What is “Culture Crush”?

blue green and red abstract illustration
blue green and red abstract illustration
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

When I hear a word or an expression, I like to go to the ground meaning. I often use dictionaries. When there is an expression, it is usually formed by two or more words, which on their own have their meaning, and combined, they mean something else, something more than if they stand alone. Even if the original term is “culture clash” which means “a conflict arising from the interaction of people with different values”, I find this definition somehow limited. Therefore I choose to use “culture crush”, not for its dramatism, yet to give a better explanation of what actually may happen.

In the Oxford dictionary, the definition I found for the word “crush” is: “to press something so hard that it is damaged or injured, or loses its shape.” 

For the word “culture,” the same dictionary has the following definition: “the custom and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or a group.” 

If we put the two definitions together, the result would be something like this: to press the customs and believes, way of life, and social organization of two groups so hard that they are damaged, injured, or lose their shapes. In other words, the values, beliefs, and way of life of two countries/groups are pressed so hard against each other that they are altered.

I would say that this meaning put together by the two definitions might not be necessarily accurate because I do not believe that one set of values can crush another set of values. But, at the same time, they can influence each other, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. It’s like mixing colors in a painting.

We think of Culture Crush mainly when we speak about the experience many people go through when they decide to move and live in a different country than their own. Yet, each family can have a culture, school, organization, group of friends, and all this we can find within the same country among people who speak the same language. Nevertheless, the cultures can be different, which implies that the set of values people live by are different. 

When we put it in the context of cultures in different countries, I believe that the best way to look at it is that these different values blend, and something good can come out of them. I do not necessarily agree with the use of the word “crush”. At the same time, I believe it comes from the feeling people can get when they realized that perhaps something they have thought to be true all their lives doesn’t work, and it can have a completely different meaning in the new culture they chose to live in. 

The pain caused by the feeling that someone can have when they realized they have made a mistake, or have misunderstood words and signals, can be so strong that it can be similar to a punch in the face – therefore, perhaps some muscles or bones would be smashed and altered. It is a figure of speech, where its plasticity can give a better picture of the real act. Yet, I believe that if there is anything that it is crushing, it is on one side of the brain, which contains the limiting beliefs one has lived under for a very long time. The heart and the body are feeling “the crush” the brain is suffering. It is like the soul is aking. 

This crush can feel stronger or softer, depending on how “black and white” people are wired to think from their own cultures. If someone grew up and lived in a system where rules were whipped into the people, and there was little room for tolerance for creativity or who people are, this would “crush” with a tolerant way of life. When I say tolerant, I mean that people were allowed to make mistakes and find out for themselves how to function within the system of rules they were born into. After all, we learn better from our own experiences and mistakes. Making mistakes is what allows us to grow and transform at the cellular level. 

Imposed rules and learned rules without understanding the process behind them will affect people differently. Even if people do as they are told at the surface, there will always be frustration underneath the smiling mask. That frustration is linked with not experiencing the process on own skin, and the lack of the lesson, which is not learned from experience. 

There are some that we all have in common when it comes to values, no matter the culture, and I like to quote here David Rock. He says that we all have our perception about five main areas in our lives: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness, known in neuroscience since 2008 as the SCARF model. 

When we meet other cultures, we do not know how these values are positioned in each of them.

Status has to do with who do we become in the new contexts. In the country of origin, studies, diplomas, and leadership positions would give status and a specific type of identity. It is possible that neither of that would be important in the new country, yet the personality and the soft skills would be more critical in terms of status. Here we can meet a lot of considerable confusion between being kind and being stupid. They are not the same thing, and I will address this discussion in another article. 

When we are new in a new country, our need for certainty is also challenged, especially when we don’t know anything about how the visa paperwork process is working and how long it will take, if we will be allowed to work or not. Another example would be having a boyfriend or a girlfriend from another country and not knowing their intentions and how the relationship will go further. 

If we come from a tolerant culture, we will tend to recognize the need for autonomy people have. This means we will let them make their own decisions because this is what we are used to. But if we come from a dictatorship, for instance, where we were told what to do and how to feel, and we would have had harsh rules imposed on us, we will have a stronger tendency to impose ideas and rules on other people simply because we do not know any better. That will threaten people’s autonomy from the tolerant culture, and they are going to react strongly to that. They may not like to be told what to do. 

Relatedness has to do with how familiar the behavior of the people we meet is. Is there anything we can relate to? Is there anything we can recognize? The things we see in a new culture and how we interpret them are entirely different from how the locals see them. Therefore this can create frictions, especially if we see something that may have negative connotations and the locals were not aware of it and never thought about that perspective. One obvious thing would be the skin color, and another straightforward example I can think of is the definition of “network”. In some countries, it means something positive. In other countries can mean “corruption”.   

Fairness is about what feels fair for each individual. In terms of immigration, we will find here many shades. It has to do with being a woman or a man and the color of the skin, immigrants from 1st world countries or 3rd world countries or from between, which is quite a grey zone. Former colony powers or former colonies and the list of distinctions can continue. Politics has a significant role in this aspect as well. We may hear the word “discrimination” here quite a bit. Not an easy subject, which again I will address in another article. 

As immigrants, not knowing how these five elements are defined in the new culture can cause many misunderstandings that can come under the category of “culture crush”

Which of the five elements of the SCARF model is the most important to you? How do you recognize when those elements are triggered in you by the people in your new adoptive country, and how do you realize when you activate one of those five within the local people you meet? 

