As my 10 months in Norway is coming to an end, I can being to reflect on my year abroad experience and life in Bergen. Weep. There are SO MANY things I could add to this list but here is a handful.
Saunas are an integral part of Nordic culture. Traditionally found in private homes and holiday cottages, these high-heat, wood-lined rooms are designed to make you sweat, to flush out built-up toxins, improve circulation and aid muscle recovery after intense exercise. The traditional hot-cold sauna cycle concludes with an icy-water shower or dunk, a jump in the ocean or lake (any time of year) or a roll in the snow. While gently lounging in a hot sauna floating on the water may seem like a nice relaxing way to spend an afternoon, you’ll never gain the respect of locals and the sauna master without intermittently throwing yourself in freezing cold water. This may be in the ocean or a cold-water pool. Whichever it is, taking that leap will be expected, and be a serious full-body experience! There are two public saunas in Bergen which I would highly recommend:
- Heit Sauna – This costs around £8 for a 50 minute drop in.
- Nordnes Sjøbad – For £7 you have access to the heated pool, ocean, and two saunas, for an unlimited amount of time. Bargain!
These are great places to take friends and family too if they come visit you in Bergen, especially as it doesn’t matter if it is raining. And it rains a lot here. A truly Scandic experience!
Unique modules about Scandinavia
Studying in Norway has given me the unique opportunity to take modules that I would never study in Manchester or the UK for that matter. As a Human Geography student, I have many modules to choose from within the Social Sciences faculty and the Humanities faculty. Some unique modules that I have taken and loved include:
- Scandinavian Politics and Government. The objective of the course is to provide the students with a basic understanding of political structures, political actors and public policies in the Nordic countries.
- Comparative Arctic Indigenous Governance. Norway, Sweden, Finland and Canada have much in common. All are highly developed liberal democracies. All include sparsely populated, resource-rich, Northern frontiers. And all are settler-colonial, comprising indigenous peoples absorbed by the state without consent. This course compares these countries and explores the rapidly evolving field of indigenous governance.
Local Hikes in Bergen
If you enjoy hiking, there are plenty of hiking opportunities surrounding the city of Bergen. Bergen is the city between seven mountains, but if you start counting, you’ll soon find there are a lot more than that. In some circles, there’s still some debate as to which mountains are the official seven. However the general consenus, (and correct answer on a quiz) is that the seven official mountains of Bergen are Ulriken, Floyen, Rundemanen, Sandviksfjellet, Lyderhorn and Lovstakken.
They generally only taken around 1-3 hours in total so it is easy to hike after a lecture, or in the evening to watch the sunset. You don’t need to dedicate a full day to these hikes! They are 10 million times better than a walk around Platt Fields and I will miss these hikes immensely. You don’t need to be super fit especially for Floyen. Hiking in bergen at the beginning of the semester is also a great way to make friends.
A Culture of Trust
An important part of public sector apparatus in the Scandinavian countries is trust. In fact, it was one of the last words that the former Prime Minister said when she met the press after the 2021 election: “thank you for trusting us for the last eight years”. Indeed, trust is a very important part of the Scandinavian countries. I don’t think that this level of social trust exists in the UK, and especially not in Manchester. I think it is great in Norway and will miss this trusting society. Some examples of Norwegian traditions that rely on trust include:
- Fruit sales in the fruit districts and regions, such as Hardanger. Stalls exist by the roadside selling fruit such as lemons, cherries, or apples. There is no seller. Instead, you pick your fruit and leave the money in a box or transfer it digitally to an account. This is a common method to sell produce in these districts and has existed for many years.
- Norwegian tourist cabins exist all over Norway, particularly in the mountains. Many of these cabins are unstaffed and have a small shop inside selling food and other necessities. People can choose what they want and then write down what they took and how much they owe, according to a price list. They then leave the money in an envelope, wait to be invoiced in the post, or send the money digitally.
- You don’t show the bus or tram driver your ticket when you board, and you don’t have to scan it anywhere. You must just present it when there are inspections, but this is pretty rare. Nonetheless, everyone still has the ticket on their phone and few people seem to take advantage of this system. I don’t think this would be the case if Magic Buses took this approach…
Hidden gems in the supermarket
Norwegian groceries are notoriously expensive but there are some hidden gems in the supermarkets which are surprisingly cheap and taste amazing. I shop at REMA 1000 or Kiwi. Avoid MENY at all costs! It is the equivalent of Waitrose, and is very inconveniently placed just outside Fantoft Student Housing. Here are some of my favourites:
- First Price Vanilla Ice Cream. It is only £1.80 for a huge tub (meanwhile the Ben & Jerry’s is £10) and it tastes REALLY good.
- Cookies by Safari. There is always a packet of these in my bag or apartment. Always.
- Mini cinnamon rolls by Giflar. I am beyond disappointed that these are not available in the UK. They taste amazing and are perfect for hikes and camping trips.
- Mangoes and avocados. Surprisingly they are cheaper here than in the UK.
- Norwegian Salmon by First Price. Local Salmon and very reasonably priced.
It goes without saying, after 10 months in Norway, I will miss my new friends immensely! But I now have contacts all over Europe, and am looking forward to visiting people and hosting friends in Manchester. In fact, I already a trip planned to Italy this summer to visit four of my Italian counterparts! I am also pleased that I have built friendships with other students from UOM whom I did not know before coming to Norway, so I am looking forward to having these friends as I enter fourth year in September.