How to Make Friends as an Immigrant in Norway During a Global Pandemic
Tribulations of a young American in Oslo.
I moved to Norway in October of 2019 to be with my now-ex boyfriend, and I haven’t been home since.
Like a million other couples, we broke up during the pandemic for trivial reasons: He played too many video games, and I boarded up my uterus in preparation for a childfree lifestyle.
Thankfully, despite these silly differences, we’re still good friends!
In fact, after 1.5 years in this country, he remains my closest friend.
Scandinavians aren’t exactly known for their extroverted personalities and inclusive social networks. I knew this fact long before I moved here, and it was one of the reasons I had cold feet.
Don’t get me wrong, I have friends here, but thanks to the pandemic and the ever-changing rules regarding guests and get-togethers, my local friends and I are nowhere near as close as I would like us to be.
The only person in this country who truly knows me — my dreams, my fears, my addiction to iced coffee and scratch-off tickets, etc. — is the one person I cannot rely on.
We broke up seven months ago, and my ex has recently started seeing someone else. I’m extremely happy for him, but I’m also aware that as he and his new partner grow closer, the two of us will naturally drift apart.
So, in preparation for the inevitable, I’ve decided to compile a list of all the ways one can make friends in Norway during a global pandemic.
1. Find the foreigners.
If anything softens the blow of being single and borderline-friendless in introverted Norway, it’s the fact that many other local foreigners are in the same boat. Just try to avoid the ones who are happily coupled, otherwise you might find yourself with major FOMO from watching their hytta-packed insta stories and picturesque weekend snaps.
2. Saw off your hand in the local grocery store bread slicer.
This one is a little far-out, but trust me — There’s nothing Norwegians love more than first-aid kits and some fucking bread.
The deeper the cut, the longer you’ll be able to bond with Bjørn and Astrid from aisle three. If you’re lucky, they might even skip the small talk and jump straight into the suturing.
This is peak bonding!
3. Apply to jobs in Lisbon, Portugal.
My therapist would probably call this a form of protest behavior, but all I know is that it’s a sunny 23°C in Lisbon right now and a grey 7°C here in Oslo. So why exactly am I here again?
Oh right. haha. hah. haa.
4. Break into someone’s hytta (cabin).
Let’s face it: The only way your lonely ass is gonna get any skiing or tanning action in this Godforsaken country is if you actively seek it out.
Since seeking out people right now is damn-near impossible, you’ve gotta go where the people are gathered: their cabin communities.
Think Lake Tahoe, but without the lake and with significantly more “fuck-you” money.
That’s the Norwegian cabin scene and let me tell you, it’s not something you can afford to miss out on. Everyone who’s anyone has a cabin or a friend with a cabin— there is literally nothing else to do here.
5. Stockpile your house with plants.
In California, my plants were house decor.
In Scandinavia, they are the green little elves greasing the gears of my cold, dead heart.
6. Crash a neighborhood dugnad.
Ah yes, the Norwegian dugnad…The single day of the year where all of your upstairs neighbors come outside to repaint the fence and clean up the communal backyard.
If you time it right, you might be able to sneak off to the dugnad in the building next door. This could provide you with 1–2 hours of shared work, which happens to be the best (and possibly only) way to forge new friendships with Norwegians.
During a pandemic, of course.
7. Wave at your elderly neighbors and hope they adopt you.
Every morning, I wake up, pull a shot of espresso from my beloved Italian machine, and sip on it while staring out my kitchen window.
Norwegians are not big on blinds —sunlight is a blessing up here, and blocking it out is a terrible sin.
This also means that every time you stare out your kitchen window, you’re bound to find someone staring back.
In my case, I get to play peek-a-boo with my elderly neighbors in the building across the street. In typical Oslo style, we’ve never met…But judging by the wall art in their 3-bedroom Westside apartment, I certainly wouldn’t mind becoming closer after they get the shot.
If you’ve made it this far, you probably think I hate Norway, so let me reassure you: I love a lot of things about this country!
I love that I can go to the doctor whenever I want, live downtown for a very reasonable price, and take long walks after dark without fearing for my safety.
I also love working in Norway. The work-life balance is amazing, and the corporate hierarchy is so flat that it’s practically impossible to feel intimidated. My boss and I even walk home together sometimes!
But realistically, there’s no point in living in “the happiest country in the world” if your lack of a social life makes you sad.
I do love the life I’ve built for myself here,
but I desperately miss my friends, family, and the sun.