This week I am celebrating my first year in Norway. I’m not sure which day I should mark – the day I landed (Wednesday), or the day I arrived in Finnsnes (Friday).
So what has happened?
A new culture
In many ways Norwegian culture is more akin to England, than the south of the US was. Here are some examples:
- Food in general is quite similar (although certain Norwegian specialities are unique – such as lutefisk – a kind of ‘jellified’ cod).
- Cars are generally smaller than in the US, and fuel prices are on a par with the UK. That said there are some large ‘red-neck’ trucks here too.
- Regular Sunday church attendance is low (less than 3%).
- Most people are very ‘outdoors’ oriented, especially skiing.
- Taxes are very high (basic income tax is 35%, sales tax is mostly 25%, and tax on new cars is 100%!).
- In most families both parents pretty much have to work.
- Work life is highly regulated.
A new language
‘You’ll be fluent after 1 month / 3 months / 6 months / a year . . . . ‘.
Hmm. After an initial few weeks in language classes we’ve mostly been on our own and I’m no where close to speaking like a native, although we can now hold a reasonable conversation with most people we know. The hardest things are meeting new people, answering the phone, leading the children’s choir, and praying out loud! Also Norwegians are very proud of their regional dialects. Dialects go way beyond accents, and many local versions of words sound nothing like standard Bokmål or Nynorsk, and this makes language learning more difficult.
However, we praise God that Susanna has pretty much taken to both standard Norwegian Bokmål and the local dialect, like a duck to water. It was interesting to have people tell us that when she speaks they can’t tell she is from England! On the other hand I was recently mistaken for a German (maybe because I spend a lot of time talking with my bast friend in Norway, Frank, who is German).
Moving necessarily means separation from old friends and family, and that is never easy. We really miss friend both in England and the US, but Skype / Facebook (Sarah and Susanna), the phone and this blog have made it easier to stay in touch.
We’ve made some very good new friends here too. People have opened their hearts and homes to us, and we are so grateful to God that everywhere we have lived, he has given us people who we we instantly feel at ease with, both personally and spiritually. It is such a blessing!