Guest contributor and now Trondheim local James Marinelli gave us his tips from his experience moving from USA to Norway.
Last year, after much deliberation, my wife accepted a teaching position at NTNU in Trondheim. So (between obsessively Googling images of the Aurora Borealis, Nidaros Cathedral, and the like) we enthusiastically drew up a plan on how to move from the US to Norway, and settle into our new home, as smoothly as possible.
While the plan was a commendable one (the fact that I am writing this from a small office in the Trondheim city centre is a testament to its success) all the planning in the world is a pale substitute for the wisdom that only experience can provide. And that wisdom, dear reader, is what this post is all about.
Number One: Prepare, Prepare, and Then Prepare Some More
Take some time to research: explore available houses and apartments, and their neighbourhoods. To what degree is affordability a factor in your move? How far is each potential home from facilities such as grocery stores, schools, parks, and public transportation?
Once you zero in on a few housing options, contact the landlord, and look into the option of scheduling a walkthrough via Skype or FaceTime. Be sure to carefully weigh the relationship between your available living space and the belongings you deem necessary enough to take with you (I myself had to grudgingly part with several guitars, a banjo, and about a third of my record collection, but doing so raised thousands of dollars for the move, and made many of the musicians and music nerds in my life very happy, so it was a win-win situation).
I would also strongly recommend contacting a moving company that specialises in international relocation and discuss your options with them. Be warned: international shipping is beyond expensive, so I would sell as many belongings as possible -- especially heavy items such as furniture, as well as items that will not function in the European voltage system (American appliances run on 110 volts while European ones run on 220, and voltage converters are both expensive and potentially unsafe). Again, this will not only lighten your load, but it will also raise money for the big move. And if the company that is hiring you or your spouse will help defray the shipping costs, all the better.
If you’re moving with a pet, familiarise yourself with the policies and regulations of the airline you’ll be using. Because we moved with Olive, our 19-year-old diabetic cat, we contacted our airline to discuss traveling with a pet – namely the potentially sticky situation of traveling internationally with insulin, an ice pack, cat food, syringes, and a live animal. We also researched national and international customs policies and discovered that Olive would not only have to undergo a medical examination in the US within ten days of our departure, but also upon our immediate arrival in Norway.
Once that was done, we scheduled the necessary examinations and made other preparations such as stocking up on cat food and insulin and buying a pet carrier that met our airline’s policies regarding the transportation of a pet. Remember – and I can’t emphasize this enough -- not only is there a mountain of research and preparation involved, but that research and preparation should be done as early as possible to avoid the potential and inevitable stumbling blocks involved in such an epic move.
Number Two: If You Are Not Employed, Adjust Your Expectations While on the Job Search
It is very difficult to find a job in your field if you are not fluent in Norwegian, so don’t be hesitant about searching for jobs in fields that may differ from your own. Since I was the one who was not hired for the fabulous English teaching job at NTNU, it was up to me to find something – anything – to pay my half of the rent and bills and put food on the table.
Thus, I broadened my focus to include foodservice, manufacturing, and retail positions -- work that I haven’t done since before I started teaching on the university level, nearly two decades ago.
If this concerns you, you may want to consider the benefits of such work: physical exercise, a chance to socialise and even bond with people you may not have met otherwise, employee discounts on products such as food or furniture, a potentially flexible schedule, and an opportunity to learn spoken and written Norwegian through fully immersing yourself in a practical work situation, if not an ideal one.
Number Three: Do Whatever You Can to Learn the Language
Due to the strong connection between having fluency in the Norwegian language and finding a job in one’s chosen field, I recommend that you learn the language as quickly as you can. Before the move, you can use websites such as DuoLingo and Babbel (both are available as smartphone apps), as well as NTNU’s Norwegian on the Web, and once you’re here, be sure to explore the other learning options that you have.
Inexpensive courses in Norwegian are available via Norwegian schools and universities, and informal conversation groups are common. I myself am involved in a Norwegian conversation group via Onboard Norway, which has been both enjoyable and useful. I would also advise you to buy a Norwegian language textbook such as Ny i Norge and carefully work through each chapter and section.
Additionally, give yourself a challenge by forcing yourself to use the Norwegian words and phrases that you already know. For example, when in line at the grocery store, force yourself to answer the checkout clerk in Norwegian when she asks you if you’d like a bag for your groceries. If the man who lives a couple of doors down from you holds open the door to the apartment building while you haul your bags of groceries inside, thank him in Norwegian.
Sure, the neighbour and the clerk are probably fluent in English -- and may even welcome the opportunity to speak it – but they’re also likely to appreciate the fact that you’re attempting to learn their language and take part in their culture.
Number Four: Get to Know Your Surroundings
If you’re in my situation, you probably have too much free time on your hands. So why spend it in your stuffy apartment with only Netflix and your cat to keep you company? Buy a bicycle on Finn.no (Norway’s version of Craigslist) or rent one through your town’s bicycle sharing website such as Oslo City Bike or Trondheim City Bike and explore your surroundings.
My wife and I bought bicycles within a week of landing here, and I’ve ridden mine every day since then. And, since neither my wife nor I plan on buying a car anytime soon, our bikes, the bus, the train, and the tram will be our main modes of transportation.
Of course, there’s Norway’s famous scenery to consider – and the best thing about beautiful scenery is that viewing it is (usually) free of charge. So, while you’re waiting around for a call from a prospective employer, put the phone away, log out of Netflix, and take that new bicycle of yours for a spin. Norway’s cities, villages, and countryside have a wealth of breathtaking views – fjords, coastlines, forests, lakes, mountains, and architecture both medieval and modern – and that wealth is within your reach.
*NB This article was originally written 6 months ago. James has since begun regularly performing as a one-man-punk-band across Norway, Europe and back in his native USA.
Find his music, dates and support him here: