Expat in the City

For an expat (and perhaps many native Brits too), living in the conurbation that is London can sometimes be a solitary thing. Even when navigating through the buzzing streets, narrowly avoiding colliding with camera equipped sightseers who have suddenly stopped to capture another great memory to show the “people back home” or to consult their maps, finding yourself in the company of thousands of strangers can spark the sense of loneliness.

I’ve had this happen to me many times, not because I don’t like the city or have no friends, but simply because a part of me has realised that I cannot “pop back home for the weekend” (that would take me 3-4 hours in air time alone, not including travelling to and from the airports and waiting for my connecting flight) or that I have no history in this country prior to 2003. And, whether I like it or not, the longer I don’t use my native language on a regular basis, the words will continue to fade. One by one, being boxed up and stored at the back of my memory, getting more and more difficult to find when I need to, slowly removing a part that makes me “me” – my USP if you like.

Luckily some of the above can easily be addressed.

My sense of loneliness will perhaps continue to appear from time to time, but will also quickly pass as I have a great network of really good friends in the city. People I wouldn’t want to be without, people who I consider my London family.

I also have a place I can call home in the city (even if rented!) and I’m excited about the history I will create in the years to come, so the history + going home for the weekend are not really an issue when I think about it.

When it comes to the slow disappearance of my mother tongue… Well that I can fix by starting to write and read more (and not just newspaper e-articles) in Norwegian. So if you from time to time see some weird scribblings at the bottom of my blog posts, fear not. I have not fallen asleep at my mac whilst writing. It will be a translation of the English text. Perhaps you’ll even learn some Norwegian 😉

So yes, among all the problems and joys life brings, being an expat can sometimes add a few more to the mix. But then, this is the life I have chosen, and I am still happy I did!

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Food glorious food

The way I see it there are two kinds of people. The people who eat to live (my mum is one of these) and the people who live to eat (moi).

I have always been a foodie; the amazing flavours, the colours, the texture. So whereas I will be happy to try out new dishes, my mum will be perfectly content with crispbread and cheese.

This love for food has so far taken me on a delightful culinary journey, the highpoint to date being the year I spent in Italy; soaking up the atmosphere, eating gelato, drinking wine and tasting the most delicious desserts and pasta dishes.

London is also a treat for any food enthusiasts. Whether it is Vietnamese, Mexican, Scandinavian or Mongolian you will be able to find a place that caters for your fancies. Well, I’m not really sure of the last one, but if any of you know a place that sells Mongolian food, direct me in its way and I will try it.

But being a foreigner in England, sometimes makes me lift my eyebrow to some of the more odd foods you have (perhaps they are not so strange to you):

  • The Yorkshire Pudding. For some time I actually thought this was a pudding, as in dessert.
  • The Cornish Pasty. Meat in pastry. I guess it is a pie, but I am still not completely comfortable with it..
  • Spotted dick. Not that just sounds wrong doesn’t it??
  • Beans on toast. Who thought of it first? Students across the UK salute you
  • Scotch egg. Hard boiled egg wrapped in some meat like mix, rolled round in breadcrumbs and then deep fried. I’ll pass thank you.

Apart from these, to me, very British foodstuffs, there was one thing in particular that puzzled me for years.  Tea. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why the British only had tea for dinner. How could anyone just live off the liquid black tea that you can add a splash of milk and perhaps a sugar or two to. Then, light bulb moment. Well, in truth, someone told me that ‘tea’ also can refer to ‘a cooked evening meal’ *smiles sheepishly and looks away*.

Then again, I’m sure whenever someone visits my motherland they look at some of our favourite dishes with disgust or confusion. Have you tried?:

  • Brown goats cheese with a delightful taste of caramel
  • Smalahove, which is, vegetarians please look away now, a sheep’s head. Eye and ear included
  • Dried meat of, children please look away now, reindeer. Yes, that is Rudolph.
  • Tørrfisk. That’s Norwegian for stockfish or ‘bacalhau’ for those of you who speak Portuguese
  • Rakfisk. Fermented trout
  • Sursild. Pickled herring

Yes we do have a lot of fish-y traditions, but I do recommend the brown cheese.

Image: Visit Norway

Bilingual me

Ever wondered what it’s like being bilingual? To know two (or more) languages so well that both are the same to you, and you sometimes forget that you are thinking in one and talking in another.

My tiny friend Little M’s latest post about being a bilingual tot got me thinking. I was not a bilingual baby myself, growing up in a rural Northern Norwegian town with a Norwegian speaking family, with little Norwegian friends. But I do remember the holidays in Sweden and watching DJ the Cat on Sky, clearly showing an interest in languages from an early age. This early taste of what lay outside the borders of my childhood bubble, is probably what eventually made me decide to move to Italy to live for a year after completing school, escaping my country in which I would mostly only get to speak a language which, quite frankly, in the bigger scheme of things is more or less useless. There is about 5million people living in my native country, add those in the Scandi parts of Europe that understand us, but perhaps don’t really speak it, and those in the wider world that have chosen to learn Norwegian. That would take the grand total to no more than 6 million, wouldn’t you agree? That’s less than the people who live in London!

On the pro list though comes the fact that by default almost I understand and speak both Swedish and Danish, and if I really make an effort sometimes am able to understand Icelandic and even Dutch (mostly in written form, and am by no means claiming to speak it!). Then add the German I studied at school, and the Italian I learned during my time in Perugia, and it’s starting to become quite complicated or fun – depending on the way you see it. To top it off, I consider English as my second mother tongue. I do make a very convincing Brit if I can say so myself.

