On Friday I did the Part I of this post regarding my reflections after being in Norway for 10 months. I felt this post could really be best done as a two-parter, so here I am for Part II:
**I have learned that just because you’re an expat doesn’t mean you have to hang out with and get along with all of the other expats. I get along with everyone just fine, but I have realized that what works best for me personally is to choose friends here the same way I would choose them in the US. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone just because they are American/British/Australian. While it is good to have them in your network, I don’t think forcing a bond or attempting to build chemistry that is not present between the two people is necessarily the best way to go about a friendship. I see so many people doing that here…and I’m very thankful to have a good group of expats and Norwegians that I’m friends with so I don’t feel forced into a similar situation.
**I have really learned how to laugh here. While many Norwegians won’t compliment you on your cute shirt or shoes, they may be quick to tell you how awful the US is and how anti-American they are (these are not always just Norwegians, but people from places all around Europe). A word of advice…don’t take them seriously. They are usually the ones with a Coca-Cola in hand who spent the latter part of 2011 awaiting the Starbucks arrival into the Norwegian market this past February. And when people try comparing the politics in Norway to the politics in the US (or anything for that matter), take it with a grain of salt. Can anyone seriously compare a country of 5 million people to a country of over 300 million people?? No. Different things work in different places… doesn’t make it right or wrong whether you see it from an American perspective or a Norwegian one.
**Just because a grocery store has a produce guarantee doesn’t mean they take care of their produce. Grocery stores here are quite gross and I just have learned to live with it. Thank goodness being in Oslo gives me Asian and Middle-Eastern influenced shops at my doorstep. These stores take so much more pride in what they sell to customers… and almost always at a lower price than a Rema 1000, Kiwi, or Rimi. Finding kale, dragon fruit, and many other ‘oddities’ in this part of the world makes me very, very happy.
**Winter blues can be a reality, but you really just have to make the most of it and realize you’ll get more than enough sunlight when summer comes. I know a lot of people suffer from winter blues here due to cold weather and little sunlight… and I honestly thought I may become one of them. But I never suffered. Maybe it was just because it was my first year of it…or maybe I just kept myself occupied enough to not think about it. Either way, find hobbies during the winter… keep occupied, take some trips around Europe, and you may survive it too!
(December trip: Riga, Latvia)
**Everyone here smokes. Ok…not everyone, but it feels like everyone. And they do it in the most public of places. It bothers me because cigarette smoke gives me a massive headache. If someone has the chance to smoke away from the bus stop and people standing at it, they won’t. They’ll do it around everyone so everyone gets a good whiff of the smoke. And if they don’t smoke, chances are that they snus. Whether they smoke or snus, the cigarette butt or snus packet will likely find its way on the ground, not in a trashcan or cigarette butt container. This is one thing I can not come to terms with. The problem I have with that is that I have a dog who ensures everything laying on the ground finds its way conveniently into his mouth.
**Things I once deemed important to me are not as important anymore. Some examples are: whitening my teeth, a cute wardrobe, having all of the most expensive makeup from Sephora. Now I focus more on the things that are really important such as my family and friends back in the States, who get hardly any of my time as is, my pup, what the heck I’m going to do with my life career-wise (long term, not short term), and thinking about the next place I can jet off too. Norway is really a good place for this materialistic American to put her superficial obsessions to rest. I may still have an affinity for being blonde and having tan skin…so one day I will waste some money on that. But you have to have money to spend money first.
**If you complain about prices, Norwegians will tell you they are high because they get a higher salary here than in the US. Not really true, in my opinion. If you work at a grocery store, yes, you receive a higher salary. If you’re a teacher, yes you make more. But many jobs for others who have an education don’t always make more… I think it just depends on the industry and how well Norway values it. But yes, prices are high, disposable income is often less, and you must learn to enjoy cooking! It all kind of works itself out when you travel and see how well that kroner spends abroad.
**It doesn’t matter where in the world I am, I still don’t like bananas, broccoli, and drinking milk. And it doesn’t matter where in the world I am, I will still spend every last waking dollar I have on a Sugar Free Red Bull… or a Dr. Pepper (when I find it).
In retrospect, expats are going to have highs and lows in their new location. I have chosen to not hang around those who can not accept the fact that I don’t think Norway is a perfect society, or that Norway is a horrible society. Norway is Norway. Just as America is America. These past 10 months have allowed me to grow and become a better version of myself. As an expat, there is no rockstar lifestyle (which is strangely what many people back home in the States think), but simply one that is a slightly more complicated than the one a person was used to in their homeland. But these complications come with growth and many realizations…so in the end, I may be no rockstar, but I’m sure rockin’ the life that I live here. And that is all that matters to me.
Skål to another 10 months!