“What are you up to today?”, he asks.
“Umm… just… um some stuff.”, I say, hoping we can move onto other topics. “How’s work”?
“What kind of stuff”, he asks.
“Well, right now I’m cleaning the coffee machine,” I answer.
I look down at the wet cloth and the shiny stainless steel. I have painstakingly wiped every little area – spending more time than one could possibly, in a normal world, allocate to cleaning such a thing. Every tiny bit of coffee stain (almost microscopic) and every last grain of coffee (no grain gets left behind) has been wiped away. It looks as new as the day we bought it. And in fact, it has looked like this every day for the past year. I realize that I have cleaned the coffee machine more times in one year than most people likely do in a lifetime.
I also realize it’s two o’clock in the afternoon and I’m still in my pyjamas.
Back to the conversation…
“Ya, just cleaning the um… coffee machine, you know.”
“Aha. Okay”, he answers.
I know he feels a bit bad every time he hears about the mundane tasks I find to fill my days.
(As I write, he is sitting beside me on the couch. I turn and ask him how he feels when he calls home and I tell him I’m cleaning the coffee machine (again). I ask, “do you feel bad for me?”. He looks at me. “Ya, I do”. Pause. “But I also think… why would you ever…”)
He has a point. Coffee machines only need so much cleaning.
Once the coffee machine has passed a quality check usually reserved for commercial kitchens and hospitals, I move on to the cleaning of the dishwasher. I have become such an expert on this topic that I recently added my cleaning tips to a Facebook group where they discuss such things.
How is it possible to even know (or care) so much about cleaning something that is actually specifically designed to clean things? I don’t know. But I do.
I have become that lady.
And sometimes I wonder if my husband even recognizes me anymore. This is not the person he met 4 years ago in Toronto.
I also know a lot about laundry, and vacuuming, and gardening, and staring out windows, and talking to inanimate objects. And daytime TV. (That last one is embarrassing to admit. There is something about watching TV in the middle of the day that makes me feel I have hit expat-rock-bottom.)
Last Tuesday, friends of my parents were in Oslo for the day (on a cruise) and I offered to show them around town.
“So what do you plan to do here?”, they asked.
I really had no answer.
What do I plan to do here?
Does moving to a new country in your 40s, and needing to reinvent oneself, inherently spur on some kind of existential crisis? Perhaps.
Does it sound like I am complaining? Maybe.
Somewhere deep down do I feel like I want sympathy? Probably.
Am I maybe a bit depressed? I think so.
Non-Norwegians often comment that the locals are unfriendly and hard to get to know. In fact, a couple weeks ago there was an article about this very topic going around social media. Apparently Norway is the 5th most unfriendly country for expats. That doesn’t sound very good and, more importantly, I am so bored of the entire topic. Who can really define “friendly” anyway!?
I also haven’t found it to be the case. The fact that I spend so much time at my house and cleaning already-clean-appliances has to do with me, and no one else – certainly it can’t be blamed on any Norwegian “coldness”.
Since we moved to our new town in June, we have been to the neighbours for waffles. I have been invited to a ladies Friday afternoon get together and a Saturday bike event. On top of this, there have been a handful of other opportunities to meet people. The reluctance has been on my part. But why? This is the question that rolls around in my head as I try to sleep.
It’s not so much that Norwegians are unfriendly. I will admit I find them a bit “weird”, but I suppose that could be said about any population we don’t know as well as our own. I do feel like an outsider, of course.
I was at a family wedding last weekend. I was speaking Norwegian to the man next to me and I asked him:
“Do you think my Norwegian could ever get good enough, that you wouldn’t know I was a foreigner?”
“No.” He answered. “Never.”
I even tried to show him how “good” I am by speaking to him with my best possible Norwegian “accent” and then saying the same things in Norwegian but with my worst possible North American “accent”. He just stared at me blankly. He couldn’t tell the difference.
Just like I can’t tell the difference between “kjeden” and “skjeden”.
(The two words actually mean “chain” and “vagina” respectively. I learnt this watching “Alt For Norge” this week. So there is something to be said for watching TV. I seriously don’t want to go to the bike shop and ask to have my vagina replaced.)
