This is going to be one of my more random blog posts, but I feel like there’s a little issue here that I have to address. Since moving to Norway this has become a bit more of an expat blog instead of purely about travel, which is something I’m excited about, as it means that I’ll be able to write about places after spending a bit more than like, 48 hours there. But it also means that there’s been this awkward question hanging over all of my recent posts. Um, guys… am I even an expat?
I have Norwegian citizenship, grew up in a culturally Norwegian household, have heard Norwegian spoken since I was a baby (which I’m pretty sure the scientists tell us should mean I’m fluent??), and counting all my long summer holidays in Norway, I’ve already spent years and years in Norway. I moved to a country I already know and love, and aside from my American inclination to speak with too many exclamation points and hug anyone and everyone, I’m pretty sure that my personality is more stereotypically Norwegian than American.
I mean, that sweater dress!
I know, I’m such a fraud!
Except, I think in some ways my Norwegian background is making it harder for me to adjust here than other places I’ve lived. Is that ridiculous? Probably.
If Norwegian were any other language, at this point I would probably consider myself basically fluent. Instead I’m super shy about using it with strangers, and I think Dan might actually use his Norwegian more than me. Why? I think it’s because I feel guilty about not having perfect Norwegian already. I mean, I’ve been spending most of my (2 month +) summers here since I was born. I should be fluent.
So when I do totally fail at communicating in Norwegian and someone switches to English, it’s extra crushing, to the point that sometimes I would rather not even try. Because, you know, if you don’t try you can’t fail! Wait, is that how the saying goes?
I’m weirdly caught between two cultures. I never particularly enjoyed living in the States, I’m shamefully cynical about American politics, and I always found myself daydreaming about Norway. But in Norway I’ve always been the American cousin, friend from America, American granddaughter – you get the point, here I’m more American than ever. Throughout my 22 years of living in the U.S. I comforted myself about not quite feeling at home there by telling myself that it was because I’m Norwegian! So what happens when I move to Norway and realize that, actually, I don’t fit in anywhere?
This isn’t my first time living abroad, but it does feel very different this time, and not just because I moved to a country a little less foreign to me. I used to live abroad in the “I’m too free and independent to be tied down to one place, I want to see the world and discover new cultures and live and go everywhere!” sort of way. But I never thought that Japan or Thailand or Germany would be my permanent home. I mean, I still tried hard to adapt (maybe too hard in Japan) but there was less pressure because if it didn’t work out, I’d simply move on.
But this time I really do want to stay here forever! Which is a scary feeling for a girl who has always been so happy moving from place to place. And suddenly I get how different moving abroad is for people who move for serious reasons like a permanent job relocation or because they’ve inconveniently fallen in love with someone in a different country. The pressure is on! No more living half immersed in a culture while attending weekly expat bash this country sessions (okay that might be an exaggeration). And eventually it won’t matter if I’m a full expat or half expat or not technically an expat, because that won’t be part of my identity anyway. I’ll just be me, at home.
That or I’ll be living in Belgrade, because that city is still calling my name!
Have you lived abroad? Did you try to put down roots?