I’ve now officially lived in Germany for a year and a couple of months. I left Norway very abruptly and at a really difficult time in my life, and while I thought I didn’t have proper closure at the time, looking back on things now, I do realize that I had the closure I needed and left the country at the exact right time.
I’m not one to compare two countries and two cities (unless you’re talking about Astana and Almaty) as I think no two places on the planet are the same, nor do I want them to be identical. But in the back of my mind, I can’t help but compare where I live now in Frankfurt to my four years in Norway. Both have their appeals. Both have their setbacks. Just like any other place on the planet.
This is not to shame one place over another and, of course, this is just my own personal experience. In reality, I have spent more time of my life in Germany than Norway (lived here when I was younger). This list is just stuff I really miss in Norway. It doesn’t mean Germany doesn’t have the same things… it may just mean I miss the circumstances and environment behind it in Norway.
Without further ado… here are 10 things I sincerely miss from Norway – my friends excluded because they are an obvious number one (this is a very general list- maybe I’ll make a more specific one in the future!) :
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Let’s be honest, I couldn’t afford beer in Norway. The government taxes on alcohol in Norway are monumental and, in my personal opinion, drive the alcoholism and binge drinking problem that exists there today. But, in the rare event that I could afford to drink there, I could always buy a good beer. Craft beer is all the rage in the Nordics and Norway is no exception, boasting some of the best beers I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Even the mainstream beer is pretty decent. It’s all just effing expensive.
I never really appreciated the craft beer scene in Norway until moving to Germany, where it is very behind. We have some good breweries here, like Crew Republic and And Union, but the rest pale in comparison to what is happening up in Norway and Scandinavia. I have found that Germans are beer loyalists, meaning that they like to stay loyal to one beer throughout their lives and never try anything new. I guess it’s like that saying, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” I understand their philosophy, but this isn’t 1510 and let’s be fair here, the Reinheitsgebot is outdated and irrelevant in the world today. Not to say that German beer sucks because they can make a pretty solid pilsner (some much better than others), but most beer experts and enthusiasts in the world today have moved on from Germany’s beer scene and onto other ones, like the Scandinavian beer scene. How could you not with the saisons and rye IPAs coming from this area of the world?! The use of local ingredients (ie: juniper berries, etc) and innovation that goes into the craft beer scene up there is remarkable. And, quite frankly, I miss it.
<This is the craft beer section at Meny grocery store in Majorstuen in Oslo.>
When I first moved to Norway, I moaned about how inconvenient things were. I felt like I was living in the 1980s with many things. If I wanted to get four things from the shop, I would probably have to go to four different shops to do so. The immigration office and phone number just seemed disorderly and was a horrible experience.
Then I moved… to Germany. Banking is a pain here compared to up north and I still don’t understand what to do with multiple cards. The immigration office experience is the most shameful and degrading experience on the planet. I am treated like a piece of shit every time I go in there.
When you first move to Germany, you must register your address at an office. Not online, but at an office. All the way across the city. Forget credit and debit cards, most places only take cash. This took me so long to catch on to and I used to have to leave my computer as collateral at establishments while I pined around town finding an ATM. I’ve finally caught onto things.
Let’s just say, I will never call Norway inconvenient again. In fact, I miss the ease of online banking there (even my American banking isn’t nearly as streamlined of a process), among many other things.
Passive Nature of People
Hmm… this is a hard one to really explain. I guess it will begin with me saying I miss that Norwegians don’t complain. They aren’t the first to compliment, but I rarely hear them complain. Norwegians will tell you differently and say they complain a lot. But they don’t. If they have a problem with something you’re doing, they will sit back and be annoyed without ever letting you know that you are making them want to blow their brains out.
Every German will tell you that Germans love complaining. And they aren’t lying. Germans complain, complain, complain. They complain about stuff I’m not doing more than with stuff I am doing. A dog off-leash (in a leash-only zone) attacked my dog the other day and the lady bitched that my dog barked at her dog and that perpetrated the whole problem. I hardly think my little beagle instigated an attack. This instance has happened so many times.
If someone sees my dog shitting, they will yell to make sure that gets picked up, as if the black bag in my hand is going to be used for other measures. Yet, Germans rarely pick up after their dogs. They will complain about the most irrelevant stuff and I have been in arguing matches as a result. I used to live in an apartment complex where the people were horrible and complained about everything, including the races of people moving into our building. I have since moved and live in a building with 5 other families… and all five are incredible.
