By: Taigan Dance
Before arriving in Norway in August, I never once thought about the language barrier I would face. Luckily, although not their primary language, most locals understand and speak English – making asking for help manageable! Reading signs and sounding out locations, with three extra unknown vowels, however, wasn’t quite as simple.
After an introduction to Norwegian culture on day one – where we were told about the Norwegians’ love for partying, their cool, calm demeanours and were forewarned about the dark days of winter – we stopped at the grocery store to collect drinks and hot dogs. We then met in the park, opened a cold one and grilled lunch on an open grill. As the afternoon went on, our buddies slowly got chattier, asked us questions about ourselves and taught us a few Norwegian words.
Being a northern European country, it isn’t easy to travel around. But Norwegians don’t jet off every weekend. They spend their holidays travelling to the mountains for a cozy, cabin getaway or zip over to Sweden for the day. From my experience, I learned the Norwegian perspective on travel is spending their weekends and vacations outdoors, hiking to a cabin.
After two full months abroad, here are my tips for adjusting to new cultures:
- Keep an open mind: However similar you may find your life abroad to be, there will be far greater differences. On my commute, I began noticing some differences. I noticed that on my bus to school if a seat opened up across the aisle, the person next to me would stand up and move. I soon learned from a professor (a fellow Canadian) that it isn’t uncommon if there are two Norwegians on the bus, one will sit at the very front and one in the far back corner. And don’t expect them to respond to any small talk you might attempt because they will likely stare straight ahead. “Alright,” I thought, “I can get used to this, everyone just keeps to themselves, cool.” This is not to say I wasn’t a little offended the first few times I rode the bus and someone would almost jump to reach an open seat to get away from me.
- Try to really immerse yourself in your host country’s culture: get outside and really try to meet locals.
- Don’t be easily offended: I still stutter and apologize profusely when someone speaks to me in Norwegian and I have to ask them to repeat themselves, but it’s all part of the experience.
Taigan Dance is a student in the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. She studied abroad for a term at the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway.