Matthias Jügler in Oslo

"Go out and meet some Norwegians!"

Matthias Jügler
Matthias Jügler
When I got a flat tyre in Norway, Sara turned up, took me to one side, pulled some tools out of her bag – a kind of emergency kit – used the screwdriver, considered, screwed some more, and when that didn’t help either, she nodded in the direction of the school. “We’ll have to do that in the workshop downstairs. Come on!” It was September 2009 when Sara, a 50 year-old teacher with a sweet-natured smile, spotted a miserable figure in Oslo. There I was, standing despairingly in front of a bike shop, my scraps of Norwegian no help at all, because a replacement part for my Daimant bicycle could not be found.

Diamant und Ullevaal. Copyright Matthias JüglerOnce we arrived in the workshop, Sara eyed up my bike and wanted to know what I thought the Norwegians were like. “No, no,” she interrupted , whilst she held the tube in her left hand and the air-pump in her right, “we’re not like that.” She found the lock and then scrabbled around in a red box for the repair kit. “But that’s what many people think: that we just go fishing and don’t want to speak to anyone, hm?”

I met Sara on the second day of my six month stay in Oslo. Yes, I thought to myself as I was cycling back to the halls of residence an hour later – whilst realising that my bike had never functioned so well – it really could have been much worse.

Yes, of course you can start here.

But of course it is true what people say on reality shows for emigrants or on Norwegian courses in German adult education colleges. They actually do have something there that we don’t: work, work, work. There is however one proviso, and an important one at that. You won’t get rich in Norway, even if the 20 Euros an hour offered to me on the Sunday shift, sounded incredibly seductive to a student’s ears. But let’s go back a step.

I tried five different companies - three offered me jobs. I decided on two of them. I became a security guard at the Historical Museum, and a waiter in the largest stadium in the city, the Ullevål. When I first asked if there might possibly, well maybe, with a bit of luck – be a job for me as a security guard, Henrik, my new boss, replied casually: “Yes, of course you can start here.” When it comes to work, as long as you speak Norwegian you’ll have no problems in Norway.

Already during my three-day training at SECURITAS I was thinking about what I would do with all that money. After all, I was going to earn four times the hourly rate a German student normally gets. I didn’t get carried away, just up to the first million!  A new bike? Maybe. A heavy jacket? Good idea! And so on.  But all these ideas were in vain. Everything that I earned was spent in a flash on things such as bread, drinks and the coffees in between. Thanks to Sara I didn’t need a new bike; thanks to the wearing of two jumpers on top of each other I managed without a heavy jacket, because life in Norway is expensive!

Jettison the fear

Mein Campus. Copyright Matthias JüglerOf course it’s simple as everyone you meet speaks German. You understand everyone and they all understand you. Nevertheless, it's a shame. On campus, in the student bars, in the corridors of the halls of residence – they all speak German. Germans happily make friends with other Germans and prefer to stick together. That does have its advantages, because after studying abroad someone from Hamburg can go to Cologne and have somewhere to stay, and vice versa.

What a country is really like is difficult to garner from books or from others’ stories, let alone how its people think and what about. It took me a good while to come out of my German shell. My Norwegian is not perfect, and sometimes I say things in a way that makes the Norwegians smile. Nevertheless, after a couple of weeks I just jettisoned my fear of not knowing the right word, or saying something wrong, or unexpectedly causing misunderstandings. The result was many friendships - good, close friendships – with Norwegians, and the feeling that I had not taken the path of least resistance, even if that is the most comfortable path. My reward turned up a few days ago in the post. Sara wrote and invited me to Oslo. So go out and meet some Norwegians!

Matthias Jügler, 26, studied German Literature and Linguistics, Scandinavian Studies and Art History in Halle and Greifswald. He is presently studying for a Masters with special focus on prose at the Deutsche Literaturinstitut in Leipzig. In 2009 he spent six months studying in Oslo and gave German seminars at the university there. He teaches Norwegian at Adult Education Colleges in and around Leipzig, and in good or bad weather can be seen fishing in the Saale and the Weißen Eltser.

November 2010

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