Tromsø world festival

Tromsø: this «little town» far, far North is the biggest in the region. It rounds about 70 000 people. It has grown since I moved here, almost 20 years ago, with about 1000 inhabitants a year. It has to do with the University, student life, and the fact that many people want better opportunities and a better lifestyle, and they move away from villages. There are many immigrants, too, about 160 nationalities, I hear. Still, currently, the region struggles with a lack of people who can work: labor power. Corona sent many working immigrants back to their countries and did not return.

When I say better opportunities, young people want, among other things, a more prosperous entertaining life: pubs, concerts, clubs where they can practice a hobby together, etc.

November 3rd to 5th, 2022, a new festival occurred here: Tromsø World Festival. It is a festival that people with big hearts and commitment to the city’s international population have managed to put together after several years of trial and failure with other attempts to bring famous artists to Tromsø.

When I say “famous artists,” I do not mean big names known to the Western World, but names known to the Asian world or African world. Names which, even if they are big outside Norway and Europe, people in Tromsø didn’t hear of – because people are much more interested in their local artists than from abroad.

I had the pleasure of attending two concerts (Fatoumata Diawara – photo- and Bombino) and a three hours seminar dedicated to integration and inclusion through music and theater.

Living in such a small town as Tromsø, the advantage is that one can get very close to the artists or members of a panel discussion. Like many others, the concerts I have been participating in give a unique feeling of intimacy and coziness due to the small number of people attending, especially if the concert is indoors in a small pub. It feels like the artist is there only for you, which is great. And I always see a slight shade of astonishment and surprise on the face of artists used with much more people attending the concerts that they have in front of them in Tromsø. Nevertheless, the performances are good, and everybody seems to enjoy them. I certainly did, even if I also would have expected a more significant number of people to attend.

Yet, we don’t need to forget that Tromsø is a small place where people have many entertaining possibilities, and they choose their favorites. At the concerts I was present this year, I’ve seen many immigrants or second-generation immigrants. I have also seen many people who have jobs working with refugees – people who’ve heard something about the artist presented through their background and life. And I know that many Sami and Norwegian people have been present at the concerts where local people have performed. It’s natural to look for what we know and similar to us.

Saying that I wonder when I will see at Tromsø World Festival Polish artists, for instance, Check, Romanian, or from Thailand and Indonesia. After all, there are lots of working immigrants from South Easter European countries in Norway and many wives from Thailand and Indonesia. It would be nice to see their artists here as well. After all, they pay taxes as well, taxes which are contributing to all festivals supported by government funds.

Yet, the festival needs to keep taking place at the same time each year, for many years ahead, so it can create a name for itself and continuity, like the other festivals here: Filmfestival, Norlysfestivalen (classical music), Bukta festival, etc. And this way, more people will attend the concerts, which will be announced in the Newspapers beforehand, attracting more locals.

That being said, I am grateful for the experience this year and look forward to the next year’s Tromsø World Festival.

Best wishes from Tromsø

Speak the UNspoken: exploring the unwritten rules of north norway

All cultures have their written codes, but primarily unwritten ones. It isn’t easy for newcomers, travelers, or immigrants in Norway to see them at first sight. We need time, perseverance, interest, and willingness to understand them. Also, a good knowledge of the Norwegian language is necessary.

The book is about the untold things of Norwegian society and culture. You can find it on Amazon.
Why Northern Norway? Because I have been living in Tromsø, Norway, for almost 20 years.
All this time spent here helps me describe the subtleties and nuances of Norwegian culture. Many Norwegians do not know how to clarify details of life and work because, for them, they are natural. They were born and grew up with them and never needed to explain them to someone; that’s why it’s hard for them to put words to behaviors and actions that, for them, are implicit. Just as in your own culture, there are many details that you do not know how to describe in words because they are implied, you were born and raised in them, and therefore you do not even think that they could be incomprehensible to those who come from other countries.

Many immigrants come to Norway fascinated by nature and the social system. Behind this social system, the well-being and the lifestyle that can be seen at first glance, there are many years of tradition, planning, and action that cannot be seen and are difficult to understand when they are not explained. This book describes some of the logic behind what you see. It can be helpful to know ahead what to expect.

Click and buy from this link.

Enjoy!