He could have humoured me a bit, but humouring is not in the Norsk repetoire. And he’s right. Of course I’ll always sound North American. After all, I am fluent in French and lived in France for 4 years but certainly no one would ever mistake me for a French woman. The difference was that I knew France was a temporary stop. Norway isn’t.
So, how does it feel to know that, no matter what, you will always feel and sound like an outsider in your new home?
It feels tiring.
And that, my friends, is the reason I don’t get out more and do things and meet people. It is tiring.
After a weekend at the family wedding, trying desperately to understand everything being said in conversation around me, and also trying to speak Norwegian, I feel exhausted. And it’s not just the language, of course, it’s also making every effort (although not always successful) to not repeatedly cross some invisible cultural barriers that I never knew existed.
By the end of the few days, my brain feels like it’s on fire. It has over-heated and surely the only thing to cool it down will be a week of appliance polishing and daytime TV.
In this land, I feel loud and brash and sometimes even arrogant. I don’t think I am any of those things, really (okay maybe a bit loud after a few glasses of wine), but I am undoubtedly different – the outsider.
I do have to say how grateful I am that my Norwegian family has embraced this weirdo outsider. Thanks goodness for their humour and love and understanding. I feel like they “get me”, and I think they want me to be happy here as much as I do. When my mom-in-law texts to me “vi er glad i deg” (“we love you”), I believe her. We have come a long way from our nervous first meeting a few years ago. (I think she held out her hand to shake mine and I awkwardly hugged her, crushing her hand. Now we always hug.)
Back in Toronto it was easy. I had my work, my friends, my routine. I didn’t have to make any effort to do anything. After many years of living there, it was easy. It was home. They were my people. My tribe. My soulpod (too much?).
And now I have to make effort again. If I am to “trives”, as they say (“thrive”), then it’s what I must do. I need to summon the energy to embrace the fact that this is my new home and it will be whatever I choose to make it. The only thing I can do is find my purpose for being here. Because, as much as us expats like to believe it, being here because we love someone isn’t enough.
Back in April I wrote an articled called “So, When Does Norway Become Home.” In it, I said this:
In June, we are moving outside of Oslo to a small town. I look forward to getting to know the neighbours and the people in the local businesses and creating a community for myself there.
And was I being honest? Was I looking forward to those things? Yes, I was. But I just haven’t found the energy to make the effort. I want so badly to walk through town and wave at familiar friendly faces. I want to know everyone by name and comment on how their children are growing, or how their garden is so beautiful this year, or how Norwegian pastries always look so much better than they taste. (True)
But I don’t want to make the effort. I just want it all to happen instantly.
It is now officially fall (or autumn, or “høst”) in this part of the world. The nights have a cool crispness that remind me winter is on it’s way. And the days are getting shorter, quickly. Much more quickly that they do back in Toronto. The change of seasons is always a good time to reassess where we are at, and to make choices about the next chapter.
My first choice is to start stocking up on beeswax candles and fluffy, cozy sweaters.
Next, I’ll figure out how to tackle this new season.
As the leaves turn golden and fall to the ground, and the earth prepares itself to rest for the long winter ahead, maybe I can find the enthusiasm to emerge and slowly discover my place in this land.
Maybe, in the quiet energy of autumn, I can find myself again.
I have been following your blog for a little while and really enjoy your observations and funny writing. I felt very sad when I read this post because your feelings reminded me of how I have felt a few times. I have been through the same situation of living in Norway (and in a tiny town) and in Australia where I now live and it’s difficult and I feel for you. Gradually I built a routine of things to do and then it came became easier- but it was a bigger step to make myself take on activities. I know in Norway when i was learning Norwegian it helped to have focus on something productive but sometimes it was two step forwards, three steps back and then I would be hard on myself and it made me not want to continue. And I also found it tiring! I used to sleep so much more because my brain way working harder than it was use to. My mother in law suggested I see a Dr because I slept so much more! I also found it hard because I was expected to do everything the Norsk vei and let go of my cultural habits and that added extra learning and sometimes stress. But I felt it was important to integrate. A little older and wiser and I now know that a mixture of both is best for me:) I think I wanted to be seen to be Norwegian and fit in so badly but now I think being an expat and combining my understanding of Norwegian culture and my own is the best and I’m proud because its unique!
