Dealing with loss overseas

If you are currently abroad, or planning on moving abroad soon, what would you do if a family member passed away while you’re living outside of the country?  Do you have plans, and a contingency fund with enough money to fly home at short notice if necessary?

I ask this because my Grandmother passed away on Sunday morning.  Luckily, I saw her a week before at my brother’s wedding, and she was doing fine then, except for a fall she had recently.  Nobody expected this.  –After a mild heart attack on Saturday, she was stable and they were planning on using a catheter to try and clear any blocks on Sunday morning.  Unfortunately, during the night, she took a turn for the worse, and they weren’t able to keep her alive long enough for us to make the 2 1/2 hour trip to the hospital.

I’m not sure just how much you can plan for something like this, to be honest.  But such an event is one that you have to consider, especially if you have aging relatives.  I can’t tell you how to deal with loss, but I can make some suggestions on how you can be ready to deal with something like this:

  1. Keep in touch with family regularly.  No, you don’t necessarily have to call everyone once a week.  But once a month would probably be a good idea.
  2. Have a contingency fund ready with enough money for a roundtrip ticket purchased at the last minute.  I realize this can be hard to calculate, but you can expect to need at least $2000, and realistically, $4000 would be a better number to have in your savings account.
  3. Try not to dwell on this possibility.  Remember, this isn’t something that you expect to happen, and you don’t need to worry yourself sick over this, but rather acknowledge as a possibility.

Maybe this is a useful post for people, and maybe it isn’t.  I don’t want to make people think they shouldn’t live abroad because of this risk.  I just don’t want you to forget that it’s something you may have to deal with.


So, I did something stupid on Friday.  Luckily, it all worked out fine.  –I made it to the States on time and hassle free, except for the beginning of the trip, which was my fault.  The mistake?  Quite simply, I forgot to check which airport I was flying out of, and ended up going to the wrong one.

So, the lesson to learn from this is that Oslo has a couple of airports.  Gardermoen is the main one, but there is also one called Rygge.  They are about 2 hours apart by car, so if you go to the wrong one, you could be screwed.  Luckily, I flew SAS and they have flights out of both airports, and they put me on a flight from the airport I went to without charging me any extra fees.

So, although I’m rather embarrassed to admit what happened, everything worked out OK, and I was reminded that I need to make sure to pay attention to where my flights are flying in and out of.  And as far as I’m concerned, SAS is a good airline that still cares about their customers, unlike pretty much every American airline around today.

Didn’t I just get here?

So after two months in Oslo, it’s time for a quick trip back to the States.  –My first since I moved to Europe close to two years ago.  Needless to say, this will probably mean fewer posts over the next couple of weeks.  On the bright side, however, I get to find out if SAS’ Economy Extra seating is any good.  Of course, almost anything is better than flying a U.S. carrier these days, so I’m not too worried.

The Royal Palace

Oslo Palace

Royal Palace, Oslo

Norway has an interesting history.  For many years they were in a union with Denmark (not by choice), and then they were sort of given to Sweden in the early 19th century, which lasted until 1905.  It was during the union with Sweden that the Royal Palace was built.  It’s a small palace compared to others in Europe, because it wasn’t meant to be the primary residence of a royal family.

Today Norway’s king and queen live and do their work in the palace.  The crown prince also has offices here as well.  If you are going to be in Oslo in July or early August, you should consider taking the tour.  They give tours in English about three times a day during this time.  Buy your tickets in advance at the post office, otherwise they might sell out before you can get a ticket.

One downer is that they don’t let you take any pictures, and the palace’s website has all their pictures in flash files.  The tour takes you through the vestibule, the bird room, the “family” dining room, the ballroom, another dining hall, and the royal chapel, plus some other rooms.  A lot of it is very ornate, much as you’d expect of a palace, although the chapel is actually fairly plain.  It doesn’t necessarily show you how the king and queen live, but you get to see rooms that they use fairly often.

Picture by photojenni

Good Habits, Bad Habits

Moving overseas can turn your life upside down.  Usually this is a good thing, but it can easily introduce negatives.  Before I moved overseas, I was doing a good job of working out regularly. That good habit, however, was lost immediately when I moved to London.  In my defense, living in London while earning an American wage left me with little money to pay for a gym membership.  This, of course, resulted in me gaining back a lot (OK, most) of the weight I had previously lost.

Now that I’m in Oslo, earning a decent wage for Europe, and working for a company that covers half the cost of a gym membership, I’ve decided that I need to get back into the habit of going to the gym regularly.  No matter how much I’m not a huge fan of working out, it does have many benefits.

My recommendation for others is to take time before a big move to determine what positive routines you have and make the extra effort to keep them.  It may be hard at times, but retaining some stability will help you adapt to your new environment.  And if you can use the opportunity to drop some bad habits, even better!