Best from

5 areas in Norway where you can work only speaking English

Tromsø view from Fløya Mountain on a cloudy day – Photo by Gabriela Sirbu

Many foreigners would like to work in Norway, yet they do not speak Norwegian. It is possible, and I know many people who have lived here for many years without even trying to learn the language.

Up to 60 years old, Norwegians speak good enough English, and many want to keep practicing it. Therefore, they won’t talk Norwegian back to you. Of course, if there are more Norwegians in a group and they had dinner and a drink, they will switch to Norwegian and leave you outside of the conversation. If you don’t mind this behavior, then you’re fine.

When it comes to working life, it depends on the employer. Here are 5 fields where you can get a job without speaking Norwegian:

1. Hospitality industry don’t require Norwegian since there are a lot of tourists who are the customers.

If it is in cleaning, you do not have many people to speak with, since you primarily work alone.

Waiter in a restaurant or a pub, you will also be OK with English, and as I mentioned, most Norwegian speak excellent English, especially if they have been drinking. If they were shy at speaking it while sober, they wouldn’t have a problem speaking it after a glass or two. This detail reminds me of the advice I also got when I moved here, and I was asking about the fastest way to learn Norwegian. The answer was: “Go out in the evenings, have a drink or two and start speaking with Norwegians. You’ll be fascinated to see how fast you’re learning”.

Going back to the waiter job, there is this Italian Pizzeria in Tromsø, called Casa Inferno which is looking for people. If you’re interested in living in the Northern Most big city of the Arctic, give it a try and send them a CV and a letter of intention. You find them on this FB page.

I also see that SUMO restaurants are hiring, perhaps you’ve already seen their advert on FB.

Living in Tromsø I also happen to know that Scandic Hotels needs people. Walk in with CV and application letter, and see what’s happening. Otherwise, you can check this FB group called Servitør-Kokk-Bartender where there are many offers lately since this is an industry that suffers the most after Covid.

Bakeries and pastries can be also good places, and if you have a recognized diploma in the field is even better.

A tourist guide is also a possibility, especially if you speak several languages. You will learn what you need to say, and there are big chances that you will also be speaking your native language to tourists.

2. Construction companies are running mainly on foreign labor since people are lacking in Norway now. Therefore, the number of people is decreasing, especially those of working age, especially in the North of Norway. Read more about it in this article.

3. IT – Computer world is international. Therefore English is the primary programming language. Here it also depends on the employer and how much they demand you. Some may pay for Norwegian courses, and I suggest you take the offer and learn as much as possible. I know many people who regret not doing so when they have been offered the chance.

Here there are several companies that hire students who only speak English: Equinor, Subsea7, DNV, Yara, SAP, ELOP, Norsk Hydro. Click on the name of each of them and see where they take you and where you can apply for an internship or a job.

4. International companies:

Sales or production can have international teams and offices in many countries, and often English will be the working language.

An important field here can be shipping, everything that has to do with boats and transport on the sea, from building, fixing, and crew: EIDESVIK, The J.J. Ugland Companies, Hoegh Autoliners, Misje Rederi AS, Mediterranean Shipping Company Norway AS, are only a few of them. The search word on google is “Norske rederiselskaper”. Most of them have websites in English, you just need to take some time to navigate them.

Another field can also be the oil and gas industry: from building the oil platforms to maintaining them, securing them, and all the software that comes with controlling them. The pipes transporting the gas underwater or underground must also be built, maintained, controlled, etc. Here are some examples: Petoro, Eni, Lundin, etc.

Fish factories that are preparing the fish for the market are also in need of people. Brødrene Karlsen and Lerøy Seafood are just an example.

To find these jobs, the easiest way is to do a simple google search on “English-speaking jobs in Norway”. You can be creative with the search words according to your wish. It can take you quite far.

5. Education and research.

If you speak a little bit of Norwegian, yet you want to learn more, kindergartens need assistant teachers. For many people working with children is a good way to learn the language together with them. Children speak a simple language and learn new words every day. It is useful – for instance, I used to watch a lot of cartoons and children programs when I was in the process of learning Norwegian. It helped. In a kinder garden you also learn a lot about work environment rules and you get yourself some references.

Many universities and research institutes in Norway have PhD positions and research or teaching positions in English. 

Natural science, mathematics, physics, chemistry, ecology, environment, etc. are the research fields where there is the most demand of people. For some reason, this area is widely international.

The best site you find this kind of job in Norway is Jobbnorge, and you can check all the universities and research institutions about their availabilities.

