Many moons ago, in 2008 to be precise, I embarked on my very first trip to Norway. It was autumn and for whatever reason, this autumn reminded me of that trip a lot. Maybe it's because of the fact that I'm still living in Norway despite having finished my degree, and plan on continuing doing so for the foreseeable future.
Now I was 17 when I first visited Norway and it was still my dream at that time to live in Sweden one day and I told everyone who wanted and not wanted to hear it that someday, I'd live in a red cottage in the Swedish wilderness.
For the following 5 years, I continued following that dream, studying Swedish at university and even staying in Stockholm for a month before realizing that education-wise, Norway would be a better fit for me. Of course, I did not know that back in 2008.
My high school offered a one week student exchange to Trondheim and of course I signed up for it. I mean, it wasn't Sweden and I basically knew nothing about Norway, having focused on Sweden for as long as I could remember but well, it was close enough.
So during that one week in Trondheim, I got to experience Norway with a very fresh pair of eyes and I thought I'd share the very first, very naive and very generalizing impressions of Norway of 17 year old me for your amusement here.
1. Norway is gorgeous during autum
Okay okay, this might be a no-brainer but hey, I'd never been to the country before and autumn in my German hometown is more depressing than gorgeous. Red cabins at a fjord, colourful wooden houses and orange trees whereever you look however really made me appreciate autumn a lot more!
2. Norway is incredibly cold
Duh! And I was only in Trondheim back then - things are worse in Tromso! And of course, it didn't help that I did not come prepared at all. You know, I bought one of those "stylish" winter coats that may be made of wool on the outside but inside it's just polyester and cold as hell. I could (and should have) bought a down jacket for that trip but 17 year old me would rather freeze to death than risk looking "uncool" - learnt a lesson there!
3. Norway and Canada are pretty similar
Admittedly, I've never been to Canada but there was something about certain parts of Trondheim that made me think of what I'd seen about Canada on TV. Something about those wooden houses, harbours, forests and moose signs.
4. Norway is actually not that expensive (back then)
Before we went on the trip, our teacher was telling us that Norway is expensive and that we should bring enough cash. Actually though, I can't remember it being that expensive. Might be partly because it was my parents' money I got to spend and not my own...
Anyway, what I remember clearly was that the exchange rate was 1€ to 7 NOK. Today the rate is 1 to 9 so clearly things have changed and Norway's gotten more expensive during the last 8 years.
5. Norwegians do like their booze
Remember when I complained about that guy pushing past me on the plane aisle while I was getting my bag from the overhead locker just so that he could buy booze at the duty free store? Well, I already noticed how much Norwegian love their spirits on said very first trip.
Admittedly, you have few other things on your mind when you're 17 but having your older siblings buy beer and leaving the school prom to hang outside in the freezing cold just to drink, definitely seemed a bit over the top for me.
But that might just be because underage drinking is less big a deal in Germany. If you're legally allowed to drink beer at the age of 16, it soon looses its temptation and gets kinda boring...
6. Norwegians celebrate Taco Friday religiously
Okay maybe not religiously but it's definitely a very common thing. I remember that the whole family gathered on a Friday evening to eat tacos before everyone went out and I quite liked the idea of it. And now that I've moved to Norway, Taco Fridays have become a thing in my household too!
7. Norwegians adore their Royal Family
I didn't see the Royals when I was in Trondheim even though they did actually visit the city at that time. I can't remember the occasion but I do remember that we all went to Trondheim's castle to witness the salute to the King. They shot cannonballs into the fjord of Trondheim and everyone seemed so excited about the King being in town.
That's definitely an excitement I've witnessed in Tromso two times now and the King is actually in town as I'm writing this. Guess I should raise the flag...
8. Norwegians know how to make the most of gloomy autumn days
I have to admit, Norwegians are really creative when it comes to finding things to do - no matter what the weather is like. Admittedly, drinking beer on a park bench in the cold and dark was one of the lesser creative activities but I remember being out and about a lot!
We went for walks in the woods and at the fjord even though it was raining, we had dinner in the spinning tower of Trondheim, visited an open air museum and a science centre, played laser tag, watched "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and the list goes on.
Looking back, I don't think I was bored one second so kudos to Norwegians and their creativity in making the most of cold and dark autumn days.
9. Norwegians don't smoke
Instead they "snus". All the people at school were doing it in class and it seemed like the weirdest thing to me. Snus is basically a moist powder tobacco which people stuff under their upper lip and which pretty much has the same health effects as cigarettes. It's totally disgusting and not pretty.
10. Norwegians master the art of interiour design
I had the cutest guest room in the history of guest rooms. Honestly, the whole house was unbelievably pretty and colourful and absolutely perfect for gloomy autumn days to lift your mood. Scandinavian design is just the best!
11. Norwegian forest cats are cute and fluffy...
... and I want one! Seriously, these cats are huge cuddle monsters and I dream of one day, living in a white wooden Norwegian house with my very own Norwegian forest cat. Next year maybe?
12. Norwegian chocolate is just a copy of Marabou
It might have sounded like I completely fell in love and forgot about Sweden on this very first trip to Norway but you are mistaken. I told every Norwegian I met that I wanted to move to Sweden and they must have hated me for that!
And even though I totally enjoyed my time in the country and had mostly positive impressions of it, there's one thing that kind of left a bitter taste: Freia chocolate. If you've never been to Scandinavia before, let me tell you that each country has their own main chocolate producer. Sweden has Marabou and Norway has Freia.
What I didn't know up until then was that Freia totally copies Marabou in their products (no, it can't be the other way duh!) and even the packaging is almost identical. I'll forever be a fan of Marabou, no matter how long I'll live in Norway!
Let's get serious again: I had a wonderful time in Trondheim and should totally visit the city again some day. If somebody would have told me back then that 8 years later, I would be living in Tromso though, I would not have believed it!
I remember my guest family telling me about polar night in Tromso and it seemed like hell to me. I can't exactly say that it's a walk in the woods now that I live here but it's definitely not that bad either...
So yes, Norway did make a nice first impression on me and I'm happy to say that 8 years on, I still enjoy this beautiful country!
Are you an expat? Can you remember the first time you visited your expat-home? Leave a comment below and don't forget to check back for replies!
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WELCOME TO WANDERFUL WEDNESDAY!
Consider yourself a wanderer?! Well then, this Blog Hop is for you!
Meet your hosts: Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.
Here on Wanderful Wednesday we hope to promote an open and supportive community for like-minded bloggers- expats, travelers and all kinds of wanderers!
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My favourite post from last week was "5 Czech Castles to Check Out" by Travelsewhere. Norway isn't exactly known for its castles despite Frozen. And while the Royal Palace in Oslo is definitely a nice sight, it is just that - a palace and not a medieval castle situated in the mountains like 3 of those gorgeous Czech ones David is sharing with us in his post! Makes me want to explore Bohemia a lot so thanks for linking up with us David!
Now it's your turn. Link up your wanderful post below!