Nevertheless, after experiencing the constant complaining for the last year and then some, I really do miss when people take a step back and think, “Do I really need to say something that’ll make someone feel like shit today?” and then once they realize they don’t, they keep their mouths shut.
<Please quit yelling at us for no reason.>
Norway produces some great music. And while the music up there is not everyone’s cup of tea, I really enjoyed it. I loved the festivals all over the place and I really love that no matter how large a band or singer becomes internationally, they take pride in their country and always promote Norway in a positive light in the process.
I know Germany has great music, too, but I haven’t really listened to the radio here and I don’t have cable television, so I don’t know much about the scene. Maybe that is a 2016 goal…….
Clean Air and Nature
This is one a big one for me. I don’t really need to go into any explanation of what I mean by Norway having beautiful nature. I think everyone knows this. But the clean air is what I really miss. Which is odd because Bergen was the most polluted city in Europe when I first moved to Norway. Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains and the air stays stagnantly in between these mountains. The Guardian just released and article stating that Bergensers are actually the main cause of the problem due to their love of cars and log fireplaces. Not really a new discovery. But when I lived in the Bergen area, I didn’t actually live in Bergen… I lived outside of the city in Os Kommune overlooking Norway’s third largest fjord, Bjørnefjorden. The air was pristine. I later moved to Oslo and the air was certainly better than Bergen’s, but not the greatest by any stretch.
So, how do I miss clean air then? Well, accessibility to this clean air is a stone’s throw away in Norway, always. Germany’s air isn’t great, but it’s not that Germany doesn’t try… it is simply because you have 81 million people living within Germany’s borders and you have 5 million people living in Norway’s. AND… Norway is actually larger when it comes to landmass. So, of course, Germany’s air won’t be as pure. You have much more of us living here contributing to the pollution.
I sometimes will leave Frankfurt to go into the hills around here just to breathe in some cleaner air particles. That trip takes about forty-five minutes and costs like 8-10 Euros. In Norway, I could take the t-bane (metro) to these locations. It was right at your fingertips. I’m pretty certain that wherever life takes me, I’ll never have clean air that accessible again.
Something I regret not doing when in Norway was using my time there to explore more of the country and its untouched nature. Next time I am there, I am definitely going to the Lofoten Islands, Kaupang the Viking capital, and I will wander around the south a bit.
<Oh you know… just fishing in the middle of a capital city.>
<Left- somewhere up in Holmenkollen, Right- A freaking waterfall in the middle of the city center. Oslo, you’re ridiculous.>
Cafes and Coffee
I’ve always hated espresso. I still don’t claim to like it by itself. But something happened in Oslo that made me enjoy coffee a bit. Maybe it is the warmth of the cup in your hand when walking on a cold winter’s day. Maybe it is the cafe experience in general. I don’t know what it is, but I freaking miss that nowadays.
Frankfurt’s coffee scene blows. It is the worst I’ve seen in the world. Other cities in Germany have cafes and coffee, but Frankfurt seems to be the oddball out here. There is merely a handful of decent cafes here with palatable coffee. The rest of them are Viennese knockoffs serving so much foam on their coffee that you wonder what you paid for in the first place.
I often have friends visit here or people email me asking for cafe and coffee advice and I just point them to my favorite few. I, with all of my heart, hope that this scene improves over the next year or two and I can hand them over a list of twenty so they can seek out the one they enjoy the best.
But- back to Norway. I would love to be the person who says I didn’t know what I had until I no longer had it. But I knew. I worked from cafes as much as I could and just enjoyed the cozy atmosphere that cafes in Oslo (and Norway) offered.
I miss Oslo Gardemoen Airport. Weird, I know. Especially when I have one of Europe’s biggest and most frequently traveled here in Frankfurt. And I love the Frankfurt airport. I just miss Gardemoen.
Gardemoen is small, but just big enough. I had my cafe there. I had my bar there. I had my seat in the lounge there. I love the NSB trains that run to and from the airport. The one thing I don’t miss is that hot dogs are considered a meal at Gardemoen. But I really miss the airport. It doesn’t offer Europe’s cheapest flights, but it offers some affordable ones. There was just something about this airport that whenever I landed in it, I felt like I was officially ‘home’. I haven’t felt like that here in Frankfurt. Mainly because the airport is significantly larger and when I arrive I’m usually so irritated that I have to walk so dang much to get out of the airport that I’m already pissed off upon landing.
