more money if I’d known it’d be so hard to get professional work.
I wouldn’t have brought so many corporate clothes! Apart from the obvious issue of my being unemployed, you don’t need suits here. For the most part, the Norwegian working environment is super casual.
I should have set up a Norwegian bank account as soon as I arrived. Financially, the Australian dollar was very strong then and the exchange rate was good. Personally, it would’ve saved the embarrassment of being stranded mid-transaction in random places that won’t take international cards, like the national Posten offices.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Eating in Norway can be something of an adventure. Be wary of west coast menus that feature traditional peasant-style dishes Google Translate doesn’t recognize. You look like less of a goose asking the waitress when you order, than asking when she places a steaming pile of horsemeat or lard-boiled potato dumplings in front of you.
I don’t eat seafood, which did not go down well in the Lofoten Islands. This breathtaking Arctic Circle archipelago is dependent on cod fishing and tourism for its livelihood. Every single menu was 98% fish, 2% meat. The meat options were lamb… and whale.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Norway?
- Don’t buy a coat before you get here. It won’t be warm enough.
- The Norwegian bureaucracy is insane. Insane. For a country that has got it together in so many ways, trying to get the correct tax/employment/immigration etc information is nigh on impossible. Make sure you note down the information you’re given and the name of the person you dealt with, because odds are the next person you speak to will tell you something totally different. I’m not even exaggerating. I know of no single person who has ever walked into a Norwegian government office and had a clear, straightforward experience. I do however know of someone who got married after she was incorrectly told it was the only way to secure a personal ID number. Get to the office/torture chamber at 9am, and be prepared to lose your entire morning.
- Get outdoors. That’s the real Norway, and the fjords, mountains and forests will blow your mind. Norwegians (particularly from Oslo) can be a little reserved and stand-offish with strangers, but meet one on a bike or ski trail and you’ll be BFFs.
How is the expat community in Norway? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I was so lucky, because my partner had been here for two years and already had a wide circle of friends. It’s an odd mix of expat colleagues, people who know people who you know from home, someone who’s dating someone, someone who used to be dating someone, someone we met at a gig. Six degrees of separation and all that.
How would you summarize your expat life in Norway in a single, catchy sentence?
Norway is a land that can’t be put down in words or captured on camera – it has to be breathed in.