I recently went home to my beloved Chicago to celebrate my birthday and was immediately reminded of all that I missed about America.
I had a few free hours after sleeping off my jet lag and instead of exploring my city, getting a manipedi, or catching up with friends, I spent it sitting at Starbucks, writing and watching. Honestly, I couldn’t have been happier. Everyone around me was speaking English (and American English at that!) I had small talk with three strangers and exchanged smiles with countless others.
The friendliness among strangers isn’t the only thing that I miss about America, and at the suggestion of Go West Young Mom, here’s a list of the Top Five Things I miss about the states now that I live in Norway.
America is known for its convenience, I couldn’t imagine just how convenient the US was until those luxuries were no longer there. Need to buy eggs, a kid’s birthday gift and tampons at 3 a.m.? It’s not a problem! I miss 24-hour stores and having shops open on Sunday. By law most stores are closed on Sundays in Norway, so you’ve gotta plan accordingly. There’s a handful of QuickShop type spots that are open, but it just ain’t the same.
Also under the category of convenience is the fast food options. I’m not talking about McDonald’s and that kind of crap, but healthy and fresh quality food at a decent price. Can I get some Freshii, Roti or a soup/salad combo from Panera Bread?
Sure this could go under the convenience category, but let’s be honest Target is so, so much more. Each time I go there, I swear I hear angels singing when the doors whoosh open and I nearly weep with joy at the big red sign.
The best is getting the popcorn and drink combo, propping it up in the cart and enjoying salty goodness while I peruse the aisles dreaming about what I should get, what I can’t get but want, and most important, what can fit in the suitcase home.
3. Talking to strangers
Norwegians are pretty insular, so there’s not so much small talk with people you don’t know. It’s that Norwegian practicality, why would you bother to talk with someone you don’t know? If you’re in the grocery store, you shop for groceries; on the bus, you ride the bus; at a coffee shop? Drink your coffee and if you must talk, make sure it’s someone that you know.
When I’m grumpy, this is admittedly quite awesome, but it’s different than what I’m used to. Growing up in Kansas, in the small towns you even greeted people in passing cars. It might not be a full-on wave, just a head-nod or lifting of the index finger, but there was acknowledgement of your existence.
Hubby and I walk our boys to school each morning and as usual, I would say “hi” to the people we’d meet along the way. Most adults would give me a “Do I know you?” look and kids would flash a hesitant smile. One time I said hi to a young girl walking nearby and she looked at me like I was driving a kidnapper van and had just asked her if she wanted to see my new puppies.
I then tamped down on my “hellos.” A few weeks later, it was clear that I couldn’t keep my inner Wal-Mart greeter bottled up anymore and I began saying good morning to strangers in Norwegian: “God morgen!” The locals seemingly got used to it. Or I stopped caring, not sure which.
4. Flavorful food
There’s a reason Norway isn’t known for its fantastic food. Generally speaking, Norwegians in their utmost practical ways, food is seen as fuel. It needn’t be fancy or flavorful, it just needs to get the job done. Of course times have changed and you can get modern, tasty twists on traditional Norwegian food, but many times, it’s still really bland. My friends here will often refer to a food as “spicy” when it’s only got a shake or two of pepper. Even the Indian restaurants’ “hot” dishes are mild at best. I once saw a Norwegian sprinkle Tabasco sauce on his eggs and I nearly hugged him. I refrained because, of course, I refer you to No. 3.
5. My tribe
Good lawd I miss my friends and family, which is only natural, but I also miss how easy it is to make friends in the States. People are more open to my quirky personality and zany ways. Like one of my besties once said: “Coffee can make friends with a can of paint.” And she’s right.
It’s not that the Norwegians are mean, they are simply more reserved, so they don’t always know what to do with my whackadosciousness. (But who does?) When we first moved here, many people looked at me like I had dementia, but now they’re warming up. Kinda like you do with the neighborhood cat lady… who probably also has dementia. Regardless it’s been over a year and I’m finally beginning to crack the friend-making code.
Although living in Norway has tons of positives, Dorothy was so right when she said “There’s no place like home.”