Tag Archives: expat

International Relocation: A New Year Update

The last time that I talked about my unfolding plans for world domination, I identified what I considered to be the three most significant areas that I would need to focus on; language, money and work.

In terms of language, I feel like I am getting along well actually. I completed the first term of Grade 1 Norwegian Language at the University of Westminster, and despite thinking that I would not continue in that format (…partly due to the cost, and partly due to public transport making me want to FUCKING CRY) I have recently started on the second term. Each term consists of 10 weekly 2-hour sessions, on Tuesday evenings. I missed the last two sessions of last year because I was in America, but when I came back for the second term, I was pleased to note that the rest of the class hadn’t got as far through the content as the tutor had planned. I honestly don’t feel like I am any further behind than anyone else, despite the sessions that I have missed.

The fact they allowed me to use that picture shows the seriousness they have towards the classes...

The fact that they allowed me to use that picture for my ID shows the seriousness they have towards the classes…

I have never been one to praise myself, but genuinely I feel like my understanding, my ability to work things out and my general recall of vocabulary is better than most of my peers at this stage. Don’t get me wrong, I am not for a minute trying to suggest that I am in any way close to being able to actually speak Norwegian! While I have been struck by the simplicity of the language itself, I have been undone by the complexity of the pronunciation – my grasp of the vowels and mastery of tonal changes in the language are still nothing short of Fucking Atrocious. That said, I can now translate over half of my Norwegian friends’ Facebook status updates without having to resort to Google Translate. That at least is progress, and as simple as that is, I feel disproportionately pleased every time I can understand what someone has said.

Work is probably the element that has gone through the greatest thought-evolution in the last 4 months. I was struck by an idea a little while ago that studying in Norway might be an excellent way to kill three birds with one stone. It would mean that I could a) get to live in the place that I want to live, b) study for the level of education I would need to get a decent job there, and c) do a life-reset and train myself properly for something I actually want to do, as opposed to falling into job after job out of convenience.

Yeah, I have a self-congratulatory map, what of it?

Yeah, I have a self-congratulatory travel map, what of it?

It seemed like a perfect solution, since there are actually a significant number of courses delivered in English language in Norwegian universities. However…what proper research has uncovered is that the courses which are delivered in English are all for Masters degrees. Bachelors degrees are all taught in Norwegian, and since I have neither the grasp of the language to study in it, nor a pre-existing Bachelors degree which would allow me to leapfrog onto a Masters course, that whole idea is a complete non-starter.

The range of options I am left with is significantly narrower than I had perceived it to be two weeks ago. The thing is, I actually feel a lot more comfortable having the field stripped down like that. If I am honest, I have always been stronger fighting my way out of a corner I have backed myself into, than I will ever be at making a sensible choice in an open field in the first place.

The reality then is this; unless my Norwegian language skills improve exponentially in the next 9 or 21 months, I will not be studying in Norway. I certainly won’t be studying in the UK, so that means I will more than likely have zero qualifications, and cannot expect to be able to obtain any significant employment there, based on the lack of anything that isn’t frankly conjectural in my CV.

With my current lines of thinking and the information I have available to me, there are three ways I see this playing out at the moment. I will either 1) live like a student for the rest of my life and fall back onto work that is probably low-paid but doesn’t require qualifications, 2) move out there with enough money that I don’t have to worry while I am finding a solution, or 3) get a job with a UK based firm that has links into Norway and the opportunity to move.

Apparently, you can pretty much camp anywhere in Norway.

Apparently, you can pretty much camp anywhere in Norway…

I am not actually unhappy with any of those three ideas. In fact, I am so unambitious that I am really quite drawn to the idea of simply working bar jobs for the rest of my life and just getting by in a beautiful place. That said, I cannot be certain at this stage that you don’t need qualifications to tend bar…

Anyway! The pattern with every job I have ever been in is that I start at Dunce level, get quietly good at it in a reasonably short space of time, and then people start looking at me and going, “Woah, you’re actually pretty good at stuff!”. I honestly feel that if I could just get in somewhere, I would never be short of work. It’s the getting in that will be the difficult part, so perhaps the idea of finding a company with links in Norway might be the most sensible next line of enquiry…

(…because let’s be honest, idea 2) is not going to fly. I am more than likely never going to have enough money to buy me more than a handful of months in Norway – while I am this far away from an immediate need for the money, the temptation when I am sat at home to go “Fuck it! I am going to Sweden for a week!” will always override any good intentions that I have to save.)

And that really does cover off the money element. I would do myself a disservice at this stage by being anything less than honest with myself – long term planning is really not my forté. If I have the option of keeping £750 in my savings…or going the States, seeing my friends and getting tattoos, I already know what I am going to do in that situation and there is no point pretending otherwise.

Save money, you say? I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of awesome people.

Save money, you say? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of awesomeness.

International Relocation

Back in 2009, I was fairly confident that I wanted to move to Norway. I had visited, and accidentally fallen in love with, the country. I came home full of excitement…and precisely nothing happened. Life got in the way, and I was disappointed with my own complete inability to organise myself.

In retrospect, I was a broken person. At the time I was simply putting one foot in front of the other, and I was not capable of thinking any further into the future than finishing work that evening. As much as it was something I wanted, it felt very distant. It was something to dream about. The space it occupied in my head was the same space where I stored my ideas about what I would do with my lottery winnings, and how much money I would have left after I had paid off all of my friends’ mortgages.

