Top 25 Expat Mom Blogs: 3 of 8
7Sesame Ellis by Rachel Devine
"Commercial kid photographer and american ex-pat mom (not mum) living & photoblogging daily life with 3 kids (including twins) in Melbourne, Australia. Also, literally writing the book (on Amphoto Books 2012) to teach regular folks how to photograph life!"
8Finding Neverland by C
How We Became an Expat Family
My dreams always included a life abroad, although I admit Norway wasn't what I pictured.
I'm ashamed to confess that when I met my husband, I had to research Norway in order to make statements more interesting than, "Ugh...so yeah, vikings, right?" On the flip side, I'm sure my husband didn't grow up imagining he'd leave Norway to spend several years studying abroad in the Deep South. His Norwegian perspective on living in Alabama brings humor to a whole new level. Isn't it beautiful how life happens that way, how each road traveled is a doorway to great beginnings?
Our beginning is rather simple and ordinary: boy meets girl and the passionate love story ensues. Ours is complicated in that we are from opposite sides of the world. We have faced challenges that I was sure would break me and us: long distance, cultural differences, language mistranslations, personal misgivings. I thought a year spent with an ocean and six time zones separating us, as well as an indefinite idea of when we would see one another again, was the end of the beginning. But the impossible happened and suddenly I found myself standing in an airport, desperately trying to hide the panic and excitement as the man I'd loved and lost one year prior walked towards me. In the instant I saw him, I knew he'd kept my heart with him the whole time. My heart lived in Norway long before I did.
From there, life happened quickly, obscuring any sign of preparation or planning. Within six months of his return, we decided to move to Norway and begin our life together. Two weeks later, we were engaged and, as we were surprised to discover, preparing for a baby. n another three months, we were married and, in the six months to follow, I would quit my job, we would moved twice, Baby C would arrive under somewhat traumatic circumstances, and, without a moment of calm, we four (including puppy) would load our lives into 9 suitcases, board a plane, and move to Norway. We have lived here as a family going on two years and I'm looking forward to the many years to come. I may not have pictured this journey or this destination, but now I couldn't picture anything else.
What I Enjoy Most About Where I Live
I suppose what I enjoy most about living in Norway is the challenge. I'm accomplishing things — both large and small — that I've never done or imagined doing. I'm adjusting to a world I spent most of my life knowing very little about, letting go of things and ideas I once tied to myself as necessary, meeting people who have me questioning myself and everything I've known to be normal or accepted. I'm challenged by the weather, the language, the vast cultural differences that, at times, leave me feeling as if the scarlet "A" of American is stamped to my forehead. I'm challenged as a mother and learning to be the best mother I can in an environment where I must teach Baby C about things I'm not even sure I understand. I'm challenged in my marriage, because the passage of time never ceases to introduce to me something I have yet to know or understand about my Norwegian husband.
There is also a simplicity that I appreciate about the way of life here. There is a certain simplicity and rationality in the relationships I see existing and developing, a simplicity in what is valued, like good weather, a cup of tea in the warm sun, freshly baked boller (rolls) shared among friends, perpetual involvement in an array of physical activity. There is a safety and comfort in the lack of social violence and the pervasive level of government involvement (gasp...did an American just say that?), as well as the fact that such a level of involvement allows for an extraordinary amount of paid maternity and paternity leave, among many other benefits. It's difficult to explain what life is like when there is so little fear for the safety of your self and your family, when you know that you are healthy and will be well cared for should the unexpected occur. It creates a sort of calm, as if a blanket is always wrapped and protecting you. It's something I have only come to understand upon returning to the US, having that feeling diminish and the insecurity return.
There is also a happiness I see in people; it's laced with calm, knowledge, awareness, respect, and careful thought. The harsh, pitch-dark, endless nights of winter are followed by a few blissful months of an ever-present sun that envelopes you, seemingly drawing everyone out of hibernation and into an explosive birth of green life. This country's intense variation in weather and the required physical adjustments is part of what makes its people incredibly strong, resilient, dynamic, interesting. I find that I have much to learn from this country and those who have flourished here. While I love and miss things about the US, living in Norway has been one of the utmost rewarding experiences of my life thus far. I honestly hope the challenges and discovery never cease.
What I Enjoy Least About Where I Live
I suppose the easy answer is this: prices. No one kids when they talk about the expense of an average lifestyle here. Two years in and I'm still converting in my head, a devastating thing to do to your psyche as the dollar fluctuates wildly, never quite managing to be as strong as the Norwegian kroner. We have struggled to get off the ground financially and, with all the challenges, I think this is the one I enjoy least. It's not about the "stuff" you can have with money, but the things you can do with it and the fact that a lack thereof has limited our ability to fully participate in what most here are able to do. I'm looking forward to financial independence and the freedoms that come with that, to the experiences we will be able to have and introduce to our son.
On a deeper level, many of us immigrants are able to relate in how difficult we find building relationships here. Before we moved, my husband gave me an assessment of how people relate in the US (or at least the Deep South) versus Norway: southerners talk to anyone, telling life stories and intimate details to someone they've just met, only then to discover they dont really like each other or want to be friends. In Norway, he says, you get to know one another over several meetings, decide whether to become friends, and then (possibly) speak in such depth. Well, he's right and I find this challenge to be my biggest. I have been brought up with what I thought was a luxury: the ability to talk to anyone about anything. When a fellow patient at the doctor's office approached us to talk about our newborn and to share a detailed account of her daughter's delivery of twins, I wasn't surprised. It is our social norm to chat with the bank teller or stranger behind us in line at the market, discussing things that would have Norwegians feeling most uncomfortable and wondering if we'd had taken our medication. At home, I would easily smile, wave, and say hello to a passing stranger on the street, but to do so in Norway would land me on the cover of tomorrow's Dagbladet. I have to forcefully restrain myself and decidedly "smalk" (I may be southern, but oh! how I dislike "small talk"). And often I have to remember that only time can dictate whether there is a friendship, whether the conversation will progress past the current level. It is not a lack of friendliness, more a general sense of privacy and restraint, an awareness that we are strangers until we aren't. Many Norwegian dinners have been graced with my "open mouth, insert foot" moments, yet, thankfully, I am forgiven and invited to partake in the next. Forgiveness is a gift well-possessed here; afterall, "Ah, she is American."
Three Favorite Posts
9Pond Hopper by Erren
How We Became an Expat Family
The same old story — girl meets boy, swears she'll never leave her country, falls head over heals in love and crosses the pond to a whole new world.
What I Enjoy Most and Least About Where I Live
I enjoy the beauty of the country most. England is a beautiful country and I live in a part of it that had not only the rolling green countryside, but also the cliffs, beaches and am lucky enough to live on the harbor. My backyard is the marina (I'd never be able to afford such a view in NJ).
What I like least is that it's not home. Over 6 years after moving here, my heart still lies in America and I miss it everyday.
Three Favorite Posts
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