Posted by: Sarah | June 1, 2014

A Norwegian Wedding Vs A British Wedding

Italy 1We’ve just arrived back in the UK after several days on the Castello Del Trebbio vineyard estate in Tuscany where two of our closest Norwegian friends got married.   This was our first Norwegian wedding and despite it not actually being hosted in Norway, I was told that the traditions were quite the same and I noticed some significant differences to a British wedding – mostly around the speeches.  Here are my observations:

  • The Traditions:  Some are the same including the first dance, the guest book, the photo opportunities but I noticed a couple of new ones.  When the guests start clinking cutlery against their glass, the Bride and Groom have to stand on their chairs and kiss.  When the guests start to stamp their feet on the ground, the Bride and Groom must get under the table and kiss.  If the Bride leaves the table to visit the bathroom, all the ladies in the room must quickly pass the Groom and kiss him on the cheek and again, if the Groom leaves the room for a few minutes, the gentlemen in the room get up and kiss the Bride.  There seems to be a lot of kissing involved!
  • The Number Of Speeches:  In the UK there are usually 3 speeches – The Father of the Bride, The Groom and The Best Man.  In Norway there are many more and the order normally goes something like this.
    • The Father Of The Bride (Far til Brud)
    • The Groom (Brudgommen)
    • The Bride (optional) (Brud)
    • The Chief Bridesmaid (Forlover)
    • The Best Man (Forlover)
    • The Father Of The Groom (Far til Brudgommen)
    • Anyone else who would like to say something
    • Thanks for the food speech (Takk for maten talen)
  • Italy 3The Timing Of The Speeches:  In the UK the speeches are normally delivered after dinner and can take a while.  In Norway, the speeches are delivered throughout the meal.  The toastmaster introduces each of them throughout the evening after each meal course and each take about 5-10 minutes long.  It makes for a long dinner but a great break in between meals.
  • The Content Of The Speeches:  In the UK the speeches will tend to have much humour (especially the Best Man speech) and whilst the Groom mainly delivers that “Thank You” speech on behalf of him and his wife, the Best Man will tend to dig up the embarrassing situations the Groom found himself in during his life.  In Norway, the speeches tend to be extremely emotional.  The Groom directs his speech to his wife and vice versa.  They tend to be full of emotion from start to finish (many tears were shed) and extremely moving.  Even the Best Man speech.
  • Raising A Glass:  In the UK the toasting is done after dinner at the end of each speech.  A glass of champagne is served and the toasts are normally set e.g. the father of the bride toasts ‘the bride and groom’, the groom toasts ‘the bridesmaids’ and the best man toasts ‘Mr and Mrs [newly-weds’ surname]’.  In Norway, you raise a glass when you want to and shout “skål” and everyone else joins in.  There doesn’t have to be a reason.  You just need to make sure your glass is full so you’re not caught out!
  • The Party:  From experience, I know that Norwegians can party hard so when joining them for a wedding at a location set in a Tuscan vineyard, all I can say is that they’re difficult to keep up with.  Despite us being a relatively small party of 20, we danced until 3am to a custom-built playlist on an iPhone.  No band.  No DJ.  Just a fantastic mix of personal songs that meant something to either the Bride, Groom or the guests.  Everyone contributed before the wedding.
  • The Rings:   The Norwegians wear their wedding ring on their right hand and not on the left.  It’s the other way around in the UK!

Has anyone noticed any other differences?  Perhaps Norwegians who have attended a British wedding?

FishandChipsTomorrow we will be celebrating our first Norwegian National Day in the UK.  Five years ago to this day we didn’t know anything about this celebration.  Two days later we moved our entire life to Norway and realised we just missed out on the biggest day in the Norwegian calendar.

Five years on we’re living back in the UK but feel that we should be celebrating in some way.  Both of our daughters were born in Norway and we just feel it’s important they remember their roots so we’ve decided it’s a celebration that we will keep in our calendar much like we’ve stopped shopping on Sunday – we’ve managed to keep this up for the last 9 months!

I follow the Norwegian Embassy in London on Facebook and today I saw a post advertising “Fish n Chips for 99p on 17th May”.  I clicked on the link and discovered that to celebrate the Norwegian National day, The Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) and a number of Norwegian Frozen At Sea fishing vessels have come together to launch a UK-first partnership that will see 99 fish and chip shops offer their customers a portion of their favourite takeaway for just 99p.

According to the Norwegian Embassy website, “Together, the vessels have gifted an enormous 16 tonnes of sustainable caught Norwegian cod to 99 British fish fryers to commemorate the bicentenary of the Norwegian constitution, and to share the cod that is available in abundance in Norway’s Barents Sea. This gift will enable the 99 stores to serve up to nearly 40,000 portions nationwide.”.  I also think this is a reflection of the strong bond that exists between the UK and Norway.

