How to survive in a city with a $12 Big Mac

As I finished up making some really delicious and vibrantly colored mango salsa, I got to wondering what another exchange student, such as yourself, would want to know regarding food and grocery shopping when they arrived to Norway. I want to provide you with a few helpful tips that will show you how to save money on groceries so you can travel through Europe to survive.

Grocery stores owned by minorities or immigrants

Oslo is one of the more ethnically diverse cities in Norway and with that said, there are more opportunities to benefit from this diversity, such as the grocery stores. These stores are found in the more ethnically diverse neighborhoods of any city and are sometimes referred to as ethnic grocery stores. Some people debate the use of the term ‘ethnic grocery store,’ so to focus on the topic, I’ll define these as grocery stores owned and operated by minorities, immigrants, or those with ties or within the social network of minorities. The items they offer may be influenced by the ethnicity of the people who own the shop. For example, a Chinese-owned shop may offer more products related to that country than another store would.

So, these ‘very long definition’ grocery stores are great because they offer diversified products that are often not found in an average store, support minorities, and are super cheap. You now have the chance to possibly find foods that you’d find at home, reducing your homesickness or sharing your culture.

Grønlandstorg Frukt Grønt

** My preferred place although I have not see all stores mentioned here

Smalgangen 1, 0188 Oslo
Tel: 22 17 04 92
Open: M–F 10.00–18.00, Sa 09.00–16.00

Grønerløkka

Helgesens Gate 18, 0553 Oslo
Tel: 22 35 60 26
Open: M–Sa 08.30–20.30, Su 10.30–20.30tf

More Options: Asian owned; Various; Many not strictly under this category of store (look to comment section as well)

At the moment, I’m living in Oslo therefore, some of the places I suggest are easier to find here than other places in Norway.

Dumpster diving

231, 000 tons of food are thrown away each year  according to Østfold Research Co, however, the number is decreasing through active participation by consumers and grocery stores. I hadn’t considered this as an option while in Norway even though I have heard of it in the U.S. Many of us have this misconception of Norway that they are the ideal country and are progressive in nearly every way. I assumed there wouldn’t be a need or access to dumpster diving as a food choice option, but I argue this may be one of the best countries to do it in.

Norway is a country of abundance and in that state of mind, people may be more wasteful, expecting higher quality of food. The closest I’ve come to dumpster diving is is my own kitchen, which I share with Norwegians. I have found avocados, grapes, and apples – imagine my surprise. I have eaten numerous meals from products found by a friend.

Go after closing and check it out. You can also do more research and figure out how exactly people do it, especially if you haven’t tried it before. You’ll want to check the local laws regarding it as well.

Apps

Rema1000 and Kiwipris both have apps that seem to work as our club cards at Trader Joe’s, for example.

Rema1000 app, called Æ, gives you 10% off the top 10 items your most often purchase.

KiwiPris app – seems to give you 15% off of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Time to purchase

The last thing to consider to find cheap food in Oslo is considering the time in which you purchase food, especially at the ‘very long definition’ stores.

The food tends to be discounted the days before they receive new shipments. As I was walking though Grønland with a friend recently, I noticed how crowded it was was new shipment boxes filling each aisle, leaving a narrow space to walk. I suggested that I would note the date they get their shipment and come afterwards. She told me that the owners decrease the price at the end of the week, which I can only assume is to get rid of old food and make space for the new.

With all of that said, I hope this post has provided you suggestions and resources to find inexpensive food in Norway. I use these options myself and have saved a considerable amount of money. I hope you do too.

** The Big Mac’s don’t cost twelve dollars, but it’s more expensive than the U.S. Check out the Big Mac Index and determine how many hours one must work to buy a Big Mac.

Perceptions of Multilingualism in Europe Compared to America

The Arabic Film Festival is this weekend in Oslo. The festival is the only one of it’s kind in Oslo in that their films are completely from and about the Arab world. It’s one useful way to shine a light on the way of life for this population of people. I’ve been busy with school work so I wasn’t sure I wanted to set aside time to attend, but I’m grateful I chose to go. I was invited by Nadine, one of the Norwegian students I met at the dinner with the Cal reps. We were going to see Min Arabiske Vår. 