My Life Overseas

The truth is, after a while, living overseas becomes pretty ordinary.  But these moments still come, those moments where you just have to stop and wonder at the fact that you’re not in the States.  This is one of the things that helps make living abroad worth it.  Here’s a little something I wrote back in March when I was still living in London about this:

I’m headed for the bus stop, on my way home for the night.  It’s closing in on half twelve…  It’ll be Friday soon.  At the bus stop, I look up.  The rain – more of a mist, really, is slowly coming down, and reflecting the light.  It’s not really dark, of course – it never is in London.  The streetlights shine, and all the lights of the city reflect off the clouds, creating a soft glow.  Cars drive up and down the street, but I don’t really hear them since I have my headphones on.  The night, the mist, the buildings create the mood.  It happens once in a while: I get this feeling of awe and amazement; a fluttering in my chest, a feeling of energy.  I’m living in London.  LONDON.  Never mind that I’ve been here over a year.  I’m thousands of miles from where I grew up, with an ocean between us.  But I’m here, and it’s amazing.

The rain starts to pick up, and the temperature feels like it’s dropping.  A couple of people hail cabs rather than wait any longer.  The ubiquitous black cabs – not the only ones you see on the street these days – but the ones that scream London stop and pick them up.  It’s raining harder now, and the atmosphere is changed.  The awe slowly fades, and I wonder: where’s the damn bus?

I make no claim as to the quality of my writing, but hopefully this will start to give you an idea of what it means to live overseas.

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Vigeland sculpture


One of the more interesting spaces in Oslo is the Vigeland Sculpture Park, part of the larger Frogner Park.  There are 212 granite sculptures, all designed by Gustav Vigeland in the first half of the 20th century.  The statues range from men, women and children fighting an playing to a huge column of bodies.

All of Frogner park is very popular in the summer.  Tourists come to see the sculptures, and Oslo residents stretch out on the grass to read, barbeque, play, and otherwise soak up the sun.  There are also concerts, a water park, and sports facilities that draw people in.

The image on the right is one of my favorites of the pictures I’ve taken at the park.  This sculpture is mounted on a bridge across a pond, and for me, this view makes me feel like I’m off by myself, away from people, even when others are right next to me.

If you ever visit Oslo, this is one of the sights you must see.

One of the future posts I’m planning is about Oslo’s new Opera house.  I also have some general thoughts about living overseas that might interest some people.

Telenor? More like Telenot.

Telenor is Norway’s biggest telecom company.  They were a state-run monopoly for a long time, before Norway opened up the phone system to competition.  When I finally received the keys to my apartment (that’s another story, perhaps), it was suggested that I get a phone line through Telenor.  At the same time, I was told how the universal opinion about Telenor was that they were extremely incompetent (this was by the same people who recommended them, by the way).

I signed up with Telenor via their website, and followed up through their contact form after I realized that their signup form doesn’t ask for the apartment you live in.  Over the course of three weeks, I received about three emails from them – the first one in response to my followup item, a second one asking for the apartment number, and a third one saying that a credit check showed that I had an outstanding balance with them, and that they couldn’t provide me with service as a result.

After that last email, I called them up to find out what was going on.  Well, they fixed that but couldn’t tell me when I’d get service.  This was on a Thursday, and they told me they’d send me an SMS with the information by 4pm the next day.  Well, Friday passes by with no SMS, so on Monday I call them back and find out they’ve scheduled the installation to be two weeks later!

My stance on this was that they spent three weeks screwing around, they had damn well better get me a phone line sooner than that.  They were terribly sorry, and were willing to give me a month’s credit, but they couldn’t get me a phone line any sooner.

At this point I was rather annoyed and told them if this was the service they were going to provide prior to even getting me a working phone line, I wasn’t interested in going with them.  So, I canceled my order.

I called another company and had an installation date in less than 24 hours, even with a quick email exchange they initiated to verify some information.  So now, I’ll have a DSL line ready to go the day after I get back from the States.

Apparently I really amazed people by canceling with Telenor.  Norwegians are used to that level of service from them and just accept it without complaint – at least, without complaint to Telenor or any regulatory agency.  Personally, while I realize I have to get used to many of the differences here, suffering silently through poor service is one thing that I refuse to do.

And that’s my experience with Telenor.  I’m still trying to decide what my next post will be about, but I’ll work on making it a more positive one.

Hello and Welcome!

Well, look what you’ve done.  You’ve stumbled across yet another blog, which may or may not be of interest to you.  Now that you’re here, you might as well find out a bit more about me.

As the name of the blog implies, I’m an American living in Oslo, Norway.  I moved here in June 2008, after spending over a year and a half in London.  My family considers me a world traveler, but I know many people who have been more places than me, so I don’t think 4 continents really qualifies me as a “world traveler”.  I’m just someone who wanted to do something different, and the opportunities that have presented themselves let me here.

I’m an IT worker – providing support for a major product that most people will never know they’re using, but provides important functionality to public and private sites all over the world.

I’m going to use this blog to talk about the good and bad things that come with living in Oslo. Hopefully I’ll be able to make sure the good things outweigh the bad things.  Shortly, though, I’ll post about Telenor, the major phone provider, and definitely not a good company.