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Tackling Assumptions about Norway

View over Oslo and Oslofjord from Frognerseteren T-Bane

In my case, before coming to live here I have lived in France and Holland during some summer holidays from the university to work as a trainee. Despite being only two summers plus some previous trips backpacking – and having some family in France, Holland and Belgium – these experiences gave me a general perception of Europe that was quite different from the reality of Norway.

During the last years, I have found that I am not alone with some of these assumptions. I have gathered here some of the ones I believe that are most common, from questions asked by tourists, family or friends visiting, as well as from my own experiences.

Mobility and distances
Of course after having spent some summers in Europe, especially the ones backpacking through continental Europe, I falsely believed that distances would be shorter and that there would be fast trains to connect shorter distances making it easier to explore the country and Scandinavia. This is also what has happened to many tourists coming to the country and to Stavanger who come from Europe and they falsely believe that getting from Kjerag to Trolltunga can be easily done in a couple of hours.

Food courts
In Ecuador, most of South America and parts of Europe, most cities have large shopping malls with food courts in the middle, which make it really great not only because of the wide choice of food but also as a great way to meet friends and family, and generally socializing. This is possibly something that will change and be included here soon I believe.

Main squares
Back in South America, as well as in Spain and other countries, the downtown areas or main neighbourhoods have a well marked central area with benches, townhall or some official building or muniment are aslo placed in the are. So they make for great meeting places, you find people reading the newspaper, enjoying the scenery, meeting friends, and so on. This could be a great addition to all cities here. Of course, adding some nice roofs or glass buildings to keep people warm during colder months would be ideal.

Brands and food options
It is nice to see that a lot of new brands and food items have been added in the last 3 years, but there are still some that are not found, some are seldom found, others luckily have started to get popular. I moved here at the end of 2009 and back then the sushi trend that had invaded the city of Quito in the late 90’s was not quite here yet. There was only one restaurant specialized in sushi. Now there are several sushi restaurants to choose between.

Other good news: there are more and more food items being imported, such as quinoa, stevia, mate, Reese’s, plantains, as well as new stores opening. Starbucks and Zara are about to open in the city!

Weather
It was expected to be a lot colder during the winter time for many and in general most of the year. Here in the region the weather is pretty mild, due to the Gulf Stream and therefore there are usually no extreme winters. It is actually colder in NYC during winter, which says a lot seeing that NYC at Latitude 40, same as Madrid, is located nearly 5000 km further south than Stavanger at Latitude 59.

I have to admit that for most visitors, fellow expats and for me to have expected some of these similarities between Norway and continental Europe or other countries, was a disadvantage for the adaptation process. Norway is a beautiful yet different country, not only because it is part of Europe and still one of the few without the Euro but because of the geography which has influenced the history of the country.

So, I feel a need to share with you some of these faux-pas if you are planning on moving here, as a way to help you prepare better for the move!

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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. Like your article and agree with some of your ideas . The idea of town centres being a meeting place where social interaction could thrive is, i feel, far fetched and not in keeping with social habits over here . To create a continental cafe vibe year round ……. mid summer many people disappear and do their own thing, hytte , ferie etc. Winter , people stay indoors , or head to the slopes or woods for koselig ski trips together with black coffee and hot dogs.
    Then there is the ” drinking ” culture, or lack of it. The majority don`t show their faces before 23:00, having first topped up at home. My 15 years here have lead me to believe many drink to get drunk. The idea of sitting round a town square at an outside establishment sipping beer and wine while sampling the local ” tapas ” is a wonderful idea , but one which i feel is a few generations away.

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