Friday, September 7, 2012

Across the Ocean to Oslo

This month's Viking cover story offers insights and tips from five young North American professionals who have moved across the pond and carved out new lives for themselves in Norway. They offered our readers so much great advice that we couldn't fit it all in the magazine! Read on for Kara Eliason's extended interview with Elizabeth Moorhead Halvorsen, who lives with her Norwegian husband in Oslo. And be sure to check back for more extended interviews throughout the month of September!

Elizabeth Moorhead Halvorsen
Hometown: Eden Prairie, Minn.

Where she works in Oslo: I have several jobs. I have a 25 % position at the French school in Oslo teaching English. I have a 50% position working for Lingu Nordic, where my title is Academic Director. This means that I am in charge of setting up the course schedule each semester, hiring and assigning teachers to the various courses, ensuring that the teachers are prepared for their classes, helping students with questions and sign ups, and thinking of ways to keep improving the school. I also teach English and Norwegian on a freelance basis.

The best part about working in Norway: It’s the feeling of security and relaxation that comes from knowing that I get paid enough to pay my bills and more, and that if I need to go to the doctor, I can go. When I was living and working in the United States there was always a feeling of stress about the choices that had to be made. Should I pay more for food? Or should I save up in case I need to see a doctor this year? Can a really afford to go out with friends?

I also think it is fantastic to be so close to Europe. It is relatively cheap and easy to travel throughout Europe. It is also relatively easy to get to Asia and the Americas. It is definitely an adventure to be so connected to the rest of the world, especially when you love traveling as much as I do.

The biggest challenge of moving to Norway: Starting out was challenging. Finding a job in Norway is not the same as in the United States. The process is different, the expectations are different, and it is not always clear how to get your foot in the door. I think it is especially hard for Americans who are used to working hard and doing well. Not only is the work ethic different, but many believe it is just as honorable and worthwhile to work in the cash lane at a grocery store as to work as a professor at a University, and I think that mindset is very different from the American way of thinking.

Where she spends her free time: I love to spend my time by water no matter where I am. In Oslo this often means sitting or walking along Aker Brygge. I also like taking hikes in the woods surrounding the city, especially if that walk will take me near a stream or lake. In the winter I like to take advantage of the many ski trails in the area.

Advice to others moving to Norway: For Americans considering the move, I would first of all recommend that you check out the visa situation. It is pretty much impossible to move here unless you are studying or have married a Norwegian.

Once the visa is sorted out, I would say that it is important to learn how to fit in while maintaining your own identity. Learning the language and culture of the people will help you to feel more at home and have an easier time getting to know the people and country. At the same time, Norwegians are not going to reach out to you, so let your American side shine and say hello. Your new neighbors may be a bit surprised at first, but once that ice is broken you will find out that they are really nice, caring people. It is also helpful to join clubs or groups that do things you like to do. You will have fun, make friends, and feel much more at home.

Photo by Nancy Bundt.

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