We have officially touched down in Norway and have been here just over a week. It’s been a whirlwind of new languages, jet lag, and really expensive coffee. But, so far Norway is slowly stealing our hjerter (hearts).
This week, here are five things I’m loving about my new home country
1. Public Transportation
All week, we’ve been getting around via bus, tram, subway, and train. It has been nothing short of efficient, timely, and simple. While not as cheap as we’d like it to be, it’s pretty great to be able to travel nearly anywhere in the greater Oslo area with ease. One ticket is usable on any form of transportation within the area it covers, and the stations and trains are clean and orderly. It’s almost weird how quiet and tidy everything is. Like a post-apocalyptic city full of extremely polite and efficient people.
2. The People
If you consult the All Knowing Internet, Norwegians are sometimes described as cold or unfriendly. We’ve found neither to be the case. Instead, Norwegians are a very straightforward, pragmatic, and efficient. They are privacy-oriented people, and don’t need a lot of extra explanation, emotion, or…anything, apparently, to get on with their day. For me – champion of face-value emotions – this is the perfect culture. I can totally trust that when someone says something to me, they meant exactly that. It’s like interpersonal skill Heaven for me!
Plus, Norwegians are really nice. Since we’ve arrived, we’ve been hosted by Couch Surfing hosts, met at the airport, toured all over Oslo, and driven three hours (for free!) to our new apartment by our landlord, as a few examples. I’ve also accosted not a few people in the grocery store to get help translating product names (is this milk? what kind of milk?), and not a single person has been anything less than tremendously helpful.
3. The Government Efficiency
I know. No one, in the history of man, has ever written positive things about a government’s efficiency. Okay, well maybe there is some precedent to this, but surely not many. In our experience, Norway’s government has set new and lofty standards for what can be accomplished when everyone is prepared and on time. Case in point: I had an appointment at 1:00pm on Thursday of this week to submit my immigration paperwork and (hopefully) be approved for a work permit. I arrived at the appointed place and time at 12:15pm, because I am inordinately fond of being early to government functions. At 12:20pm, they started calling the names of everyone who had a 12:15pm appointment. When they finished, they moved on to the 12:30pm slot. After that, the 12:45pm slot, continuing to repeat the names of people who hadn’t been present earlier. I had my 1 o’clock appointment at 12:26pm, and was finished by 12:31pm. They took my paperwork, printed me a missing form when I realized I had presented the wrong one, and even gave me an email address to which I could send said missing form so I wouldn’t have to make a second trip to their office.
They even had a coffee shop in the lobby area. If that isn’t efficiency, I don’t know what is.
4. The Weather
This isn’t something people normally brag about in Norway, but so far we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the moderate temperatures both during rain or sun. We are both lovers of rain and grey, which we’ve had plenty of here. But, we also like the occasionally sunny day, as apparently so do all Norwegians. Any time there’s sun, Norwegians treat it as a reason for national celebration.
5. The Lifestyle
In short, Norwegians really have got it together when it comes to how to run a society. Sure, I’m sure there are problems, but as a newcomer to this country it all seems pretty great. Women get all kinds of paid maternity leave, and new dads get some too! The work day ends at 3:00pm in the summer. Nearly everyone recycles, and it’s difficult to go anywhere without finding places to return your recyclable materials. There is essentially no litter anywhere, and green space has been incorporated nearly everywhere. People love to be outside. You are offered coffee at nearly every social function. FIVE WEEKS of vacation every year for most people!
The list goes on and on. In short, people treat their lives as if they are meant to be lived and enjoyed. We are learning that, even with high taxes and what some may consider to be “restrictive” laws (like Norwegian gun control), it’s very easy to enjoy life in a place where life is all about enjoyment.
‘Til next time, farvel (goodbye)!