So whilst I was never a bilingual toddler, I am very much a bilingual adult. And it is fun to be able to communicate in another language, to use additional letters when writing (ĂŚ, ø, ĂĽ), and to try to teach your friends phrases and words. It can also be a bit frustrating, especially when you’re trying to explain something (could be a saying or a joke or anything really) that doesn’t really translate and is difficult to put into words for an ‘outsider’, a non-native Norwegian. Then again, the same happens to me from time to time. Sometimes, there is something about being a native Brit that me as the expat just don’t get. These are the times, according to my boyfriend, that you can tell that I didn’t grow up over here. For instance, the other week whilst watching The Prisoner on dvd, I asked what those bicycles with one small and one large wheel are called. “A penny-farthing” my boyfriend informed me with a big grin on his face.  I had of course heard this name before, but couldn’t for the life of me remember it at that point.

To all my fellow bi-, tri- and multi-linguals out there. What’s your experiences?

And for anyone who might wonder. I honestly don’t know which language I think in.

Kreativ blogger

I haven’t been as active on here lately as I would have wanted. Without going  into too much detail, mostly because I can’t (just yet), let’s just say it’s been a hectic couple of weeks. So when an email popped into my inbox the other day, saying that Little M of Mummy’s Busy World fame had given me the Kreativ Blogger Award (I wonder if his mami might have had something to do with it..) I was all smiles. Thanks Little M!

The Rules Are:

  • You must thank the person who has given you the award.
  • Copy the logo and place it on your blog
  • Link the person who has nominated you for the award
  • Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting
  • Nominate other Kreativ Bloggers
  • Post links to the blogs you nominate
  • Let the nominated victims bloggers know they have been tagged

Seven things about me that you might find interesting:

1. At 19 I moved to Perugia, Italy, where I spent a year eating, drinking and dancing my way through life for a year. I still count this as one of my best years to date. I did also study Italian at the Universita per Stranieri, but haven’t spoken it for years and years. Can anyone please direct me to a good evening course in London??

2. I was born and raised Norwegian, but when you meet me I sound extremely English. I have many times had to show people my driver’s license to show them that I am in fact Norwegian.

3. Speaking of my driver’s license. On the photo I look like a emo goth (thanks verybusymama) with extremely black & curly hair. Nowadays I have settled for a bottle blonde (my very own mix of it too!) and straight hair as often as I can.

4. I have a slight obsession with Lady GaGa at the moment. Since I am the one choosing the music in the office, I often play her music again and again and again and again…

5. Back in the Northern Country, among the hills and fjords, my family owns and run (to my knowledge) the last beer shop in the country. Yes it’s a shop, completely dedicated to beer. Most of it Norwegian produce, but there are some imported goods too. If you fancy paying it a visit, hurry up! It may not be there that much longer since it was made legal to sell beer in supermarkets a couple of years ago.

6. I grew up above the Arctic Circle. Where the summer nights are never ending and the winter nights are dark and cold…

7. I love food. Food glorious food! I can make pretty much anything if you give me a recipe, and it will usually taste pretty damn good if I may say so myself.

Now it’s my time to share this award, and I would like to nominate Millie who blogged her way through her training to the 2010 London Marathon. Read My Long and Winding Road and feel inspired!

Stereotypes and curiosities.

The Kingdom of Norway.

Having lived abroad for most of my adult life (Italy, Norway, England, Norway, England – but that’s a whole other blog entry), I have come across people who have heard many things about us Norwegians, some true and some not so true.

So I thought I would address some of these oddities and, perhaps, misconceptions as well as truths about my native country and folk sooner rather than later.

  1. No, polar bears do not roam around freely in our streets.
  2. Surprisingly enough, Norwegians aren’t predominantly tall and blonde (*sighs, looking wishful into the air..). That would be the Swedes, and the Danes. But we do love to colour our hair to keep up appearances (bottle blonde me)!
  3. Yes, parts of Norway will have (almost) complete darkness during winter, and perpetual daylight during summer. That is the place I call home-home. Only 4million of the world’s population of 6.8billion live in the Arctic region, so when you meet one from there, truly treasure the moment! That goes for Norwegians too – only 4.8million of us out there!
  4. We are not all death/heavy metal loving church burners. Yes, some do like death/heavy metal, and yes, some also sadly torched churches. That’s what made the press and it was back in the 90s. But you can find both Hell and Paradis in Norway if you go looking!
  5. We are not all depressed due to the dark polar nights (see point 3).
  6. Nor are we all obsessed with skiing. Personally I much prefer après-ski.
  7. Norwegians invented the ostehøvel (cheese slicer). It goes perfectly with our brunost (brown cheese).
  8. Since our country is fairly cold most of the year and situated on the outskirts of Northern Europe, we do love to travel! Much like our Viking ancestors. But these days we are much more amicable when travelling.
  9. Our alphabet contains three more letters than the English: Æ, Ø and Å.
  10. We may be one of the richest countries in the world, but we can still only buy wine and liquor from special Government owned shops called Vinmonopolet (the wine monopoly). Not to be confused with Vinopolis in London.

These are only but a few of many Norwegian stereotypes out there. I would love to hear any that aren’t listed above!