Please leave a comment underneath this article or let me know in confidence by clicking on this link

I wish you a smooth landing in the new country of residence!

10 reasons for joining a Union while in Norway

crop unrecognizable multiethnic colleagues joining hands
crop unrecognizable multiethnic colleagues joining hands
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I work with many people who are immigrants in Norway. Some of them have their issues with their employers, yet, every time I ask if they are members of a Union, I get frightened and confused looks. I understand that in many other countries, being a member of a Union can be too good to be true. In Norway, though, it has more advantages than disadvantages.

I remember telling this to a friend of mine who does not live in Norway. She replied: “In my company, we were already warned that if we join a Union, we’re going to lose our jobs. So, this is not something I can do, because I need my job”. We all need our jobs, for various reasons. In this video, you may find some of them.

When it comes to Unions in Norway, they are well organized. However, there are many, and you need to find the right one representing the people’s interests in your field of work.

I am going to mention 10 advantages for which it is worth to join one while working in Norway, doesn’t matter for how long:

1. The money you pay for a membership is considered nondeductible income, which means you do not pay tax on that amount, or you pay little.

2. Every time there are salary negotiations for your working field, the Union negotiates for you as well, even if you didn’t ask for it personally. They will negotiate in the name of all members. Usually, each Union sends a warning to its members on what they need to do in good time before the negotiations start.

3. If you experience injustices at your workplace, you can speak to people from the Union, get advice and make a plan so you can make yourself heard. They accompany you in the meetings you may have with your leaders and even speak for you if necessary. They also have lawyers who can offer legal aid. Most of the conflicts at work are solved by the Unions.

4. They can negotiate better house mortgage interests for their members.

5. Many negotiate good deals for all sorts of insurances, from house to car and even hotels and rentals.

6. Scholarships for education.

7. Courses and conferences in your field of work so you can keep yourself updated. For those, the employer usually gives time off from work and even pays for them.

8. Network meetings and events, so you get to know your colleagues and not only. Most of these events are free of charge for members. They are a good opportunity for networking. If you feel like you don’t get the chance to know new people, use the time to knit better bonds with the people you already know.

9. You get information about things happening inside your field of work through a magazine or regular e-mails. It’s good to know what’s happening around.

10. If you are a student or not employed, the membership fee is lower, and the information you get is helpful and keeps you updated with news on the work marked.

If you want to get involved, you can become a representative yourself and help. It is good learning inside this kind of organization. It is a job that you’re not paid for. It is like volunteering inside your working place. But for that, your employer gives you the time off so you can work with it. You’re not paid in money, but in time. In return, you learn something new, meet new people, grow your network, and contribute to your colleague’s work welfare and your own. 

From what I hear from people I work with, some of the skepticism towards Unions comes from their experiences from the countries of origin. Like the friend, I mentioned at the begyning of this article.

Other reasons for skepticism would be that many people do not work full time, but only a couple of months in a raw, season work, and then they travel back to their own country. Others simply do not know that something like that exists, what it is, and what it is good for. Of course, not learning the language is also a disadvantage. If one does not speak even English, it isn’t easy to find out about this kind of thing, and one depends on own compatriots to get information and help. They can only help you as far as they came themselves.

If you already are a member of a Union, I suggest getting yourself acquainted with the person elected as your representative in your department. Find out more about how they can help you, and why not, how you can help them. After all, they work for you too.

If you didn’t join a Union yet, my suggestion would be to find out which one can represent people in your work field best. Find their website, read the information there, eventually give them a call, and join. You won’t regret it, even if you only work a couple of months a year and travel back to your country in between. They’ve got your back in those times you’re not in Norway also. 

I hope you have the courage to stand up for your rights! If you need help to build that up and you don’t know quite yet how to approach the issue, you can register on this link for a free talk. It is not easy to be foreign in a foreign country.

If you want to know more about life in Norway, culture, written and unwritten rules, feel free to get my free newsletter on this link. You’ll receive more insights every week or so.

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Fem kulturtips til deg med utenlandske arbeidstakere

solar technicians installing solar panels
solar technicians installing solar panels
Photo by Los Muertos Crew on Pexels.com

Mange arbeidsgivere har trolig opplevd at det ikke alltid er like enkelt å ha på lag mennesker med ulike kulturer. Noen ganger kan det til og med være lett å misforstå hverandre når man snakker samme språk, og er født og oppvokst i samme land. Det blir ikke lettere når kommunikasjonen føres på et annet språk, eller med tolk.

I tillegg, er det ikke uvanlig at migranter ikke kjenner til de innforståtte verdiene i det norske arbeidsmiljøet, noe som kan skape forvirring.

Gründer Gabriela Sirbu veileder utenlandske arbeidstakere og deres arbeidsgivere om kulturelle utfordringer som kan oppstå på en arbeidsplass. I denne artikkelen deler hun fem tips du burde kjenne til som arbeidsgiver når du skal legge til rette for rask innføring i kultur.

Klikk her for å lese artikelen.

Den gode usynlige bagasjen

concentrated woman carrying stack of cardboard boxes for relocation
concentrated woman carrying stack of cardboard boxes for relocation
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Når vi reiser, tar vi med oss mange kofferter. Vi pakker klær, kvinner pakker sminke, sko. Vi pakker praktiske ting som vi tror at vi kommer til å trenge når vi flytter til et annet land. Det er noe vi ser med nakne øyer. Vi sjekker det inn på det ene flyplassen, vi plukker det opp ved den andre flyplassen og så videre.