At the time I found it hard to communicate how I was feeling to my then Norwegian partner because it sounded critical and it was hard for him to understand my situation and how I feel. I realised later this was the first time where things had ever been questioned about Norway and the way things are done and it was probably a little confusing for him to see it in another light.
Your doing incredibly well and I love hearing about your experiences. You have a wonderful writing style and your observations are so telling of expat life:)
Hi Tegan, thanks for your very thoughtful comment. I think you are so right that a balance of both cultures is what I am seeking… I am who I am, and also want to find out who I will become in this new land. 🙂 Luckily my husband has spent lots of time outside of Norway so, for the most part, he understands some of my struggles. Thanks for reading and being a part of my stories. 🙂
Dear Jill and everyone else reading, I know very well the feelings you are experiencing because I have been trough this myself as well, but I want to draw your attention to another side of the situation. Long story short, I am Romanian, 27 years old and I used to live in Spain from 20 to 25. Few years ago in a vacation in my homeland I got romantically involved with a guy a used to know and after six months we decided that I should drop my job, home and friends in Spain and follow him to Norway, where he had been working and living for not too long, a year and a half. That might have been the worst decision I ever took, because sometimes the better is the enemy of the good. He was a very jealous person, but I thought that once I would move there, he would calm down. Then, his job is quite solicitating and that leads to a lot of frustration on his side which he felt like exhaling each and every day, filling me with negative feelings over my already fragile state of mind, a stage I suppose every expat crosses at their beginning in a new country. My year in Norway it has been quite a living hell because I was not even allowed to get out with my mates at the Norwegian class and establish some connections and friendships, but at the same time he was complaining about the fact that I am getting late in getting a job. Although the change has been radical, from the sunny Spain to the chilly Norway, I liked this beautiful country and I still have the regret that because of my personal situation I was not able to know it and its people more and better, so my point is: no matter how sad, low and depressed you sometimes may feel, try focusing on the bright side of life. You are already definitely lucky by having a partner who supports you and cares for your mental wellness. I know that in the normal world that is something normal, but just try to think how lucky you are and think about people (especially women) like me, who for one reason or another cannot enjoy the most valuable thing in life: freedom. Thank you for creating this blog; had I known it before, it would have changed my life.
Thank you for your message. I try to always remember to be grateful for all I have (and I hope that comes across in my writing) and thank you so much for this reminder to always think of those things. I am very sorry to hear that your journey has been so difficult. I hope that somehow you can find some help and support in your situation. Your life and freedom are so valuable. Sending you love.
I would really recommend to find a job/activity and things will get better. It is not easy with jobs when you are not good in norwegian, but sooner you begin looking, sooner you will find something. Attending norskkurs is good, but not enough. May I ask what has been your occupation in Toronto?
Hi Loreta, thanks for your comment. Yes, you are right. I need to find something more to do and the less I do, the more I find it hard. 🙂 I have worked for myself for many years. I work in TV (as a script coordinator and writer) and I own property (in Canada) that I rent out.
I feel for you and think I can relate to your frustration of feeling “differen” . I am Norwegian but live in the UK,. My first 5 years was spent in Shetland, and although a friendly place with my husbands family being just brilliant and welcoming I felt a complete outsider. Luckily I was able to work, otherwise I am not sure I would have managed as well as I did.
I still feel I don’t quite belong here (25 years since I moved) and by best friends are still in Norway. But I am happy where I am with a lovely husband and our kids, I wouldn’t swap what I have from what I left.
Can you join any clubs, do night classes or any volunteer work? Just to get out and about?
I sincerely hope you find something to fill your days with other than polishing the shine out of your coffee machine 😉
Hi Magnhild. Thanks for your message. I have heard from quite a few Norwegians in the UK and it is really interesting to hear your stories. I am starting my norskkurs again soon and hope to have the energy to do a few other things as well. I definitely need to find other things to fill my days! 😉 Thanks for reading!
oh Jill you are such a love. My heart was aching as I read this and feeling every word you wrote. I so remember what it was like for me. Yes, it is tiring to move in a world that is so outside of where home had been. I would sit on my roof looking out at the mountains and wonder ok how do I do this. I will offer what worked for me…take small steps, choose one day and venture out. No matter how much I wanted to feel different, it was the small steps that worked. Attending a pueblo wedding and going home after having a somewhat good time speaking in what little Spanish I had to people I didn’t know and patting myself on the back for going. The next time I saw these folks I could smile and say hello. Slowly I came to know many of the folks who lived around me and felt welcomed and accepted into the pueblo. I trust that you will find your way. much love to you.
