In my previous article, I encourage everybody to look for the strangest places to study or work, because well, you do not know what you actually do not know. Based on my personal experience of living in Norway, a country that is not as popular to live in (for Indonesians) as the USA, Australia, Germany, or the Netherlands are, I will tell you why you actually should. I hope that after reading this article, you will be more encouraged to find opportunities to study, or work, in somewhat less-popular countries.
Why did I choose Norway?
Obviously, I found a job opening that fit my background and then got offered the job. But, I also knew that Norway has great regulations on work-life balance, such as up to 12-month maternity leave and that most companies provide 25 vacation days in a year (in addition to the 5 to 12 national holidays). So you cannot complain about not having enough free time to enjoy your life and Norway’s profound nature.
Another reason was that I had initially decided to try to look for jobs in countries that I haven’t yet felt exposed to or familiar with. Norway fit well into this category for me. For you, this can be Iceland, for example, if you are interested in studying or working within the field of geothermal energy.
According to United Nation’s 2013 World Happiness Report, Norway is ranked as the second happiest country in the world. So you may start to think that your move to Norway for study or work may significantly increase your happiness level. Well, indeed! But for me, I was also faced with some unexpected challenges and struggles and had to overcome these and adapted my lifestyle to realize the true meaning of living happily.
I have been working in Oslo, the capital of Norway, since the end of 2011. I studied in the Netherlands before I moved to Norway. Although the distance between Oslo and Amsterdam is just a merely 2-hour flight away, I experienced a culture shock when I first moved to Norway. Were my “idealistic” expectations about Norway met? Yes and no.
Let’s start with the “No”.
- I spent the first month in Norway cursing about its hilly roads and streets. I do not drive a car so I walk a lot and use the public transportation system. After living in the flat-land Netherlands, walking up a small hill in Norway can feel like serious hiking up a mountain.
- Then I spent my first winter in Norway obsessing about owning woolen socks, long-johns, sweaters, and waterproof jackets, shoes, boots, and hats. The lowest temperature I have ever been in is -20 something Celsius. I can tell you that in this temperature, you do not want to stand waiting for your bus without anything woolen or waterproof on you! And let’s not forget about how slippery the surface can be when it is cold. Norwegians can just walk on ice, without skates! Whereas, it takes me minutes to walk a few meters on an icy surface. So, there I walk with some shoe grip that has spikes on it.
- Try to imagine coupling those factors with the rocket-high prices in Norway. A bottle of Coca Cola of half a litter is 4.5 USD. Eating in an average restaurant will cost you at least 25-30 USD, without drinks. The most expensive Starbucks coffee is found in Norway. Do not ask about my apartment rent fee. Making your own food is the cheapest, but expect to pay 15 USD for a bottle of milk, a loaf of bread, and a box of cereal.
As horrible as that may sound to some, it is all about getting them into your habits. So my “Yes” is next.
- The strong Norwegian currency allows me to travel outside Norway often. If you have lived in Norway, you will redefine your definition of “expensive”: Nothing is too expensive anymore.
- Norway has limited options for things such as food, dairy products, stationaries, clutters, medications, snacks, groceries, and commercial products, especially if you compare it to Asia, Australia, the UK, and the USA. But this means that you will learn to be creative using the limited options. In addition, I really go back to the basic and minimalistic lifestyles.
- Norwegians are very much into sport especially skiing. This puts me into pressure to do regular sport.
- Norwegian nature is extremely breath-taking and Norwegians live very close to the nature. Instead of spending my breaks behind my computer, I can walk around the fjord next to my office. Nothing can refresh you more than a beautiful nature.
- As an ex-Jakarta inhabitant, the slow pace of life prevents me to have a lifestyle that is always “on the go”. I take time to do things that I like. So I read more books, write more articles, watch more movies, talk longer with friends, and reflect more about life.
There are always more points to add into the “No” and the “Yes”. My point is that you will always find negative and positive factors of living in any place, including a place that is rated as the second happiest country in the world. Therefore, do not only apply to places just because other people go to these places. Use Mr. Google to find you other places, too, that can be more hidden and less popular. Not only will you gain experiences beyond your imaginations, these places usually also offer more opportunities. If people ask why you choose, for example, India, Hong Kong, Hungary, South Africa, Lithuania, or Brazil to study or work, your answer should be “Why not?”. Now, where is the less popular place that you think you want to live in?