Category Archives: What’s it like

Wrap it up

One thing I love here is how easy gift-wrapping is. In America, it was either not an option, or you had to pay a fee if you wanted a purchase wrapped at the store.

Not in Norway! Continue reading Wrap it up

Soaked Shoes? No Problem!

Tucked in a corner behind a door in our entry way hangs an item I didn’t even known existed before moving to Europe. And yet, in these months of snow and slush (and in the rainy months as well, in fact), it’s come to be a favorite.

Meet our shoe dryer.IMG_3919

Yes, it is a beautiful thing. Not aesthetically, of course. But when it comes to all those wet gloves and snow shoes that show up in our house this time of year, this little gadget is a lifesaver.

I mean, have you smelled a pair of gloves that your kid used while playing in the snow and then left in their backpack? Nasty.

And have you ever wondered how long it takes for a pair of snow boots to completely dry out on the inside after a busy day of throwing snow balls, building snowmen, and digging snow tunnels? Somewhere in the neighborhood of an eternity.

But this handy tool dries things out without warping or shrinking them like can happen in the dryer. Or without the noise of shoes in the dryer. Or the damage that can cause.

We just slip the gloves or boots over the ends of the hoses, and rotate the timer, and cool air blows for the selected amount of time.

And with two boys, we opted for the model that dries two pairs (shoes or gloves) at once.

A shoe dryer. Just another of the things we’ve learned to love while living here!

What’s it like: Bread

When we first moved here, we would buy the least expensive bread we could find at the grocery store.And then we tried some other types, and we learned that at least with bread, you get what you pay for.

These days, we like to pick up a loaf every couple of days from our local bakery. It ends up being less than what some of the high-end grocery store loaves cost, and it tastes so much better.

The local bakery, Ivar Halvorsen, is a short walk from our house (5-7 minutes). And everything they have is delicious!

Photo cred for this post goes to William. He has begun learning a bit about photography, and I think he has a very good eye for it!

Baker Halvorsen
Chr. Hvidts Plass 3
3210 Sandefjord


What’s it like? Posts about living here…

February 2, 2013 (Oslo) – Is it me, or do we
look a lot different in this picture than now?

We are approaching our two year anniversary of moving to Norway. Wow. Gotta stop and let that one sink in for a second.

Anyway, after almost two years, we continue to get a lot of questions via email or social media about various aspects of living in Europe. I love sharing, and I’ve done quite a few posts in the past about what it’s like.

I plan to continue sharing more of these. And maybe I’ll elaborate on some. If you have a suggestion for this series, feel free to let me know. After two years, there are many things that I don’t even think of as being different or significant anymore, but someone else might be curious about them.

For now, I thought I would revisit them by sharing the links of the previous “What’s It Like” posts here (there are quite a few!):

Healthcare in Norway

With my recent surgery, I’ve had a lot of questions and curiosity about the healthcare system and medical insurance here in Norway. While it seems like a very boring topic to write about, I know sometimes it can be interesting to learn about cultural differences.Norway has both public and private healthcare, though the majority of people access the public system (private is primarily used for elective procedures). The public system is managed and financed nationally. All legal residents have access to the same level of healthcare. So as legal, tax-paying residents of Norway, our family receives all of the same public service as Norwegian citizens.

For adults, there are co-pays for doctors visits, medication, and for procedures such as MRI or CT scans that are done apart from a hospital stay. Hospital stays do not require payment. For dependent children, all medical coverage is free of charge.

My personal experience began in late August 2014, when I first visited our primary care physician in our city. From there, I met with several different specialists and went through a CT scan and MRI. Referrals were extremely quick. Even getting my initial date for surgery didn’t take very long.

Most things about the hospitalization didn’t seem that different from being in an American hospital. There is much less fanfare to checking in. You walk up to the nurse and confirm your name and personal number (like a social security number), and receive your bracelet. You’re given some medication by mouth to help you relax, and you change into hospital gown and wait. My wait this time around was FAST – I arrived just before 7:00, and around 7:30 they took me back.

Post-op/recovery seemed normal compared to what I’ve experienced in the states. It’s a typical ICU type set-up: a large room with lots of bed spaces separated by curtains, so that the nurses can quickly get in and out to each patient.

From Zack’s perspective, it was a bad experience in that he could never get anyone to tell him if I was out of surgery, or how it went, or anything at all. Thankfully after an hour in recovery, I asked if I could call him and they brought me a telephone.

