Tromsø Wrap Up

I would say that Kari was quite accurate when she once told me that Tromsø is a vibrant town. It may be small, but it certainly has character and some wonderful views. Here are my tips and tricks:

  1. As with all major Norwegian towns, Tromsø has mobile applications that you can use to buy public transportation tickets and to map out a route on the public transportation.
  2. Unfortunately the buses do not actually list or announce the stops, so if you’re confused or a newcomer to the town definitely ask the driver to help you get off at the correct stop.
  3. You can take the flybussen or the local 42 bus into town from the airport (or from town to the airport)
  4. To be honest I think that Tromsø’s biggest draws are the reindeer races during Sami Week and the scenery. I wasn’t able to take the local cable car, but I’ve been told that it’s well worth the effort.
  5. The burgers at Blå Bar are surprisingly delicious and Smørtorget is well worth the stop for both cheap eats and some cheap shopping.

Home Sweet Home

I’ve been back in Norway for the last three or so weeks, but a combination of sickness and laziness have prevented me from blogging about the present until now. Clearly blogging regularly is not one of my New Year’s resolutions. Anyways, now that I’ve gotten back into the swing of things I’m happy to continue typing out my random thoughts and experiences.

I will say that one of the things that surprised me upon my return to Trondheim was realizing that I consider Norway home. Granted I was sick when I arrived, so being able to sleep in my own bed and consume American meds definitely contributed to my excitement, but not even my tiny college bed and modern medicine could entirely account for the level of happiness that I experienced when I came back. So it seems a bit fitting that I should take a moment and reflect on my experiences thus far and the reasons why I love Norway:

  1. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and it’s never far away. I wouldn’t label myself as outdoorsy, but I definitely appreciate that nature is never more than a short walk away. Plus, the reindeer are a pretty huge perk.
  2. As a whole, things function really well here. Things tend to run on time, everything works, wifi is everywhere, and you can accomplish quite a bit (banking, travel arrangements, public transportation, grocery store discounts, etc.) on your smartphone.
  3. Overall Norwegians seem to be super active, which means that I’m guilted into exercising.
  4. Norway is an incredibly safe country. I’ve seen five year olds take the bus without assistance and I’ve been told that people regularly leave their young children outside and unattended to nap.
  5. There is a huge focus here on family and less of a focus on work. Almost everything is built to be child and stroller friendly, there are playgrounds everywhere, and Sunday is pretty much a day dedicated to spending time with your family. I’m not a huge fan of the fact that everything shuts down on Sunday (or is super expensive if it’s open) but it’s still nice to walk around and see a lot of families getting in some quality time by going skiing/hiking/running together. The childcare and other welfare benefits for families are also pretty incredible from what I’ve heard.
  6. Work scheduling is really flexible. It’s pretty easy for me to lesson plan at home and I’m really able to take ownership of my time. Granted I, as well as most other teachers, probably have a more flexible schedule than most Norwegians, but overall work scheduling seems to be pretty accommodating.
  7. The small population. Having lived in Los Angeles and Boston for most of my life, I have to say that I enjoy cities. In fact, I’m pretty used to living in crowded areas. That being said, it’s nice to have things be a bit smaller. The biggest perk: public transportation is almost never crowded. Seriously though, Norwegians think having to sit next to someone on the bus qualifies as “crowded.”
  8. A pretty functional public health system (I promise to blog more on this later).
  9. I’m pretty sure that I will never live anywhere more expensive, which means that when I travel everything seems ridiculously cheap.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t some things that I struggle with or critique. I mean people go out of the country just to buy groceries and alcohol. It’s a bit ridiculous. But any country is bound to have its pros and cons, and overall Norway’s pros weigh heavily in its favor.

It’s recently hit me that in the six or so months that I’ve lived in Norway I’ve come to see it as home. And the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve come to realize that I would actually be quite happy to live here for another few years. Just living here these past six months has shown me why past Norwegian Fulbrighters keep returning to Norway, whether it is to stay permanently or just to visit. And while I don’t intend on moving to Norway permanently, it’s still pretty cool to realize that I’ve fallen in love enough to consider staying for an extended period of time.

Grocery Shopping: Or Things That Make Me Sad

Not only is alcohol expensive in Norway, so are groceries! Again I like to think that my friends have learned by this point that grocery shopping complaints are strictly prohibited.

