This post has been a long time coming, but I’ve moved to Oslo, Norway. Why a long time coming? Well, I’ve been here off and on since November of 2011.
How I got here is a rather long story, but let’s just say the opportunity arose, and I jumped on it.
Welcome to Norway…
I’ve grown up in various climates. When I was a kid, I lived in snowy Tonapah, Nevada. Then I moved to the very tropical and humid climate of the Philippines. From there, I moved to the rather dry heat of Las Vegas, Nevada, before eventually moving in with my dad to the uber-cold Fairbanks, Alaska.
From Fairbanks came Colorado, and then Colorado, to Phoenix, Arizona.
In summary, I’ve pretty much lived in every climate imaginable (aside from the horrid heat my sister described in Iraq).
So when I got to Norway, I assumed I could take it. And take it I did. It was frigid cold, and even the locals said, “Oh, this is the warmest winter we’ve had in recent memory.” Suck it. Seriously.
I was put up in a hotel for my first month, and hoped for the best.
I was so jet-lagged from my trip that my first day in the office, I actually fell asleep on one of their couches. I was then informed that I would have to figure out how to take the public transport from my hotel to the office.
The Public Transport
I’m not a true virgin of public transport. My entire time in Phoenix and Las Vegas, I rode the public busses religiously. What I wasn’t accustomed to was the overall breadth of the transportation system. Oslo has trams, busses, the metro (what we know as the subway or city train), and ferries.
The transportation system was so hard for me to learn at first because:
- I wasn’t familiar with the language (I had about 4 days notice to coming to Norway initially)
- I wasn’t familiar with the address system.
- I wasn’t familiar with the city.
Add in the fact that I’m not that adventurous of a person and I hate getting lost… well, let’s just say my first day figuring out the transport system was a bit of trial and error. I eventually made it back to work, and that evening, I eventually made it back to the hotel.
One of the more memorable moments was when I reached my stop near the hotel and I tried to get off the metro. I just stood at the door and stared, waving my hands trying to get the door open. Finally, someone said, in English, “Press the button.” And push the button I did, followed by an awkward exit from the “tube”.
As I mentioned previously, I’ve lived in all kinds of climates, so of course I thought Norway would be a piece of cake. Yeah, what I didn’t take into account was the amount of walking culture Norway (and probably all of Europe) has. When it’s cold and icy, it’s just common to hunker down and take some kind of vehicle to where you’re going. Not so here.
You walk to the transport. Wait. Freeze. Wait some more. Freeze some more. And then get on the transport. And freeze some more inside. And then when you get to your stop, you get off. Freeze further. And finally, when you get to your destination, it might be tolerable enough inside to not need a jacket. I don’t think I was ever warm the entire time I was in Norway in November/December.
I specifically remember when I went back to the states to visit my family in December, that the plane was uncomfortably warm. I thought to myself, “Hmmm, this is uncomfortable. But at least I’m not cold.”
That being said, I was very under-dressed when I initially came to Norway. In Norway, there’s a saying that more-or-less goes, “There’s never bad weather. Just inadequate clothing.” So true in my case. I had summer shoes, a fleece jacket, and a glorified rain coat. It kept me warm. Scratch that. It kept me from freezing to death.
When I came back in January, I came back with proper winter boots, ear muffs, a scarf, and a warm winter jacket. Problem solved.
I did my first bit of grocery shopping a few days after I landed in Oslo in November. Stores in general are closed on Sunday, which I didn’t realize at first.
It’s a good idea to grocery shop because the restaurants are crazy expensive (think $20 for a cheap meal, and $60 for a reasonable one).
The stores are a lot smaller than American supermarkets, with a more conservative selection, and definitely no medical-related products (you have to go to a separate pharmacy for those).
I struggled for the loooongest time to find anything I might find edible. It was very difficult, and me being a rather picky eater, I would rather starve than be adventurous with my food. I also couldn’t force myself to spend $10 USD on a container of questionable peanut butter, but I eventually got over that (the peanut butter here is actually quite good).
Eventually I learned that you had to go to the more specialty shops to get the foods you wanted. Want produce? Go to a produce shop. Want asian food? Go to an asian shop. It’s just the way it works here.
After returning in January, I moved into my first apartment with my flatmate Ryan (who is from New Zealand). The apartment was a lot bigger than I expected, but there were a few things that I wasn’t quite used to.
First, the restrooms (aka, the toilet). I’m not used to, nor do I think I will ever get used to, a shower that shares the same floor as the rest of the restroom. Think of a floor with a drain, and a water spout over the drain with a glass wall that semi-protects the rest of the floor from getting wet. Weird, right? Nope, that’s normal here.
The toilets are designed differently as well, which isn’t really a bad thing. They never get stopped up like the ones in the states. It’s hard to find anyone here that even knows what a plunger is. “Isn’t that something a plumber uses?”
The second thing I noticed was the lack of a clothes dryer. Most people I know here hang their clothes up to dry on what my flatmate calls a “clothes horse”.
When he and I bought one at a local mall, he nonchalantly said to me, “I’ll call you retarded if you can’t figure this out.”
And after calling me retarded, he patiently showed me how to hang up my clothes properly on the contraption.
The last thing I had to get used to was the hardwood floors. No carpet, as I am used to in the states through my apartment living. I never realized how dirty a floor could get, which makes you wonder how much shit is actually in a carpet. Gross.
Work culture was something, thankfully, that I didn’t have too much culture shock from. The people at my work are very laid back, very hardworking, and very intelligent people.
My work is the reason I’m here, so I better like it, right?
We usually have beer-Friday’s, where we sit around sometimes after work and enjoy a few beers from the beer fridge.
And now that spring/summer is here, my co-workers and I hang out and have a few beers in the park on occasion.
I come from a southern hospitality region of the United States. It’s where everyone talks to everyone, people open doors for others, people smile and greet each other in the streets, etc.
If you smile at someone in the street here, you’ll get a dirty look at best. It’s just not that type of culture. People are trying to get from point a to point b, especially when it’s butt-ass cold outside.
It’s definitely not one of my strengths to be able to break into conversation with anyone, even in English, so it’s been a challenge for me to try to engage in conversations with Norwegians, who may or may not speak English very well (for the most part, however, Norwegians do speak very good English).
Norwegians love the weather, good or bad. In the winter, they’re cross-country skiing, running (on ice!), skating, sledding, skiing, camping, climbing, and various other activities you wouldn’t catch me dead doing (seriously, if I tried skating, I might as well bring a coffin with me). In the summer, it’s swimming, barbecuing in the park, sitting in the sun having a beer (which I thought was stupid at first, but really awesome), and otherwise just enjoying the nice and rare moments of blissful weather.
I still have a lot to learn as far as the culture and language goes, but I’m always pleasantly surprised.
I’ve only been to Oslo, honestly, but so far, my impression of Norway is very warm (no weather reference intended). I’ve been debating how long I’ll be here ever since I got here (the cold ass weather will do that to you), but I’ve really grown to like the culture, people, country, and (gasp), climate.