Samtidig, bærer vi med oss, i våre hjerter noe som betyr mye mer. Vanligvis bærer vi med oss forskjellige kategorier følelser. Jeg la merke til at det største grunnen til at mennesker bestemmer seg for å flytte til andre land er kjærlighet. Fordi folk gifter seg med folk fra andre land og de bestemmer seg for å følge med ektefellen.

Kjærlighet er når en av de ektefellen får seg jobb i et annet land, og familien følger med. Og en annen type kjærlighet er flykning kjærlighet. Og det er når noen flykter fra krig, de blir borgere i et annet land, og det tar med seg familien i ettertid. Det er også kjærlighet når barn følger foreldrene. Det er ubetynget kjærlighet, barna har ikke noe valg. Kjærlighet har mange former og størrelser og det mange måter å håndtere det på når det gjelder byrokratiet.

En annen følelse vi tar med oss i vårt usynlige bagasje er komfort. Mennesker vil ha et bedre liv. Det har alltid vært sånn. Alle sammen jakter på et bedre liv. Ingen vil føle seg elendig. Derfor mennesker reiser for komfort. Når jeg sier det jeg mener materiell komfort. Her mennesker reiser får å ha bedre jobber. Vanligvis reiser de fra Øst til Vest i verden.

Vi opplever reisen den andre veien også. Fordi det er mange mennesker fra Vest som reiser til Øst fordi kanskje, med de pengene de tjener i sine egne lang ikke klarer å kjøpe i det vestlige land det samme materielle komforten som det kan kjøpe med de samme pengene i Østen hvor ting er kanskje billigere. Denne følsen av å ha materiell komfort som blander mennesker, har å gjøre med jobb, lønn og penger.

Samtidig har vi også en emosjonell komfort. Dette har å gjøre med måten vi er behandlet på som mennesker i et land. For eksempel jeg har truffet mange mennesker som kan ha det godt med penger i sine egne land, og de kan ha et behagelig liv materielt sett, samtidig, de likte ikke hvordan de var behandlet av sine egne landsmenn. Enten på grunn av korrupsjon, eller andre grunner. Derfor de vil jobbe i andre land, mange ganger for mindre penger enn de ville tjene i sine egne land, og de likte bedre hvordan folk behandlet hverandre: snillhet, høflighet, smilene, renhet i byene, forbudt på bruk av våpen, og det kan være mange andre grunner. Dette er en emosjonell komfort som vi har med oss og selvfølgelig det varierer fra menneske til menneske og land til land.

En annen følelse vi tar med oss er mestring gjennom utdannelse. Når unge mennesker vil ha en annen type utdanning en i sine egne land, de bestemmer seg for å studere i utlandet. Sammen med følelsen av mestring kommer også følelsen av spenning, fordi når man er i et annet land som er annerledes, det er bestandig noe nytt. Denne følelsen av mestring gjennom studier, gir mennesker en bedre posisjon på jobbmarkedet.

Og selvfølgelig, det neste følelse vil være spenning. Her snakker vi om å reise på ferie. Når mennesker reiser på ferie, snubler de i noe eller noen og bestemmer seg for å bli der, uansett hvor de er.

Disse er de fire store kategorier med gode følelser som jeg har funnet til å være relevante når vi snakker om usynlig bagasje.

Jeg håper at dette er en innlysende innfalsvinkler for deg som er innvandre i Norge og det ga deg noe å tenke på. Om du vil motta min nyhets brev på norsk kan du melde deg på ved å klikke her.

Om du har tilbakemelding på det du har nettopp lest, skrive gjerne en komentar her under.

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Hva er nøkkelen til Norge?

Vet du hva er nøkkelen til Norge? Er det språk? Kultur? Venner?

I denne youtube video har jeg hatt en samtale med Annelén Takita som er norsklæreren fra Norsksonen.

Annelén deler sine erfaringer som norsklærer, og jeg deler mine erfaringer som innvandrer i Norge. Vi snakker om hva mange misforstår om norsk kultur, og hva nordmenn mener med nettverk. Vi gir tips and triks om hvordan man lærer språket og hva som skal til for å bli god i norsk. Vi nevner også noen av de verdiene nordmenn holder høyest.

Klikk her for å se video.

Om du vil motta min nyhets brev på norsk kan du melde deg på ved å klikke her.

Annelén finner du her.

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How “old” are you?

set of various items for exploration with camera on desk
set of various items for exploration with camera on desk
Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

“How old are you, really?” is perhaps something you’ve never thought about, yet it is an important part of the Norwegian way of living and thriving. I have recently stumbled into it again, and I thought I should tell you something about it as well.

In my experience, the way Norwegian people look at their age and what they can achieve in their lives is very different from what I was used to, and I am quite sure that you have been used to as well.

Age is spiritual, and not the actual number of years.

In Norway, people can be allowed to be as young as they want. Life is joy. At least, this is what they say upfront. The complaints are only for selected ears. People can afford to be “children” much longer than we’re used to in Southern Europe or other corners of the world. I discover a similar attitude in my French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Asian, or southeast European friends. If you are 40, you need to retire, or go home and wait to die, as life is over for you.

A refugee from a war zone, 40 years old, is considered by his or her society very old. I was helping with an integration course one time and I saw the reaction of the group of refugees when they heard that my colleagues’ ages were 59 and 64. Their estimation went as far as 45 and 55.

