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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Stavanger, Norway

Stavanger, Norway

One expat faced culture shock and sticker shock moving she moved to Stavanger, Norway. She said that the Norwegians are not outwardly friendly and that everything is so expensive you just don't want to buy anything or do anything.

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


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

Yes, but only a short session after the move at the foreigner center.

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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 have a very limited understanding of the language. It is difficult. I am slowly trying to learn the language on my own so I probably never will speak it with confidence but hopefully can read it.

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

Not for this move.

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

Actually living in Stavanger is a culture shock. The Norwegians are not outwardly friendly so you do not feel welcome. Everything is so expensive you just don't want to buy anything or do anything. It takes quite awhile to get over the sticker shock. Then, the medical care is substandard from what I am use to receiving. Also, everything is in Norsk which is a challenge. There are very, very few options to "press 1 for English".

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 never had a honeymoon phase. I spent more than a couple of years in the irritation-anger stage. I wouldn't say I rejected the culture but I don't prefer it. After almost 5 years, I may finally be in the adjustment phase. I still shy away from the price tag on things I really don't need.

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.

We had baptism by fire in the medical system. Too many trips to ER plus I had a baby. None of these experiences were good and that really turned me off to the whole experience.

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

I have felt very safe living here and I have been able to let my children enjoy freedoms that I probably would not be giving them anywhere else. I appreciate the recycling system and how the Norwegians can run, bike or take there baby for a stroll in any kind of weather....which is mostly rain in Stavanger.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The medical system. Medical care is very important and I pray that nothing more serious than what we have already gone through happens to us while we live here.

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


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

I think it is important to realize that things will be different and not what you are use to. You can not change the culture - you can only change yourself. If you want to be happy, don't sweat the small stuff. If you are an expat, you will only be here for a limited time. Do the fun things, travel someplace else over Christmas and shop outside the country whenever you get the chance.

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Comments about this Report

Nov 15, 2011 02:31

Wow, sounds really rough! You were in the irritation stage for more than a couple of years? I was afraid that I may be in the irritation-anger stage for a year or more. So far, it's only been a year of that and I feel I'm in the adjustment stage now. I do hear from other expats that the adjustment phase lasts a few years. I hope things go better for you and that you can enjoy your time there. I think learning the language is a major key to success.

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