USA to Norway - Expat Interview With Evelyn

Published: 25 Jan at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Norway
Evelyn met her husband out of a curiosity of Europe as an international pen pal. When this pen pal relationship blossomed into a friendship, then into romance leading to her and her husband making visits to one another’s countries, the decision to leave rural Kentucky and move to suburban and coastal Norway was made. She brought her American cat with her and now she and her cat have both settled into their new Norwegian home quite well. Evelyn is now enrolled in language classes and is learning Norwegian. In her spare time she enjoys taking a hike along the Norwegian coastline, experiencing Norwegian culture and sharing those experiences in her blog My New Norwegian Home (see listing here)

Meet Evelyn - US expat in Norway
Meet Evelyn - US expat in Norway

Here's the interview with Evelyn...

Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Kentucky, USA.

In which country and city are you living now?
I’m living in Skien, Norway now.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have now lived in Norway 7 months and I plan to stay here the rest of my life with many many trips back to America for family visits in between.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved here to Norway to be with my husband. We met being curious about other cultures with no intention whatsoever of looking for romance through an international pen pal site. I spoke with many girls my age from Europe, but I was contacted by him and his interest in America. We never stopped talking. After quite some time of talking to each other and meeting each other, I decided to move. My husband is more grounded in his life than I am, so it seemed like the most logical decision in a very emotional situation.

As of right now, I am in hopes of finding a job I can apply my education to, but I’m focusing on going to language classes and learning Norwegian.

I’m pictured here with my cat, Stella who I brought with me from America to Norway. She’s going on her first walk outdoors in Norway.
I’m pictured here with my cat, Stella who I brought with me from America to Norway. She’s going on her first walk outdoors in Norway.
Did you bring family with you?
I brought my cat. She counts as family in my perspective! I have no blood relatives here, but I have my wonderful husband and I’ve married into a really great family. My husband was on the flight with me when I moved to Norway. He and I married in Kentucky, USA one week prior to my move.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Then again, my life motto is, “Expect the worst so you’re not disappointed.” I’m not as pessimistic as that sounds though! I have my bouts of homesickness, but I was prepared for it. I’ve had some issues with Norway like the weather, but I just put on some clothes and deal with it. If it’s a dark season, I take Omega 3’s with Vitamin D and turn on some light. Other than weather the language has been another task. Everything in between, comparing major differences is just “nit picking.”

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I’ve met some really great friends in my language classes. We occasionally meet outside the classroom. I also have my husband’s friends and their wives as a group of friends. I have my blog of course and I have spoken through e-mail with many people. I have yet to actually meet another American in Norway, but I am talking to one soon-to-be expat who is moving close to where I live. She and I are becoming good friends. I don’t think it really matters too much whether to be friends with another person of the same nationality. A person is a person. But it would of course be nice to have another American here just for the connection, the support, relation and empathy from someone in the same background and situation.

In our spare time, my husband and I enjoy taking trips to the coast. My favorite place in Norway is a remote summer town called Langesund.
In our spare time, my husband and I enjoy taking trips to the coast. My favorite place in Norway is a remote summer town called Langesund.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I live in Skien and I think there are plenty of things to do here or at least nearby. There’s a cinema, a park with indoor swimming pool, a few shopping malls, a horse track, bowling and if someone is a Henrik Ibsen enthusiast, they’ve probably found Skien is the best place on Earth to live as Skien was his hometown. I always think it’s quite nice to take a little trip to the coast. Before moving to Norway, I’d only seen the ocean a handful of times and I know many Kentuckians who’ve never seen it, so to me it’s always a real pleasure to take a hike along the coast!

What do you enjoy most about living here?
Of course, my husband is the reason I’m here in Norway and being with him is what I enjoy most. Other than that, I like how the society seems to care about its citizens. Women get one year paid maternity leave from their jobs, fathers also get “Daddy leave” when a new baby is welcomed into the family. There are also fertility clinics and from what I’ve read they also welcome foreigners as their prices for fertility treatments are cheaper than many other countries. So, the society also cares about fertility concerns. Norwegian babies are some of the healthiest babies in the world and there are schools and daycares around every corner. That’s society’s take on parenting. For those working, there are high working wages and many labor laws, so people can feel safe in their jobs and therefore take more pride in their work. Women sadly still earn less than men, but the gender wage gap is smaller here than in most countries. I love how Norway’s society cares for the sick and the disabled. Everyone is “entitled” to health care. It’s a human right and not a privilege or a matter of whomever has the most money wins. Everyone is “entitled” to secondary education as well. Students do have to pay a few fees and for books for secondary education, but other than that there are no worries over going out into the world and seeking a job with debt up to your eyeballs. On Sundays the society basically shuts down aside from a few restaurants and maybe a swimming park or a bowling alley. Sunday is treated as a day of rest and a family day. Overall, when it comes to Norwegian society, I think it’s an undeniably caring society based on making its citizens live comfortably and giving them basic human rights – including health care and education.

