Language, health, and humor: A Brit’s guide to Norwegian emigration

Fish and chipsPhoto: Samuel tresch / Unsplash

Deciding to move to another country is a daunting task. After all, it’s not simply a case of changing territory or finding a house that can become a home. The process of securing professional contacts, and not to mention friends, has to be restarted, at least to some extent. On top of this, there is a laundry list of cultural changes that one can reasonably expect to have to assimilate with.

We caught up with Jennifer (editorial note: name changed for anonymity), a British woman originally from the West Midlands, who moved to Norway in 2012 to expand her economic prospects while reducing the stress in her life. 

Here is her insight into what British people ought to know in advance before deciding to venture East.

The interview

From my own experience, I realized very quickly (through a few uncomfortable situations) that I had to adjust a certain dry and unforgiving humor I had become accustomed to in the UK. Did you have any similar experiences?

“I think that British humor is very slapstick – slightly exaggerated whilst Norwegian or Scandinavian humor is dark and has a sense of gallows humor. The two aren’t really compatible, so being funny in the UK didn’t really come across as being funny in Norway.

“Something I think Brits pick up on quickly but choose to ignore and just continue being ‘typically British.’ Nothing wrong with that – after all, Brits and Norwegians are alike but will never be the same.”

Are there any problems you could forewarn future UK nationals about in terms of moving to Oslo or Norway, perhaps based on a personal oversight?

“Learn the language as fast as possible. Although most Norwegians in the south and the larger coastal towns speak English well, many ‘private’ Norwegians dare not venture into that conversation – you will miss out on some good talks if you don’t speak Norwegian to some extent.

“Also, there seems to be a misconception that Norway holds lots of free job vacancies, which is incorrect. I would always suggest to any foreign nationals moving here to find a job before moving.”

In the UK, the National Health Service is regarded as a sacrosanct institution. There is a different model in Norway, with both higher taxation and payment being required at the point of service.

In your experience, would you say that Norway presents as an enviable model of healthcare, which could be explored in the UK, to perhaps alleviate some chronic resource deficits of the UK’s NHS, or would you say that Norway’s model actually serves to reinforce a national determination in the UK to preserve its current model?

Or perhaps you have a different point entirely?

“I think that higher taxes lead to higher quality. The problem with a Norwegian health service system model in the UK is that in Norway, even the low-level income person can afford to pay the taxes and also gets further relief from the health services to pay for medical bills, whilst in the UK, there is a much larger even lower level of income bracket of people, who would be excluded from receiving medical attention in the same way the higher and middle income brackets would. 

“The UK doesn’t have the same financial capacity as Norway when it comes to spending money on health – and taxing people more would not help the economy as it’s already fragile. 

“With the current NHS, people receive medical treatment, although different quality of services depending on your financial situation and availability depending on your location. Perhaps the UK system isn’t perfect, but at least people receive medical treatment.”

According to global indices, Norway is a perennial contender for the titles like the “happiest country in the world” or “best country to live in.” If you had to pick one factor or phenomenon that you felt that the UK could incorporate into national culture or daily life, to help replicate such an outcome, what would you choose?

“Unfortunately, because of the financial situation in the UK, people are forced to work overtime, work too much and too many varied hours. Temporary employees have become popular because they are easily expendable. 

“I think stress is a dangerous side effect of this, and if people were to have more regulated working hours, and more time with their families or more time to go for walks/work out, it would make people happier overall. 

“But as that probably isn’t viable, I would think that easy access to resources such as training centers or well-maintained parks might be appreciated. 

“For low-level income families, I would certainly think that equal rights to these benefits would be seen as something positive, and raising the standards of the people working in elderly care should definitely be tended to. 

“It’s about having the time to, having the resources, and having the access to – spending more time together, spending better quality of time together, making sure people are being looked after.”

With that being said, despite the UK’s perpetually lower ranking, what is one thing that the United Kingdom has that Norway is perhaps missing?

“Using the best of its foreign nationals’ food and cultures. Norway could do so much more to explore different foods, cultures, music… There’s very little to be found if you are looking for something ‘else.’ 

“We seem to be stuck with one bad Chinese takeaway, one non-authentic Italian place, and some other ‘modern’ version of Asian cuisine. But we really lack good foreign cooking – and we lack markets, festivals… They aren’t well promoted when they do take place, and there aren’t many available.”

Moving to another country involves a complex multivariate consideration, but, if asked for a yes or no: would you recommend living in Norway to people from back home?

“I would say that if you find a job, like nature and walking, being outdoors, and can say farewell to take-aways, eating out a lot, socializing in bars… then Norway is for you. 

“It’s not a party place, but a much more mature, down-to-earth place where you can spend time outdoors in the fresh air. If you are looking for bars, clubs, hanging out with lots of people, then this is not the place for you.”

Our thanks to Jennifer! What can we learn from this?

It seems that in order to enjoy a happy and fulfilling life in Norway, Brits should make an effort to converse in the local language, say goodbye to humorous small talk, and make peace with a quieter lifestyle. 

Source: Norway Today


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