Moving to Norway - Expectations vs. Reality

As goes for probably every move abroad, things didn't exactly turn out like I imagined them. Whether that be housing, my studies or what I would do in my free-time - nothing was like I had dreamed it to be.

I know, being an expat isn't always easy and moving abroad never is free from challenges and problems. My move was no exception to that.

I had to deal with housing and finance issues and my studies were much harder and totally different from what I expected.

However I think that I'm past the initial culture shock/depression phase now and am determined to change reality to fit my former expectations a little bit better!

 

Housing

Yep, I dreamed about living in one of those colourful wooden houses that are so typical for Scandinavia. Instead I ended up in a student hostel that was build to fit temporary housing needs for students but that developed into THE hostel for international students.

3 container blocks have been built in 2012 and now a majority of international students each semester is assigned a contract for that student village.

Now it may not seem that bad aside from that container-like look of the buildings. However the rooms are tiny and overpriced (480 Euros for 10 square meters) and you have to share the kitchen with 21 others. Now that's nice isn't it?

There were exceptions of course, but in general the kitchens were a mess and some people stole food regularly.

I therefore didn't use the kitchens. I survived by eating bread, eating out and made use of my mini-fridge (brought with me from Germany), my kettle and my sandwich toaster for about 6 weeks.

It was as depressing at it sounds and I was glad to temporarily move into another student hostel with a much smaller kitchen/student ratio, before finally finding a room in a flatshare in one of those colourful wooden houses, very close to the city centre and with a view on the Arctic Cathedral. Do I need to say more?

 

Grad Studies

Okay okay, I may have wished that my studies would be easy-peasy and that I would be partying all the time but of course, I knew that it wouldn't be that way.

After all, I was trying to get a Master's degree.

However I also didn't expect that my studies would be THAT time-consuming and that I would literally be drowning in work during the exam period.

It's just plain awful but I suppose it has to be that way??

 

Language

Urgh, the language topic.

I honestly expected my Swedish from 4 years of Uni studies to automatically turn into fluent Norwegian as soon as I set foot onto Norwegian ground. Didn't happen. Of course not.

However I at least hoped to be able to communicate with others in Swedish and adapt the Norwegian language that way but as I'm part of an international study program, I speak English most of the time.

I didn't have time to do a Norwegian course and wouldn't know which course would be suitable for someone speaking Swedish almost fluently anyway.

Also the Norwegians aren't the most communicative people on earth so I didn't get to know any Norwegians apart from my roommates and fellow students.

Plus, at some point I just got so frustrated with not being able to properly learn Norwegian that I just gave up. If someone thinks you're Swedish even though you're doing your best to speak Norwegian, it just doesn't make sense to try further right?

Some days I also am plain lazy and rather speak English than Swedish/Norwegian which doesn't exactly always get me that far.

For example that one time I wanted to change my address at the post office (in English) but my application was refused as I didn't have my tax card with me. The next day I tried it again in Swedish/Norwegian and no one wanted to see my tax card.

Thank you very much.

 

Finances

Okay, I knew that Norway would be expensive and I knew that I would have to spend my money carefully. However I honestly expected to get along with 1000 Euros a month, especially with people on the internet saying that 800 Euros would be enough.

Never trust people on the internet!

I didn't get along with 1000 Euros as half of it was already spent on rent.

Then I spent 700 Euros this semester on uni books and compendia alone and of course there were the necessary expenses: 50 Euros each month for the bus card and 70 Euros for groceries EACH WEEK.

It's terrible.

I got a job now and even though the rent of my new place is 70 Euros higher than at my old place, I still hope to get by better this year as I definitely want to ditch the bus card, quit eating and drinking out and spend less on food and cosmetics.

I'm still pretty shocked by the prices in Norway though.

 

Free Time

Well, I expected to go hiking in the mountains in my free-time and to go skiing, to take pictures of the beautiful nature all the time and to go whale-watching, to see the Northern Lights every night and to go on another Hurtigruten cruise.

I didn't really do any of these things with a few little exceptions.

I just didn't have the time as my studies were so time-consuming and when I did have a Sunday off, I rather spent it in bed, watching Netflix as I was too exhausted to move.

It is a bummer as I feel like I haven't seen anything during my first semester in Tromso.

With vitamin shots and all my vitamin pills, I hope that this is going to change this year and that I'll be more active and able to go out more. Thank you polar night for sucking all energy out of me!

 

What expectations did you have when you first moved abroad? Did they became reality?

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