Hey guys! Happy New Year and welcome back to American Expats, a series that shows you what expat life is like in cities and countries around the world. Next up we have Silvia, a Norwegian-American who is living in Norway. Silvia is one of my favorite bloggers so I can’t wait to share her story here.
Here, she discusses snowy winters, road-tripping around Norway, and choosing to live in Norway long-term.
My name is Silvia and I grew up in Massachusetts but now am living in Norway, where I work as a travel blogger at Heart My Backpack.
On the local culture: Norwegians are quite reserved and laid-back. But I’ve come to embrace being more relaxed about getting stuff done and not stressing over long silences. (There are a lot of long silences over here!)
On making friends: I met pretty much all of my friends in Norway when I was working part-time at a supermarket during my first year here. Norwegians can be reserved at first, so it’s definitely easiest to make friends at work or through shared hobbies.
On getting a Norwegian visa: I have dual US and Norwegian citizenship because my mother is Norwegian. But for foreigners looking to move to Norway, I’ve written an article detailing the different visa options for moving to Norway here.
On the weather: Norwegian winters are quite similar to those in Massachusetts. I actually love that Norwegian winters are so cold because it means we pretty much always have snow in the winter. And I feel like beautiful snowy days are so much easier to deal with than cold rainy ones!
I’m about to move to Northern Norway, where we’ll only have a couple of hours of sunlight in the winter, so that might be tough, but Norwegians are really good at making winters super cozy indoors, so I’m hoping it will be okay. Plus there will be Northern Lights!
On healthcare: Healthcare is free, we just pay a small administrative fee when we go to the doctor (I think if you go often enough you no longer have to pay that fee either).
On the best cities in Norways for expats: There are lots of expats in Oslo and Bergen, though personally, my favorite Norwegian city is Trondheim. But if you really want to integrate here I would actually recommend moving to a smaller town instead, where you won’t be tempted just to hang out with other foreigners.
On Norwegian food: I love Norwegian candy, especially the chocolate, and the fish here is really good. We eat a lot of fish and potatoes. Oh and the waffles here are amazing. There are also some really great beers here! Though alcohol is very expensive in Norway, so I drink way less here than I ever have anywhere else in the world.
On traditional Norwegian breakfasts: We usually eat bread with lots of different toppings like cheese, cold cuts, and tinned fish.
On the cost of living: The cost of living in Norway is quite high. Typical rent in a city will start at around $1200 for a tiny studio apartment, though in smaller towns you can get a spacious two bedroom apartment for the same amount. Eating out in Norway is incredibly expensive, as is both public transport and cars/fuel. But wages here are also quite high (I made between $20-$30 an hour working as a supermarket cashier when I first moved here) so if you have a job here the living costs won’t be a problem. Plus that will mean that pretty much everywhere else in the world will seem cheaper when you travel outside of Norway.
On feeling safe: I’ve lived in seven countries now, and I’ve by far felt the safest in Norway!
On learning Norwegian: Norwegian is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. It’s a Germanic language, so a lot of the words are similar to English words, and the grammar is actually quite simple. The hardest thing about Norwegian is all the dialects, which can vary dramatically even from one village to the next, probably because of the mountains separating communities. I spoke some Norwegian when I moved here, but my boyfriend is English and didn’t know any Norwegian when we moved here three years ago, and now he’s basically fluent.
On being an American in Norway: Norwegians used to think it was so bizarre that I would choose to live in Norway over the US because they think the US is much more exciting, though now everyone assumes that I don’t want to live there for political reasons. I’ll also say that often people have treated me much better when they realize I’m from the US and not Eastern Europe, which is a real shame.
In general, Norwegians seem to think that Americans and British people are super cool and interesting, which I guess is nice for me though it also makes me feel guilty that I’m treated better than other foreigners for no valid reason at all.
On Norwegian fashion: I really love Norwegian fashion, though I’ll also say that sometimes people here go a little overboard with trends. Like each season most people will wear the exact same thing, it’s a little bizarre. But maybe it’s just like that in small countries?
On travel within Norway: Unfortunately, the public transport here isn’t great, partly because it’s such an enormous country with few people. The best way to get around is by car.
I find driving in Norway really easy as most roads are quiet and there aren’t many big highways, so the views are always beautiful. I’ve traveled all around Norway now and I’d definitely say Northern Norway is my favorite! The landscape is more rugged up there, there are fewer people, plus you can see reindeer and the Northern Lights!
On what she craves when she’s homesick: Cheerios! And mac and cheese! Basically, I miss kid’s food, haha. There aren’t as many food options here as in American supermarkets, which can be frustrating when I’m missing certain foods or even trying to cook with American recipes. But then on the flip side now when I go back to the US I feel super overwhelmed by all the food choices!
On Easter: Norway is a largely secular country, yet it has the longest Easter break in the world. But instead of going to church, everyone is in the mountains skiing! It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around Easter being a ski holiday here, though it’s also a really fun way to celebrate the end of winter and start of spring.
On living in Norway long-term: I feel very lucky to be able to live in Norway, and after moving around so much for my entire adult life I really want to have a permanent home now.
Takk, Silvia! Your photos are gorgeous.
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