I’ve been a bit quiet lately, mostly due to lack of Internet in my new apartment, but I plan to step things up a bit in the coming weeks.
One of the major problems expats face when moving to Norway is making friends. I have been lucky in that I have family members here to keep me occupied, but when they have their own families, work, etc. it can still be difficult to find people to do things with. Norwegians are sometimes accused of being cold or unfriendly. I would say that this is completely untrue and more a result of cultural differences. For example, we Americans are ridiculously outgoing people. In America, it is perfectly acceptable to speak with strangers in line at the store, sitting next to you on the train, plane, etc. However, in Norway this is not the case. With the exception of people with babies and/or puppies, Norwegians generally don’t talk to strangers. However, if you take the first step and speak with them, you will find most of them to be very friendly.
The other obstacle to making friends with Norwegians is that the people from Oslo, who have lived here all of their lives, have a core group of friends they have known since they were two. Norwegians don’t move around as much as we do in America and if they do move, they generally move from the smaller towns to the bigger cities such as Oslo. If people from Oslo move somewhere, it is really only out of Norway that they would move. As a result, Norwegians in Oslo make all of their friends in barnehagen (preschool) and never have to make new friends again. You can imagine that breaking into one of these circles may prove very difficult.
What’s the solution? Making friends with expats or repats (Norwegians who have lived abroad for awhile and have moved back). I have discovered two groups that help facilitate such expat friendships:
InterNations is an expat community site, not only for Norway, but also around the world. The site is free to join, but many of the features require paid “Albatross” membership. This site features a forum where expats can post about jobs, housing, city info, etc. You can also create or join activity groups in order to play chess or drink coffee or whatever else you would like to do with other expats.
One of the most useful aspects of this site is the monthly event they host in each city. These monthly outings are free for Albatross members and if you plan to go every month, it actually makes your membership more than worthwhile. I attended the event in October, which cost 100NOK to enter (since I’m not a paid member) with some reduced drink prices. I went by myself and as the outgoing American I am, was able to make friends with a couple of others right away. Being in an environment with other people who are looking to make friends is worth the entrance fee and far better than just going to a random bar!
Oslo International Club
This is another organization I have recently become involved with. A Swedish friend I met at a British Embassy event recommended it to me and I will be attending their Halloween party this Saturday. There should be about 60+ people in attendance, so I’m looking forward to it! I will report back next week on Halloween in Oslo.
In addition to the above two sites, there are various Facebook groups and some other groups I have yet to check out. If any of them turn out to be cool/useful, I shall report back.