Many people have asked me what life is like in Norway, such a simple question with a complex and ever-evolving answer. This the first in an occasional series about my adjustment to life in Norway.
The First Month
When we arrived in Norway, I think it’s fair to say that we were a bit in shock. My husband and I have been hoping to make this move since before we were married and then, BAM! Here it was, here we were, in the land of the midnight sun.
At first it felt like one really long vacation. Over the past 16 years, I’ve visited Norway several times, usually for a week or so at a time. However by the end of our first month here, I started to get that uncomfortable itching in your soul that you get when you’ve stayed somewhere too long. It was time to go back home. However, I had to keep telling myself that this is no vacation, it’s the new normal and I’ve gotta suck it up.
The language is new, people’s temperaments are different, which can be confusing, and doing everyday things such as going to the grocery store, shipping a package, getting gas are all foreign and you gotta figure out how to do them the Norwegian way.
Another challenge has been the food. Norwegians aren’t historically known for their fantastic cuisine. In their exceedingly practical culture, food is fuel. So a lot of the traditional meals are focused on keeping people alive, not really enjoying the food. I mean traditional dishes are lye-soaked cod, minced fish balls, and fårikål, which is cabbage and mutton stew.
As far as everyday food, there’s a lot of open-faced sandwiches, tons of lunch meat, hot dogs, bread with various spreads that are different kinds of pâtés. Every morning Hubby’s breakfast smells horrible to me. One of his favorite spreads is this mackerel and tomato combination. Think of diced sardines and crushed tomatoes in a can. He also loves sylte, which is a head cheese, meaning it’s meat and fat from the pig’s head. Delish.
I’m a closeted finicky eater. I love food and quite a variety, but there’s also a fair amount of stuff that I won’t eat. Unfortunately my kids seem to take after me and finding food that they will eat here has been a chore. Thankfully we’ve got hot dogs, yogurt, bacon, fruit and carrots, not to mention a slew of new things to try.
It’s clear that fitness and being healthy is a big priority here. People are always out walking, running, biking, or roller skiing. It’s inspiring! They also wear workout gear a lot. I’m not talking about yoga pants like we do in the States, but spandexy, wick-away clothes. It’s almost as if Norwegians want to always be prepared in case there’s an opportunity that arises for them to get in an extra workout.
Of course Hubby and I feel like the stereotypical fat Americans, but hey, that’s changing. Slowly but surely. (…she writes as she takes another bite of yummy Norwegian brown cheese.)
Sense of Being
One of the biggest differences between the States and Norway is that here there’s a sense of being truly present in the moment that is much harder to achieve in the US. There’s space to spend quality time with friends and family. Life’s pace is slower, and not a sleepy-American-town type of slow, but a purposeful one. People take their time to enjoy each other and have honest conversations. I say honest because when you ask friends how they’re doing, they don’t gloss over everything and say things are “fine” unless they are indeed fine.
If there’s a problem with their job, they tell you. Frustration with their kids? You talk about it. It’s not complaining, it’s just open and frank conversation. And when there’s good news, you talk about it without concern that you’re bragging. Again, it’s just open and frank talk.
Plus these aren’t always your close friends, it’s just the stark honesty in which Norwegians tend to communicate. And frankly, it’s a nice refreshing change.