Someone once told me foreigners only move to Norway for two reasons; money or love. Well I’m the latter. My boyfriend, now fiancé is Norwegian and in May 2017 we packed up our life in London and moved to Oslo. I left my friends and a job I loved for a new adventure in Norway. I’m Australian and I think that goes hand in hand with a love for travel but most people I know raised a quizzical eyebrow when I told them I was moving to Oslo. I grew up between Hong Kong and Australia and had a blissful 5 years in London. The hustle and bustle of a big city, long working hours and even longer hours spent eating, drinking and socializing in the innumerable London restaurants and bars was a life I planned on living for the foreseeable future. Friends and colleagues knew I’d moved to London to pursue my dream of working in the fashion industry so their questions to me were mostly; “why?” and “what are you going to do there?”. To be honest, the only answer I could think of was 1. I loved my boyfriend and after almost 10 years together I didn’t want to do long distance, and 2. I had no idea. So, you see I moved to Norway for love.
Now a year has passed, full of ups and downs but I feel settled in our new home. As such I think I’m in a position to share my tips and tricks on how to not only adapt but make the most of your time in Oslo.
Learn the language
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note I’m not fluent. Not even close. The week after I arrived I enrolled myself in an intensive language course and completed the two Beginner level classes but that was the extent of my learning. Norwegians are the first to note that you don’t need to learn the language and that’s true to some extent. Movies and TV are not dubbed and most Norwegians, particularly the younger ones speak exceptional English. Even those who insist their English is terrible are better than most continental Europeans. However, not only does learning at least a little of the language make the whole experience of living in a foreign country less daunting but Norwegians really appreciate it when you make an effort, even if they will switch immediately to English after hearing you butcher their mother tongue. Of equal importance is that going to classes also means you meet other expats. I work from home and almost all my friends here are Norwegian so meeting other foreigners who are going through the motions of moving to a new country was definitely comforting in those first few months. If you’re moving without a job yet, I really recommend going to classes rather than taking an online course. Meeting people and establishing some kind of routine for yourself is really important.
Get involved in the national pastimes.
There are two activities in which Norwegians delight and pride themselves on being the best; skiing and discussing the weather.
We landed in Norway on the 1stof May and it was the beginning of two beautiful weeks of sunshine and over 20-degree weather. Now, I had been to Norway many times before but the weather Gods had always smiled upon me so I was surprised when those two weeks turned out to be the only summer weather Oslo had in 2017. What followed was an icy and very cold winter. Depending on who you asked it was wither the best or the worst. Skiers, anyone with a hytte (cabin) had a fabulous time. Expats or people who haven’t grown up walking on ice spent the winter praying for it to end or at the very least to survive without falling and breaking anything. No matter where you stand on the debate, discussing the weather occupies at least the first 5 minutes of most conversations. There’s also a sense of comradery in all agreeing how awful the weather was that particular morning. I know this sounds trivial but trust me, the weather is a source of national discussion here but it’s also an easy ice breaker or conversation starter if you’re the new kid on the block.
Jokes aside, the second activity I would highly encourage you to get involved in is skiing. Norwegians were born with skis on their feet. As someone who’s been skiing since they were 12 I’m embarrassed to admit most Norwegian toddlers I meet on the mountain are significantly braver and more graceful than me. Oslo is a couple hours drive from a number of popular ski resorts but we also have the added benefit of Holmenkollen right in the city. Once the work day ends floods of eager skiers head to the mountain for a couple hours of cross country skiing. This is one of the few activities that costs relatively little in this country! Norwegians are an active bunch; hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Personally, I prefer sweating it out in a dark room with excessively loud rap music playing á la Barry’s Bootcamp or SoulCycle but when it Rome right! Getting out of your comfort zone and getting involved is a great way to meet people, get to know new friends better or even take a moment to appreciate that your skiing in the middle of a capital city! There are not many places you can do that.
Say yes to everything
Norwegians have gained a reputation, somewhat unfairly I might add, of being cold and maybe a little “rude”. Norwegians are some of the kindest people… once you get to know them. That can be a tricky to an outsider. It doesn’t help that people stay inside out of the cold for 8 months of the year. It’s expensive in Oslo so going down to the pub for a casual mid-week drink or catching up with girlfriends over dinner on a Tuesday doesn’t happen very often. On the weekends, many locals escape to their hytteor cabins so socializing can be difficult. That being said, Norwegians are an incredibly caring bunch and will help you however they can. I can’t tell you how many coffees, drinks and dinners have been organized by lovely Norwegians wanting to introduce me to someone they think I’d like, find interesting, can help with work, has an Australian girlfriend, lived in London, works in fashion, likes fashion, you get the drift. Just say yes. Take every opportunity to meet new people, try new things, visit new places because before you know it, it will be time to hibernate for the winter again. Soon enough you’ll see the warmth in them I do and that “rudeness” is really just them being direct. That’s something I love about Norwegians, there’s no BS and everyone says exactly what they mean, there is no sugarcoating and no-nonsense.
Find a hobby
Norwegians as whole are active like to keep themselves in good shape even in the winter. You need a hobby, something that will keep you busy, give you routine and get you through those winter months. It can be something you’ve never tried before or something you used to do back home that gives you that comforting feeling of familiarity. Learn to ski, take Pilates class, sign up to Barry’s Bootcamp, go for walks, join an ice-swimming club (yes, that’s a thing), an American dancer I met joined a local salsa group. Find something that you enjoy and go every week or more if possible. Inevitably you’ll meet people and form friendships outside your usual social group or colleagues. Even if you don’t speak Norwegian most instructors will happily take the class or speak to the group in English so there’s no excuse not to join in!
The Danish concept of hyggehas become popular around the world of late but Norwegians do it exceptionally well. In Norway, you’ll hear the term kosor the adjective koseligthrown around a lot. Koseligis perhaps best translated as “coziness” and emotes feelings of warmth, relaxation and comfort. Think falling snow outside but sitting by a warm fire with loved ones drinking red wine surrounded by scented candles. That’s my idea of koseligbut it’s a feeling and can mean different things to people. It’s a home cooked meal, heated floors in your bathroom, a warm Marius sweater (you’re not Norwegian until you have one of these), a fresh pot of coffee or eating waffles after a hike. Find your perfect idea of koselig. Truth be told at first, I thought it was some kind of coping mechanism Norwegians used to get through the dark and cold months of winter. But here, winter is not something to be endured, it’s something to be enjoyed. In London I would have forced myself to brave the hellish conditions of rain and sludge and willed myself to meet my friends at a restaurant or pub, all the way complaining about the cold and my newly ruined leather boots. I thought my refusal to stay inside despite the weather was some sort of testament to my resilience as a Londoner. Here in Oslo, koseligis part of the culture. A winter evening spent at home with friends, cooking dinner and refilling each other’s wine glasses while a fire crackles in the background is something to look forward to and embrace.
This post was written in collaboration with Frogner House, you can check out their blog here. Their Skovvein 8 property is actually where Nico and I lived for 3 weeks before we found our place. If you are considering visiting Oslo I would definitely recommend booking into one of their properties in Frogner, best location and great rates!