Five years later, and things feel very different. It’s no longer just a dream, it is a reality that actually exists, and I just need to do the right things and then I can be a part of it. Granted, I am still at the stage of working out what those ‘right things’ are in the first place, but it genuinely feels like it is happening.

Before I went out to Oslo, I had been looking around for language classes, and there was nothing remotely near to where I lived. I pouted and looked at what online courses were available. However, being out there again really impressed on me the importance of language in being a functioning part of society. I got home, and promptly booked myself onto a language course in London. Yes, it’s an hours’ train ride into the capital, but it’s something I need to do, and I am prepared to do whatever I have to do in order to make it happen.

The course starts next Tuesday and I am both excited and nervous. I HATE being bad at things that I want to be good at. I experience a real gut-deep rejection. Think of a red-zone 4 year old child, howling in the middle of a supermarket; “I don’t WANNA!” and you’re getting close to what’s happening inside me. This time I am just going to feel the fear, and do it anyway. I’ll be shit to start off with. So what? Suck it up Princess, the only person judging you is yourself. It is that important to me that I am just going to push through it, humiliating myself whenever necessary to get it right.

There will no doubt be 101 forms I need to fill in, boxes I need to tick, and assessments I need to complete. However, there are two other key points that I have focused on. They are money, and getting a job. The two things are intrinsically  linked, because they each facilitate and dictate the other, but they are two separate concerns in their own right. I’ll start with money.

The first thing I need to know is what exactly it is going to cost me to be in Norway, and from there I can work backwards to how I go about getting that money. Now, while I appreciate that Oslo is the most expensive place in Norway in terms of rent, I think that it’s going to present my best opportunity for getting a job. It would also be very easy to live there.

I have spoken to friends, used some community forums, and read up some blogs and websites who focus on moving to Oslo. From everything I have been able to work out and the advice I have been given, it is very much in line with London prices. I have worked out best- and worst-case scenarios in terms of rent. I have then factored in scaled-up ideas of utility bills. Before I even think about food and beer (which is clearly a massive priority), I have calculated that living there could potentially cost me pretty much all of what I am currently earning in the UK a month, for rent and utility bills alone. Yes, that’s being dramatic, but it could be realistic and so I am keeping it in mind.

What I would want to do is move out there with sufficient money for at least three months, to give me time to get my feet underneath me without having to worry. I read on one particular website that in terms of a rental deposit, most places ask for 3 months’ rent up front, as opposed to the usual 1 month that you get in the UK. So deposit, plus three months rent and utilities, plus food, and beer, and surprises; I want to have £10,000 in my back pocket before I move. It might be overkill, and might last me longer than 3 months, but I want to give myself every chance to succeed so I’m going to run with it. Still…crikey. Gives me a greater incentive to work harder for bonuses at work.

The telling thing is that I don’t feel intimidated by that. I will just find a way to make it happen.

I am going to divert slightly to talk about my house. I own a good-sized 3 bedroom house in reasonable order, and I have no intentions of selling it. There’s a couple of reasons for that;

  1. It’s in a fairly shitty area, so the amount of profit in selling it is vastly outweighed by it’s rental potential
  2. It’s a safety net – if everything goes tits up, I am a notice period away from coming back to the UK.
  3. I can store all of the possessions that I don’t want to take with me in the roof.

Due to it’s size and set up, I could rent my house for quite a lot of money per month. What I have decided to do however, is rent it to a friend for a reduced amount. I won’t make as much money, but I will trust that the person who is living there isn’t going to fill it with dogs and vagrants, and if anything goes wrong from either perspective we can have an open dialogue about it. I have already had one person around to look at it, and while nothing is decided, it is definitely the way I am going to go.

So, I will get a small monthly income from the rental of my house. It takes a slight edge off of the pressure of the other key point under consideration – WORK.

In terms of work, I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do. I need to find a compelling reason why any Norwegian firm would employ me over someone who can actually speak the language. The difficulty I am faced with is that while I know how capable I am, and how quickly I learn, that does not really present itself well on a C.V. From what I understand, in Norway there is quite a heavy focus on education and qualifications… and the qualifications that I have are all linked to Sports Physiotherapy, which is not something I have any interest in doing these days. In the UK, I am fairly confident that I could talk myself into any job that I really wanted, but I cannot rely on that in a place where I know I will not have the same command of language and confidence that I do here.

What would be ideal would be a company that was looking for someone to provide English language customer service/support; if there are two things I am good at, it’s fixing problems, and talking. Getting paid for writing would be absolutely amazing, but that is a serious pie-in-the-sky idea. At best, writing will join house rent as a supplementary income.

Everything is even more inter-linked than I thought; I am going to need to seriously improve my language skills to get a job, and I am going to need a job to get money, and I am going to need money to live in Norway, and I am going to need to live in Norway to seriously improve my language skills…

The difference between now and 5 years ago, like I said earlier, is that as big as it is, none of this feels intimidating. It is simply what I need to do to make the things that I want in my life a reality.

Unless anyone has £100,000 that they don’t want…?


Fair enough, back to Plan A!