Hi Trish 🙂 I know you can relate to so much of what I say so thanks for those encouraging words. I actually went out last night and met some of the locals. It was great! 🙂
Autumn is a difficult time in Norway – even for Norwegians! The evenings getting darker, and the depressing knowledge that it will get darker still before you get anywhere near spring. No wonder Norwegians love summer and sunshine so much.
I am also an expat, but a Norwegian expat in London. I have lived here for nearly 50 years, but still on occasion get asked ‘but where do you come from?’ – or worse – ‘are you Swedish!’ – which is not a perfect way to approach a Norwegian! I was lucky enough to learn English in school from the age of 12 – and, of course, pretty well all films and TV was English or American with Norwegian subtitles so it made for an easier start here.
At least in the early years, the majority of my friends were other expats – not Norwegian ones, but I had a Finnish friend, a Dutch friend, my best friend was Canadian etc. Somehow, without necessarily being critical about life in the UK, it was easier to relax with other expats who were going through some of the same experiences – much less need to explain since the one thing we had in common was our ‘outsider’ experience. Work, school gate friendships etc have added some British friends over the years but not so many. And my very best British friend emigrated to New Zealand! I find it easy to excuse what might come across as standoffishness by the British, – they already have a large group of schoolfriends, and family connections so making time for others can be hard.
Enjoy your expat friends. Only they can really know what you are dealing with and as a support group they are very valuable. You have to accept that you will probably never be able to ‘get’ all those cultural references any more than the Norwegians would if the situation was reversed. On the other hand, you may find, if you ask, that they are happy to try to explain why something is funny/sad/significant when it is anything but obvious!
Things may have changed a lot since I lived in Norway, but when I used to ask where people came from, it was out of interest, and a wish to learn more, rather than a wish to make them feel uncomfortable and ‘foreign’. I accept that this may well have changed since the demographic has changed a lot over 45+ years but i hope that the basic interest in how other people live, and how on earth they fetched up in the far north is still there.
I really enjoy reading your blog, and have recommended it to my nephew’s South American fiancee. She has just spent a summer in Norway and has enjoyed her stay. I can’t help worrying a little about her first autumn/winter in Norway but hope that candlelight and hot chocolate will see her through!.
And as a PS- British pastries definitely look better than they taste!! My first meeting with a delicious-looking chocolate cake when on a visit in 1967 – yeuch! All sugar and no chocolate taste at all. While i prefer cardamom-flavoured Wienerbroed and waffles with jam… Fortunately things have changed for the better here – let’s hope you will gradually find more pastries that you like too!
Hi Eva! Thanks so much for writing. I really enjoy hearing other expat stories and so interesting to hear about your journey as a Norwegian in England. Everything you say is so true and I hope I didn’t sound completely negative. I love so many things here… but the times go up and down and change… just like the seasons 🙂 I hope your nephew’s fiancee enjoys her first winter. I skied a lot and that helped! 🙂
I completely forgot to say how much I have been enjoying your blog, ever since I happened upon it. And how often I recognise national traits in myself and Norwegian relatives from your stories… The way ‘everything has to be done the way it has always been done’ – so true! My children could quote some instances, especially around Christmas!
Might Norwegian TV be receptive to the idea of a series of programmes of life in Norway as observed by one or more recent arrivals? You really have a gift for describing situations and people and it would be good to exploit it. And you are always fair in your assessments too – unlike some expats I have met over the years who spend their lives pointing out how much better life would be if the people they meet here could be and behave exactly like back home. You never do that, and it is one of the reasons why I keep recommending your blog. That and the fact that you can make me laugh out loud, finding nuggets of humour even when facing a long and gloomy Norwegian winter. Admirable.
Thanks so much Eva. I would love to do some kind of TV show here. That’s what I was doing back in Canada 🙂 I just have to find the right person/people to talk to! Thanks for your kind words.