Another time, a colleague was very happy when she was about to reach her 40th birthday, as she got old. She comes from an African country and, in her culture, you’ve passed your youth and become old at this age. If you are old, everybody respects you and asks for your opinion. You also gain status in your community. At the same time, not many people think that the number of years you lived is always wisdom’s attribute. We can find many old people behaving childishly. Maturity of the physical body is not the same as emotional maturity. Many people had to grow up fast because of the harsh living conditions. That did not always allow them to develop emotionally at a natural pace. The emotional development in people is a whole story, too big and too complex to mention more about it here.

Living in Norway has proven to me that until 40, life is research in development. You start living at 40. People here get married late if they do at all, and they live life to the full, for as long as they can. If they marry early and find out on the way that they’ve grown apart, they separate and build a life with somebody else, or on their own, while doing the things they love, enjoying time with their children, if they have them.

After all, children are much better off with two happy separated parents than with two miserable parents living together. A general rule I discovered here is that children are “mine, yours and ours”. I have a friend who remarried at 40 to a 50-year-old guy who had also been married before. They have one child, as a testimony of their love for each other, and the 50-year-old guy was the one to stay at home with the baby.

They both have three children each from previous marriages, and the youngest was the joy of the whole family. They travel together as a family; they walk up the mountains, work, and have a good time. Of course, this is the outside picture, visible to me, but the point is, that they are not “old” at 50 or 60, as they might be considered in other countries.

The welfare state contributes to this as well, and life is much more stable than in many other corners of the world. It became like this especially after 1969 when oil came into the picture.

In Norway, among the couples I know, some do not have children yet. Therefore, each partner spends Christmas or parts of the summer holiday at his/her parents’ house and takes time to be a child for a while longer. Only when children come into the picture, couples consider it as the end of their own childhood. If couples get help with the children from their parents, they consider themselves very lucky, and they express it. They do not take this help for granted.

I recently heard a 60-year old southeast European woman talking about her “grandma duties”. In many families from southeast Europe, the expectation is that grandparents get involved in their grandchildren’s lives and they are given responsibility for their upbringing. They are not paid for that, and often enough this help can be just taken for granted. This does not happen in Norway. Some grandparents consider themselves lucky to be part of their grandkid’s lives, but they can choose the time they want to spend with them.

Another detail I think might contribute to the Norwegians’ youthfulness is the language. They have no politeness pronouns. Respect is shown through attitude, not in words. People are called by their first names, regardless of their age or social status. People forget their age if they are not constantly reminded that they are a “Madam” or “Sir”.

By contrast, as soon as I step off the airplane in my country of birth, someone swiftly shows me their respect by calling me “madam” or “lady”. But I do not always feel their respect in their attitude or in their voice. It is just a word. I also recognize this in the words and the attitudes of my friends, the same age as me, but still living there. It feels like they are slowly marching to the cemetery. I don’t think they are aware of it, and if I pointed it out to them, they look at me with confusion, saying: “Stop being so Norwegian.” As if my becoming Norwegian was their main concern.

My point is, that Age can be looked at as just a number, and we are all children. In Norway, if a 60-year-old person becomes widowed or divorced, it is perfectly normal to find someone else to share the rest of his or her days with, without being judged by society. It is a natural thing to do. The children are also happy when their parents are not alone and can still enjoy life in someone’s company. The retiring age is between 62 and 70, and if the health allows, people are strong and green many years after that. It helps that they keep physically active, running/walking up mountains and marathons, skiing, kayaking, and doing all sorts of other sports. In Norway, I have learned that people are as young as they want to be, and they get help with that.

What is your experience with age/aging, that you have from your country of origin?

How do you relate to the age you have? If you are thinking of exploring your true age, and not the one in your passport, feel free to sign up here for a free talk.

If you want to know more about life in Norway, culture, written and unwritten rules, feel free to get my free newsletter on this link. You’ll receive more insights every week.

Best wishes from Norway

What is bullying?

black man grabbing student near university
black man grabbing student near university
Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

What does it mean to be bullied? Cambridge dictionary defines this word as follows: “the behavior of a person who hurts or frightens someone smaller or less powerful, often forcing that person to do something they do not want to do”.

We often hear children and teenagers saying that they are being bullied at school. They mean that other children pick on them for being different or simply because they don’t like them. Being different can mean anything: from having a different skin color to have different hair color or style, speaking different, being the new kid who just moved in the neighborhood, being too fat or too skinny, or too short or too tall, being too bright or not, wearing glasses or not.

All of us had our shares of bullying in school. One of my shares was because I was reading too much. I still do. I can’t help it, there is too much valuable information around. I am too curious not to look it up.

Origins of bullying

From my perspective, bullying does not start at school. The first bullies we meet are in our closest circle of caregivers: family, parents, siblings, extended family of cousins, and uncles. They are people who took care of us at a certain point, long before we started school.

How many of you do not have mothers who tell funny stories since you were in your diapers? There are many videos on the internet showing adults how they test various reactions of their children and then make fun of them as if they are not there? What do you think that is? Or keeping a baby within a reaction which the adults like, yet they have no idea that being in that reaction is hurtful for the child. That is also “forcing a smaller or less powerful person to do what they do not want to do”. Adults often do not take the child from that state until the child starts crying, and sometimes (more often than we would like to think) not even then. 

We also have parents/caregivers who call their babies names: “little bug”, “little mouse”, or shorten the names they have chosen to give to the children: Billy for William, or Andy for Andrew, or Seby for Sebastien, Alex for Alexandra, and so on. These are the happy cases, and I am sure you can think of your examples which can be more unfortunate. Many parents do not even ask the child if they like the short name they picked as a sign of love or simply because they don’t consider they have the time to pronounce the full name – this sends the message to the child that it is not worthy of the parent’s time. The child does not protest because the parents/caretakers are their “Gods” and its survival depends on them.

