Familiar or unfamiliar?

So, for my third blog entry, I was asked to write about familiarizing the unfamiliar. For a long time, I’ve been thinking on what to write, I still don’t really know. Norway and Switzerland are not very different from each other. Yet, there were still some smaller striking events that I would like to point out. 

When I arrived in Bergen, one of the first things I noticed (besides the constant rain), was the huge amount of electric cars. Even though I knew that Norway is a rich country, I was still a bit surprised to see so many electric Teslas and BMWs (really, you couldn’t walk for five minutes and not see at least one). I asked a Norwegian friend about this and he started smiling. He told me that these cars were state-subsidized and that they aren’t that expensive if you get money from the state (not so sure about that). The good thing is, that there are charging stations everywhere. Even up in the high north of Norway (in no man’s land) there are charging stations at every gas station and parking spots for electric cars at almost every supermarket. 

Another thing that I would wish to be the same in Switzerland, is the openness regarding gender equality and the LGBTQ+ community. I already mentioned a small aspect of gender equality in my first blog entry. Norway is considered to be one of the most gender equal countries in the world. There was not one event that I could consider as gender unequal. What I could see though for example, is that there are more fathers on the street or in parks with their children as in Switzerland. It is normal that fathers spend a lot of their time with the children, together with their partner (female or male) or alone. 

Since 2009 same-sex marriages are legal and the couples can also legally adopt children, not only their stepchildren. Not wanting to get too political, I will just say that Norway is way more developed than Switzerland in this aspect. 

Since I did not come in contact with many Norwegian families, I can only write what I’ve been told about “kvelds”. Most Norwegians don’t work until five or six in the evening since their working week “only” consists of about 36 hours (there are exceptions of course). Norwegians eat dinner at 5 o’clock. One can imagine that eating at 5 means that one will be hungry again at 8. Exactly. This is why there is “kvelds”, which can be translated as “evening snack”. So, people eat the big dinner at 5 and then again, a snack, which consists either of bread with ham or marmalade or other snacks like cookies or chips, at 8. This is actually a habit that I could adopt since I am usually hungry at 5 already. 

The last and the biggest difference: Norway is almost ten(!) times bigger than Switzerland but has three million inhabitants less. At the end of my stay, me and four friends went on a roadtrip in the most northern part of Norway. We flew to Tromsø and started driving to the Nordkap and then down to the Finnish border in the inland. Experiencing the polar night, the sun didn’t rise, and we had about 3.5 hours of “daylight”. In this wonderful week we drove more than 1’500 kilometres through Norway’s beautiful no-mans land. I mean this sentence in every sense of the word! We could drive for five hours straight (this word also has a double meaning, the only street connecting the cities was mostly a straight line) and not meet another car! It was such a cool experience; the dimensions are not at all comparable to Switzerland. On the first day we drove almost 6 hours from one city to another (Tromsø to Alta) – driving from Geneva to St. Moritz takes a bit more than 5 hours and you crossed a whole country! 

I cannot say that Norway and Switzerland are very different. Therefore, I didn’t have to face problems while familiarizing the unfamiliar. There weren’t many things that were unfamiliar to me. In this blog entry I tried to point out the most striking things I noticed during my stay. The familiarities to my home country made it easier for me to adapt to the new city, I didn’t have to worry about public transportation always being late or totally different moral expectations. This was also one of the main reasons I chose Norway as my destination country, and I couldn’t be happier about my choice.

Marina Schärer

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