Adapting to life and culture in Oslo was not as difficult as I thought it might have been. The weather has definitely been different to what I’m used to. Summer was warmer than home, winter was colder (and much longer). The seasons are stark contrasts to each other, so you can sunbathe on the islands in the Oslo fjord in May and cross country ski around Sognsvann in winter.
Language hasn’t been too much of a barrier as most people speak very good English. I was offered plenty of opportunities to learn the language through courses for international students and managed to pick up a fair bit in a short time. Although, understanding and speaking it are very different and a lot of the time servers and cashiers would respond to me in English whenever I tried to speak Norwegian anyway.
Social life in Norway takes a bit of getting used to as Norwegians can be fairly introverted but extremely warmhearted and open once you get to know them and friendships seem stronger and less superficial. The University of Oslo put on a talk for international students during induction week called ‘Cracking the Norwegian Social Code’ which was actually quite useful and interesting, if a bit of a generalisation.
One thing that I’ve had to get used to about Norway is that it’s expensive, although the student villages Kringsja and Sogn are fairly cheap accommodations. They are the ones most international students opt for (I probably met more people from other countries than from Norway living in Sogn). Food is expensive, but you can live cheaply by planning meals and shopping in the import stores in Gronland. Alcohol is pretty expensive too. You can buy beer and wine in most supermarkets before 6pm, but anything stronger and you have to go to a ‘Vinmonopolet’ which are specific shops that sell spirits and other alcohol. Night life in the city can be a challenge if you are under 23 as this is the age limit for quite a few places. The key is pre-drinking as the cheapest pint I found was 45 nok (about £4.50) in a student pub which there are lots of at the university and in Sogn student village. A beer out in town can cost 90 nok (£9). Having said all that, with the Erasmus grant, student loan and budgeting it’s possible to get by without any issues.
Oslo is a great place if you like the outdoors, as it’s a very ‘green’ city with lots of parks and places to explore. The marka (forest) around the city is good for running, hiking, cross country skiing, camping and staying in hytte (a very popular Norwegian pastime). It really doesn’t feel like you’re next to a capital city.
Life in Oslo is not too much of a shock compared to life in Leeds. Although I might have had to sacrifice that one extra beer at the weekend and turn basically vegetarian, it’s worth it to be able to explore this beautiful country and meet all the people that I have.
Written by Katie Robertson – University of Oslo, Norway