A love letter celebrating my first year in Oslo

Dear Oslo,

Guess what? It’s our one year anniversary. I can hardly believe it, it’s gone by so quickly!

It’s been a tumultuous year to say the least. Even though I moved here in November I had first set eyes on you a few months before, do you remember? My family and I visited in August to see what you were like. My first impression was that you were bright, welcoming and filled with friendly people, although you weren’t what I’d call a cheap date. It wasn’t love at first sight but when we parted ways I found you enticing. It wasn’t long before I was back, for good.

A rainbow outside my window after a storm cleared.

We’ve been through some tough times though. Besides my husband and son, I didn’t know one person in Norway. My first Thanksgiving here was barely a week after I moved and while everyone back home was cozy around a feast, I was roaming dark and rainy streets in Norway looking for an apartment to rent.

The frustrations of those early days were expected. Moving is tough under the best circumstances and I don’t blame you for that, Oslo.

It wasn’t long before we had our first spat: I couldn’t get my son into daycare. The application process was laborious and heavy on paperwork and rules and clauses within those rules said that I’d have to wait until a space opened up. I was disappointed. Perhaps it was a communication issue – I didn’t speak your language.

But things started looking up quickly. I understood you a little better and saw how much you had to offer. I found playgroups for my toddler where I met other expat moms to swap stories with. And then there were those Norwegian language lessons, remember how terrible my pronunciation was last winter? I still struggle with those extra letters: ø, æ and å.

Within a few weeks the noise that filled my ears at cafes and shops turned into words I could finally understand. The most useful one I learned was unnskyld (pronounced oon-shild) which means “excuse me.” I still use it a dozen times a day when I bump into people, wide-eyed as I navigate the city.

Inside City Hall, exploring Oslo with my son.

What I remember best about our first year together is how much freedom you have given me. You have made it easy for my husband to come home at a reasonable hour from work and you eventually provided a fabulous daycare for my son, which he loves. And now you’ve given me the time to nurture my career without having to sacrifice my duties as a mother. You must really care about me.

I have to be honest though, you don’t feel like home just yet. When I go on vacation I do think of you, but when I come back it’s still a little awkward. Maybe we just need to spend more time together.

Happy anniversary, Oslo. Thanks for a wonderful year – I look forward to another one filled with more adventures.

Yours truly,

Edge of the Arctic

5 ways to make friends in Oslo

1. Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. When I moved here I didn’t know a single person in Norway. Everyone was a stranger and I had to talk to someone, so I did. I struck up a conversation with a woman who was with her 8-month-old son in the baby section at the grocery store and we’ve been friends since.

2. Get your teeth cleaned. I’m not saying I’m bum-buddies with my hygienist but when I asked around for a trustworthy dentist I got a great recommendation from someone I barely knew. She is now a dear friend that I share coffees and concert tickets with.

3. Make a Facebook blind date. I met a woman who is now my closest pal in Oslo through Facebook. There’s a page for international moms and I saw that my ethnic makeup and background was eerily similar with someone in the group, so we decided to meet. My husband was apprehensive about the setup, saying I could end up meeting a serial killer, but seeing as we chose a popular coffee-house to have a playdate with our toddlers, I wasn’t scared. I haven’t been serially killed yet but I do have a wonderful friend and confidant.

4. Network. You could play a game of “name that acronym” when you start looking into the various professional and social networking groups in Oslo. A few favorites:

      – Norwegian International Network (NIN)
      – American Women’s Club (AWC)
      – International Mother and Baby Group of Oslo (IMOBAGO)
      – Democrats/Republicans Abroad in Norway (DAN or RAN, depending on whether you’re an idiot or a fool)

5. Learn Norwegian. Sign-up for a course and everyone in the class will become an instant friend. Learning to pronounce Ø and U, with the nuance specific to Norwegian, is a team-building activity.