In 2011 I started a new chapter in my life story, one that's turning out to be a fantastic experience. I'm living in a new city, exploring one of the most fascinating regions in the world, finally getting to grips with a language other than English, and learning something new every single day.
But all that doesn't stop me from missing the UK, especially over the last year.
Being British Abroad in 2012
First came the wedding of our future King. Then the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Then a Tour De France victory. Then the small matter of the Olympic Games. There's no doubt about it – 2012 was one hell of a year to be British!
But how was it for a Brit abroad?
Watching it all from abroad, I've experienced a wide range of emotions. From a fierce pride at the Queen's Jubilee, to a strange sentimental sense of loss as the Olympic flame passed within metres of my former home in Birmingham. Perhaps it was the realisation that I missed a once in a lifetime event in my home country, the realisation that I really have left the UK, or a realisation that everyone's life, including mine, is written in chapters.
Things I miss about the UK
1 – My friends
My friends will always be my friends, but it's fair to say I'm losing touch with some of them. It's not individuals I miss, but that feeling of extended family. I was a social creature in Birmingham for 11 years, forming a football club, starting a club night, standing for the City Council, and a whole lot more. That meant whatever I was doing, wherever I was, I knew someone. Of course I've made friends in Norway, but it'll take years to create a similar “family” of friends. Which brings me nicely onto…
2 – My family
Since moving away there's been a birth and a death in my immediate family. Both of these events made me question my decision to move away. But I wasn't the only one – other family members travelled to the funeral of my grandmother from Singapore, Kenya and France – something which helped lessen the strange feeling of guilt. But even so, this is the most difficult part about being an expat.
3 – The pub culture
The ability to wander into the Victoria, the Lord Clifden, the Fighting Cocks or the Village and there be a strong chance I'd know someone is a hard habit to shake. The concept of a “local” doesn't really exist outside of the UK. In Oslo, people have their regular haunts of course, but they tend to be in the city centre, away from where they live.
4 – A decent curry
I don't care what you think – you cannot get a decent curry in Oslo. Sure, Grønland offers some good value places to get your fix, but it's not on a par with Birmingham, home of the balti! I've even started cooking my own. I make a mean chick pea and potato curry, thanks to a lesson from Simarjeet when she visited last year!
5 – The choice of food in supermarkets
So many people moan about Tescos and their enormous out-of-town mahoosivemegastores. But take them away and my god, you'll miss them. Norwegian supermarkets, or corner shops as I prefer to call them, are poky little places. There isn't a great deal of choice when it comes to food due to tight import regulations, especially on meat and dairy products. When I was back in the UK at Christmas, I went to Asda with my mum and was actually sending photos of the sheer variety of CHEESE available to Norwegian friends… funny what moving away does to you.
If you're an expat – what do you miss about home?
Photo credit: Michal Osmenda