I met Nadine and her friends inside of the theater after the lights went down. I didn’t have reception inside the theater so figuring out where she was was a hell of a challenge, especially for someone who doesn’t want to walk in and see the dozens of faces peering back at me at I eagerly search the crowd. I walked in and stood off to the side, just on the opposite of the partition separating me from the crowd. I watch the movie from there for a few minutes. I noticed that the film was in Arabic with Norwegian subtitles. The website showed said the film would have English subtitles and that was not the case. As I was too nervous to go find her in the crowd, this was nearly reason enough to walk away. Ah the struggles of social anxiety, right? I continued watching the film even with the Norwegian subtitles.

A few things happened in that short span of time. One, I was incredibly surprised that I understood what I was reading and two, a woman walked in behind me and with just a few words, I joined the crowd of movie goers. She asked me if I wanted to sit down and I told her it was just too crowded. She told me I could sit anywhere and with that, I followed her in. She might have assumed I didn’t know where my seat was, but it didn’t matter. I point this out as an aside to the story. I am appreciative of those who support others in such small ways. I don’t know if she recognized what those few words meant, but they gave me the encouragement to walk in even though there was a slight language barrier with the movie, I still didn’t know where my friend was sitting, and I was truly looking for any excuse to leave.

I walked into the theater and very quickly found Nadine. She sat in the second and the seat she kindly saved for me was at the very end of the row. It was helpful that she chose such a seat because I no longer had to worry about disrupting the other viewers. I watched the rest of the movie, Norwegian subtitles and all. It wasn’t so bad. I laughed at all the appropriate times and understood the film beyond the pictures I was seeing. *I’m incredibly proud of myself for understanding it!!

The movie was essentially about a Turkish car salesman who is getting married shortly.  As with his culture’s customs, his family selected the bride and his input wasn’t so significant (even if he did have the internal strength to voice his needs at the time). When he goes to another city to sell these cars, he meets a woman at the hotel he’s staying in. She’s a dancer with the hotel entertainment and full of life. He feels alive when he’s with her and this feeling with her makes him question whether or not he wants to get married. He inspires him to speak up for himself and his needs. When he finally tells her that he’s actually engaged, she’s obviously upset. However, he later tells her that they will move to Paris and be together. Days later when they meet at the airport to leave, he tells her that he can’t leave. The film ends there with her crying, but getting on the plane nonetheless. She knew it would happen this way.

The movie ended and the director and moderator came to the front where there was a brief discussion about the movie. Aside from me being proud about understanding the subtitles, I realized what a strange situation I was in – a situation I don’t expect I would experience in America. I was an American in Norway, watching an Arabic film with Norwegian subtitles. The discussion that followed was a Turkish man speaking English and French.

The beauty of Europe and its open borders is the appreciation of languages. The skill of knowing other languages is seen as useful and a way to connect beyond the boundaries that language can often create. The discourse in America is often one of division. There is them and there is us. There is English and there is everything else. I’ve seen cases where someone will be speaking Spanish at a grocery store or somewhere around the city  and some wretched person will say ‘Stop speaking that! No one understands you! Speak English when you are in America!’ These people are also sometimes criticized for their accent. I haven’t seen that in Norway. When I hear a heavily accented person speaking, I’m more wowed that they have gone through the trouble of learning another language. Their broken second, third, or fourth language is more than a person’s monolingual self.

Granted, these perspectives are not so for every person. There is more appreciation and understanding for populations who know multiple languages themselves, come from diverse populations where it is common to know many languages, or have traveled around and have seen how knowing multiple languages is a skill and useful rather than a negative thing. What you should get out of this is the need to be more open to others who speak numerous languages, broken or not.

