What does one do when you’ve spent 12 years in Los Angeles sitting in the same traffic, hanging out at the same overhyped bars, and dating the same men?
Cry? Write an extravagant bucket list? Get a cat?
Valid, if depressing.
Or do you sell the majority of your belongings, pack the rest of your life into five boxes, and take your California girl self to Norway?
A year ago I set a goal to be living here in beautiful Oslo and I’m happy to report I hustled my way into a job, almost had a nervous breakdown while filing my paperwork for my visa, and survived a family European vacation, but I did it!!
Finally, after a very exciting 3 weeks full of pasta in Italy, showing my mom the beauty of Oslo in the summer, and my first trip to the fjords with my American girl friends….
…..I am in Oslo alone.
Oh my god.
I did it.
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t feel pretty damn proud of myself for this feat. But if you also guessed that maybe right now I am slightly scared out of my mind?
I think this is pretty natural given the whole “moving to a foreign country” thing I have going on.
My move to California when I was 23 was pretty scary and while that was about the same distance in miles as Norway is from my hometown in Virginia, this is a whole different animal.
As scary it is to be in a foreign place all by myself, it also feels so f**king cool to have shaken up my life this much.
Excitement is still the dominant emotion, but I think it’s important to talk about the hard things too. So what are some of the things I’m scared of?
- I won’t have friends.
It took me about 2 years to find a group of solid people in LA who I actually felt like I could trust and whom I saw more than twice a year. This was pretty traumatic for me given that when I moved there I was leaving behind about 238 friends, many of which I had known since I was in elementary school.
But I’m happy to report that even after only two weeks here, I have one new American friend, two Norwegian friends who actually DO want to hang out with me, and plans on both Saturday AND Sunday this weekend.
(I had heard a lot about how Norwegians are hard to get to know. Not in an intentionally mean way but they aren’t like Americans who are more like “Hi here’s my life story wanna hang out?!”
And by “like Americans” I mean “like me” who’s rarely met a stranger I can’t have at least a 15 minute conversation with.)
Pro tip: if you are considering your own move internationally, or heck, even nationally: join Facebook groups for people who are new to the area, tell anyone who will listen where you are moving because you never know who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody in your new location.
2. I will be broke and homeless.
This is not a new or uniquely Norway related fear, mind you. I have had this fear in the back of my head since I graduated college, and trust me, I’m making much more than I was making then and I’ve still never been on the street.
I am incredibly fortunate to have the job and salary here that I do, so this fear is probably completely irrational, just like it was in the US.
But Norway is expensive.
For example, back in September when I was here, even the Norwegian Starbucks were advertising the queen of all basic bitch drinks: the pumpkin spice latte. My Norwegian friend had never had one, so I bought them for us.
Total cost for 2 grande PS lattes: $13.
Yesterday I went and did a full grocery shop now that my vacation days of spending like I’m a Kardashian are over. I got some veggies, fruit, shrimp, salmon, eggs, 3 kinds of cheese (don’t you dare judge me), yogurt, milk, ham, and bread…..for $120.
While on the bright side I have discovered a new diet called “Move to Norway where you can’t afford to indulge your cravings” on the downside I need to not have random Fat Girl Tuesdays if I want to be able to afford the other stupid things I spend my money on and definitely don’t need.
To put this in perspective, however, my healthcare is free. Yeah, chew on that, Trump. Government sponsored healthcare that works and that people are happy with. IMAGINE THAT. So when I think about it that way: would I rather pay for surgery should I need it….or $7 for an eggplant…..I’ll choose the expensive eggplant, thank you.
(part of the reason things are so expensive is the high taxes Norway has that entitle it’s citizens to (mostly) free healthcare and education. And while I am not a citizen I am a legally approved resident who also gets access to these perks. Hence, $7 vegetables.)
Pro tip: before moving internationally make sure you understand the cost of living in a country and that you are financially comfortable. Having “lived” here throughout the past year I was well aware of what things cost and saved a lot in prep. I know I am not going to blow through my savings, but I feel better with a big cushion.
Pro tip #2: please don’t move to an expensive foreign country without a job. That is a dumb move. (and in many cases, a very hard visa to secure) If you’re marrying someone, that’s different, because I assume you and your spouse have discussed this. But if you are single like I am, I do not recommend having a sense of “adventure” and quitting your current job and then trying to figure it out. That will lead to a hell of a lot of stress and an ending that could involve you moving back into mom’s basement and desperately looking for a job in your native country.
3. I’ll behave like “that kind” of American.
I will never forget when my family lived in Australia and one of my friends told me I talked about America too much. Even then, when I was 14, I knew that kind of American was annoying AF and I never want to be “that guy.”
I have been extra cognizant of this each time I have come to Norway. I try not to compare how Norway does things to how the US does. I try not to talk too loudly. (This is perhaps the biggest challenge) I apologize any time someone speaks to me in Norwegian and I have to ask them to speak in English.
I refuse to be one of those ignorant Americans who expects the world to adjust to my expectations/comforts/convenience. If I wanted to live in a country exactly like America then I wouldn’t have moved to Norway now would I? I think some people forget that.
I will be learning Norwegian, I’ll become obsessed with skiing, hell, I’ll even try lutefisk. Because that is part of the adventure. I moved here for new things; not just the same things but with more snow.
Pro tip: read up about your new country a little bit or, if you can get lucky like I did, live there for a little while before making the leap. At the VERY least I think you should visit for at least a week. Make sure you can handle the cultural differences without making a big deal about it. Most of Norway is closed on Sundays. Doesn’t bother me, but definitely bothers some people. Try to learn those little nuances before you go so you are mentally prepared for them and not traumatized and/or become a massive complainer that no one wants to be around.
There you have it: the honest truth about my fears on my new adventure. Its one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of the scariest, and that is ok! Major life changes should be both of those things. And how scary they will be is all about how you approach it.
If I choose to sit in my apartment and not make any effort to meet people, then yes, my first fear of no friends will come true. I may end up broke and homeless if I act like the Norwegian version of 2 Chainz in a strip club and spend money frivolously. All of these fears are easy to avoid with a little effort, it’s up to you to make it.