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.

The Love Guarantee

So far I think that the love guarantee is the funniest thing I’ve heard about Trondheim. Yes, it is real.

So what is the love guarantee? I know that was my question when I first heard about it, and the answer is that the city of Trondheim guarantees that its students will find love. Oddly enough it’s the city making the guarantee and not the local university. Trondheim is very much a college town and the logic behind the guarantee seems to be that because 20% of Trondheim’s population is made up of students the odds are in your favor.

HOWEVER, there is some fine print regarding the guarantee:

“In order for the Love Guarantee to apply, you have to do some effort on your own as well. You must act nice, at least most of the time, and be relatively clean. You also have to get out of the reading room and out of your house every once in a while. Going to the groceries or the post office does not count.  It is said to definitely help if you cross the bridge called “Lykkens Portal” (The portal of happiness) or strut down the Nordre Street at least a couple of times a week. You also need to be willing to engage in some extracurricular activities. There`s an endless number of student organizations and things to get involved in as a student in Trondheim. There are a wide range of student interest groups such as university press and broadcasting, film clubs, different festivals (for instance UKA – the largest music festival in Norway, or ISFIT – the largest student festival in the world), theatre, the student society house “Samfundet,” and more than 50 different organized sports activities for students. If you do not find what you are looking for, there is always room for more so do not hesitate to start your own organization or activity group. Finding someone to share an interest with might be the very first step towards sharing romantic dinners…” (The Love Guarantee)

The city has received a complaint letter or two (hence the fine print) but their stance towards those who have been unsuccessful is generally that the complainers simply haven’t put in enough effort for the guarantee to work (Rejected Complaints with a Poem).

I originally heard about the love guarantee from Alix so I decided to ask a Norwegian friend about it to see if it was widely know within Norway. My friend quickly told me that Trondheim’s love guarantee is common knowledge and that the city has even organized speed dating to facilitate new romances. While I personally don’t feel like testing out the love guarantee this year, I look forward to seeing how accurate is for some of my friends.