Leaving Telemark province, we get closer to Oslo and the coast. Here are larger cities in Norway. In many places there is no more snow so the landscape looks a little sad. It is busy on the roads and the bicycle facilities in Norway, especially between the cities, are almost non-existent. For the last 50 kilometers to Oslo we cycle between exhaust fumes and dust. Oslo has never been on our list as a potential city to live in. It is far too big and, above all, unaffordable. The price for a one bedroom apartment starts from €500,000. From the center of Oslo, every road goes up. Our host, a young Frenchman, lives at the very top, on the edge of the Nordmarka, the nature reserve north of Oslo. He has lived in Norway for six months and we learn a lot from his experiences. All the foreigners we have met, tell the same comments about Norwegians and emigration. It's hard to make friends, people never invite you to their homes, they'd rather speak English than Norwegian with you, Norwegians are a bit lazy, getting a personal number takes an awful long time, but the beautiful nature and endless outdoor possibilities overcome all the disadvantages.
Zoe posted a message on Facebook two weeks ago. The summary: 'We are in Norway and want to meet you. Can we pitch our tent in your garden?' Extraordinarily many people responded and invited us, including Norwegians. Everywhere we are received hospitably and we do our best to speak as much Norwegian as possible. We started self-study in the Netherlands, but having a real conversation is still difficult. We can tell that we started in the Netherlands and had a lot of rain on the way. Nevertheless, we learn quickly and at every opportunity we have, we speak in Norwegian. We notice that a lot of Norwegians are patient and like it that we try to learn Norwegian. These are some of the signs that give us confidence that we can integrate successfully.
Near Gjøvik we are welcomed by Bram and Gesien. We knew them through contacts during our book tour. In January we already had a video call, now we are suddenly at the door. They both have corona, but they have a guesthouse where we can stay. Gjøvik is the southern boundary of our search area. From here on, the trip is no longer about continuing but about staying in the same place. From here we want to feel, see, experience and discover the area. We are allowed to stay in the guesthouse for a week and we make grateful use of it. We go to the town hall, have an appointment at the bank, go to the library and ask our questions at the social service. We also sign up for a house viewing. We are not interested in the house, but do it for the experience. From the estate agent we get a text message that we are welcome at 5 pm. At ten to five we are at the door and wait for the real estate agent. Five minutes later a man walks up the driveway. He walks up to the door and enters. There we see that the entire house is filled with other interested people. The estate agent is present, but we have to show ourselves around. Moreover, everyone takes off their shoes, a Scandinavian house rule, so that we are standing on our socks talking to the estate agent.
We explore the area on snowshoes and by bicycle. It is the middle of March and according to Gesien it is much too warm for the time of year. Påskeværet it is, the weather that normally occurs around Easter. It should be -15 degrees at night and not above zero during the day," says Gesien. We don't mind so much because it's lovely to walk on snowshoes and enjoy the spring sunshine. On Monday evening we get to train with the local ski club. In Norway, all children are born on skis, as we are on bicycles and skates. We get to join the kids and a few of them ski faster than us. Over the snowy roads we cycle back home after the training. Bram and Gesien have meanwhile recovered from corona and are waiting for us with freshly baked waffles, another Norwegian tradition. It is as we imagine our life here. Lots of being outside, cross-country skiing from the front door and then snuggling in a warm house by the fire.
With Bram and Gesien we speak Dutch, of course, but we learn an extraordinary amount from their experiences. They have lived here for almost thirty years and are almost full Norwegians. Their circle of friends is also not that large in Norway, but that is also due to the conscious choice to live a little further from the city. The immigration process has changed a lot in thirty years, but they confirm that things can take a bit longer in Norway. It's sometimes a bit mañana mañana here. Hard work is certainly not the first priority, enjoying life is. Through their work they learned Norwegian very quickly and they assure us that it is essential to really integrate here. In Oslo you can get by with English, but we want to live more rural and then Norwegian is mandatory. We will do our very best to learn Norwegian as quickly as possible.
In the guesthouse, Zoë makes a vision board that shows our dream life in Scandinavia. She glues four sheets together and fills them with photos. On the first are pictures of red and black wooden houses in the snow. The second paper shows the outdoor life with cross-country skiing, campfires, camping in the snow, canoeing, biathlon and hiking in the mountains. The last two papers are about the work we want to do. There is a lot on them, maybe even a bit much. Bram agrees. "What do you guys really want?" he asks. We realize that having lots of ideas is good, but we also realize that it makes us lack focus and people are less able to help us in the search. It's like asking for directions to five different villages at the same time. We don't know the answer to the question "what do we really want for work?" yet, but the vision board also helps us to make a choice. It is not only a talking board with the people we meet, it is also our thought being organised. Step by step we get closer to our goal.