1. Accept things and people as they are
Accept that this is another country with its own culture. Sure, half of what Norwegians do is new and strange to you, but for them that is the norm. It is the same all over the world: people do things in a certain way and they are sure this is the only and best way to do it. It is the case for the French, the American, the Kenyans etc. They might know how their neighbouring countries do things, but it stops there.
As a foreigner you have different views obviously. You want to do crazy things such as eat a waffle with ham and cheese on top, spending 30 years in Norway without buying a flat; not breastfeed your kid more than a month; or taking a shower in common garderobe with your swimsuit on because you don’t want all these strangers to see you naked. Get over it, this country is different. If you want to be happy about living here you need to accept things as they are and go on with your life instead of complaining. You can keep your bathing suit on but not be bothered about the strange looks. You can show people new ways of eating waffles with Nutella and chantilly cream. They might think it’s strange, and you can tell them it’s just different. You don’t need to judge things Norwegians do because it’s different, or they might judge you back. Remember, you won’t change Norway!
2. Be kind to yourself
This can seem a bit harsh, but I sincerely believe that one of the keys to happiness in general is low expectations. This also applies to Norway from social life to the time it takes for you to learn the language. You expected to make 100 friends the first year you moved here? Do you really need 100 friends? Maybe 3 very good friends are better than 100 acquaintances. This is a country where people made friends already in highschool and you are ten years too late. You’ve been here for 2 years and still don’t understand the ads in the tram? Well, you are in a learning process, things take time so be kind to yourself you might know more than you think. You expected to have a job that fits exactly your education or job in your home country after one year? Maybe you’ll have to accept other lower jobs, as a temporary solution, and get a better job later. Setting strict goals for yourself can help but can also put you in front of failures instead of showing you the progress you’ve made. If you had moved to another country would things be easier? Maybe not. Immigration is always tough, and adapting takes time. Also see How to Become Fluent in Norwegian or Die Trying.
3. Enjoy everything that is so special to Norway
I met so many foreigners, especially Western Europeans, complaining day in day out about Norway, but there are surely things which are better here than where you live. Sure, things are cheaper in your country. But do you have fjords in your country? Yes I know, there is more choice in cheese and food in general in your country (in mine at least). But do you have rakfisk in your country? Or replace rakfisk by any Norwegian food you like. You might not be here forever so you need to enjoy everything that is so special here, such as long parental leave, stunning nature and quirky culture. Where else in the world can you enjoy so much nature so close to cities? Focus on the opportunities, not just the obstacles. Also see How to integrate in Norway
4. Make your own opinion
If you have just moved here you can go online and find an unbelievable amount of webpages, books, blogs (including this one) telling how life in Norway is. Remember these are just subjective indications of Norway seen through someone else’s eyes. This might not be the way you will see and appreciate things and people in Norway. Generalisations are dangerous, remember there is diversity in Norway. The 2 km2 where you live and the 30 people you interact with everyday from your office to the supermarket cashier do not represent the 5 million inhabitants of this country.
5. Know why you are here
Maybe you followed your loved one, maybe you found a job, maybe you fled your country at war, maybe you decided to try your luck and make some cash in Norway. I identified four reasons for immigration to Norway: Love, Work, Studies and War. Maybe you are here for a short period and then you have even more reasons to enjoy as much as you can while you are here. You might have fallen in love with a Norwegian, but that doesn’t mean you should only meet your partner’s friends. Make your own life! You might not have chosen to come to Norway, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it. Integration is not just paying your tax. If you want to enjoy things here you’ll have to do a little bit more. Unless your ideal life is to knit alone in front of the tv, then you won’t need to make much effort to socialise and integrate in Norwegian society.
7. Stay yourself
Sure everyone is telling you you need to ski to be a good immigrant, and to like brunost and eat knekkebrød everyday. If you don’t like it don’t do it. There are many Norwegians who hate skiing, feel repulsed by the taste of aquavit and would rather lay on a beach than go hiking for 9 hours in Jotunheimen. They just don’t scream it to the world but I know many of them. So relax, and stay yourself! As to me I find that being happy here requires a balance between Norwegian life and life/culture from my own home. I meet other French, speak my own language, eat the food from my childhood, complain about things which are still so hard for me to understand in Norway, and laugh about it. No one ever said you should abandon your own culture and friends from home to fit in. I know many immigrants who make dinners for their neighbours to introduce them to their own food and culture. Who said Norwegians were not interested in exploring other cultures too? This is the best part about immigration: exchange.
8. Know when to leave
If you feel like this country is making you unhappy, because there are things here which are irreconcilable with your own values, your own need for sun, your conception of summer (that does not include putting on woolen clothes), because you hate nature and hiking and mountains. Then maybe you should just leave. It’s like when you go hiking in the mountain, there is no shame in going back before you achieved whichever was your aim (climbing the Everest or making Norway your home). Obviously this applies to immigrants who have a choice. If you fled a war in your home country you might not have the choice to leave as much as a Dutch engineer whose home-company asked to come work in Norway for a fat pay check. Of course there are situations which are much tougher than others. To quote a famous French stand up comedian: Everyone will have equal rights, but some will be more equal than others (Coluche).
And if none of the above points have convinced you that there are ways to be happy in Norway, think about it, you could be in a Siberian goulag. Guess what, you’re not. You are in Norway where you have labour rights, social security and neighbours ready to help you if you need it. It’s about seeing the glass of water being half full, not half empty. No one said immigration was easy, but try your best to make the best out of it. I did, and it wasn’t easy! Good luck!
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