Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Gjøvik, Norway

Submitted by kabjen13

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What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Gjøvik

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

Before. Had the experience of travelling to Norway and also lived in Sweden two different occasions; very similar to Norwegian culture, traditions, language.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I am enrolled in Norwegian language classes. I am getting better and better and can understand others more.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

Not really.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Hardly significant.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

I have definitely gone through the honeymoon stage and I think I'm going through the irritation-to-anger stage now: UDI (Norwegian immigration authority), leaving a big city life for a temporary one in the countryside, having to drive a car more often, and not currently being able to work.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Mostly anxiety, depression, frustration. I sometimes feel as though I have no control of my life, or that I am very limited in the things I can control.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

So many things. The nature, the peace and tranquility, the community-mindedness, the pride Norwegians have in their home, their families, their communities, their nation; the fantastic quality of life here, the hospitality, the civility most people have, and lots of incredibly handsome, rugged men. :)

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The hours of operation of shops and other public places; the lack of understanding Norwegian at times when people speak to me (I feel like an idiot); the "can't be bothered" or "pass the buck" mentality people working in the service sector often have here -- whether it is Telenor, UDI, NAV, or the local municipality offices, etc. Experience has shown me that these type of workers are incapable of admitting a mistake, apologising for mistakes, or actually doing their job effectively. Lastly, the staring. I came here from a big US city where people rarely look at you in passing (unless there is really something to look at) each other on the streets or in cars, etc. Here, it is more common. It has angered me so much when I saw people staring or looking at me. I was told it's just local curiosity because they don't know me or haven't seen me before (one person even said it's because I'm handsome), but it's hard not to think it rude and unacceptable behaviour. This is not so much the case in cities like Oslo, Trondheim or Bergen.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Not a lot, other than using incorrect Norwegian at times. I have noticed that it generally takes Norwegians almost 20 minutes or so to say goodbye to each other when leaving social situations. I often just want to say goodbye and leave right afterwards without a lot of this last minute small talk. Perhaps I might have been a bit abrupt a few times and it rubbed some Norwegians the wrong way. No one has said anything, but a Norwegian would generally never confront a foreigner about it anyway. Seriously. :)

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Know that many things in Norway will be similar to the US, but there will be many significant differences, too. I welcome most of these differences. Don't lose sight of yourself and what has shaped you culturally, but be flexible and open to how life is in Norway and how different some things will definitely be. In other words, maintain who you are, but learn to break out of your comfort zone of familiarity.

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