Thursday, April 7, 2011

Norway's version of (insert big box store name): Where are you???

Okay Americans. . . play a little game with me.
Let's say your shopping list consists of the following items:
  • tennis balls for the dog
  • toddler underwear
  • picture frame
  • crayons
  • toothpaste
  • contact solution
Where do you go? That's right: Target* (or any large big box store, i.e. KMart, shudder Wal-Mart, etc.).

Where do you go when you live in Norway? First a sports store (making sure it's one that actually sells tennis rackets, and not just skis),  then a children's or family clothing store, then a photo store or maybe a catch-all kind of store (which doesn't catch all, as this is the point of this essay), next a toystore/bookstore, then the grocery store or pharmacy and finally the eyeglasses/contact/optometrist store. 

My point? It's a pain in the ass. 

But the thing is, being new to Norway, you don't know all of these stores right away. You don't know if they exist, you don't know where they are, what their crazy name is, or if they actually carry what you're looking for anyway. It took me five different stores to find ruled 4x6 index cards. And when you find the store, you don't have 20 options of toothpaste, you have 5. You can find 1 can of tennis balls, but it's going to cost you about $20. 

On the other hand (and you know this is true), when you go to Target to buy the above 6 items, you actually leave with those items plus a new chew toy for the dog, a couple cute pairs of tights and t-shirts for the toddler, hand lotion and a new lip gloss, and a seasonal item of some sort. So, on that other hand, I'm actually saving a lot of money by not having Target.

But the other thing is, I really am not a fan of big box stores (except Target). I used to avoid driving down 12A in West Lebanon, past KMart, Pier1, Wal-Mart, iParty, Kohl's, JoAnn Fabrics, Best Buy, Staples, etc. for one because it was such a traffic nightmare, but also because the sheer consumerism of it all made me a little sick. It was part of what we added to the "pro" list of Norway: less focus on consuming.

But all I hear from other transplanted Americans here is. . . oh how they miss Target**. And I am only slightly ashamed to admit I am one of them. It's the "one stop shopping" that I miss. Quaintness can only get you so far when it comes to shopping, and when all you need is a few basic necessities all you really want is to get in and out as quickly as possible.

*I write "Target" even though for the last 7 years I lived an hour away from the nearest Target. I lived in the only state in the nation that did not have a Target: Vermont. Can you believe it? 

**Do you hear that Target Corporation? Norway needs you!


  1. I have actually gotten used to this now I believe...and I remember how crazy it was for me shopping in the US last time I was there. Understandable that people think of the US as the country that has "everything".

  2. True that, Emily. Do you have Europris in Lillehammer? I have a hunch you can find all of those things there (although let's be honest, it's no Target). When we baptized Lasse in MN last fall, all of my Norwegian in-laws came with for the first time. After her 3rd trip to Target (in one week!), my sister-in-law said, "it must be really hard for you to have to shop in Norway". She couldn't have been more right....

  3. We do have a Europris, although you said it, it's no Target. It's not even KMart, or Wal-Mart, it's like. . . . we had a Pamida growing up in Winona, Kind of the lowest of the lows.

  4. And that story of your svigerinne is very funny. . .

  5. Oh, I feel your pain! In London John Lewis was my one stop shop but here I have had to exhaust myself going from one place to another for simple items that all really should be housed under one roof! Do you have a Clas Ohlson in Lillehammer? Thats the best one stop shop I have discovered recently. (You can shop online also) All in all, shopping in Norway is not a joyful experience! (and I love shopping, so for me it's a BIG deal!)

  6. You can thank the intelligent Norwegian planners who want to prevent big box stores and 12A's sprouting up everywhere. The big box stores are depressing places. Now, John Lewis - I could spend all day there, but it is nice department store. I really miss those.

  7. ah - I love to go shopping abroad - my in-laws live in the US and sometimes I get to go online to Target and the other shops and let them know what I "need"! And even if we had a shop like that in Norway it would be so expencive... I just can't believe how cheep things are "over there! and I must admit that I do get carried away with online shopping sometimes :-)
    Great blog btw - I always love reading about what "foreigners" think about "us" :-)