If people grew up in a culture where violence, public shaming, and bullying were a tool for child-rearing, they have met the less happy version of parents or caretakers who used violence to make them obey.  Perhaps you can recognize phrases like “You have to do this because I told you so”, “God speaks through a parent hand”, or “I gave birth to you, I will kill you”, and I am sure that in each language there are expressions which can express “tough love”. One of my course participants called this once “a regime”, which sounded like a rigorous environment, or dictatorship to me.

It is good to remember that these parents did not necessarily apply this regime because they felt pleasure (well, some may have, if we are speaking about pathological cases). They did it because it was the regime they have experienced themselves from their parents. They didn’t know any better. At the time, there were no child psychologist and parenting courses. This is modern science, only about 50 years old.

Children deal with the situations the best way they can so they can survive. Since they cannot distinguish between the behavior and the feeling, they will store the feeling of inadequacy within their body with the nametag “familiarity” or worse, “love”. They will carry this familiarity with them at school, where other children feel it’s natural to pick up on these particular children. Even if the feeling of being bullied is uncomfortable, it will also give a thrill because it reminds of how “love” was shown at home by caretakers. These children are not yet equipped with the intellectual tools to deal with abuse at home or at school. They need help from the adults around to step up for them. Either the person doing the “bullying” to apologize and say “I am sorry”, either someone else to come into their defense.

How can it be fixed?

When parents realize their children are bullied at school, it is always a good idea to change the schools. It sends the child the message that their feelings are right and their needs of being safe are fulfilled, and that mum’ and dad’ are present and involved in their lives, which is the ground for a human being to grow up with a strong sense of self and certainty. Even if the parents cannot do much anymore concerning the “bullying” they did themselves to the child when it was very small, it is never too late to rectify the behavior when they become conscious of the harm.

Since the conscious brain is not developed until we are about 25, we meet many cruelties in school, high school, and college. Keep in mind that bulling means “crossing personal borders/lines/boundaries” other people have. Which is a subject I’ve already approached in a bit different manner in this article.

Unfortunately, bullying does not stop in school. It continues in the workplace. As adults, the difference is that people are expected to “deal with it” or fight it back the best they can. We hear phrases like “He/she can take this”. Or when a boy/man pics up on a girl/woman, or the other way around, people would say, “It’s because he/she likes you”. I would think that showing love by hurting someone would not be the best way to get to that person’s heart. Yet, we see this behavior, and we hear these words around us a lot.

When we are immigrants/expats, we also carry with us the tag of being different. We speak the new language with an accent, or perhaps we pronounce the words in a way that means something else than we actually intend to. Perhaps we have a different skin color, or perhaps we grew up in a “regime” not only at home but in the country of origin. As immigrants we can be more often a subject of bullying, it is something that comes in the same package, it depends a lot on how politically correct the locals from the host country are raised to be. At the same time, if at home we had good and caring parents/caretakers, it will always be easier to deal with the bullying. There is an HBO series called “Six feet under” where the youngest child in the family is writing on the walls of her apartment “Terror starts at home”. Watching that episode and following the story of the family, the scene made a lot of sense.

Awarness

Experiments show that people who have been bullied themselves at a specific time in their lives become bullies for other people. It is an unconscious strategy the human body and brain is programed “to release” the frustration once felt by giving it to another person. It is the same with good experiences. When someone is treated well, they tend to treat well people around also. It comes naturally, and it is not harmful since we are talking about positive experiences.

Yet, when we deal with less positive experiences, like anger which can be provoked by a bully, as adults, it is essential to find ways to channel that anger towards something else and not someone else.

So, if you are an adult and you experience either that you are still bullied by people around, or that you feel like bullying other people, and perhaps actually doing it, how does it feel for you? Let me know in the comments below, or tell only me, in confidence, by signing up here.

I wish you build awareness!

Best from

How expensive is Norway, really?

landscape photography of mountain
landscape photography of mountain
Photo by stein egil liland on Pexels.com

When I tell people I live in Norway, I often get this question: How expensive is Norway? 

I have been living here for nearly 20 years, yet I do not think it is that expensive. It depends a lot on each person’s priorities. I believe that everybody can get everything they need when it comes to material things, especially if one is not fussy about brands. Those are expensive everywhere. 

If someone has a place to live, which means a roof above the head and the walls around, running water and electricity, and can afford that, the rest can quickly come very cheap, even for free. 

Let’s see what a human being’s basic needs are to survive.

AIR

It is free and cleaner than in many other countries since Norway is very keen on keeping a clean environment. You find out as soon as you learn the rules in your town about sorting out the garbage and such. The expensive electric cars are bought mostly because they are friendly to the environment. Corona has made the air even cleaner since the travels by plane stopped. Of course, the virus was spread through the air, yet the rest of the polluting factors were reduced considerably. 

WATER

It is free. Tap water in Norway is good to drink. The same from the rivers and lakes on the mountains, for those who are fond of hiking and not only. Nature is very accessible in Norway. The human body is 90% water; therefore, water is the best liquid to drink. I heard once a wise man saying that water is for the brain what air is for the lungs. It is not my intention to speak here about the importance of water for our health. A simple google search can tell you more than me. We die faster without water than without food. This is also why nutritionists say that the first thing we need to do when we are hungry is to breath because we most likely don’t have enough oxygen. The next thing we need t do is to drink water because we ‘re probably dehydrated, and only after that should we think of food. Therefore, I think it is a good thing that water is accessible in Norway. In many other countries you need to buy drinking water, or to boil the tap water, because it can be damaging other wise.

