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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Oslo, Norway

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

Oslo

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

Some, mostly from various vacations before I moved here permanently.

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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?

No, but I am currently taking courses in Norwegian..

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

Yes and no. I was more concerned about my son than myself.

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

Fairly significant. I became depressed within days.

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?

My honeymoon stage was for a few days, but then I quickly moved into the irritation stage, and then cultural adjustment. I felt that my husband did not understand, and I was sick of not knowing Norwegian. I took classes seriously, and I feel much better about my situation now.

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.

I felt that I was definitely more homesick. My family is and always has been very supportive of this move, but I was really surprised how much more I needed them at this point in my life. I also was dealing with living with my husband in his own country, and not feeling as though he was very supportive of my feelings. I was also upset that he dismissed many of my fears.

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

I love the people and their attitude. Most Norwegians are friendly, and I appreciate how they integrate the society.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Learning the language, finding a job, making sure my qualifications are legitimate.

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

Not knowing Norwegian fluently is a huge embarrassment to me!

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

Please give yourself time..it will get better!

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If you're not involved in our Norway Forum, it's a great place to meet others in your area, get answers to questions about moving to Norway or offer advice to a newcomer.

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guest
Mar 6, 2012 04:55

The stress of culture shock is not understood by others who are not suffering it. When the English had the British Empire, the men would undertake a full culture and language course for 3 months full time before going to live abroad in a country from native speakers. It is a shame this is not standard for all people as this would prevent so much emotional angst for the whole family, as well as explaining our emotional turmoil as a foreigner in a new land to our local partner, as understanding our culture for them. Language takes up to 2 years to learn fluently (watch any baby) and cannot be learnt just by a couple of hours a week evening class other than for holiday use, but needs at least an hour each day by an audio course as well. The Michel Thomas Method lets you pick up a new language naturally as when we were babies we first learnt the language by listening and watching facial and hand gestures that went with the words. This could be used to support your language speaking and writing course, during a lunch break perhaps. This is from English into Norwegian. What is also not understood is that speaking a language needs an understanding of how we use our mouths to make the sounds of letters and words can be very different between languages. For example, there are many letter sounds in Greek that either do not exist at all in northern European languages or are pronounced in an opposite way, such as for R where the tongue does not go down in the mouth but goes up to give the Spanish trill. These basics are often missed in language classes, which language teachers need to appreciate. Each language also has its own rhythms, like a melody, to get into. Ignore the faux pas from not knowing a language fluently, because we learn from our mistakes not when everything is going smoothly. Each individual will integrate and learn local language at a their own pace and the irritation stage needs careful destress / nurturing as actually culture shock is the name of a mental illness progressing through psychiatric stress and more often than not could end up in clinical depression, so prevention by preparation before going abroad as a whole family and taking it easy in bite sized chunks when abroad is vital for personal wellbeing.

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