Top 9 Adjustments of Living in Norway
By: Saleha Mohsin
- Military time. Checking the time shouldn't involve math but living on the 24-hour-clock has me constantly trying to decipher code. It’s as if Attila the Hun has been reincarnated to keep me on schedule in case he decides to give conquering Constantinople another try. According to my oven clock we don’t have dinner at 7pm but rather at 19:00. My son goes to sleep at 20:15 and he issues a Drill Command at 07:30 that it’s time for breakfast.
- Plugs. I have electronics from the US, UK and Norway, and all three countries have different plugs. I employ a byzantine contraption of four adapters just to recharge my Kindle.
- The Missing. Awhile back I was on the phone with my 8-year-old nephew who lives in Ohio. When I told him I missed him he very simply said, “so just come back.” I wish it were that simple. We schedule our trips to the US via a carefully honed mathematical equation with the following variables:
§ X= how many days it’s been since I last saw my dad
§ Y= how many more days I can go without playing basketball with my nephews
§ Z= number of days until my flight to the US
There's also my variation of the mathematician's “imaginary number” - the number of family dinners, birthdays, movie nights and weddings that I miss, which can’t always be factored into the algebraic equation that gets me home twice a year.
- Language gap. My son loves Kraft mac ‘n cheese and I love that he loves it because it’s so American. But the kind we buy at Meny, our local grocery store, doesn’t have cooking instructions in English. The back of the box has Finnish, Danish and Norwegian, none of which I’m fluent in. Even the measurements are cryptic: 1 dl of water, 2ss of butter… Google Translate is my guiding light.
- Exorbitant cost of living. No matter how much we get in return for the high taxes we pay (income and sales tax are each 25%), I’ll never get used to the high cost of living. A craving for a Snicker’s bar will cost you $4, and if you’re a milk drinker you should get used to forking out $10 for a gallon. Fancy a mooseburger from a street vendor? That’ll be $13.
- Line-jumping. Norwegians are incredibly polite, helpful people. Walking around Oslo and pushing a stroller, I’ve noticed that the second I face a few stairs or a closed door, a knight in shining armor comes to the rescue and then disappears before I can even thank them. But if you find yourself standing in a line with that very same knight, all chivalry is thrown out. I’ve been prodded, poked and batted away in everything from immigration lines to check-out queues at the store because Norwegians just don’t understand the concept of waiting for their turn. It’s a big country for a population of just five million, perhaps standing in line isn’t something they’re used to.
- Understanding currency. In the US a hundred cents makes up a dollar, but here there’s just the kroner. With only one unit to Norwegian currency, along with the fact that the one unit alone has essentially no value because of the high cost of living, I feel like I’m paying for everything in pennies.
- Starting from scratch. When my husband and I moved to Norway no one knew us and we knew no one. We started from scratch to build a social circle and a professional network. Although we have made some wonderful friends, every once in a while I wish I could run into someone who I have a bit of history with.
- Local eating habits. Breakfast is at the start of the day, as expected, but from lunch onward Norwegians are on a strange schedule. They’ll have an assortment of bread and deli meats with raw vegetables for lunch at 11:30am, followed by a dinner at 5pm. And then at 9pm, just before bed, they’ll indulge in a slice of sweet brown cheese and bread to help them get through the night.
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