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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Stavanger, Norway

Jul 01, 2014
Submitted by 2jh6lh

Stavanger, Norway

An expat in Stavanger, Norway appreciates the Norwegian's love of and respect for nature. She also appreciates that Norwegians aren't easily offended, their lower crime rates and great food.

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?

No, I knew nothing other than what I learned during a short, two-week period visit. That, and things I'd read on the internet. :)

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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 studied Norsk briefly on the Pimsleur method, but then stopped when I traveled over for the two-week trip. I am planning on learning it, but cannot join an official "course" until my residency permit is complete.

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

I wasn't concerned so much about the culture shock, as much as I was scared and sad to leave behind the only home I'd ever known.

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

I come from a place where the land is flat for miles around, and it rains very seldom. Here, there are hills/mountains absolutely everywhere, and it rains quite a lot. I would say that, for a good 3 months or so, I loathed leaving the house to do anything, like shopping, alone.

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 think the only "honeymoon" phase I had (if any) was back when I lived in my own country. I don't believe I went through an "irritation-to-anger" stage at all, but I definitely had a culture-rejecting stage and missed all of the thing Americans do. I still do not feel particularly adjusted to this culture, but that is probably because I can't speak the language. I definitely feel like there are some things I will never get over or prefer to my own culture. Americans always smile, and we aren't averse to chatting with a total stranger, or saying to them our equivalent of "gratulerer med dagen" when appropriate. Here, I would get a surprised look.

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.

Homesickness was a huge thing. I also had some slight depression, and am a bit of an anxiety-ridden person anyway. I did not have anger, increased eating or drinking, or frustration as far as I remember.

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

I appreciate the Norwegian's love of and respect for nature. I like the roundabouts as opposed to USA stoplights all over the place. I bike/walk, so I really enjoy that the sidewalks are separate from the roads and often wind off in completely different directions. I appreciate that Norwegians aren't easily offended. They have great food here as well. I also appreciate their lower crime rates. You can tell people really aren't expecting anything but the best in people they encounter.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Some of their driving rules are backwards from those in the US, such as "yield to people on your right, except in roundabouts". People have stopped and waited on me multiple times when I was pulling out of the street my house is on. I wish people were more friendly and more chatty like Americans. I always say "excuse me" if I bump into someone. I have the impulse to smile at people I pass while walking, or to make a comment to a random person, such as "cute dog".

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

I always love it when I speak English to someone and get that blank stare, which means they don't know English. Poor things.

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

There's not much advice to give, really. All I can say is that it happens to everyone. The best you can do is know it's coming and prepare to be homesick. If you can, learn the language beforehand. Read up on some rules or read about the culture if you can, and that is really the most well-prepared you can be.

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