Where I live, I get water straight from the mountain, from a well about 400 meters up my house. I cannot imagine the work people who built that house did so they can bring it all that way to the house. I was told by my neighbors that they dag those plumbing ditches by hand. When I moved there (very soon after I moved to Norway) I was having some troubles with my kidneys. Some sand thought they were a good place to form itself. A year after living there and drinking that water, the doctors found nothing at all, when I went to check this issue again. And the medicine came from the nature, for free.

As far as I know, all the water in Norway comes from natural sources, very close to where people live. If there is anything people are paying for is the building and the maintenance of the plumbing system the municipalities are doing. Unless they live in the country side and they have access to own wells, like I do.

Even in coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants, the water is very often offered for free. Of course, it also depends in how fancy the place is. 

Sodas and juices are available in the grocery stores, also on sale sometimes. Many locals prefer to prepare their own “saft”, which is concentrated berries or fruits (they pick themselves) with some sugar. They add water, and it is a great refreshment. 

If you are fond of alcohol, beer 4% or less, you can find them in the grocery stores only until 18:00h. Stronger stuff is available at special stores called “Vinmonopolet,” and it is expensive since alcohol is a state monopoly in Norway. However, that does not mean people cannot produce some at home, for their own use. If it is not commercialized and in moderate quantities, it is perfectly ok. Many people have beer and winemaking as a hobby, and loads of experiments are conducted at home. A lot of fun for those genuinely interested. 

I guess you can choose what you want to drink accordingly to how much money you have. It can be cheap or expensive. 

FOOD

The standard prices may look high, yet there are many sales due to the expiring date and not only. Few people know that Norway has stringent rules when it comes to food, and the expiring date is set on products about a week earlier than the product gets bad. And if you cook what you buy the same day, you end up both with cheap food and healthy.

Another trend that I see happening among young people in Norway is “Dumpster Diving” and it has to do with the environmental movement. It means that all the grocery stores must throw away what they do not manage to sell before the expiration date. They get huge fines if they do not respect this rule. As I said earlier, the food is still good after the expiring date. People spot where the dumpster is and go and collect what they think they can use. It is free. Some shops managers encourage this trend and leave the dumpsters open; some don’t and put locks on them. Depends on the person. 

It is good to have a freezer because one can end up with a lot of free food that needs to be stored. 

Organizations who work for the environment have deals with the shops and go and pick up the food before it gets out to the dumpster. One of them is called “People’s kitchen”. The food is brought to a place where it can be prepared and then shared. Whatever is left is taken home by those who have shared the cooking and the meal and whoever else is there. The important thing is that the food is not wasted. You just need to ask around in your town or do a google search or just go and speak with people working at the grocery stores in your neighborhood. 

In the countryside, farmers have deals with the stores, picking up the old bread. The animals love it, and it is also good in the toaster, even if it is a bit old. Same with carrots or other vegetables that can be good for animals. They are not ashamed of using it, even if they live in “the richest country in the world”. 

Some farms need help with the harvest, and they offer accommodation, food, and some money in exchange for labor. If you’re interested in a short-term adventure to start with, check out “work away” concept, for instance. 

If you miss food from your country of origin, there are also a good deal of international shops where you can find exotic products as well. Check out what is available in your town.

Worth mentioning here is the fact that Norwegians, in general, are fond of eating at home with family and friends. Dinner is not about the food, as it can be in many other countries. Instead, it is about getting to know each other: people spending time together, mostly around the coffee and tea, and of course, some wine, at the end of the meal.

If you already live in Norway, perhaps you’ve experienced that most Norwegians are very fond of food. Yet, even if they enjoy it, many of them consider it “fuel.” Something that our body needs to keep us going. You may have noticed that if you are familiar with the “matpakke” (work lunch brought from home). It is simple, mostly bread and cheese, and just enough to keep the blood sugar in shape.

The fashion of food has increased in Norway in the past 10 to 15 years since people started to travel more. Since the internet has spread, people can also see more of what food means in the world.

They don’t have a very long tradition of eating out either, or just going out for a drink like we see in many other countries. When I moved to Norway nearly 20 years ago, I would not find a proper place to have lunch. The few restaurants in town were opened only for dinner, which was very expensive for a student like me, at the time. Lunch places have flourished only after 2010, and I could enjoy a proper European lunch or breakfast. Therefore, complaining that eating and drinking out is expensive, does not really make sense for many Norwegians. It is not something they are very used to.

CLOTHES

When it comes to clothes, you find the same chains and brands as everywhere else, with the same prices, sometimes even cheaper. But, again, there are sales most of the time and significant sales in January and August. 

There are also plenty of second-hand shops (Fretex, Salvation Army, Gjenbruk), which are actually quite fashionable. So you can find expensive, brand products at a small price, and you take care of the environment simultaneously. 

On Finn.no and FB, there are many clothes to be bought second-hand or even new because people buy them and then forget about having them. Other people give away lots of clothes. I have noticed there is a trend when it comes to small children. At least until they reached the age of knowing what it means to have new or brand clothing or not. They inherit clothes from older children in the family or group of friends or colleagues at work. Yes, Norwegian people also practice this because they are people too and need to take care of their budget. 