 

 

First Volunteering Shift with the Red Cross

I woke up at 5:30 am this morning. I rolled out of bed, almost simultaneously pulling off my candy cane stripped pajamas. I pulled on some black jeans lying over a chair and stopped for a beat considering which shirt would be appropriate. I was going to volunteer at the Red Cross at an overnight housing center for male immigrants and homeless men. I pulled up the approval email and read over the rules. I needed to wear neutral colors and cover my chest and arms.

I found some old t-shirt and pulled a jean button up over it. I walked to the kitchen where I grabbed two Baby Bell cheeses. It would be enough to hold me over for a couple of hours.

I took the elevator downstairs and entered the still dark plaza of Kringsjå. I walked towards the train thinking about how with the time change the day before, I could see the sunrise and not have to wake up so early in the morning.

At 6:20 am, I arrived at Majorstuen and followed my phone’s GPS in circles for a few minutes until I orientated myself and began walking in the correct direction. I found the address just across the street. I wasn’t sure where to find the entrance at the intersection. From the corner of the street, I saw a church in front of me and walked further around the side of the building. I tugged at two door handles, but they didn’t budge. I looked at the names on doorbuzzers but none of them read Røde Kors. As I looked walked back up the street, I saw a glass window that showed into the basement of the church. I went to the entrance where I met Khalid, the volunteer who would get me started.

He had been here since 9 pm the previous night and had not slept. Khalid pulled the laptop from his lap and introduced himself. I read over the information and filled out the form. I grabbed a vest when the second volunteer of the morning arrived. I learned she was from Boston. She took her Masters in Norway and never returned.

As we stood in the churches foyer, we asked questions about the those who were sleeping in the beds below. Most were Romanian immigrants who came to Norway to work or were homeless. Most spoke Romanian or a little English. Red Cross offers shelter in the church for a symbolic 15 kroner a night, which is about $1.60. Each person interested in one of the 51 beds comes to the church at 9 pm and reserves a space. They pay and can have the reservation for 5 days, paying 15 kroner for each night they stay there. If there are extra beds for the evening, they are given away on a lottery system.

Each person gets an IKEA bag with a duvet, a sheet, a small hand towel, and a cot that sits 18 inches off the ground. I arrived for the morning volunteer shift so I saw the process for the handing in of this large, blue bag instead of the distribution of it.

My primary role today was to pick up the cots and stack them in the storage room. Each cot had a small, square blanket that was excluded from the IKEA bag, and used by each member. After the other volunteer, Fey, and myself understood what we had to do, we got started.

At 6:30 am, Khalid woke up the sleepers by turning on the lights in the large room of the church where I would have expected to see pews. The men woke up a few at a time. They pulled on their clothes, washed up in the restroom, and folded up their blankets stuffing them back into the IKEA bags.

When I could start my job, I descended the stairs where I saw trollies with numbered sections for the IKEA bags. To the left was a large door where I saw dozens of white cots, surly with sleeping bodies beneath. As I walked past the threshold of the door, I was assaulted with such a strong odor. I imagined many of the men hadn’t had showers in days or it could have been the accumulation of their bundles.

I began picking up the cots one by one and taking them to the back room. I folded the blanket that was on each cot, which I assumed acted as extra cushion or sanitation. I maneuvered through the cots of men still sleeping to the storage room in the back. Beds were lined wall to wall.

It took an hour to get everything folded and stacked up. I would occasionally walk to the numbered trollies to make sure each bag was in the right order and it was then that I could see some of the men prepping themselves in the bathroom. As I stacked more cots, I observed some of the men. Some men were joyous and shouted good morning for all to hear. One man was well dressed and had good quality duffel bags that reminded me of a professor for some reason. Another man was ethnically white and had backpacking gear. It’s as if he knew about this resource and used this instead of staying in a hostel, then again, I don’t know his story.

One by one the room was cleared. When everyone was gone, I gathered my things and walked to the Tbane.

I wanted to become a volunteer because I have become increasingly interested in immigration and the narratives behind the bodies. Some people come here as refugees, escaping danger in their own country. Others come for seasonal work or rejoining their families.

