So it's been a few days since my last blog post and I thought I'd answer some of the questions people have been asking me on the blog and on Facebook.
Why are you in Norway?
I am working in Oslo on a government IT/telecoms project. I am here for at least six months, probably a lot longer.
What is work like?
It's a different culture from the UK. People dress casually, start early, take lunch between 11 and 12 and start to leave from about 3, by 4.30 nearly everyone has gone. Lots of people work from home too, so the office dynamics are different every day. There isn't any clock-watching, but you are trusted to do your job. I work in a very international environment where two-thirds of my colleagues are non-Norwegian – Swedes, Brits, Germans and a smattering of others. Because of this, English is the official language so all dealings within the company and with all customers and suppliers are done in English.
Can you speak any Norwegian? / What is Norwegian like?
After a glass of wine the other night I described Norwegian as “like really camp German”. I stand by this! It sounds similar to German only far more tonal, lots of “up and down” sounds within every sentence. There's also several different characters such as å and ø, meaning pronunciation is quite challenging for a beginner. I've found the best way to pick up the correct pronunciation is by listening to the automated announcements on the t-bane, trikk and buss. Anyway I've been focusing on that rather than learning too much vocabulary at the moment. The words I have picked up are mainly to do with the emergency services and government (through work), housing (through flat hunting) and food.
The biggest barrier to me learning Norwegian with any pace is being able to use it. Yes, despite being in Norway! Once people realise you are English (an Englishman trying to speak Norwegian is really obvious) they reply in English with a smile. This isn't rude, it's simply to speed up conversation in say a coffee shop. That's the other thing I should say, nearly everyone here speaks a really high standard of English.
Is it really that expensive?
In simple terms, yes. Compared to the UK, definitely. First up, VAT is 25%. Some things are on a par with London, some are more expensive. BUT. The key thing to remember is it's all relative. Norwegians enjoy a very high income with a minimum wage of something like £11 per hour, so there is far more money in people's pockets to spend. I'll be earning more over here than I could in the UK, so once I start to see some money, I will probably stop comparing prices to the UK all the time. Also because of the high minimum wage, anything involving the service industry will always be expensive. At first glance food is expensive, but you soon realise the main reason is you can't get cheap crap. The vast majority of food is really good quality, therefore you pay a reasonable amount for it.
More expensive than London:
- A pint (well slightly less actually, half a litre): £7-8
- Takeaway meal: £15-25
- Burger King Meal: £10
- Bath bomb from Lush: about £3-4
- Latte: £3.50-4
- A chart CD: £18-20
- Basic barbers haircut: £18
Cheaper/similar to London:
- 1-bed flat: £1,000 per month
- Mobile phone contracts: vary but cheaper
- Public transport: £70 per month for everything
- Some electronics eg cameras: similar or 5-15% cheaper
Do you miss the UK?
At the moment, no not really, but it has only been a couple of weeks, everything is still new and exciting. Give me a few months and it'll be interesting to see how/if my feelings change. What I DO miss is my family and friends – and one person in particular. I am looking forward to people visiting over the summer (and if any of you are brave enough, in the winter)
What is the weather like? / Is it cold?
NO! I have arrived at the perfect time to find my way around while the weather is good. Every single day has been sunny so far, with just one very brief hail-shower breaking that up. I'm well aware this is not “normal”, although I've been told the summer will be similar but “this is as good as it gets”.
It's very light here. If I haven't shut my blind properly the light can wake me up at 5am and twilight only really hits around 10.30-11pm at the moment, I think in about a month there will only be an hour or two of proper darkness each day. Again, it will be interesting to see how my feelings towards Oslo change when the dark, cold, snowy months arrive!
If you want to know anything else, just let me know 🙂