Another big trend in Norway is also making own clothes at home, tailoring but mainly knitting. It seems that everybody knows how to knit or has someone in the family who is knitting. You will see many people wearing homemade sweaters with famous Norwegian patterns or mittens or socks. It is a fashion that never wears out, and it is pretty cozy seeing it, and wearing it. Although I must say, I did not catch this knitting bug. Therefore I am delighted when I get something knitted as a present from my friends. 

Otherwise, you may notice that people in Norway are very casual, except they have really high positions in politics, the bank industry, etc. 

Shoes you can also find second-hand, if you don’t mind that, and if you do not have trouble with your feet. Then, you need to visit an orthopedist who can see what is best for you to wear, recommend a sole designer and particular shops where you can buy them. Unfortunately, these shoes are really expensive, yet, happy feet are essential for the rest of the body. 

You may also notice that not many women in Norway are fond of high heels. Even if they are wearing dresses, they would still go for comfortable shoes. They are very conscious about how high heels can hurt the spine and how uncomfortable that can be in the long run. They don’t put external beauty and/or pain above health. 

Another thing worth mentioning here is that the only occasions Norwegians dress up for are Christmas dinners and weddings. Therefore it is not worth investing in a “gala” wardrobe when you have no place to wear it. 

HOUSE ITEMS 

If you have the house/apartment/student house, then everything you need for it you can find in the same way you find clothing. I would say it’s even better because you find a lot of stuff people give away for free. I know Norwegian people who were patient enough to use finn.no and Facebook and friends. They furnished whole houses with free furniture and electrical utilities (fridge, washing machine, etc). They didn’t see the need to buy new stuff when they knew that what they can find is just as good. The reason people are giving it away is that they move out to other parts of Norway, and buying new ones (or finding them cheap or free) would be much more affordable than transporting them to the new place. 

New stuff people buy a lot from IKEA, online and then they use the assembly projects as family or friends bonding time by doing that together. 

TRANSPORT 

If you live in a place with good transport facilities, you do not really need a car. Buss, tram, metro are cheap if you have a monthly or yearly pass. It may be a bit expensive when you buy it, but it is affordable if you divide that amount by the number of days and travels you use it for. The prices also vary if you are a student, young person (up to 30 years old), an adult, or retired.

Many people prefer to invest in a good bike because it is a cheap way to move around and work out simultaneously. The same with walking. This is also the reason they prefer comfortable shoes.

Yet, a car is handy if you have children. You can find good vehicles, which can take you from A to B very cheap, depends on your needs and your budget. It also depends on what that car does for you and how it fulfills your needs (necessity, comfort, status). Some people prefer to rent a car for weekends or holidays. 

What is expensive in Norway? 

Services. Hiring people to do something for you: cleaning, cooking, building (carpentry, plumbing, electricity), fixing, or driving cars, transport. If you’re good at building, for instance, you have an advantage in the housing market. You can buy an old house, restore it and then sell it with profit, or not. Depends on what you want.

Dentist. It is considered plastic surgery, therefore it is really expensive.

Private health care. Norway has a really good health system, yet, there can be a long waiting time to get appointments for surgeries and so on. If you can’t wait, private hospitals are an option, yet they are expensive. For a psychologist, there are even 1,5 years of waiting time. If you need help quickly, you can get help from private therapists (like me).

Gass and car maintenance. Gas for the car is almost 9 NOK per liter. Car service, if you don’t know how to do it yourself, then is really a lot. Parking as well, it can be between 25 and 50 NOK per hour, especially in cities.

Electricity. Even if there is a lot of production in this country, from the gas, and waterfalls, and wind, getting it to the people seems to be a big hustle. Therefore, the prices went up a lot in the past 10 years.

Taxes. We pay high taxes because that money is distributed to education, roads, health care, people who cannot work anymore due to illness, retired people. 

Hobbies. Buying the stuff you need in order to perform your hobby can be expensive unless you find what you need in the same way I described above – through the internet and people who are selling cheap or give away stuff. Joining various clubs where you could meet other people with the same interests as you can be a challenge. It depends a lot on how aware are you about what you like and how much you are willing to pay for it. There are memberships and eventual classes you may need to pay for. Just find out what is available in your own town.

This article is meant to give you an idea about what one could afford in Norway and what one should expect in terms of money. But, of course, like in any other country, there is an elite who can afford the most expensive of the most expensive concerning everything. Yet, you choose yourself, how you want to live and which are your priorities. In my experience, there is a place for all lifestyles.  

If you want to know more about life in Norway, culture, written and unwritten rules, feel free to sign up for my newsletter on this link. You’ll receive more insights every week.

Best wishes from Norway

Setting boundaries VS burning bridges

photo of woman leaning on screen fence
photo of woman leaning on screen fence
Photo by Ivan Oboleninov on Pexels.com

In the world of therapy, we have many discussions about setting boundaries. Usually, it applies to people who answer YES to everything. Unfortunately, these people find themselves in situations where they take too much responsibility on their shoulders because they cannot say NO. If they would take responsibility for themselves, that would be another story, yet they take responsibility for others.

Many of these YES people end up being very tired and at the edge of burnout, if not already reaching it. At this point, they see a doctor or a therapist. In the end, they conclude that they need to learn to say NO, or what we call “setting boundaries.” 

The story of these people is quite common. Their boundaries have been broken while growing up by people in their close circle of grown-ups/caregivers. At the time, they concluded that they could only survive if they gave in or if they meet the expectations of the adults/caregivers. 