I knew the security team, airline workers, and many others who worked at Oslo Gardemoen. I even had my own little sleep area at Peppe’s Pizza outside of the terminal in case I had to catch an early flight the following day. I kind of miss that small airport feel. Many of the best hotels in Norway are found in Oslo, so no fear, airport snoozing isn’t for everyone!
<Passing barcode on the train on the way to Oslo Gardemoen.>
As an American, I am in no position to ever complain about public transportation anywhere. And I’m not. This bullet point is for Oslo and Oslo alone, as the rest of Norway’s public transportation system leaves something to be desired. But I loved Oslo’s public transport system. It was so clean, efficient, always on time (even in like two feet of snow), and never overly crowded. Here in Frankfurt I experience pretty much the opposite. Most Germans will even tell you how bad it is. I still don’t think it is as bad as they claim (again, because I’m American), but it’s rarely on time, not at all clean (the DB trains are alright though), and hardly efficient. Train sometimes just don’t turn up. I know this is hard to believe but come to Frankfurt. You will see.
I’m terrified of rodents. Like ‘scream at the top of my lungs’ terrified if I even see one on television. But fortunately for me, I get to see either a mouse or rat each and every time I grace a train station here in Frankfurt with my presence. Frankfurt just has a rodent problem in general- it doesn’t mean that every station is completely filthy.
The Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (train station) and area surrounding it is one of the seediest places you’ll ever step foot. I was walking with Amanda from Farsickness Blog and telling her about the heroin problem in Frankfurt and just as I was describing the issue here, we watched a woman shoot up while walking along. In this area, I’ve seen every drug imaginable, massive fights, constant theft, undercover police holding a gun to someone’s head as they throw him on the ground (thinking it was a sex ring type crime), violent race riots galore, and some other pretty unimaginable stuff. At the Oslo Sentralstasjon I have been hit on by Nigerian prostitutes on their way to Karl Johans Gate. Neither place is safe, but I’ll take the Sentralstasjon over the Hauptbahnhof any day.
<Berlin’s public transport probably shows up more often than Frankfurt’s.>
Bread and Chocolate
I combined number 9 because these are two things that downright suck in the States. But in Norway, I found happiness in a loaf of bread or a massive bar of Kvikklunsj. I love German chocolate too, but I just miss Freia chocolate. I don’t particularly care for German bread, on the other hand. I find it a bit dry and tasteless for my liking (sorry German friends- I know yall take great pride in your baked goods!) I really miss a good loaf of sourdough bread from the north. I also love how grocery stores have bread so good that it can compete with many bakeries in Norway. Here the bread at my local Rewe is decent, but not great enough to buy a whole loaf of the stuff. And the bakeries here really aren’t so great with the exception of a very few, so if I want a loaf of bread, I make my own. Or I eat knekkebrød, which actually comes imported from Scandinavia.
I think Oslo was amongst one of the crappiest cities for shopping I’ve ever lived in. Bergen was even worse. But those dang Norwegians still managed to be stylish and stunning on the street every single day. I’ve always liked very minimalist clothing and Scandinavia, in general, epitomizes this. I also like that Norway embraces activewear. Minimalist clothing and activewear is not something commonly seen on the street of Frankfurt. The fashion here can range from a total eye sore to sometimes acceptable, with the random ‘Ah that’s kind of cute’ thrown in between. Norway is very conformed, so minimalistic clothing works well there. Germany is less conformed, so you will find more varying styles here (which I actually do like when people have their own style). On the contrary, Frankfurt and Germany have much better shopping opportunities than what was presented to consumers in Norway.
I do miss living in Norway and there will always be things I dream about having in my current location- but I wouldn’t trade living in Frankfurt for anything. This is my second time living in Germany and I really like it. And I do realize that Frankfurt does not represent all of Germany, but I’m pretty well-traveled within the country itself and have been to more places than most Germans I know. I don’t think Germany will be a permanent place of residence for me, but it works right now and I’m having a blast. The list above are just opinions- so no need for anyone to get their panties in a wad over anything (joking). I’ll do a similar list regarding things I like about Germany in the future.