Wow. So I’ve spent one weekend in Norway and it’s been absolutely amazing and crazy and… I’ll just start with the plane ride.
The family I had met in the airport that knew my host in Drammen, Liv, ended up sitting right front of me on the plane. But in my row, I sat next to a couple from Paris, with whom I spoke at length about CouchSurfing and hopefully convinced them to give it a try…
Our flight was delayed by two hours, and then we were on the plane another hour as there were computer malfunctions affecting the piloting system. The pilot mentioned, once we had finally started disembarking, that they decided to just totally disconnect the wifi system on the plane because it was causing security issues. So that was great. At this point, I didn’t have any way to contact my host in Oslo who was supposed to meet me when we landed, but I know he needed to go to work soon after our original meeting time. Without wifi service on the plane and having thought I wouldn’t need to buy wifi at the airport, by the time we landed, my host Jonathan was already at work.
And so began my journey in Oslo.
Since Jonathan had mentioned he had a SIM card waiting for me I decided not to worry about finding one and instead focused on exploring the city as much as I could with 20 pounds of stuff on my shoulders and sweat dripping from every part of me. Turns out I had WAY overestimated how cold it would be in Norway (and ironically, temperatures back home were now below freezing).
Oslo’s architecture seems to be significantly different than that of other European capitals. And since being here, it’s obvious that people who live outside Oslo are generally not fans of this style for whatever reason. They call it a “wannabe Stockholm” and “fake modern city.” Well, coming from a pair of fresh eyes, I’m totally for it. The only thing I can really complain about here is that it’s literally the most expensive place I’ve ever visited.
That’s about $20 for a bag of Goji berries.
A loaf of bread can cost upwards of five U.S. dollars. And that’s with the Norwegian kroner down and the U.S. dollar up. The people here are generally friendly and obviously have money (are well dressed, etc). That’s really to be expected in any European capital.
A great deal of my time on Friday was spent waiting in the Nationaltheatret Stasjon (a bus station) in a tiny little corner where I was able to get wifi from 7/11. Around eight o’clock, eight hours after my arrival, Jonathan got off work and we headed back to his home where I could finally relax, shower, wear clean clothes and charge my stuff.
Jonathan insisted I get a real, full meal (instead of the the nuts and chocolate chip mix I’d brought on which. To sustainmy life while in one of the most expensive countries in the world), so we made a huge plate of spaghetti with chicken, and toasted bread (carbs carbs carbs) and I ate myself into a coma.
That coma lasted until 2pm the next day.
Finally, at this point, we went out and saw some of the city together, went shopping (I finally have a SIM card!) and saw the opera house. I thought they were selling tickets for Carmen at 50 kroner (about $6-7) and got really excited, but they were actually just selling the program for the concert. The program. Was. $7.
Naturally we skipped that went back home as it was getting dark and starting to rain. Jonathan explained:
Norway has really high wages to account for their high cost of living. The minimum wage is usually higher in US dollars than 20 per hour, but it’s sitting at $18-19 right now due to the kroner going down and the dollar going up. Norwegians are also generally extremely cautious about spending money they don’t have to, and he works in sales so has first-hand experience with the apparent “stinginess”or the people living in Nordic countries since the cost of living is high, regardless of what the minimum wage is.
In countries like Denmark where Jonathan is originally from, the tax bracket can go as high as 70% (according to him). This is causing major issues wherein people are not working because it’s easier and more efficient to live on welfare than it is on wages because the taxes are so incredibly high, and social programs provide everything one needs to live (not well, but comfortably).
Apart from this, it is generally the consensus that there is a huge drug problem in Norway. He claimed that up to 40% of people on Norway are using illicit drugs in a regular basis because of the long winter months causing depression and the large amount of expendable income young people have. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction puts this figure at over 35% for people between 25-49. More on that in just a second…
Jonathan’s flat mate came back to hang with us and spent a lot of time talking about the crazy number of Norwegian dialects. I couldn’t tell the difference between any of his accents, but he must have run through at least eight before he left again to go clubbing. Jonathan had fallen asleep in his room and I didn’t want to disturb him, so his roommate offered for me to sleep on his couch and he went out to party with some friends. Two hours later, things got crazy.
I wasn’t asleep, but I was startled when he came back with two other guys he’d been at the club with. They were yelling about the horrors of girlfriends and yelled insults and curses at the women who would dare make their lives such a hell. They managed to introduce themselves to me as they lamented.
I’m going to refrain from using their names and one of them will remain totally anonymous for good reason.
Guy 1: Hey, girls suck. It’s better to be gay. Seriously. You gay?
Ten minutes and lots of random conversation later, he repeated. “Wait so you’re seriously gay?”
If there’s any thing Europeans get confused about with me, it’s that I was born in America and that I’m not straight.
“Yeah.” I reply.
And then his eyes suddenly lit up and he and one of the other guys started to strip in front of me, taking my phone and taking pictures of themselves. I just kept laughing hysterically and watching everything unfold.
“Listen,” he says, “I want you to send this picture to all the guys you know, so they’re all jealous!”
And then THIS HAPPENED.
Guy 2: *Totally nonchalantly pulls out a plate and pours white powder on it, cutting it with his credit card and licking it clean.*
Now, this was the first time I’d seen cocaine in person. I wasn’t sure I was understanding the situation correctly. But then he rolled up a cigarette wrapper and breathed a line in through his nose. I wasn’t sure how to react, so I didn’t. And the night went on. And on. And on. With me listening to these giggling guys hyped on coke and not wearing sufficient clothing and being overly flirtatious. And finally at six A.M., we all went to sleep.
Four hours later, it was time for me to make it to Drammen, so I packed up my things, thanked Jonathan for his amazing hospitality, and got on the bus to meet my new host 25 minutes west from Oslo by train. Despite my lack of sleep and the crazy weird night I’d had, I felt sure Drammen would be a place of immense happiness, and I was right.