Getting Out

I’ve mentioned it before, but it can be rather difficult to meet people in Norway.  While people at work are friendly, work and after work are very different, and coworkers rarely seem to go out together for drinks or anything else.  In America especially, but also in many other places, if you go to a bar by yourself, you can probably still find people to talk to.  In Norway?  Not so much.

So how do you meet people?  I’m still trying to find out, but I do have some advice that I have come up with or received from others:

  • Use opportunities at work.  As I mentioned above, it’s fairly rare that coworkers go out together after work in Norway, but it does happen, and when it does, take advantage of it.  Just know that Norwegians can really put away their alcohol!  Also, depending on where you work, you might find people who get together to play sports.  Where I work, for example, there’s a small group of people that play floor hockey every week.  It’s a friendly game where the teams are chosen pretty much randomly every time, and it’s a nice way to get exercise while interacting with people outside of work.
  • Online groups can be helpful.  I just found out about the New to Oslo Yahoo group and attended a gathering on Friday night.  The folks at this meeting were mostly American, but included people from Spain, France, and a couple of other countries as well, and they’ve all been through this or are going through it, so it’s nice to have people who can sympathize with you.  There is also an American’s in Norway group on Facebook, which has some traffic even if it isn’t a hive of activity.
  • Here’s some advice I’ve received: if you do start meeting Norwegians, don’t tell them you don’t know how long you’re staying or that you don’t know.  Let them assume you plan on being here more or less permanently, otherwise they don’t seem to be as likely to take the time to get to know you or consider you a friend.
  • Learn Norsk!  This takes time, of course, but it’s worth it to try.  For one thing, it’s a matter of respect.  –Norwegian is their native language, and even though they may speak English very well, you should at least be willing to try and learn it if you’re going to live here.  But I also think it’s related to the point above.  –It shows you’re serious about living here.

If all else fails, you can still try and talk to random people, just don’t be surprised if they look at you like you’re crazy.

The Oslo Riots

Credit: AFP

Credit: AFP

Oslo is not usually the center of excitement, but last week seemed to be an exception.  On Thursday evening while I was at my norskkurs (Norwegian class), a pro-Israel demonstration was interrupted by a pro-Palestine group that turned violent.  Apparently Molotov cocktails were thrown, windows smashed, police injured, and tear gas used repeatedly to break up the mob.  A couple of my coworkers were in the downtown area and…  encountered…  tear gas.  It was apparently a rather unpleasant experience.

As for me, I was headed home after my class and started heading down Parkveien (the road behind the palace), when I started noticing a log of police cars and some sort of barricade down the road.  Needless to say, I had to backtrack and walk through the park around the palace to get home, and I saw that the police had a couple of roads blocked off in the area around the Israeli embassy.  Apparently officials estimate the damage to be in the millions of Kroners (broken windows, damaged police cars, etc.).

On Friday there was a more peaceful protest that went past work – lots of shouting and a police escort, but no rioting.  And on Saturday a window was broken at a McDonalds – apparently there was a rumor that they were donating a day’s profits to support Israel (yeah, like a company would do that, but it just goes to show how stupid people can be).

Jeg snakker norsk!

Ok, maybe not yet, but I’ve finished my first lesson, and know such useful phrases as:

Jeg heter Patrick.  Hva heter du?
Jeg kommer fra USA, men jeg bor i Oslo nå.  Hvor kommer du fra? Hvor bor du?

To translate:

My name is Patrick.  What’s your name?
I come from USA, but I live in Oslo now.  Where do you come from? Where do you live?

Jeg is really strange to me.  It’s sort of pronounced Yaii (it’s hard to come up with an English spelling that shows how it’s pronounced since it’s really not a sound combination we use).

Hopefully we’ll start learning more useful information.  There are a couple of phrases that could be quite useful to know, such as:

“Everybody run!  Velociraptors are in the building!”
“Please hide me, men with guns are chasing me!”

Ok, maybe situations that call for those phrases don’t come up often, but if they did, wouldn’t you want to know how to say them? 🙂