I was a shy girl, who grew into a guarded teenager. I never had the nerve to try out, or join anything at school. I was afraid of failure and being made fun of, that’s why my only goal was to blend in with the crowd. I probably never even raised my hand at school and I’m sure half of the people there didn’t even know my name. Don’t get me wrong – I had friends, but never wandered outside my circle. I played it safe at all times.
I grew up and although I gained some confidence in becoming a mom, I still worried about what other people thought and kept my head down. On the heels of a nasty divorce, I left America and started a new life in Norway (not because I was brave). After visiting numerous times throughout my life, I thought I knew what it would be like to live there. I was wrong.
Learning a new language and adjusting to a foreign culture is hard. I felt more like a refugee in this small local town, than an expat. My children didn’t seem to have any problem; They turned into little Norwegians overnight. Again, I kept pretty much to myself and tried not to be noticed. I knew there were people who thought I was unfriendly, when really I was just scared. Afraid of saying something wrong, afraid of being judged.
Only in a close group of friends was I able to open up and be myself, or as much of myself as I could be – talking another language…
My husband is the complete opposite. Once a local football hero (back in the day) he never cares what anyone thinks and oozes confidence. He’s dragged me kicking and screaming to events, in which I was forced to smile and meet new people. Together we have done things I never imagined myself doing…
Like cycling through France.
Sleeping in an igloo.
Hiking 2.4 miles up to the top of Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen).
And publishing a book.
The whole time I was writing Fly Away Home, I never, EVER thought anyone other than family would read it. Why would they? I wasn’t a writer, or anyone famous, just a woman trying to explain her side of things.
There’s no hiding now…
I know my last post was about life getting back to ‘normal’ after a long and exciting summer, but summer’s not quite over yet. I still have two trips to take…
First, I’m going on a mystery trip to Scotland. The reason I call it a mystery trip, is because I’m going to meet a group of writers, I don’t really know. We will be discussing a joint venture, I know nothing about. I’m not even quite sure why I’m going, all I know is something in Scotland is beckoning. More to come on that…
I am also going on a trip to Dublin, with my husband, four of his old football (soccer) buddies and their wives. This trip is strictly for pleasure. More to come on this trip too…
What I can tell you about now, is my trip ‘home’ to New Jersey. I still call Jersey home because it’s where I come from, it’s where my family lives and where all my childhood friends are. No matter how long I’m gone it always feels familiar and I still sound like I belong there. Now you’re probably thinking… What?
I’m talking, or should I say, ‘tawking’ about my language and Jersey attitude. Living in a foreign country, talking ‘their’ language, with an accent and not having a clue how to joke around, mostly leaves me feeling like an outsider. Not the case in Jersey…
A few more reasons I like visiting Jersey in the summer are, warm weather, something you canNOT count on in Norway. Shopping, there is 0% tax on clothes in NJ and 22% on clothes in Norway. I could sit here all day telling you reasons I love the Garden State, but guess what?
Norway is my home now, it’s where my father, husband and two of my sons were born. I have three children and three grandchildren living there (two of my children and two grandchildren live in the US). I have friends that feel like family and my two pets, Khloe and Mia are there. The house my husband built and the home we built together are there. I feel safe in Norway and have soon lived there half of my life (six more years). I guess I have two homes…
What do you think, is home where you come from, or where you’ve gone?
Somebody called the blog police on me…
It wasn’t for dedicating my awards to my husband in my last post, but for having to many ‘o’s’ in lose, and not enough ‘r’s’ in scarred!
My only excuse is exhaustion. I get tired from the juggling act I always seem to have going on inside my head. Everything from, “What should I make for dinner?” to “Which book should I take with me on vacation?” Questions pop into my head faster than I can find solutions for them. I don’t need to tell you how busy I am, because we’re all busy.
The other thing that clutters my mind is always having to do things in two languages. I jump from English to Norwegian, several hundred times a day. Growing up I always thought it was funny how my grandmother would mix Norwegian in with her English. After learning Norwegian myself, I noticed she did the same when talking Norwegian.
I could understand the mistake while talking a foreign language, but how could she mix up her own native words? Over the years she sent many letters, in Christmas and Birthday cards all written in her blended jargon. Trying to figure out what the Norwegian words in the English sentences meant, was sometimes like putting a puzzle together.
It is now me who is in constant search of a word, and use my Norwegian to English dictionary just as often as my English to Norwegian one. I wonder if this is because like my grandmother, I was over thirty before learning my new language. My children never seem to have any trouble hopping from one language to the other. I however, am like my grandmother, always mixing language soup and not taking the time to read through my posts better, before hitting publish…
Learning to talk Norwegian
is one of the hardest things oops, I mean, is the hardest thing I ever did!
I’m sure you heard the old saying –you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, you can its just going to take years to do it.
I landed in Norway with three young children in 1989 and the only words I knew were: takk for maten, which means thanks for the food and a few curse words (for some reason we always learn those first). We moved to a small town called Egersund and with the nearest International school miles away, I enrolled the children in Norwegian school. It didn’t take long for their young minds to absorb the Norwegian language. Meanwhile, as her whole world turned upside down, their poor mother struggled to clear the cobwebs from her head. I now had my eleven-year-old daughter reading my mail and translating cooking instructions for me.
I was living in an area where there were few expats, I didn’t even consider myself to be one. I wasn’t there because I had a job to do, or had a company supporting me, I was there as the wife of a local. I had no choice, but to sink or swim. At first, I really tried to swim; I took classes, read books and listened to language cassettes. The only thing I didn’t do was practice. I felt foolish speaking this foreign language, in which there were three extra letters in the Alphabet (Æ, Ø and Å) and all nouns were classified by gender.
Meaning, I had to learn the gender of every noun in the whole Norwegian language!
There were other problems as well; I was being taught proper (Bokmål) Norwegian, but the good people of Egersund were speaking in dialect. Help!
Years passed, and I began to understand the native tongue spoken around me, yet I still spoke English myself. It seemed like the perfect compromise; I talked my language, they talked theirs and everyone understood each other. The only thing is I stuck out like a sore thumb in the little town. I would try speaking to children, but always felt as if I were met with questioning eyes. When I tried speaking around the house to my own family I was either corrected or laughed at, (not in a mean way) but it still didn’t help matters.
I would spend hours rehearsing and planning what I would say. It sounded perfect inside my head, then something would go awry and I’d end up feeling dumb. What was wrong with me and why couldn’t I learn this damn language?! I was sinking.
Six years after moving to Norway and desperately wanting to fit in, I signed up for another Norsk course. The instructor informed the class that the only way to learn the language was to practice. “Drop your own language and speak Norwegian all the time,” he said. What did I have to lose, my humility? That was already long gone.
I threw myself out there and didn’t let my limited vocabulary or American accent stop me. I was tired of feeling bad about myself and was determined to conquer the language barrier this time!
That was seventeen years ago and guess what? I speak fluent Norwegian, with an American accent, and the occasional mistake thrown in every now and then for good measure.
So next time you meet someone speaking with an accent remember, they’re not thinking with one.