Based on conversations with a few Norwegians, there seems to be a general, while not unanimous, attitude towards immigrants. Norway is the land of let’s work together so we can all benefit. Immigrants should be doing their part to support the benefits they also enjoy. Part of them doing their end of the work is apparently learning the language, because it is very challenging to get a job here if you don’t know the language. I have several qualms with those Norwegians who are angry at immigrants for not learning the language or not learning it fast enough. Yes there are resources to help them learn, but we don’t know their stories and there are numerous emotional, social, and cultural reasons it can be challenging for them to learn.

Although I couldn’t talk to any of the inhabitants of this church beyond good morning, I did see the diversity of their appearances. I want to know their stories and the why  and how they found themselves sleeping on a cot in a church in Norway. I continue to think that by listening with empathy, we can better understand others’ experiences, be less prejudiced or discriminatory, and shape policies to better address their needs.

Links

Red Cross

Make an account, sign up for shifts – it’s that easy. This place is for the men’s shelter. There are other resources for women, children, and reception centers (where you can hang out and talk with them) that I am still searching for.

 

Olivia’s with Cal Reps

Thursday was such a relaxing and rejuvenating day. I went to the migration course and heard such an informative and clear lecture about citizenship. I stayed around the university, working at my own speed. I rewrote notes and finished a solid draft for a semester assignment. It was so relaxing for my soul honestly.

I say all of this to say that a dinner with Kristi and another Cal rep added to this day. She invited me a bit last minute, but I’m so glad I had an open schedule this day. She was in Norway for meetings encouraging Norwegian students to go on exchange at the beautiful and unique, UC Berkeley.

Tbane took me into the city where I met up with Kristi and the other students. Most of these Norwegian ambassadors went to Berkeley Fall ’16 so they were there during the election. Goodness, it was interesting to hear about their perspectives on America. One student, Nadine, appreciated that American were so direct. The other student loved the energy of the campus.

As we talked I wondered what I could do to make my experience in Norway more rich and memorable. Each of the students wished they had broken out of their bubble of Norwegian friends and met other students. One student knew she wanted to join a soccer team and as time went by faster and faster, she didn’t get around to doing it.

I discussed my experiences and when they asked about making friends, I shared that it was difficult, especially coming to Oslo mid-year. The offered to hang out together so by the end of the night, I made sure to get their contact information.

The lesson for me: figure out what you want to do, how you’re going to do it, and DO IT! Don’t let your time fly by.

I am full of gratitude today. Speaking with the Norwegian students put my experience into perspective. It’s easy to take these experiences for granted, especially when I’m thinking about what I will do career wise when I get back to Berkeley. There is a lot on my mind, but today, I’m grateful for the Ravioli av Fungi I had at Olivia’s. I’m grateful for the beautiful sunset, the clean air, the tasty water from the tap, and I’m grateful for friends who are excited to go new places in Norway and friends at home who hold me accountable.

Olivia

Souvenirs!

As the months tick by, you’re going to start wondering what you can bring back to the states to remember your time here. Aside from the memories of eating a German apple thing or walking down thirteen flights of stairs for a 3 am fire alarm, you might want a tangible item.

I’ve thought about this for months. Most things are crazy expensive here so at first, I settled for a cheese cutter because as most Norwegians will tell you, it was invented here. (Interestingly enough, I bought it in Denmark, but don’t tell them that.) Over the last few days, I’ve been admiring some of the clothing I’ve purchased here. I promise it was all necessary. Since I’m from California, I can get away with shorts and sandals most days of the year so before coming here, I didn’t actually own any ‘real’ clothes. This is the first time in my adult life that I own a rain jacket! Can you believe that? Me either.

With that said, I’ve grown to appreciate practical items that serve a longterm purpose. What you ask is the best souvenir you will ever lay your hands on?!?!?!?

A NORWEGIAN-MADE WOOL SWEATER!!!

