More than 5 Years ago I packed my things and moved to Norway. I have experienced so much in this beautiful country, met so many nice people and still there is so much to do, see, learn and understand. There are some typical questions people ask me when they find out that I have lived in Germany until I was 19. Questions like: Why Norway? Do you miss Germany? Will you move back to Germany one day?
All these questions are actually not so easy to answer, but I will give it a try.
The reason for coming to Norway was basically that I didn’t know what to do after school and thought it would be cool to experience something new. Something without studying for exams all the time. Maybe some place where I could run some more orienteering and train a little bit more „professional“.
I heard about the possibility to go for one year as an Au Pair to Halden, Norway. A very good place for orienteering in a beautiful country. So I decided to go to Halden for one year.
It turned out that one year in Norway became 5 years and I am still not tired of these Norwegians. All that was possible because of the support from some very nice people. I want to thank my Au Pair family Schmitt Gran for all the support and advice they gave me while I was living in Halden, Anne-Louise for all the Norwegian lessons that made it possible for me to communicate with the Norwegians, get a job and finally start to study here, and all the people in Halden and Oslo that helped me finding a place to stay, getting a job or who just were there for some training or social time.
But back to the question „why Norway?“. Everyone who has been a little bit around in Norway knows how beautiful the nature and the landscape is. Everyone who knows orienteering also knows how beautiful the forests are and how perfect training conditions in a Norwegian club can be.
But these are just some of the reasons that made me stay here.
When I talk to foreign people that got a job in Norway or study in Norway the usual topics we talk about are the beauty of the landscape and the ridiculously high prices for beer. But it also happens fast that we start talking about how easy life is in Norway compared to the respective home country. Living in Norway is easy, and for me living in Norway is also kind of running away from the German bureaucracy.
I have so many examples for that in my head, but let me just take one I experienced last winter: I don’t know how many phone calls I have made when I was laying sick at home in Germany just so that the hospital would send me some results from the blood test they had taken a week before. Sending them directly to me was because of data protection not possible. Sending them to my local doctor was only possible if the local doctor was sending an official request to the hospital. When I say sending something in Germany I don’t mean taking a picture of a document and send it by email. I mean sending a letter or if you are lucky a fax. And of course, for me to get them from the local doctor I had to be there myself and pick them up.
A few month later I was back in Norway when I needed a copy from my journal from the hospital that treated me there. I just had to log in on an online platform where I within a few clicks could check my whole journal. Actually, I could find all the journals from all the injuries and diseases I have had in Norway. I could also make an appointment with the doctor, checking my prescriptions or changing my local doctor. So efficient and easy for me.
It might seem like only a small difference, but if you put this and all the things that I haven’t mentioned together you would see how easy life is in Norway and how annoying the German bureaucracy can be.
Other things that come to mind next to the health issues where Norwegians just choose the easier and more modern way are: Payment methods, Tickets for public transport, Job- and University-applications, Education, Exams, Grades, Certifications and much more. I just have to listen to my German friends talking about how stressed they are from school, university or their job in Germany and I think „thank god, that I live in Norway“. Norway is such a far developed and modern country that going back to Germany seems like travelling back in time for like 10 years. So, one big point to answer the question „why Norway?“ is off course the beautiful nature and perfect conditions for sports (e.g. orienteering, skiing…), but also the fact that living in Norway is easier, makes one happier and reduces the level of stress.
Now that we know that Norway is great let’s go to the second question.
Do you miss Germany?
Yes, so many things and in so many ways.
Off course I miss my family and friends. Having dinner with my family, playing with my niece in the garden, sitting on a warm summer evening with my father and friends for some Bratwurst and beer in the garden or meeting my old friends to join them for a party are things I really would like to do more often.
Then there are all the other typical German or untypical Norwegian things that I miss. But I am doing fine without them if I get them now and then when I am on holidays in Germany. That are things like: Bratwurst, Döner, real bread, beer, clubs open until the last one leaves the dancefloor, bars where you actually can afford to buy a drink, local bakeries, local butchers, the repertory of food in German supermarkets, Christmas markets, relatively warm and long summers (compared to Norway) and all the things that would take me to much time to explain now.
But then there are also these things that I miss from Germany and just don’t understand how they work in Norway. These things concern social behavior and interactions in general. Now I am getting very general and I know that there are many exceptions on both sides, but Norwegians are cold people. After 5 years living in Norway, I still don’t know for example which people I should look at, smile at, greet, give a handshake or a hug.
Giving hugs, handshakes and greeting people is not really part of the Norwegian culture. That doesn’t mean that they don’t do it, it just means that it almost seems totally randomly when they do it or to whom they do it. If you join a party or meet some people somewhere in Norway and are in doubt how to greet them it is usually totally fine to stand there and maybe say a general „Hei Hei“. In Germany, this would be seen as strange. Greeting people by a handshake or a hug (hugs can be given for both men and women) and introducing yourselves to the people you don’t know is very basic in German social interactions. If you join a big group sitting on a table you can also greet them by knocking twice on the table to get their attention so you don’t have to walk around the whole table to give a handshake to everyone. Handshake and hugging is something Germans (or let’s say not Scandinavians) also use when leaving someone or a group. Just disappearing from a party or friends without any kind of goodbye is something I have only experienced in Norway. Sometimes you might see someone leaving the room and think he will just go to the toilet. Wondering what he is doing so long on the toilet you later might find out that he just left without saying anything. I have even experienced being with Norwegians for a couple of weeks on some really fun holidays around Europe and when arriving back in Oslo they just walk home without any kind of goodbye. That feels so strange if you are not used to it.
Anyway, the way people greet is just a piece of the strange Norwegian social interaction puzzle. I am still trying to get used to this piece of the puzzle and it bothers me not as much as it did 5 years ago. But I still don’t get it always.
Asking me what I miss from Germany I would answer that I miss more family, friends and the way Germans are social to each other, than I miss the wonderful German Döner, the bread or the beer.
Will you move back to Germany one day?
When I was 13 years old we had to write a letter at school about where we see ourselves in 10 years. I still have this letter. Back in 2006 I wrote that in 2016 I would be about to finish studying, would have a girlfriend, a goldfish and still live in my beautiful hometown Nieste. Well, 2016 passed last year. I had studied for 2 years, had no girlfriend, no goldfish and was living far away from my home place. So, I guess where I will be in 10 years from now is very uncertain. Today I would say that I see no reason for moving back to Germany or away from Norway at all, but we never know what the future will bring 🙂