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Emma Handley, Bergen

Hello, my name is Emma Handley. Six months ago I moved from Derbyshire, England to just outside of Bergen, Norway.

My husband had been working out here 6 months previous and we felt it would be a fantastic opportunity and great adventure for the family to experience. After we finally made the decision to move, there was so much to do. We had moved house a few times back in England but nothing quite prepares you for moving abroad.We were lucky because my husbands’ job transfer also involved a relocation package, so this took some pressure off, but the list of things to do was immense:
– What area to move to.
– Finding schools.
– Packing & removals.
– When would be an appropriate time for children to finish school in England.
– What do we do with the cat????
– To buy or rent.
– Giving up my job… the list was endless.

It helped that my Husband was already living out here, so he took on the role of looking at areas, properties and schools.

When looking for a property we had a list of things that were a must:
– No more than a 30 minute journey for my Husband to work.
– Able to get around using public transport.
– Easy distance to local school.
– Safe and not too congested area.

We used a website called www.finn.no this lists all properties for sale and to rent in Norway. The website is in Norwegian, so a little tricky to use. My husband took the time to drive around and have a look at different areas to live. When he found a few that would suit us, he started looking for properties in those specific areas.

Originally we planned on renting, but after looking at how much more we could get for your money if buying, we decided to approach the banks and look into getting a mortgage. In Norway they really encourage people to buy, where as back in England we didn’t feel that this was the case. Once we got the go ahead with the mortgage, we had to move fast, houses are not on the market long.

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We found a small but lovely property in an area that was originally all farmland. The local school within walking distance, public transport on our doorstep and breathtaking views we were over the moon when we won the bid (In Norway, a property goes on the market for limited time and people put a bid in).

In August 2013 I found myself living in Norway, but this didn’t come without some struggles.

The first was my daughter. At the last minute she decided that moving to Norway wasn’t for her. She had recently turned 16 and although we knew it would be difficult for her, we hoped we could make it work. She decided to move in with her Dad in England and we agreed this was ok, thankfully we see each other every couple of months.

The second challenge was the removals. We were due to move into our new home a week after we landed in Norway but due to some confusion with the removals this was delayed for another month.

The third challenge was the cat! We rescued a cat 2 years previous and I really wanted her to join us in Norway, but the quotes we were getting to bring her over were ridiculous. One company quoted 1,300 (sterling) and this would have still involved a car journey to Oslo to pick her up. After searching we found another company that charged a lot less who delivered to Bergen (via an overnight stay in a Pet Hotel in Amsterdam!) and we were very happy with the service they provided.

We now live in a rural area surrounded by farmland, beautiful scenery, stunning walks and very close to the fjord. My son can roam free (not near the fjord) and feel safe. There are a couple of expats that I know of in the local area, an Englishman who has married a Norwegian lady and our neighbour who is from Morocco, also married to a Norwegian lady.

The locals are very friendly. I have met most of them due to my son making friends with their children. When we first moved our next door neighbours baked us a loaf of bread, bought it around and introduced themselves. We also have another neighbour who looks after our cat when we go away and the children are always knocking on each others doors to play out – it reminds me of how things were when I was a child.

Moving here has been like a roller coaster. It is such a beautiful country with lovely people and to-date my experiences of Norway have all been positive ones. As a family we have never been so active. Norwegians live outdoors and you can’t help but follow. We have taken up running, regular walking, fishing and cross-country skiing. My son plays out with his friends without me worrying, and the schooling has a huge emphasis on play, nature and the outdoors, which I love. Children here aren’t put under pressure to perform academically until much later meaning they can really enjoy just being themselves, developing social skills, making for more rounded confident children. My biggest love from moving here has been watching my son change. He is more out-going and confident, he is open to trying new things and his Norwegian language skills are really coming on.

But obviously, moving to another country has brought on some difficult times. These are due to my own personal struggles.

Moving here without my daughter has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but it is something I am trying to come to terms with and seeing her every couple of months helps. I have parents, family and friends I miss too.

Also, back in England I worked full time in a job I was happy in. I gave this up before moving here and since become a housewife. This is not something I am comfortable with… I don’t even like the word housewife. I feel that there is a part of my identity that has been lost forever, something I am desperately trying to get back.

There are different roles that we play in life and I feel mine have been reduced drastically. But I do not regret my decision to move, the chance to experience another country and culture may not come up again.

England vs Norway? I would choose Norway!

The outdoor life, schooling, huge emphasis on family time and the people I love!! I have a blog where I write about my experiences and in one of my posts I described Norwegians as: ‘laid back but organised, friendly yet aloof people you find smiling around the City. They walk with an air of confidence that the English would wrongly diagnose as arrogance. They are a nation that do not feel the need to be overly polite but will happily point you in the right direction with their perfect English. They do not want to know your life story nor do they feel the need to tell you theirs. They are comfortable with just simply being.’

This is exactly how I view Norway and with crime and unemployment both very low, it makes for a happier safer country.

One of the biggest shocks about living here is the price of things. Food, toiletries/cleaning products and alcohol are much more expensive than England but with the exception of alcohol it’s all fairly relative to a standard Norwegian wage.

People are paid well here but they also pay high taxes, the people I have spoken to seem happy to do this as they can see where their money is going in local infrastructure such as schools, leisure facilities etc. The shopping bill can be easily reduced by buying what is in season. A typical Norwegian meal involves fish and being surrounded by fjords you can see why. We often see people going out on their boats to catch their dinner. And this is something we have done ourselves without a boat.

If I was to give any advice on moving to another country is would be:

Get as much information as possible regarding; what do you need to move? For instance, when entering Norway I had limited time to register with the police and tax office, I then had to wait for my Norwegian Number (you cannot access anything without this), obviously there are different rules depending on what part of the world you are coming from.

Look into property prices (both rental and purchase), how easy is it to find work, schools, healthcare etc. And then honestly… just go for it!! We always said that the worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work out (for whatever reasons) but at least we can say we tried.

So, what are my plans for the future?

I am currently on a Norwegian language course that is difficult but fun. After this I am hoping to find a couple of days a week voluntary work and then try and get back into paid work. I am a qualified Counsellor so I may even set up an online service. I also plan to continue writing my blog. It is a great way of meeting people who are in a similar situation to myself. It also makes for a great diary and keeps me sane!!

If you would like to know more about Emmas' expat life in Norway take a peek at her blog Life of a Housewife… In Norway.

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