If you’re not lucky enough to have a Norwegian mom make you one and don’t want to spend more than $300 on a sweater, go to a second hand store!! I found myself wandering the streets when I first arrived to Oslo and stumbled upon this wowow second hand store named Uff. There were real fur and leather jackets, ski clothes, boots made of weird deer (?) fur (as seen in the picture), and loads of clothes from the 60’s.

Norwegian boots

I also saw this sweater, as pictured, months ago. I loved it. The blue and white stitching had such ornate designs. The swirls of the silver buttons seemed like they popped right off a vikings sweater. I couldn’t bring myself to buy it because it was $40 and as I said, I’m not used to buying ‘real’ clothes. I’m grateful the first sweater I feel in love with was still there.

Who knew that months later, I’d find myself in the same store ready to throw down 40 bucks for a well-made sweater probably stitched by someone’s mom and warm enough to keep me warm in the heaviest of snows. If you buy anything in this country, make it a wool sweater. You won’t be sorry!

Links to two second hand stores

Find an UFF or Fretex near you

Oslo – Spring

I’ll be in Oslo for the Spring semester and before the semester has moved too far along, I want to introduce you to the city, the university, and my motivations for coming here.

Why Oslo?

Since the moment I arrived in Norway, the most common question I hear is “Why did you choose Norway of all places?” Each person asks it with such surprise and disbelief, that I am forced to reaffirm why I am here. First off, the nature is spectacular and offers some of the most remarkable views I have seen in my life. The fjords, constant flurries of snow, frozen bodies of water, and views as far as the eye can see are some of them. While I came here to be imersed in this natural type of environment, I also came for the academics

What UIO offers

Oslo is a hub for research in Norway and also has an expanisive selection of courses to choose from. Some places for research are the thirteen Centres of Excellence (abbreviated as SFF for the Norwegian translation), tweleve of which are connected to the University of Oslo. Here the researchers focus on specific, long-term research of high international calibre. Quality is a dominant focus for the reseach and there is a good amount of researcher training here as well. Each center seems to have a different focus, so if these are related to your areas of study, it could be useful to check out the the link above. Consider contacting some of the researchers there and learn more about their work. You may even find yourself involved on a project.

I’m interested in education policy and since the Education Department at UIO is one of Norway’s largest departments for education research, it made sense to come here. My courses are in Sociology, social geography, and education. I am most excited for my Comparative International Education course. The classes is full of people from all over the world, therefore, it is a perfect opportunity to learn about the varying models. By the second class, we each gave a presentation of our school systems in America. I was surprised to learn that Germany has a system whose structure can and very clearly limits social mobility. The discussion also helped me draw out some features of our system that I take for granted. No one else seemed to bring up the appearance of charter or magnet schools in their systems. It could be that they don’t have them or that they are under a different name, but it is worth exploring nonetheless.

Student Associations at UIO

There are dozens of student orgs at this university ranging from politics and sports, to music and even Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), if that’s your thing of course. I’ve joined a kayaking club and SAIH, which is an org I am continuing from my time at UIB. I have a club meeting for each org once a week. The kayaking club is awesome because our weekly practice in the pool will lead to trips through fjords later in the summer.

Demographic and City Vibe

Oslo is a more diverse city due to the increased number of immigrants who come here. (I should be able to tell you why when I finish my course on migration…hopefully.) There are migrants from all over the world, many of which are Polish. With the crisis in Syria, Norway has also seen an increase in the number of Syrians who enter the country. People migrate for many reasons and it isn’t always limited to dangerous wars that have caused them to flee, effectively making them refugees. People migrate for work, to rejoin their families, or even because they are forced to by the state or government. Migrants come and stay in Oslo for numerous people and it continues to add to the beauty and diversity of the city.

Vibe in the city is similar to other places in that you feel the energy which comes from the meshing of people and an internal desire to continue looking forward. At the edge of the city, near the Oslo Opera House, is the Barcode District. The collection of buildings that make up this area add to the memorable and modern landscape of Oslo. Come here and you’ll see the modernization of Oslo paired with the nature of the open harbor.