I couldn’t quite believe this so I phoned up my local chippy and sure enough, the offer is actually happening.

How cool is that?

So, if you’re in the UK tomorrow and fancy tasting some delicious Norwegian produce, then get down to your local chippy and ask for the 99p cod deal.  Here’s a list of participating fish and chip restaurants.  It’s first come, first served and unlike Norway, folks will probably be in an orderly queue :-)

Gratulerer med dagen :-)


Posted by: Sarah | April 20, 2014

Norwegian Hen Party Vs British Hen Party

DanceClassIf there’s one thing the Norwegians know how to do, it’s how to party.  I was lucky enough to be invited to my friends Hen Party (or Bacherlorette Party as it’s known in Norway) last weekend and it was quite a wonderful experience which I wanted to record.  Maybe one Norwegian Hen Party is limited experience, but from what I heard, I think the format is pretty similar across the board…and quite different from the UK.

  1. It’s A Complete Surprise:  Well, here’s the first big difference.  In Norway the bride has no idea when her friends will turn up and take her out for the day.  breakfastIt’s a complete surprise.  The bride doesn’t know what she’s doing, has no say in the event and doesn’t know when it will happen.  In the UK the bride typically has a lot of involvement and certainly knows when the event will take place.

  2. One Day:
      It’s becoming more common in the UK to go away for a Hen Weekend or stick to a Hen Night.  It seems more common in Norway that it’s one full day – from morning to late night.
    patrickA Theme For The Day:
     What struck me most about the day was the theme.  A lot of thought had gone into making the day totally bespoke for the Bride.
    Our bride loves the film Dirty Dancing.  We started by surprising her with a life-size Patrick Swayze cardboard cut-out at her front door and we all wore t-shirts with the slogan “No-one puts (our brides name) in the corner”.  We then had breakfast, moved onto a dance class where we danced to music from the movie.  We then had a meal at the Brides favourite restaurant and then danced the night away at the home of the Chief Bridesmaids house to a playlist of songs tailored to the bride. tshirtsWe even drank vodka from watermelons (watermelons were a nod to the film) in the evening and then recorded a version of “I’ve had the time of my life” at their home recording studio – the theme ran throughout the day.  In the UK there is less of a theme.  We do activities (cocktail making, walking tours etc) and then it’s followed by a lot of drinking, pub crawls and ending up in a night club.
  4. Gift Game:  Every guest was asked to bring a little gift that the bride would have to open and
    guess who it was from and tell the story behind the gift.  A little ‘gift game’ that helps explain the friendship between the bride and her party friends.  watermelonI’ve also heard the people sometimes write poems for the bride.  I don’t ever remember doing something like this at a UK party.
  5. More Socialising & Less Travelling:  What I remember most was sitting and talking.  We arrived back to the house at about 7pm in the evening and we spent the entire evening in the kjellerstua (the cellar living room) talking, drinking, eating, laughing and dancing.  It was so unusual compared to UK Hen Parties when this is the time you’re normally out moving from one pub/club to the next.lyrics


Posted by: Sarah | February 11, 2014

Working In Norway Vs Working In The UK

lysakertorgLast week I returned to work after taking a generous 9 month maternity break, only this time I returned back to work back in Blighty and not Norway.  Everything else was the same.  Same job, same colleagues and even the same laptop with a Norwegian keyboard which the local IT team are enjoying (my UK laptop hasn’t arrived yet!).  It’s only my second week but I’m already noticing some differences, so here’s my guide to working in a Norwegian office vs British office.