They will require a three-year bachelor’s and a master’s degree, with a minimum C grade. Also, all the documents need to be translated into English and verified by an accredited translator.

If you get accepted, it will also be easy to obtain a skilled worker visa since the employer is a university that needs you for their research, which means only you have the skills the research project needs.

You have far better chances of finding something in a smaller town and the North of Norway. I like to compare the North of Norway with the Wild West in American movies. That raw area of a country has many possibilities because it is far away, and you need a lot of guts to make a life there. Therefore, I welcome you to Wild Wild North, where you can get help finding a job. More details can see in this article.

Even before you start the process of finding a job in Norway, it is good for you to learn the hidden social codes nobody talks about because they can get you far on the work market. You can find them in my free newsletter, which you can register for here. Or, you can read about them in my book, which you can order here.

If there are other areas you think you can work in that, do not require Norwegian and a good knowledge of the internal social codes and systems, let me know in a comment.

And if you found a job in Norway, only speaking English, my strong suggestion would be to start learning Norwegian as soon as possible. The more years you’ve been living in Norway, and you do not speak the language, the harder will be for you to get access to better jobs and to grow within the society. Even if it seems like “all Norwegians speak English,” it is still a second language for them as well, and they will always prefer Norwegian among themselves. And then you’ll feel excluded.

A simple search online will take to several teachers who are teaching Norwegian online, for a fee, of course. If you are a working immigrant in Norway, you’re supposed to cover all expenses yourself, including the one about learning the language. It is a significant advantage if you speak some.

Best of luck in your job hunt in Norway!

PS! If you want to hear more about how to think when you decide to move to a different country, you can watch this webinar, and even more, if you check this page.

the Norwegian Work contract

crop businessman giving contract to woman to sign
crop businessman giving contract to woman to sign
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

If you are in the process of getting a job in Norway, there are a few things you should know about the work contract you need to sign.

First, you need to have the identity number and a Norwegian bank account. Do not even think of working without having these two in place because you are asking to be abused by careless employers if you do. It is also your responsibility to care for your work conditions when it comes to employment law, duties, and rights. It shows that you are interested and know what you stand for. It is best if you also have a valid work permit. 

At the same time, a contract can also help you get both the ID number and the bank account if you come from the EU or other areas of the world and are a skilled worker. Find more information about it here.

To work in Norway without a valid work permit can lead to expulsion. It means you’ll be chased out of Norway. In addition, the employer who chooses to use people without proper permits can be punished with fines and prison. 

The contract should be signed latest one month after you start working. Yet, it is best if you sign it before. Since Norway is a society based on trust, if you have your identification number in place and the Norwegian bank account, it can be acceptable to start before that. Do your homework and do some research about the company hiring you. How serious they are and if people working there are content with their leaders.

The contract should contain the following information:

  • Trade name and description of the tasks you’ll have to perform. Some may be vague and expect some changes within the frame of the working task. This allows your employer to make use of your abilities inside the company. It can be a good thing, and it will enable you to also come up with ideas that are not listed in the contract. It is important to know that you can use this argument when it is time to renegotiate your salary. Usually, you can do this in your annual performance meeting (medarbeidersamtale), yet there can be other appropriate times.
  • A time limit. When the contract starts and when it ends. If it is a permanent position, it will say that it is “fast stilling”. Temporary work can be up to four years. Be careful here because I have seen contracts that say, “hourly based permanent contract”, which can sound like an exclusivity contract. If the company needs you, they will call you, yet there is no guarantee. Make sure those “details” are clearly explained. 
  • How long is your notice if you resign or are fired. It can be from one month to three months.
  • Trial period. A time, usually six months, in which you can see if the company likes you, your work, and if you fit into the work environment, and just as much if you like the company, your work there, and the work environment
  • How much holiday do you have the right to? Usually, it is 25 working days – five weeks. 
  • How many hours a day you’re supposed to work. The standard rate is 40 hours for 7 days/max 9 hours a day. Each trade has its overtime rules. Please get familiar with those rules. The best way to do it is to join a union. You can read about more reasons of why it is good to join a union here.
  • When you are supposed to work: during daytime, shifts, night, etc
  • Where you’re working: an office, will you be traveling from place to place, etc. 
  • Your salary which the law can regulate “tarifavtaler”. A union can also help you here as well. 
  • The date of the month you’re going to be paid.

