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Adopting New Habits in Norway

Norwegian habits

Moving to a new country which has a very different culture than yours translates into having to quickly face and adopt new trends and new habits.

I have now made a list of the new trends that as a Latin American I have found in a Scandinavian culture, as well as some of my reactions to them, which in some cases just means that I have -accepted- but not adopted.

Let's start with the habits I've adopted…

Adopting new habits after moving from Latin America to Scandinavia

Fashion

The weather here (at least on the South-Western coast) is mild, so there are no extreme cold winters. Instead it rains a lot. This is the first time that I considered buying rain boots as part of my wardrobe. Those were just used to go fishing on a family trip back in Ecuador. Habit adopted!

Weather

In Ecuador you have to run fast when you are at the beach in order to avoid getting burn. Here I need to wear woolen socks and good/warm shoes during winter time in order not to freeze. Therefore, this was my first time being less worried about looking nice with sturdy boots instead of high heels in order not to freeze. Habit adopted!

Greetings

When you are glad to meet someone again, we(Latin-Americans) go for a: Nice to see you again.
Saying Thank you for the last time, “Takk for sist”, to someone you do not even remember when you saw last time as a form of courtesy is strange. It took me some time to stop translating and just learn it by repetition, use it as a normal thing. Habit adopted!

Food I

Delicious salmon became staple food, as opposed to chicken that was part of most dishes, as small rotisseries as well as chains as KFC and others, are to be found in every shopping mall, small town or rural area in Ecuador and in South America. I love salmon and have it at least once a week! Habit adopted!

Food II

Sour cream with jam on pancakes and waffles? It is even used on top of pizza? It sounds weird but the taste is actually good, plus it is the extra fat that the body needs in this weather. I sometimes do use it, though it is too much fat for my system, have to admit it does taste ok. Habit adopted!

Sun

As you may know, Ecuador is located in the equator – latitud 0 – and even living in the capital city which is nestled in the Andes cordillera the sun was hitting really hard most of the day. I was even advised by a dermatologist to wear sunblock while driving and was carrying a fedora hat when outdoors to protect my face from the sunrays.

Instead, here I find myself going out to get some sun whenever the opportunity arises. Hey, I feel like a plant in photophilia moving wherever I can get some sun.

Holidays

Well, this is a very peculiar phenomenon. Here most or everyone leaves on summer holidays. There are some businesses that even close during summer time while on holidays. There are even summer vacation e-cards and greetings being sent as a normal procedure. Even via LinkedIn to clients. This is something that only happened at Christmas when everyone was for sure taking holidays in Ecuador.

And now, those habits accepted but not adopted…

Coffee

Ecuador is a big exporter of coffee, and cacao, bananas as well as other other produce.

Black coffee breakfast

Despite this, I do not drink coffee, which does raise some eyebrows. Here I find that most people drink coffee as if it was water 24/7, with no milk and no sugar even.

Norwegians really beat us at the consumption of caffeine, some claim they have the highest consumption of coffee per capita in the world! I have to admit that during winter times I have taken the odd cup now and again, I understand its appeal here, as you need to keep warm and awake.

How I cope: Keep drinking herbal or fruit teas, lots of water with lemon.

Mealtimes

Lunch at 11.30am, dinner at 3pm. Sounds more like late breakfast and late lunch to me.

How I cope: For lunch: Having a late breakfast or just joining but not eating that early knowing I would of course be hungry and eat a second meal later, which is not. For Dinner I well do make dinner at 5 or 6 the latest. If invited to have dinner at 3, then I would just not have lunch and wait for that meal instead.

Birthdays

In Latin-American countries it is traditional to pitch in to buy a small gift or a cake to the colleague who is having her/his birthday. Or decorating their desk at work. Here you are meant to make/bring your own cake and take it to celebrate yourself! Maybe even sing yourself. I have also experienced this while living in Amsterdam.

How I cope: If possible, take the day off on my birthday.

Traditions

For some reason here your wedding and engagement rings are to be worn not on the left hand (the one for the heart) but on the right one. Mother’s day takes place not in May like I am used to but in February.

How I cope: I just keep using my wedding ring on my left hand, but of course people will be looking for a ring on the other hand. Regarding mother’s day, of course, I keep celebrating my mom and grandma in May.

Weather I

Odds of being asked or discussing about the weather are high.

Bad weather in Scandinavia

It might be the first topic when you meet someone in Norway. If the weather is good and commenting if it is bad. This was seldom a topic of conversation in Ecuador, we would discuss some recent event, politics, or find something to talk about, but the weather.

How I cope: There is no point in discussing or even more complaining about the rain or cold weather, that is how it is. I just get dressed properly and do as much as I can, despite the weather.

Weather II

Sleeping with the window open, yes I understand it is healthy. My dad would also keep the windows of the car slightly open for the same reason. But if it is below 0 then it is pretty cold and my head would sometimes hurt from the chill.

How I cope: I used a beanie to sleep at first but now I can have the window open as long as the temperature outside is above 0.

Weather III

In Ecuador the sun rises at 6.30am every day all year round, and it will be mostly warm, so I am just programmed to wake up when there is light and luckily even warm.

Here in Norway the winter days get a lot shorter, meaning I wake up to complete darkness and cold weather. It is really easy to sleep at night or the afternoon for that matter, and in the morning it becomes pretty challenging to get out of bed.

How I cope: Set a wake up alarm outside the bedroom so that I actually have to get out of bed to turn it off and another one, wake-up light, that gradually makes the room brighter.

Social I

In most latin cultures you greet people you meet because you know them or just as courtesy upon entering a place. Norwegians on the other hand, some claim out of shyness, tend to avoid eye contact.

This has led to Norwegians being perceived as rude instead of shy, in addition to foreigners feeling invisible when not getting any form of recognition in return. On the other hand, Norwegians greet everyone when in the ski slopes.

How I cope: Start greeting people and hope this expat or international greeting habit will have a positive influence on this rapidly growing society that was somewhat excluded do its geography, in the past.

Social II

Excuse me, sorry you are in my way! That is something you won’t hear if you are standing on someone’s way inside a shop. Instead Norwegians will patiently wait until you somehow find out there is someone standing behind you or in my case, my husband telling me there is someone there.

How I cope: Always have someone next to me to tell me to move? Or, maybe I should install a rearview mirror to my shoulder? Or maybe proximity alarms?

It is interesting to see what the contrast of different cultures can bring into the equation. Now I am definitely used to many things that 5 years ago just seemed very different. Coping adopted!

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About the Author: Carmen Cristina Pettersen Carpio

Originally from Ecuador, Carmen Cristina is now settled in Norway and works for the tourist organisation Region Stavanger. She writes for Life in Norway about adjusting to the Norwegian lifestyle, and runs her own blog all about Ecuador.

1 Comment

  1. Almost 60 years ago I lived with my family in Paris. As my 4th child was on the way, I advertised for help at the Alliance France language school.. A delightful girl answered. She lived with. us, while going to school in the morning to better her French but helped out in afternoon and evening. We became like sisters even went to visit her when she returned to Oslo and met her husband to be. Her name was Lissie Thorvaldsen. and added Hilmarsen after marriage. If alive she would be in her eighties. Know she had 2 girls but on one of my many moves my address book was lost. Would love to be in touch with her and her family. . Since I now am 89 there isn’t much time to do so. Can you help??

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