Thanks again for a great article. It’s hitting the nail by the head (hva si de på norsk?) I was so down that at one point I wanted to go back “home” but this is home now. I moved to a new small town at the same time as you and totally having the same situation. It’s tough! Or maybe because we had the so high summer so now I am falling. But my solutions are talk to someone you trust. Just rant it out and try to reach out to the town. But you could only do your best right. Hang in there it will be better. Have you ever thought about going to Toronto for a week or two? Get some soul food, it will make you feel MUCH better.
Thanks for the message and for reading my articles 🙂 And thanks for the encouragement… I might go home for Thanksgiving, but we’ll see. It’s also not so bad 😉 There are so many great things about this place too…
I have just read your post and it was like looking in a mirror! I am totally going through the same thing right now so much so that yesterday my fiancé came home to find me in tears. Its not that I don’t want to be here because I really do having given up my job, sold my own house to move to this small country town and start a new life here. Over the summer I did an online Norwegian course at B1 (as I am not allowed access to the language lessons here, they are only for new refugees)and was feeling ok about myself, especially after facing the Nynorsk speaking doctor for a rather intimate screening appointment and understanding everything despite the embarrassment of the situation. I have been gearing myself up to take the VOX prøve in December, so that I can hopefully get a teaching job at some point in the future. I even emailed the local school in Norwegian asking if I could go and observe and see how the curriculum works out here.
Since then I have had no reply from the school and I met a distant relative of my fiancé the other day, who not only is the town’s local gossip and to be avoided at all costs I am told, and I could barely understand her due to her Northern dialect. It seems like no matter how hard I try I cannot break into this community. I have to force myself out of the house to do stuff and get my face known around town too. I am now doubting my ability to take the test in December.
My parents are coming over next weekend to visit, the first time they have been and I am dreading them asking what I do all day or even worse, saying ‘I told you so’ to my moving out here with nothing to do.
My fiancé has no friends here as they have all moved to bigger cities for work and friends so its not even like I can say I meet people that way.
Anyway sorry for the rant, but it is so nice to know others feel something like I do.
Right my dough has just finished proving and the egg timer is calling….yes, that is one of the things I do to fill my time….I bake bread now!
Hi Helen. I hear you. All of it. I just got off the phone with my dad and had to convince him I am okay… after his worry about my article. Where in Norway do you live? Email me at email@example.com if you feel like it. And ya, I bake too… and make pasta… in between my appliance cleaning. 😉
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Hi Jill! I enjoy reading your blog – you write with humor and honesty – a great combination!! Even tho we live in different countries, i can relate to so much about which you write! It was kind of a depressing day for me when i realized that, no matter how long i live in France, i will always be an ex-pat, an outsider. I can’t possibly ever know and understand all the cultural references about old songs and tv shows, for example, as i do with my American culture. Not to mention the fact that i’m a Japanese American woman who is often asked if she is native american, filipino, thai, tahitian, etc etc. No hope of “blending in” here!! Ha ha!!
And i know so well the exhaustion that comes from an evening or weekend speaking only in French. One of the first sentences i learned after moving here was “J’ai peur que ma tete va exploser!!”
I do love my life in France and feel grateful everyday to be here, but there are still “those days” when i would rather stay home and clean somerhing rather than go out and face the (french) music. My house was never this spotless when i lived in L.A.!!
Didn’t mean to go on and on, but you obviously struck a chord with me!! You’re very wise to connect your “melancholy” with the change of seasons, too. And like the seasons, this too shall pass (and most likely come around again later!). 😉😛😳🙃😊 But next time you’ll be stronger and have more inner resources to help you thru it!