Things to do

There are tons of things to do in this city. One can check out the museums and tour the city, or become one with nature on a hyttetur (cabin trip) lost among the trees. Making dinner with friends and sharing recipes is a great way to remember this experience through your tastebuds. There is tons to do and so little time. Do yourself a favor and enjoy every bit that you can. You won’t be sorry to share these experiences with others.

 

 

Christmas With Tine!

Christmas and the wintery months are my favorite time of year. Not because of the cold temperatures, but because of the warmth of the atmosphere. I’m surrounded by family and since the semester is generally over, I’m also with friends who have come home from their respective universities. This year, I’m a little far from home, but have been lucky enough to share the holiday with Tine and her beautiful family. This Christmas was even more special than usual because I got to experience a true Norwegian Christmas with the unique traditions.

December 23rd is the beginning of the Christmas celebrations. It’s a little earlier than most people in America celebrate and this day is full of neat traditions. This day is known as “Little Christmas Eve” and for me, it is a cozy way to start all of the festivities. When I arrived at the house, the family immediately started speaking with me in Norwegian. It threw me off since most people begin with English when they know you’re not Norwegian. I quickly realized Tine told them to only speak with me in Norwegian to help me practice. It was challenging, but I was more comfortable by the end of the night.

On the 23rd, most families decorate the Christmas tree. Tine’s sister went with red and silver theme. The kids decorated as we watch and ate delicious snacks. When they walked away for a while, Tine and I rearranged some of the ornaments and luckily they didn’t notice.

We celebrated Little Christmas Eve by eating risengrøt and drinking gløgg. Risengøt is a creamy, rice porridge, which is served with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. An almond is hidden within the porridge and the person who finds it, gets a gift or some kind of surprise marzipan pig. The youngest girl, who was maybe 7, tried to eat as many bowls as she could to increase her chances of finding the almond. They told stories of kids making themselves sick just to find the almond. Tine actually found it in her first bowl and hid it in her mouth until everyone finished. We also drank gløgg, which is similar to the German Glühwein. It is a drink made with many tasty spices, like cinnamon and cardamom. Raisins and almonds are also added. It has become one of my FAVORITE beverages because it is the essence of Christmas and the warm atmosphere that comes with generosity and spending time with family and friends.

We ended the evening by watching TV programs and writing Santa a note. Every year, NRK, the Norwegian public media platform, shows a children’s Christmas show. The season lasts the length of the December month and there is a new season every year. It’s tradition to watch this show and it’s heartwarming to hear older Norwegians remember watching the same program when they were kids. When the program ends and before the kids prepare for bed, the youngest girl who still believes in Santa Clause wrote a note to Santa Clause. She also left out a bowl of risengrøt for the reindeer. It was the cutest thing!!! As kids, we left Santa cookies, but it was thoughtful and endearing to leave items for the reindeer too.

We headed to sleep and woke up to Christmas Eve, the day full of action. This day is full of breakfast together, presents, and dinner later. The breakfast was an assortment of pålegg, or things you put on top of an open-faced sandwich. There was salmon, hollandaise sauce, and tomatoes, and eggs, and my god it was delicious. We had some tea and moved onto a few presents.

Generally opening presents is an all day thing so Norwegians start unwrapping in the morning. At home in the U.S., we open all of the presents on Christmas day. Each person is surrounded by their presents and goes to town ripping off paper. In Norway, one child is assigned the task of handing out presents. One person will open their present, say their thanks, and the next gift is opened. This way seems nice because it forces people to slow down and show their gratitude and appreciation for each gift.

In the middle of all of these presents and sandwiches, it started snowing. As Tine drove me home, I reflected upon my first true Norwegian Christmas. It was such a neat experience. The traditions were new and I hope to continue some of them. I loved the food and the gløgg. I loved the idea of a Little Christmas Eve where you just eat loads of candies and snacks and watch tv and eat some more. Anything involving food are things I am interested in.

Special shoutout to Tine for inviting me over and sharing such and intimate time of year with me! ❤