Always, always read the contract before you sign it. If you do not understand the language, ask for help. Do not sign something you don’t know what it says. 

Do not accept to work while you do not have a Norwegian bank account and receive the paycheck in some other people’s accounts. No matter how good friends they may be. 

In addition, your employer needs to do some things: 

  1. Must declare you in the employee’s register (A-registeret) and pay taxes for you. 
  2. The employer also needs to keep your tax money from your salary and pay them to the government.
  3. Needs to pay you at a specific date in the work contract. The money should come into YOUR bank account: not in cash or nature, or whatever else their creativity may allow. 
  4. Make sure you get a document with your income every month (lønnslip).
  5. At the end of the year must send you a document in which it is listed your annual income, how much you’ve paid in taxes and how much holiday money you have accumulated Årsoppgave).

If you don’t get all that, then something is wrong. And, by the way, this what it should be stated in the work contract everywhere in the world.

On the other hand, as an employee with a contact, you also have some duties.

  1. Respect the working time.
  2. You cannot travel to visit your country of origin whenever you want; you need to make sure that you discuss that with your leader. Your holiday also depends on your colleagues, because if you’re a part of a team, then your absence will affect them.
  3. First-year of work, you don’t have paid holiday. If you decide to take it, you won’t be paid for it. 
  4. Contribute to the work environment by who you are and what you know how to do as a person. Make sure you have some hobbies you can talk about and interests on you free time. Those will get you far in building friendships. You can read more about how to make Norwegian friends here.

About how you get to the contract, you find more details on Work In Norway site. Click on it and you will get more info. And if you want to try your luck in one of the most remote and exotic city in the Arctic, click here.

Best from

P.S. If you want to know more about the unspoken details in the Norwegian culture you can sign up for my “Norwegian Letters” free newsletter here, or you can order my book here.

how to deal with war?

city man people woman
city man people woman
Photo by Artūras Kokorevas on Pexels.com

I know it is a strange question. How do we deal with it when we don’t have any personal experience? 

I grew up with war stories. My father was born in December ’39, in trenches, and he never knew his father, who went to WWII while my grandmother was pregnant. It is not easy to imagine how a widow with three children (my father being the youngest) survived the war. Nevertheless, we heard stories as children. Stories about German and Russian soldiers who needed food and would do anything to get it. Soldiers who were also missing their children left behind and would seek some comfort in holding my father since he was perhaps about the age of their children. And then they would move on to die or to live, leaving behind women and children robbed of the little food they had, yet alive.

My mother’s side of the family also carries war scars from a grandfather raised by the army. Widows like my grate-grandmother could not afford to keep all their children, and they would give them away to the military. At least they would get food and clothing. When he learned I was going to study in the North of Norway, he told me that he have been experiencing both the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun while traveling with the army through Russia, up to Murmansk. I think he also spoke some Russian, yet I never heard him speak it. What I heard was the classical music that he was playing since one of the things he learned in the army was to play the horn in the army’s orchestra. Keeping the soldier’s spirits up was also important at the time.

He came back alive and married one of the many girls of a widow who survived the war – my grandmother. They were some of those many people who helped rebuild the country after WWII.

I am not alone with this kind of story. Many people from southeast Europe have similar stories. After the war was over, the communist experiment started in Romania (Ceausescu’s version), influenced by the great power in the East, USSR. That was the only place people could travel in those times and Russian the only foreign language taught in school. 

War was always present in our upbringing through my parents’ attitudes and behaviors, who learned survival skills growing up with the war, like my father, or building the country after it, like my mother. Practical skills and little emotions. No time and place for such frivolities. We are generations who experienced “second-hand war” through our parents and grandparents. 

The war in Yugoslavia was also close in the ’90. The borders were closed and the news was censured until 1990, therefore people didn’t understand what to do with what was told on TV. The politicians at the time had managed to keep the country out of the conflict though.  

In the past 30 years, some of the new generations in Romania, who did not experience either the war or Ceausescu’s communist regime, are making a “psychological revolution”

Many read and educate themselves within the field and started to talk about how war and dictatorship experiences (death, rape, hunger, anger, etc) were sent through generations and how they influenced them. 

They are brave young people who dare take a deep dive into themselves and their family histories and try to heal whatever they can, so they won’t give the wounds further to their children.  

Since February 24th what we thought is in the past became present and very close to Romania’s borders. I hear that tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees have passed through Romania on their way to more stable countries and with a more significant distance from the conflict. 