So, here are a few things to know about grocery shopping in Norway. First things first, there are definitely certain stores that are cheaper than others. At my Fulbright orientation in August we were told:

Cheap Grocery Stores:

  • Kiwi
  • Rema 1000
  • Coop Prix
  • Rimi

More Expensive Stores:

  • ICA
  • Bunnpris
  • Meny
  • Joker

Most Expensive Stores:

  • Statoil
  • Narvesen
  • 7-Eleven
  • Deli de Luca

While the cheaper grocery stores tend to fulfill most of my shopping needs, the more expensive stores, Meny in particular, tend to contain more variety. All of the grocery stores have sales that you can see on the mobile app Mattilbud.

There are also some added costs that come with grocery shopping in Norway. Plastic bags cost 1 NOK so most people bring their own bags when they shop. Another thing to know is that most drinks have an additional charge on top of the listed price. This additional cost covers the price of the bottle the drink comes in (it’s usually anywhere between an extra 1 to 3 NOK and the cost is listed on the bottle). Most grocery stores contain special machines that will process and recycle your bottles and give you the option of either recouping the cost of the bottle or donating the money.

On to prices! Here are some grocery store prices and all include the 15% tax. All of these items were bought at the cheapest grocery stores:

  • 1.75 liters of Milk (24.90 NOK = 3.51 USD = 7.54 USD/gallon)
  • 1100 g of oatmeal  (19.90 NOK = 2.8 USD)
  • Half dozen eggs (22.3 NOK = 3.14 USD)
  • Pasta noodles (5 NOK = .70 USD)
  • Tomato pasta sauce (20.90 NOK = 2.94 USD)
  • 125 g of blueberries (20 NOK = 2.82 USD)
  • 125 g of raspberries (21.96 NOK = 3.09 USD)
  • Onion (2.14 NOK = .30 USD)
  • Set of avocados (29.90 NOK = 4.21 USD)
  • Green beans (23.90 NOK = 3.37 USD)
  • 750 g of carrots (24.96 NOK = 3.51 USD)
  • 400 g of ground beef (51.40 NOK = 7.24 USD)
  • 500 g of scampi (109 NOK = 15. 35 USD)
  • 2 chicken breasts (35.60 NOK = 5.01 USD)

 

Early on in our Fulbright orientation we were told to stop converting prices to USD, but we were also told that if we felt absolutely compelled to apply an exchange rate to our purchases we should use the Big Mac Index. The Big Mac Index compares the price of big macs across the globe in order to give a conversion rate that is based on purchasing power parity (see parents I did take that basic economics class in college). Using the Big Mac Index the conversion rate is 10 NOK/USD. Using this rate instead of the current exchange rate makes the prices of the above items become more reasonable:

  • 1.75 liters of Milk (24.90 NOK = 2.49 USD = 5.39 USD/gallon)
  • 1100 g of oatmeal  (19.90 NOK = 1.99 USD)
  • Half dozen eggs (22.3 NOK = 2.23 USD)
  • Pasta noodles (5 NOK = .50 USD)
  • Tomato pasta sauce (20.90 NOK = 2.09 USD)
  • 125 g of blueberries (20 NOK = 2 USD)
  • 125 g of raspberries (21.96 NOK = 2.20 USD)
  • Onion (2.14 NOK = .21 USD)
  • Set of avocados (29.90 NOK = 2.99 USD)
  • Green beans (23.90 NOK = 2.39 USD)
  • 750 g of carrots (24.96 NOK = 2.50 USD)
  • 400 g of ground beef (51.40 NOK = 5.14 USD)
  • 500 g of scampi (109 NOK = 10. 90 USD)
  • 2 chicken breasts (35.60 NOK = 3.56 USD)

 

There are only two other things that I’ve found a bit atypical when grocery shopping in Norway:

  1. The units. In the US it is required that food vendors clearly state the volume or weight of an item on the front of the package. In Norway however it can be a bit like playing “Where’s Waldo?” to find the actual units on a food item.
  2. Milk. I used to resent not being able to buy a gallon of milk in Norway; however, this changed when someone told me that milk is never sold in great amounts (the maximum being 1.75 liters) because the milk is fresh. While this does make me feel healthier, this also means that milk usually won’t last longer than its expiration date (typically around a week) since it lacks preservatives.