I walked to class in the dark. It was under a cloudy sky but luckily it had stopped raining. I could see the twinkling lights of the city below and across the sea to the neighboring islands. The breeze was cool but not so bad as I climbed up the hills listening to techno beats through my headphones. What was today going to be like?
I was first in class. It was white and lined with tables just like when I went to college. I was greeted by one of my teachers, Monica. She asked if I spoke Norwegian or English. English was my choice and I told her I was American. “No problems then!” She said. I took a seat near the windows. Soon people started to come in.
Asians paired with Asians. Europeans with Europeans. The Canadian would have sat by me had he known I was American, I’m sure. (I’m super excited there is a Canadian.) We were all in the same boat. Monica asked us questions in Norwegian such as “Hva heter du?”\What is your name?”, “Hvor kommer du fra?”\Where do you come from?, “Når kom du til Norge?”\When did you come to Norway?”, and “Hvilke språk snakker du?”\What languages do you speak? We learned to respond.
Jeg heter Christina. Jeg kommer fra USA. Jeg kommer til Norge i August 2018. Jeg snakker englsk, lit spansk og lit fransk.
or . . . . My name is Christina. I am from USA. I came to Norway August 2018. I speak English, a little Spanish and a little French.
We all spoke with each other, played mini language games and stumbled through the words together. Soon everyone was less at ease until she brought up the cost of the language book and workbook.
After class, I went home and took a nap waiting for my husband to come home. I told him I needed the book and workbook. He went into town for me and bought them. Those books were really expensive! UGH.
First day, complete. Now for round two.
First off, the words I will teach you are in the dialect of Bokmål which is the most commonly understood Norwegian and is used in written Norwegian. Nynorsk is less common. Pronounciation is based off of American English. Remember there is a slight r roll similar to Spanish and French in Norwegian.
I have been asked about the differences in culture regarding Christmas in the US for me and the Norwegian style Christmas with my husband’s family. Here is a list I have made of comparisons.
US: Fake or real trees. Most people get fake ones. The tree can go up as early as the beginning of November. My family put it up the day after thanksgiving or around then. Decorations include a star on top of the tree to symbolize the North Star.
NORWAY: Fake or real trees. Many get a real tree. The tree is beginning to follow the American tradition of being put up earlier, however, tradition here is to put it up a little bit before Christmas like the 21st-23rd.
US: We made sugar cookies as children. We would cut them out in shapes and decorate them with colorful sugar dyed in various colors. As we got older there were “cookie exchanges” where there would be a Christmas party where everyone would bring cookies and share them. There would also be cookies as gifts. Some relatives of mine make cocoa, cookie, cake and coffee mixes to use in the coming year. Egg nog exists with alchohol. . . .or no alchohol. You can buy it in a store.
NORWAY: Juleman, risboller, pepperkaker. . . . many different cookies are made. There are pasteries and cookies, rather than cake in his family. Cookies aren’t really given as gifts but are a bigger tradition to make and eat in Norway. Glögg is drank. Glögg is a mulled Christmas wine with spices like cinnamon, sugar and orange and sometimes raisins.
US: Presents are opened with the person who gave them to you. It does not have to be on Christmas morning but typically the majority of Christmas gifts are opened Christmas morning after Santa brings them to you down the chimney. My family would eat orange cinnamon rolls and coffee Christmas morning, put on Christmas Jule log (a fireplace recording with Christmas music) and open gifts.
NORWAY: Presents are ALL opened together Christmas eve night. Santa brought the gifts (and he is from Norway) If someone gives you a present, you must wait until Christmas Eve. You never open a Christmas present early.
US: People scramble to shop for presents. Nothing in particular is special this day.
NORWAY: Norwegians call this day “little Christmas”. They eat risgrøt or rice porridge. They put a almond in the pot and whoever finds the almond wins a gift.
US: This is my family’s tradition. We go to my grandmother’s house in the evening and have some Italian food like baked mostaccoli or Italian sub sandwiches. Then we open all the presents she gave us. We would go to mid-night Mass (Catholic church service) that starts at midnight. Then we would go home and wait for Santa Claus to bring the rest of the presents.
NORWAY: People gather with their families. Tradition says to have pinnekjott, potatoes, carrots, ruttabega and grisemør. This is the time where presents are opened from Santa Claus, family and friends all at once. This day is the most important day.
US: Everyone opens their gifts in the morning. Children and adults mess with them all day until the night where there is a feast. What people eat varies. My family has a ham and always an Italian dish such as ravioli. This day is the most important.
NORWAY: Children play with their presents. You eat leftovers and it is a day for the parents to relax.
Those are the traditions. What are your traditions like!?
Alright. I will admit to homesickness. Everytime McDonalds or Starbucks is mentioned, I long for it. That nasty sugar-y-ness is what my soul needs. I miss my parents and my sibling. I’m fed up with being stared at. I miss being able to go where I want to without the fear of being looked at funny since I am an immigrant with no Norwegian skills.
I need a job. I need more money. I need language skills. All of this takes time and it’s getting irritating. I’m impatient at this point.