I see on social media stories from my friends who got involved and are helping the best way they can. At the same time, I live in Norway, a country that is also neighbor to Russia. Until further notice, we are supposed to carry on our lives as nothing happens. Yet I cannot help not noticing Coast Guard ships passing through the fjords every time I drive to the office. Nor the trailers that are carrying military equipment to the nearest military point that was supposed to be disabled. 

I cannot pretend the war in Ukraine is not happening. Nor ignore the newspapers articles from all sides talking about a “true” story about what is happening in Ukraine and Russia. A “truth” perhaps we may never find out.

At the same time, what can we do to deal with war so close to home? I managed to find about 11 points that may help, yet there can be much more. Please add them in the comments.

  1. Work and live as “normal” as possible for the time being. Keep yourself busy.

2. Talk to other people. At the same time, I experience that people who ask me or Ukrainians or Russians or Polish people how we are, don’t want to listen to the answer. They are in a much bigger hurry to tell us how they feel. Because this is how they deal with their fear.

People who are asking how others are so they can speak about themselves we see around us every day. It is a coping mechanism and a “social skill”. So my suggestion would be: don’t ask people how they are if you don’t mean to listen to them. If you need to talk, say it: “I need someone to talk to”, and I am sure people will listen.  

3. Do not watch the news, except for specific times in the day, so you can give yourself time to process the information you’ve already got. Choosing the source of information can also help in getting some accurate ones. 

4. A cold head is good to have in such circumstances. Do what is needed wherever we are, instead of getting emotional and creating scenarios in our heads about a future we do not know anything about yet. War is unpredictable, no matter what diplomacy says. I don’t think the world leaders were prepared for the one in Ukraine. War and its consequences are practical. Yet, to be able to deal with its practicalities, people need to be strong psychologically.

5. Flexible mindset helps, and use of words which would place the mind on a non-catastrophic path: “I choose”, “It’s bad, yet it’s not the worst”, “I don’t like it, yet I’m doing it anyway”, – are formulations which keep the mind in a less comfortable place, yet survival and active one, with a good chance of turning positive. 

6. Make a distinction between behavior and the human having it, when speaking with people: “your behavior is less fortunate” instead of “you’re so and so…”, and I don’t need to mention any less positive words some of us can call people around them. People are good. Behaviours are bad, and they can be changed with will and work. 

7. A detached attitude can also help: “I can’t do anything about it anyway”; “Nothing can happen to me/us”; “It’s not here yet”, and so on. At the same time, there is always something we can do in this digital world within the detachment. I am sure we can write, share resources, provide the information we may know, translate if we speak several languages, volunteer, and more. 

8. Talk to children about the war in a way they will understand. Explain as honestly as possible the emotions we have as adults, and which may occur in the process. Naming them for children and accepting them within ourselves will help them also understand what they are going through. Accordingly to their age, it is good to make references to bedtime stories, films, and books they may be familiar with.

Emotional regulation is a challenge both for children and adults, at the same time, the adults are supposed to be responsible and be able to take care of their feelings and the children’s. We also know that children are survivors and good at hiding feelings. Therefore, paying attention to their eating and sleeping patterns, and the degree of fear and shyness in the presence of other people can help detect if they are really ok.

9. Take care of yourself, if you can, with everything that implies: healthy food, sports, sleep, meditation or prayer, routines, social circle, and whatever makes everyone have a sense of meaningful life. All this will help approach the situation from a better standpoint, and a feeling of control.  

10. Think of a social network. Where can you go for help and when? Who are the people you can trust? Have a plan. Check the municipality’s websites for practical information they may have.

11. And last but not least, if you are an immigrant, do not take the war with you. Remember that leaders make wars, not ordinary people who decided to leave the bad leaders anyway. Now they live in the same country as you.

If you come from a country with lousy leadership and a flawed political system, you are not responsible for it, even if you voted for them. The same goes for people coming from other countries.  Throwing bad words to people from the country your leaders decided to go to war with, knowing that the locals won’t understand the language you’re speaking in, is not very elegant nor says something good about you. If you support the political decisions in your country of birth, it can be a good idea to keep it to yourself while you are an immigrant in another country.

If you need to talk about this war issue that is affecting us today, do let me know on this link

Wishing you Peace!