Shortly after arriving to Norway, I took full advantage of the warm weather in another coastal town.
Shortly after arriving to Norway, I took full advantage of the warm weather in another coastal town.
How does the cost of living compare to home?
Oh wow! The cost of living is expensive! My basic rule of thumb is everything is doubled from the cost of living and working wages in America, so it basically evens out. It just takes a lot of getting used to the high prices of everything here.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The weather is a negative and a major let down. In the winter, the days are mostly dark with a handful of hours of sunlight – if it’s not cloudy. If it is cloudy in winter, it can be dark all day. Norway is very far north, so it’s cold and necessary to dress in layers and wear appropriate clothes. There’s a saying here in Norwegians, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
Another negative is how expensive everything is and if you’re not accustomed to the currency, then sometimes prices can seem very ridiculous.

Here in Skien, Norway there are some ancient ruins in the form of drawings dated from 2700 years ago.
Here in Skien, Norway there are some ancient ruins in the form of drawings dated from 2700 years ago.
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Of course it’s a good idea to get a feel of the country before moving by doing research and talking to other expatriates, but above all else, it’s good to experience Norway for yourself and not let anything or anyone alter your own opinion. Go into the country with a blank slate and find out what Norway is like through your own experience. That’s my biggest piece of advice. Before moving I did a lot of research, which unbiased research is great, but I also talked to a few expatriates and one girl I had to stop talking to because everything she said begun to scare me. How a person reacts to living in another place I think has a lot to do with the individual. If a person moves here with a positive attitude, the outcome will likely be positive. If the person moves here with a negative attitude, the outcome will likely be negative.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Feeling disconnected from society. I think becoming integrated into society takes some time, but right now, I greatly depend on my husband still and I hate it. My husband doesn’t mind one bit though, so I think this was one thing he was more prepared for than me with my move. It’s a bit strange because I feel like he tries to “babysit” and goes more out of his way to keep me occupied or try to prevent or deter homesickness and keep me entertained. It’s like a major loss of independence to me. It’s a temporary loss though, but I think this is the hardest aspect of being an expatriate in my own experience. Of course everyone’s story is different. Some come here with a job already lined up, some, like me, have to be supported by a spouse until they’re integrated into society. It just takes time. Of course it helps having a bus pass and going to language classes, but there’s still that disconnection and I’m quite sure it will be there until I feel as if I’m fluent in the language, have a Norwegian driver’s license and am employed somewhere. I really shouldn’t complain though. I have a great life and I’m very happy whether I’d be in Norway or USA.

This was taken from atop the Opera House in Oslo, Norway.
This was taken from atop the Opera House in Oslo, Norway.
When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Well, I will be returning home on trips to visit family, but not long enough for repatriation. Everyone I talk to makes the comment, “You are SO American!” I don’t know if it’s arrogance or ignorance or both, but I’m unsure what people mean by that most of the time. I really don’t think going back to America will be a shock at all to me. I love USA and it will always be home to me.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be patient in learning a new language. If you’re not giving yourself patience, the language only becomes a frustration.
  2. Do thorough research on the country you’re moving to before you move.
  3. If you have no social group before moving, it would be nice to get in touch with other expatriates or meet some natives of the country online before you move.
  4. Keeping a blog, a journal, a diary and a photo album is a great way to document your adventure in a new country. If you’re sharing this online you can also meet and talk to others in similar situations as yourself. Plus, it’s something you can show future generations. Your own children or grandchildren can have access to your adventures as well.
  5. Don’t focus on the differences between your home country and the country you’ve moved to. It’s best to focus on the similarities so you don’t get homesick. When and if you do get homesick, it’s good to stay busy. Make a cookbook with all your family’s favorite recipes; make a card for the person back home you’re thinking about. Skype often with loved ones. Also, Skype offers a decent yearly rate on unlimited calling to landline and cell phones as well.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I talk a bit about everything. Anything interesting I find in Norwegian culture which is different from my own, learning the language, personal musings about Norway and bits and pieces of my own personal life.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Anyone can view my blog (see below), or find me on Twitter: @evelynpsand. I’m happy to talk to anyone and answer any questions or concerns.

Evelyn blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. My New Norwegian Home has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Evelyn, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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