So what to do about it? I strive to fix it. I practice Norweigan on Duolingo and Tinycards. I speak with my Norweigan relatives. I have a job lead right now at an Italian restaurant and I’m trying very hard to get a job there. Being around another Italian that understands Grandiosa isn’t pizza but cardboard with jarlsburg cheese will greatly help homesickness. (I eat Grandiosa but it is NOT like having real pizza.) Soon, I will have school for Norwegian and meet other immigrants which will be super nice. I won’t feel so alone.
I also am trying to embrace the new culture and try new things. I had a sunshine roll or solskinnboller. though I greatly tried not to. I kept saying “ew” until my hubby made me eat one. It’s actually very good. It is a cinnamon bun with custard in the middle so it looks like a sun. I keep having to remind myself that I need to try new things.
Have you ever felt homesick? What did you do about it? Let’s chat.
The cheese everyone here seems to love but me. Ew.
This is what I listen to on tv a lot around my relatives right now. The debate on abortion is really obvious for me but I was told that was due to being a Christian American. Many Christian Americans are anti-abortion, making me stand out in the family among what Americans would label “leftist views” or even not Christian at all. I don’t know a whole lot about Norwegian politics but I recognize Knut. His face is on, like, everyday on the news.
If you live in Norway you might have noticed a lot of headlines about a guy called Knut Arild Hareide, the head of KrF aka The Christian Democrats Party. (If you are lacking behind in terms of Norwegian political parties read this: Norwegian Politics for Dummies and Clueless Foreigners.)
This is Knut Arild Hareide:
Knut Arild Hareide, leader of the Norwegian Christian Democrats
You might have also noticed from the media and angry Facebook posts with this kind of stuff that Norway might be about to change its Abortion law.
Now what is happening? Is it true? And what is the link between these two things? Here is an explanation for those who are trying to follow but don’t really manage (note that Norwegians, despite their small population, have a very high number of political dramas, scandals et tutti quanti every single year which can be hard to follow even…
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I absolutely love Risgrøt. Here in my area of Norway, we make it with rice and milk. It is topped with melted butter, cinnamon, sugar and raisins. We eat it for a meal all the time but especially the day before Christmas Eve. Simple to make but needs patience. Try some of this Norwegian rice porridge today!
Norway teaches its immigrants the language and all about Norway in free courses. I am so excited to do this! My life will be easier once I can speak and understand the world around me.
I have goals. In a years time, I hope to watch Pokemon in Norwegian and read Harry Potter. Reading Harry Potter might require a dictonary once in awhile but I am willing to struggle through the book. I read articles in Spanish when I was in Spanish class in highschool. We would translate them and it would take me a very long time to do. Once everything made sense it was a very rewarding feeling. I learned quicker.
Language will be one of the most important things I do to adapt to my Norwegian life.
I have much harder goals too, however. My hubby and I have been discussing universities. He wants to become an engineer. I have wanted to be an anthropologist or go for museum studies. Anthopology in short is the study of cultures. Museum studies will allow me to work in a museum and help teach others about various subjects. Norway pays for education, but I would need to know Norwegian and would probably need to minor in Norwegian as a second language. This would be hard for me. Unlike before with Spanish, I need to know Norwegian not just for everyday but at a higher proffessional level.
Right now, its baby steps.
I was what one would call a ¨gifted child.¨I excelled in most subjects in school and learned very quickly. Often this lead to boredom and lack of motivation to do anything in school. ¨The Gifted Child Program¨ was offered at about 10 years old. These classes were accelerated in speed of teaching and was more advanced. Most of my friends and I were all gifted.
This created division between children and competition. Who was the smartest child? Then, who was the least smart? There were a lot of mean comments towards me due to being not so good at math. I did not latch onto to concepts nearly as fast as everyone else. I struggled and almost got kicked out of the gifted program. I was even pulled aside and told I wasnt meeting the standard or, as I saw it as a child, I was not as smart as the other gifted children. Not only did I think that, but so did the other gifted children. I was humiliated as I raced to be on top of all subjects I knew I was good at. I decided math was the devil at an early age and never excelled despite all my efforts.
Norway has no gifted program. There is no such thing as gifted children. Everyone learns at the same pace no matter what. One cousin described Norway as a ¨gifted child killer.¨ If you are really excel, you are screwed. There is no program to nurture or challenge you.
Despite my struggles as a gifted child I think there should be something in place for children that struggle or excel in school. What are your thoughts? Have you been in such programs? What does your country offer children?
I had a discussion with my Norwegian relatives yesterday. I was asked to explain why Americans are so religious and all about church. I wanted to ask why they never go to church or include God in everyday…..
Here it goes.
Norwegians can be quite religious but rather than be in your face about it they keep it to themselves. Church going is viewed as social rather than a personal experience. From what I have gathered, Americans are the opposite. They even go door to door preaching.
Americans are described as ungeniune. Ouch. Smiles, conversations and even religion can be ungeniune. For example, maybe I really don’t know you therefore don’t care how you are. This is how Norwegians think. Why go to church, say you practice Christianity, and turn around and proceed to steal. Acting Christian and being genuine that you see church as a social event is seen as more acceptable in Norway.
Who’s wrong? Is anyone wrong or is this just culture differences? Maybe Americans need to learn to be more genuine. Leave a response below.