How to make Norwegian Friends

man on skis and dog walking in snow
man on skis and dog walking in snow
Photo by Jenny Uhling on Pexels.com

This is a question that just popped up in my e-mail.

It is not easy to make friends among Norwegians, yet, it is not impossible. Do not let yourself be scared about the icy faces and without expressions. Behind that Ice Wall, they put upfront, you can find volcanos of feelings. All you need to do is to be patient until the ice melts. After that, you’ll be surrounded by it as well. Then, you may find out that it is not easy to get out of it.

The key to making friends in Norway is “common interests”. This means that you should have some hobbies and find a group of people you can practice them together with. You’ll have lots to talk about on that particular subject. Therefore it will not be weird for Norwegians who do not ask personal questions because they do not want to intrude or because this is considered impolite in Norway.

Another thing you can do is to volunteer in various organizations. Find a cause that you are interested in (poverty, environment, politics, women issues, knitting, singing in a choir, dancing, climbing mountains, parachuting, ice skating, skiing, getting a dog, etc) and find a club or an organization that deals with precisely that. Join for the activities they have, and you’ll get to meet whoever is there. You can find more information on frivilig.no. Just type the city you live in, and see what’s available there and what is needed.

Each neighborhood or complex of houses or apartment buildings has a board administrating it and taking care of the buildings. All that is volunteer work. Join the one that represents the building you live in. It is an excellent way to learn how volunteer organizations work and get to know the people there. They have meetings at least once a month. That is a good opportunity to meet them often enough, so they have a chance to get to know you.

Making friends in Norway depends a lot also if you came to Norway alone or together with your family (spouse/children). I have noticed that if people come together with their spouses and do not have children, they tend to stick together and not go many places to meet people. So it doesn’t help to learn the language either if you only stick together.

Couples who have children can make friends easier through their children. They meet other parents at kindergarten and school and extra school activities their children join. If you are good with children yourself and offer to take care of Norwegian children, then you’ll be popular, because lots of parents need breaks and time for themselves. And, if you took care of other people’s children for some time, the parents will also take care of your children from time to time. It’s like a trade that allows you to get to know people. Children and school activities are also a great subject to talk about.

When you have a job, you can see if your colleagues are open to making new acquaintances and eventually new friendships. Some may be, some not. It will help you a lot if you speak about your interests and hobbies. They will know what you like, and eventually, if they have the same interests, they will invite you to talk more about it.

You can also make dinner for your colleagues and invite them home.

If you find out that you cannot break through to your work colleagues, the best thing is to find things to do on your own first. Find other foreigners who perhaps have been in your town longer than you and advise you where to go and what to do. There are many FB groups with foreigners. Just ask there who is from the town you live in and see if they want to meet. Remember that friends who are also foreigners are better than having no friends at all. If you are determined and show up in places where Norwegians meet, you will find the right people for you.

It is difficult for Norwegian adults to make new friends in a new place as well. In my experience, from people I know, it took those about ten years to make new friends among Norwegians in the new town. And the friends they made were also people who were new in town. This is because Norwegians do not believe in “friends on the way”. They believe in friends for life. This is why, even if they live in a different town than the one they grew up in, they can still say that they only have one friend or a handful, and those are the buddies from primary school and high school. They do not call people “friends” very easily.

If you come as a student, you’re ok, because student life is always very social. At the same time, be careful not to stick only together with international students, but join the cafeterias and the clubs’ Norwegian students attend, so you’ll also get to meet Norwegian students. If they are freshmen, they are just as alone as you are in their first year, and they are just forming groups of friends. You have a big chance of being part of those groups.

I hope this gave you some ideas about how to meet Norwegians, even if they are not going to call you “friend” very soon. As long as you are present in their lives, if they see you often enough, they will learn that you are also part of the community and become friendly towards you.

Good luck with making Norwegian friends, and if you want to receive more insights on the Norwegian awkwardness, sign up for my free newsletter on this link, or you can order my book here.

Best from

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 know that the Union called Frifagbevegelse har pages in English. Check one of their latest articles here.

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.

Best from

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

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 has passed 20 NOK per liter. Car service, if you don’t know how to do it yourself, then is really expensive. Parking as well 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, 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. During the Corona pandemic, they hit the sky, especially in the South of Norway.

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. Some roads could get some maintenance though, especially in the North of Norway.

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 giving away stuff (finn.no; FB). 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.

NB! 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