Hi Lynne! So nice to hear from you. Of course you can relate to what I am saying… so thank you for that empathy. France was a bit easier for me, in some ways, because I knew the language. On the other hand, here I have my husband.. so, really can’t complain. Thanks for reading and writing to me! xo Bisous
Hi Jill i so know what you are writing! I feelt the same way when i first came to Hølen and now again in Denmark. At first you feel in love with Norway and then when everyday life comes you painfully realize that you are not norwegian. I Will just say a norwegian frase that i normally hate, but in this case is very fitting. “du må tag tiden til hjælp”…… Hølen Will Be your home if you let it even if you are not norwegian. If you participate anyway. Just wanted to give you a hug and hope the feeling will pass soon. Klem Rebekka ps i feel like i am invading your privacy when i read your blog but you write so Good that i can not help it 😉
Hi Rebekka! So nice to hear from you 🙂 Thanks for the empathy. I know you understand. I know that Hølen is the perfect place for me and I just have to get out there and meet some people. I can sense that they are welcoming and interested to meet us. You aren’t invading my privacy… it is there to be read. So thank you! Klem xo
I’ve been in talks about moving to Norway for a few months next Summer with my Norwegian boyfriend, so I can try out living in Norway before making any huge decisions, and you have summed up my fears.. As a 31 year old independent woman with a great job and social circle here in Calgary, it’s definitely scary. That being said, I gotta say I love reading your blog posts, as it’s a tiny glimpse into what I may be in for. My boyfriend and I often have a giggle over your Canadian/Norske comparisons and observations. I really hope things get better for you! I guess if all else fails, perhaps you join in on the Norwegian entrepreneurship spirit and start an appliance cleaning company! Hehe 😉
Hey there… I hope I haven’t completely scared you away! 😉 Of course there are many amazing things about Norway, my husband being one of them. This is just a difficult time right now but it’ll get better… and yes! Maybe I’ll just become the Oprah of appliance cleaning… I’ll have a talk show. 😉 Hehe. Thanks for reading and enjoying my blog!
One of the best things I’ve ever seen on Facebook was a meme that read, “A foreign accent is a sign of bravery.”
My amazing mother in law moved to the US from Belgium, speaking French and Flemish (I overheard someone ask her, “Didn’t you study English in school before that?” And she replied, “Yes, but it was nothing like what I heard when we got here,” which is, I think, a pretty common complaint from people in language classes). She had very young kids and her husband traveled often for work. So she was really on her own, and I think often about how difficult things must have been for her. Her bravery and strength amaze me. She learned English, went to college, got a nursing degree, and then learned Spanish well enough to do some translating on her nursing floor.
I’m passing her story along because not only is it inspiring, I see her strength and humor in you. Your blog posts are full of your sense of adventure, your sense of humor, your fun personality, your determinedness (that’s a word, right? If not, it should be). There’s always a hard part before the easy part, and that’s just where you’re at in the map now. You’ll make it through, maybe with a few detours on the way, but hey, what’s a good trip without a few detours along the way?
And please please pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaase write a book. I would read that SO hard. (Why not a book about being an expat in Norway? The only one I’ve ever really seen about that is In Cod We Trust, which I haven’t read yet, and I’ve looked for others but haven’t found any. Whereas there are 4789327493824798324 books about expats living in France, China, Italy, the Middle East…Seriously- I would say there’s a large gap in the market for books about expats living in all of Scandinavia. And you’ve got a strong voice already- that’s very, very evident in your posts! You could totally do this.)
Hi Stephanie, thanks so much for your comment! The story about your mother in law is so great! What an amazing lady. Not sure I am the book-writing type, but I certainly appreciate that at least you’d buy it! 😉 Thanks so much for reading my article.
Thank you for writing this, Jill. I mirror the other comments in that I feel your pain and after 18 months here am still trying to find my way through it too. I have to say though, the biggest moment of relief came when you said “.. how Norwegian pastries always look so much better than they taste.” YES!! My husband thinks I’m being stubbornly loyal to the memories of boulangeries in France, but here’s what I’ve decided is consistent (and therefore wrong) with Norwegian pastries: the dough is always a tad too dry and there’s a weird aftertaste…is it cardamom? I don’t know, but it’s upsetting. I’ve only found one bakery here that satisfies my carb requirements – United Bakeries at the Paleet shopping center on Karl Johan. If you haven’t been, give it a go!
Oh I so love that you understand the pastry comment. I will give United Bakeries a go next time I’m in Oslo! I still long for my croissants and “pain au raisins” from when I lived in Beaune 🙂
Hi, I’m new to your blog, and love it! I moved to Norway with my Norsk man 2 half years ago. I’m English and have spent most my life working and travelling abroad. I live in a ski town called Geilo which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere 😀So, I’m Soo pleased I found your blog, it makes me feel human again and not like the weirdo girl who likes to talk a lot and asks lots of questions! I can completely relate to this blog post. Learning the language and trying to learn all the somewhat strange to me social etiquettes, my mind sometimes feels like it’s going to explode!
I do work, but iv come to realise that I will never be given more opportunities until I can speak fluently, obvious really but it does kinda of lower my confidence! But hey I will get there.
