Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kindness of Norwegian Strangers

We have heard how Norwegians can be very reserved and seemingly unfriendly, which made me apprehensive about meeting new friends. I also assumed that the playgrounds would be a natural spot to meet other mothers, only to discover that Norway does not really have city parks with playgrounds. All of the play structures are at the barnehages, where the youngest children (ages 1-6) play all day anyway. The children younger than 1 are with their mothers, who are all on their year long maternity leave, and meeting other mothers through stroller walking groups--organized by the Health Center and the *national* hiking organization.  But I digress. . .

I have had several great interactions with Norwegians who have reached out to a newcomer, and I thought I'd share with you.
  • A Norwegian father in Greta's swimming class asked me where I was from (in Norwegian, which is one of the questions I can actually answer). When I told him he responded, in English, "but you're not a part of the English Speaking Club." There actually is a English Speaking Club, for native English speakers, in Lillehammer that meets once a month. His wife is South African, and nursing a newborn baby on the pool deck. She invited me to come, and suggested she meet me somewhere to show me where the group is.
  • A mother at the barnehage who has a son in Greta's class in introduced herself to me within the first few weeks. Her friend works with Erik, so she was aware of an American family coming to her barnehage. She soon invited Greta and me (and Erik) to come to barnesong (just what it sounds like--kids songs), which was starting up in a few weeks, because she had specifically thought it would introduce me to other mothers, and it would introduce me to Norwegian. How thoughtful!  A week later, Erik and I were going to an open house that was just 3 houses from this woman's home. She invited us over for a light snack after the open house, and we had an enjoyable time with her and her husband and their 2 young boys. The open house sold within 24 hrs, so we won't be neighbors anytime soon. I also just received an invitation to her birthday party in a few weeks, addressed " to Emily, my new newest friend". Very sweet.
  • I belong to an online knitting community, Ravelry, where I contacted a few women who live in Lillehammer to ask them where their favorite yarn stores are. Two responded, and invited me to join their newly formed knitting group that meets every other week. So last week I joined them at a local coffee shop--a Norwegian with a 8 month old baby, a Swede around my age, and myself--mostly speaking in English. But both very friendly (one invited me over so I could practice Norwegian and she could practice Spanish with me). 
So far, so good. I'm not sure I had this kind of welcome to either Utah or New England after just 6 weeks.


  1. This is really good to hear :D Glad you found some friendly folk!

  2. Just discovered you blog and like you we have just moved to Norway this summer! Really nice to hear about your experiences (and makes me realise that its easier to meet people if you have a baby or a dog!!) Good luck with everything!

  3. So glad that the real Scandinavians are more welcoming of newcomers than the MN variety :)

  4. Just discovered this and wanted to congratulate you and your family on taking this initiative to live in Norway. This is quite a move - what with
    adjusting to a new culture, not knowing anyone, etc. I would have thought places like Utah, New England, et al. would be more welcoming! And Lisa
    Kjellerød is absolutely right about it being easier to meet people if you have a baby or a dog. We've had a black Lab for over a year and I have more conversations with fellow dog owners now than I ever did. I myself want to visit the country and, even though I'm not Norwegian, want to join the Sons of Norway over here (I'm from Long Island, New York) as they do accept
    non-Nordic people - or at least they did the last time I looked into joining (I am an American of Greek and Brazilian parentage, BTW). Lots of luck in your new environment!

  5. Hello, newcomers!

    My name is Camilla Berg Hansen and I'm a journalist in GD, the local newspaper here in Lillehammer. I have for some time been wanting to write an article about all the cool new forms of knitting and all the fun stuff people knit nowadays - and through I came to stumble upon your blog here. I have contacted a few other members from the site from Lillehammer in hope of meeting you all for an interview, maybe I could meet your knitting club aat one of your meetings??? That would be dandy! If you could call me at 975 08 356 or send me an e-mail at , we could make some arrangements?
    Looking forward to it! :) :)