  1. The Commute:   Okay, this is probably personal choice but in Norway, most folks won’t commute longer than 45 minutes.  My commute was no longer 10 minutes so was very lucky.  On a good day my journey to work now takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  On a bad day (which is all I’ve been experiencing so far) it takes between 2 and 2.5 hours.  Not good.  I vote Norway on this point.
  2. sapclockhouseOffice Layout:  When I first started working in Norway I was surprised to see how everyone had their own office but I quickly grew to like the idea.  I’m pretty loud and on the phone all day, so it suited me well (not to mention my colleagues).  I think this is changing in Norway with more offices moving towards an open plan approach – something which is very common in the UK but I forgot how noisy it is.  You can be surrounded by colleagues all on separate phone calls.  It’s great for open communication but makes it difficult to concentrate.
  3. Office Politeness:  Last week someone sneezed from behind my partition and someone from behind another partition quickly chirped up with a “Bless You” – a very British way of saying “I heard you and hope you’re okay”.  It’s not always the case but in a Norway office you could be slowly coughing your way into an asthma attack and no-one would raise their head.  Luckily I was surrounded by very caring colleagues in Norway who were quick to help :-)
  4. Office Etiquette:  Today I bought too much for lunch.  My arms were full with food, drink, purse and no hand spare to grab my badge and open the door.  A fellow office worker (no idea who she was) flew across the corridor and offered to open the door for me.  Folks hold doors open.  The hold lift doors for you.  You can chat openly with folks in the coffee queue.  I don’t remember it being so friendly!
  5. Food:  We’re lucky at SAP – lunch is provided for all employees.  The canteen in UK has to win here.  Every day we get a choice of meat, fish, salad, chefs special, fresh sandwiches, wraps, soup and delicious desserts.  Too delicious in fact.  I think my aggressive weight loss program is about to take a turn for the worse!
  6. Celebrations:  I don’t expect a lot of work to be done in Norway over these two weeks since the Sochi Winter Olympics are on.  We were in Norway during the last Olympics and all I remember was the conference rooms being booked out with the ski races being shown on the large screen with lots of folks sat in there with their laptops ‘working’ and ‘watching’.  The Norwegians are so proud that you couldn’t possibly stop them from enjoying this sporting contest.  In fact, if there’s a really big race during the Winter Olympics they’ll order some hot chocolate and waffles to really make the experience memorable.  I haven’t seen this kind of spirit in the UK just yet.
Posted by: Sarah | December 4, 2013

Norwegian Parental Benefits Vs British Parental Benefits

PaternityThis is a pretty timely post given that last week the UK Government announced plans to allow both parents to share childcare leave for up to one year.  Whilst the Institute of Directors seems to have responded negatively to this idea, I welcome the move.  Scandinavia is notorious for having some of the best maternity/paternity benefits in the world

I’ve always been ‘career focused’.  I love my job so returning to work after having Lizzie was made much easier by the fact that in Norway we could share the parental leave.  After 6 months Eliot and I split the role of “stay at home parent” until Lizzie was able to go to barnehage.  We both worked part-time for one month and then Eliot took his mandatory 12 weeks paid leave that all new fathers need to take before the child is three years old.

Most barnehage’s won’t take a child into day care until their first birthday so this worked perfectly for us giving Eliot a chance to closely bond with Lizzie.  Another advantage is that it makes both parents equally attractive in terms of employment (there’s no discrimination towards women of child-bearing age – both parents are entitled to take the parental leave).  It also meant Eliot could watch the 2012 Olympics on the TV and learn how to pack a nappy bag! :-)

So here are the key differences between Norway and UK (correct to my knowledge and at time of publishing):

Mothers Maternity Leave:

govukUK – In the UK the statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks made up of 26 ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional leave.  The first 6 weeks will be paid at 90% of weekly earnings.  The next 33 weeks will be paid at £136.78 a week. 

The mother must take the first two weeks (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory).  It’s possible to start maternity leave up to 11 weeks before the due date but then you reduce the time you have left after the baby is born.  Many will work up to a week or even right up to the due date.  There’s a handy little planner tool on the website here.

navNorway – In Norway the statutory parental leave is either 49 weeks at 100% salary or 59 weeks at 80% salary to be divided between both parents but with some constraints as to how much a mother must take and how much a father must take (see next section).  I believe you can take more time unpaid but I’m not sure how long this is.

By law the mother MUST take 9 weeks of that leave for herself.  She must finish work 3 weeks before the due date and then take the following 6 weeks to be home with the baby.  This period will be paid at 100% or 80% depending on the applicants choice.  The National Welfare Office pays a big chunk of this but most employers in Norway will top up to your full salary.

Fathers Paternity Leave:

govukUK – In the UK the father is eligible to 1 or 2 weeks paid paternity leave when the baby is born.  The UK Government site also informs that fathers are eligible for additional 26 weeks paternity leave if the mother returns back to work. 

Payment is based on the same scheme outlined above however this additional leave needs to be used before the child turns one year old.

navNorway – In Norway the father is entitled to take 2 weeks paid leave when the baby is born and MUST take (by law) an additional 14 weeks of paid leave (either 100% or 80% salary depending on the applicants choice) before the child turns 3 years old.  Therefore, the parents need to decide how to use the remaining weeks e.g. the mother takes it all, the father takes it all or they both work part-time and share it – employers generally respect the choice of the parents in this matter since Norway is such a family focused country.

As with all things, changes happen all the time and details are dependent on how long you’ve worked in the country and for a company so please check and for full details.

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