1. You will never be able to eat strawberries and raspberries from anywhere else in the world again. This is a fact. Norwegian berries are so good that I indulge in the 3 months we can get them and can’t stomach imported ones the remainder of the year. So I basically only eat berries for 3 months a year. In fact, since I’m spending so little time in Norway this summer… this has become a major concern of mine. I am hoping to indulge hardcore once I return.
2. Pick and choose your friends wisely here. As in, don’t hang out with Negative Nancys. The attitudes of the people you choose to hang out with from an expat perspective really are contagious and the more negative the people you hang out with, the more negative your expat experience will become. It is also good to make some Norwegian friends. While they are much harder to get to know and befriend, they can teach you so much about the language and culture that you can not get from other expats. I am lucky to have a good mix of friends here and have been able to learn a lot from every single one of them!
3. Careful on the bread and potatoes! This country is a haven for fatty meats, heavy (yet ridiculously delicious) bread, and carbs galore. Try to keep your eating habits in line with how you ate in your previous country and slowly ween from that if you’re trying to change your eating habits. Gaining the ‘expat 15’ is inevitable otherwise. (In my case…it was an expat 30!) I actually thought I’d lose weight moving here because Norwegians are more active than Americans. Well… I was very wrong.
4. You’re going to have mental breakdowns. The amount of these may vary person to person… but they will happen. Norway is not as friendly, has horrible customer service, and the weather leaves something to be desired. BUT… while others may find take it personally, try to be the one who just chalks it up to being cultural and geographical differences. These things are normal for them.
Doesn’t make it wrong, doesn’t make it right (even though I think customer service skills should be good no matter where you’re at), just makes it different. I’ve had my fair share of mental breakdowns here and when I look back on them, most of them are because I take things too personal when I don’t feel as accomplished here as I wished I had at this point of living here. To settle these I usually do something that makes me happy, like hiking. Hiking in Norway always reminds me of how beautiful it is and how me crying over someone bumping into me without saying ‘excuse me’ is kind of petty.
5. You will learn to be a sun goddess (or god). Sun can be a rare event, but when it comes out, the parks are filled with people grilling out, playing frisbee or other games, and just enjoying the warmth and light while eating some of those delicious strawberries. I never thought I’d become one of these people. But I have. And I laugh when Norwegians say things like “How can one not love Norway when they look at the parks filled with people on a sunny day?!”. Quite frankly, we can do that almost every day where I’m from. But because you can’t in Norway… it makes it that much more special.
6. Being a native English speaker can be your best friend…or your worst enemy. Most all TV (or all TV worth watching) is American. All movies with the exception of cartoons… are in English. All Norwegians… know how to speak flawless English. So while you’ll be able to get your fill of American TV, English can also be the demise of your ability to learn Norwegian. Only if you let it, though.
When you order or speak to someone in Norwegian at a store or restaurant, they will probably answer in English. CONTINUE speaking Norwegian. I sometimes just pretend like I can’t speak English, so they are forced to speak to me in Norwegian. And then other times, usually while wearing a Penn State football t-shirt and hearing my very obvious American ‘r’s, I just give up and laugh and speak English back because it’s quite evident they know I’m a native English speaker.
7. You will learn to relax. I know the word ‘relax’ is a foreign concept for Americans. In fact, it was a word that was only in my vocabulary when I listened to 80s songs titled ‘Relax’. But I never knew what it was. In Norway, after your first trip to a ‘hytte’, or cabin, you will know this word (and the word ‘boredom’) all too well. While it may seem like a torturous event at the time…afterward you may be longing for a trip back to a place with such peace and tranquility.
If there is anything you’d like to share about what you’ve learned after moving to Norway, or just abroad in general… please feel free to share in the comments!