Thank you so much for writing these post, I truly feel like we are not alone.
Hi Rachel. I am so glad you found my blog… thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂 I don’t know where Geilo is but I’m gonna to have to check google maps to find out. Good luck with everything! 🙂
Don’t know if laughing or despairing 😕. I could have written this piece…if only my English had been as good as yours.
I still feel the same way after 8 years here in Norway. Alice lost in språkeland…but the challenge is not the language in the end…
You should write a book! You have the talent! 😄
Thanks Stefania! Yes, it’s good to laugh and cry at the same time 😉 If I think of something to write a book about, I definitely will. Hehe 🙂
I find that within five minutes of opening my mouth and speaking Norwegian to someone new, they will have asked me, almost always using these exact words “Hvor er det du egentlig kommer fra?”. When I’m feeling down, my brain interprets this as “You’re foreign and you sound foreign”. I know people are just being curious.. But it does act as a reminder that I’ll never pass for Norwegian. So you’re not alone there…
Yup. We never will. And I guess that’s okay. But sometimes it would just feel so nice to blend in and not be “THE CANADIAN TRYING TO SPEAK NORWEGIAN” (in flashing lights with dancing ponies). Hehe. Glad you can relate. 🙂
I normally look forward to your new posts to laugh about these crazy people that I share my life with right now, but with this one I felt… weird? I don’t know how to describe it but it made me feel bad. And not even for you, I kinda felt bad for me. When you talked about the exhaustion of a whole weekend speaking Norwegian… I’ve been there, it makes your brain want to die. I’m aiming to stay here after I finish school and I can say this was not the most encouraging thing in the world…
But hey, as I was writing this, my mind started to wonder (because that’s what it does best when I need to do schoolwork) and I realized that it happened the same to me with English a long time ago. This isn’t my native language, Spanish is. I don’t feel exhausted about English anymore, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for you with French (maybe Canadians have it easier there).
About the cultural barriers that you don’t want to cross: my best advice is to cross them (I think I’ve told you this before). It’s better if you feel comfortable with how you are. If you want to greet, hug, be loud, so be it. It may be awkward at the beginning, but people will start accepting you for who you are. As you said it, you’ll always be the outsider anyways, so let them know how awesome of an outsider you are, and how lucky your husband is for marrying this loud and affectionate Canadian girl.
Sorry for the long post, but I kinda somehow feel connected to these stories and your experiences, even when we haven’t met, that you are significantly older than me (just a fact, not an attack ;P) or that we live in different cities of this beautiful country. So I hope you feel better soon. And remember the framed activities – I don’t think I have to explain anything about that to you 🙂
Thanks for the comment Esteban. It’s always nice to hear from you… it’s been a while 😉 I’m sorry if I made you feel bad but maybe also happy that it stirred something in you… at least to make you want to write. I’m looking forward to not feeling exhausted. And I’m going to make more effort…even if it kills me (not really, just being dramatic) 🙂 I hope to make you laugh again soon.
Jill, I swear you must be in my head reading my thoughts! Again, a very relatable post. Take comfort in knowing you are not alone in how you feel. Hang in there kiddo (something I also tell myself often) 🙂
Thanks! Funny to get two comments about being inside people’s heads. I love it. So nice to know you can relate! 🙂
Sometimes I feel like you are writing directly from inside my head. I always struggle to explain to people why I find social interaction here so exhausting. I always have to take a full day or more to recover after spending a day out around other people. Doing things on friday nights or weekends is unthinkable after a work week! Thanks for sharing your experience with us, you’re most definitely not the only one feeling this way 🙂
I always appreciate your comments… thanks! 🙂 So glad it resonates for you.
This perfectly describes my feelings. If you ever come back to Oslo I’d also be happy to have a glass of wine with you 🙂
Thanks Ann. And so glad you can relate. 🙂
Lovely post… Very autumn-nostalgic.. and very very true. Embrace that feeling as well as the good ones of being a foreigner/outsider in Norway… It will go, and come back regularly… Good luck to you! And take contact if you want to have coffee/wine, I’m in Oslo.. A french woman soon to be 20 years in this wonderful country.. (and yes, they are a bit weird 😉
Merci Magali! Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful and wise comment. 🙂