Maybe the biggest difference was the regular room. I was in a room with four beds. The first few hours was just me, but two other ladies came in later in the evening, and one more the next morning. This was a lot different for me, but I managed okay.

Each floor apparently has its own small cafeteria/lunchroom. So as you begin to recover, you are encouraged to walk down the hall and have your meals there. It’s really not a bad idea: it encourages getting up and moving, and it means you have a bit more choice in what you’ll eat (probably a lot less wasted food that way, too!).

I was also waiting for lots of paperwork in order to be discharged. But there was nothing much to it. I met with the doctor and he gave me info on what to do if I have any problems. And that was pretty much it. I could go whenever I was ready. And I just walked myself out. No wheelchair.

Overall, the system and process have been good. I have been very pleased with the level of service and care I have received. There is not too much I can really complain about.

November. So.Very.Dark

We had heard that November can be the toughest month living in Norway. And as we endure make it through experience our second November here, I have to agree.

The days are short. Right now sunrise is around 8:25 AM and currently sunset is at 3:45 (15:45) in the afternoon.
The [lack of] daylight is not really a problem once it is colder, because then we have a good chance of having some snow. And snow helps brighten things up. But lately our high temperature has hovered around 5 C (41F), without much of a dip at night. Add to that the fact that it has rained almost nonstop for at least the last two weeks, and it can be a little depressing.
But then again, chilly wet weather in November means
~more opportunities for coffee and hot chocolate
~more chances to slow down and just chill a bit
~Christmas isn’t too far off! We are beginning to see signs of the holiday season in our city.And November also means Thanksgiving, and my (Jenn’s) birthday…

And occasionally other fun surprises. (Stay tuned)

So even though it isn’t the most glamorous month, maybe November isn’t so bad after all!
Lights in the city – this was around
4:30 in the afternoon two weeks ago!


Celebrating my birthday with friends – fun!

Living at the beach

Fifteen minutes. I timed it. That’s how long it takes for us to drive to our favorite beach.
Sections of rock, sections of sand – lots of beauty

Zack and I have never been the kind of folks who live for the beach. We don’t look forward to endless hours laying in the sand. It’s just not our thing. A short trip to the beach and we’re happy, and ready to move on.

And yet, if you pay for a beach vacation, and take the time to drive several hours to the beach (as was always the case when we lived in Georgia), then there is a sense of obligation. You feel like you need to spend a lot of time there.

But ah, the beautiful thing about living in a beach town: it’s quite easy to spend an hour on the beach and not feel like it was a waste of effort.

We’re learning to keep a few things close to the door (beach towels, sunscreen, beach toys), a few things on hand in the kitchen (lomper, sprøstekt løk, pølse, chips, snacks, engangsgrill), and a few things in the car (fishing net, picnic blanket).

William & an engangsgrill (one-use grill)

So if the mood hits and the weather and schedule come allow, we can be ready to go at the drop of a hat.

And if we get there and decide were bored after an hour, it’s no big deal!

The one major drawback? Sand. Everywhere. But I guess I can live with it.

What’s it like: oppvaskbørste… is that a vegetable brush?!?

Those of you who know me well are likely not
surprised that I have a purple oppvaskbørste!

When we first moved into our home, I discovered that the landlord left two things for us next to the sink: dishwashing soap, and a vegetable brush.

Okay, nice that you would leave these things. But why a vegetable brush? I was puzzled.

And then we had dinner with a local family, and I quickly discovered that what I thought was a vegetable brush was in fact an oppvaskbørste, or a dish brush.

I had never used a brush for this purpose. But after 15 months it has become my weapon of choice when hand washing.

What is typically used for washing dishes where you live: a brush, a sponge, a cloth, or something else?


What’s it like: Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day)

In 12 days, Norway will celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the signing of its constitution.
Before we arrived in Norway, I thought Syttende Mai (the seventeenth of May) would be a celebration something like the Fourth of July in America. And in many ways, it is. Only bigger. WAY bigger.
Over the next couple of weeks we will share some posts about Norway’s constitution day.
For now, here are a couple of cool syttende mai window displays we saw in Oslo last week.


Russ: How students celebrate their final days of high school

The tradition of russ is observed by most students during the last month of their final year of vidergående skole / high school. We recently interviewed two students about the tradition, and about how their observance of russ tradition differs from most.