Examples can be many. Some children aspire for their parent’s love by taking up more chores than they should within the household: taking care of younger siblings, cooking, cleaning, becoming “confident”, in other words, the adult’s best friend or “therapist”. Others start working early so they can earn money and support their families. This way, they gain praise and appreciation from the adults/caregivers around. In an ideal world, this should not happen, children should not be given adult responsibilities.

Others, more unfortunate, end up in even more terrible situations like being spanked/beaten or, worse, incest and rape, and, it applies both to girls and boys.

These children fall into the same pattern when they become adults by getting into relationships similar to those they have experienced in their childhood. Either they choose a partner that abuses them, or they get jobs where they find it difficult to say NO to tasks above what has been negotiated in the original contract. 

The feeling they fall back into is that one cannot survive if they say NO. The same feeling they had when they were children and very dependent on the adults around them. They are so caught up in the feeling of fear of being left to die that they cannot see the difference in their minds. They are not children anymore, and the authorities they work for are not their parents. Or the partner is either the mother or the father (caregiver), and that they can survive on their own since, theoretically, they are adults. Yet, it is challenging to get out of the feeling, act “as an adult,” and negotiate the boundaries. 

From the work with my clients I have noticed that when people become aware of what is happening, they start slowly recognizing the moments when they should say no. Even if they continue to say YES, just acknowledging the moment is a big step. The second step is still saying YES, at the same time knowing that they should have said NO. The third step is saying NO, and then regret it, and say yes in the end. And so on, small steps forward and other small steps backward. Yet, no matter how much one should feel that it is going backward, as long as they are aware of what is happening, they will rarely get back to the point where they couldn’t even think of the possibility of saying NO at all. 

Other people react differently, and when they learn that they can say NO, they will do it brutal and definite. It has to do with the way the adults in their families used to put boundaries to them. If the caregivers were harsh, the child has learned the same model and will be severe in saying NO, as an adult, even without intention. This kind of attitude usually leads to “burning bridges” and ruined relationships. At the same time, in the process, some people may consciously choose to end up some relationships because that is the best for them. 

A reason someone can keep saying YES even if it is against the energy limits and perhaps they should say NO, is to see if whatever they have said yes to is manageable. If they can handle it, or if they can solve it. It is a way of challenging themselves because this may be the only way they can feel accomplishment and feel better about themselves. Just like in childhood. In this situation, sometimes, the feeling of accomplishment can give energy instead of draining for energy. This implies that the person doing this is aware of what they are doing and how much they can push themselves. They also know how to ask for help, if they need it.

This one also has to do with the feeling of control. When one is doing everything, then the power is in their hands. The cause could be that at an early age, the child was not allowed too much freedom. Their boundaries were crossed, their autonomy was challenged, and they felt that they did not have any control and felt terrible about it. Later in life, they will do everything they can so they won’t have to feel helpless again.

Personal boundaries are specific to each culture. For example, there is the well-known French or Swiss way of saying Hi, which is kissing on the chick, whether you know the person or not (I am sure Corona has put a stop to some extend). These people may want to do the same in other countries because this is normal for them while crossing the boundaries of people in the new culture who need more personal space.  

It is the same with all types of boundaries/borders people have learned in their homes, from their parents, close family members, neighbors, teachers, community, country. If someone has had their boundaries broken in their culture, they will consider it being normal. They may not be that good at taking into account that other people have other types of boundaries. Between people with broken boundaries, it becomes a dance where each is pushing the other. To eliminate the frustration one has suffered in childhood or own culture, it is common to give it to someone else, often without even knowing.

An example would be children who have a difficult situation at home. They become aggressive and are bullies at school. This behavior can create “cultural crushes” both for children and adults. The person doing the push-over boundaries of a person from the local environment may not understand why they do not get the reaction they would expect in the culture of origin, where this behavior has its roots. This is also something that can help or hurt the process of integration into a new culture. In some societies, it is good to be pushy and aggressive. In others, it is a turn-off for the locals who may have different approaches to networking and building relationships. 

Trying to live in a society where this kind of attitude is not productive will be challenging to adjust for pushy people. But, on the other hand, people who are not pushy, who respect their boundaries and the others, adjusting to a society where everything is rushing and people hurt each other by being too sharp, can also be problematic.  

As immigrants and expats people have already put boundaries between themselves and situations back in their home countries. Physical distance is a good way of sending the message, “I want to be on my own, and I want to have control over my life”. At the same time, technology makes it easy to still be in touch with people in the country of origin much more than one may wish. Here we find “borders,” which are made by distance and space.

Yet, the border of time is not well defined since people can be reached through the internet and by phone very quickly. It is a way of keeping in touch at the same time it can also be a way of “control”, or a way of keeping a toxic relationship going. For the children who used to be “best friends/therapists” for one parent or both or siblings and friends, these parents, siblings, and friends will not want to give it up. They will keep calling every day or even a couple of times a day, so they will get from the child/sibling/friend who has left the country what they need: a shoulder to cry on, without consideration over the fact that the child “left the nest” so it can fly on its own, without burdens.

It will again be challenging to limit the calls and be strong enough not to pick it up when it rings. One needs to decide how the relationships with people from their country of origin will continue, which borders they will need, to enjoy their lives on new and foreign ground.

How do you feel about your boundaries? Are you good at saying NO in a friendly manner? If you are an immigrant or expat how is the relationship with people back home? How often do you call them, or do they call you?

Leave a comment here, or you can let me know in confidence, by clicking on this link.

May this be useful to you!

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