Posted by: Sarah | November 26, 2013

Norwegian Childcare Vs British Childcare

It’s hard to believe that we have been back in Blighty for nearly three months .  We’re slowly adapting back to the speed of life in the UK…it’s so much quicker than Norway in every way from how people drive to how people shop.  The days are passing by so quickly.  Well, the kiddies are pretty settled and that’s the theme of this post.

We realised fairly soon that Lizzie needed to go back into barnehage/nursery in the UK when I was following her trail of disasters around the house.  Water everywhere in the kitchen, toilet paper unrolled in the bathroom and the final straw…she decided to use the coffee table as canvas for some artwork using a ballpoint pen. 

So we found her a nursery near to where we live and she currently attends 4 days a week.  This is where we started to see some big differences between Norway and the UK.

  1. The Cost:  OMG – how do people afford to go back to work in the UK?  In Norway the monthly cost of childcare is capped at about £250 a month and the government tops up the rest – that way Mum’s are encouraged back into work.  In the UK the average price is about £800-£900 a month!  When you send two kids that doubles unlike Norway where you get a discount.  This has to be the biggest shock!
  2. photo (33)No Day Trips:  For the reason above, the nurseries have to offer flexible hours.  Not everyone can afford a full day so kids are coming and going every hour.  Our nursery has 80 children on the books but only 44 attend at any one time so there are many that come for just afternoons, just mornings or just a few hours in the middle of the day.  For this reason they cannot take kids out on day trips or walks which I find a huge shame.  Maria (our child care leader in Norway) always took the kids out for the day but that’s because all children are in child care for the full day and not part time.  Comes back to cost I guess.
  3. Indoors Vs Outdoors:  In Norway Lizzie would be out in all weather (unless it was colder than minus 6 degrees then indoors only!)  We looked at one particular nursery – Lizzie was playing outside to see how she liked it.  It started to rain and the carers quickly ushered all the kids inside.  Lizzie was the last to come in and was soaked.  I would expect Norwegians to quickly get them in, put the right clothes on them and send them back out again.  I miss the focus on outdoor activities.
  4. Structured Play:  There seems to be much more structured play and organised activities in the UK.  Once a week they learn French, they have a dance teacher come in and give them a workout and they regularly bake/cook.  I think they’re preparing them for pre-school (at the age of 3 years) unlike Norway where schooling really doesn’t begin until the age of 6.
  5. Mr-BumpHealth And Safety:  Wowweeee this took a bit of getting used to.  Every time Lizzie has a bump (which is often) she gets a Mr Bump form telling me she’s got a bruise.  I then have to sign a form to say I’ve seen the form.  If she has a bump at home I have to fill in a form to tell them and they have to countersign to say they’ve seen she had a bump at home.  Keeping up?  Basically it’s a ton of paperwork when you have 80 kids to look after.  The UK is fast becoming a “compensation nation” so I guess they’re just covering what their insurance policies require but in all honestly, I would rather they spend their time focusing on the kids than having to complete endless forms.  I sympathise for the nurseries on this point!
  6. No Photos:  I guess it’s the reality of today but in one nursery I had to hand over my phone when I went in…just in case I took photos of Lizzie and other children happened to be in the background.
  7. Clubs And Activites:  I am like a kid in a sweet shop here in the UK.  I have NEVER seen so many groups, clubs and classes for babies and toddlers in my life.  There’s Turtle Tots, Boogie Mites, Diddi Dancers, Baby Ballet, Tiny Tots, Caterpillar Club, Rhyme Time, Sign and Sing, Baby Massage, Swim Tots, Little Dippers, Bibble Babble Baby Yoga – You name it…there’s a class for it.  You can spend all day every day at some kind of toddler group.  I don’t remember so much going on in Norway.  There was the odd yoga class but nothing like what I’ve seen here in the UK.
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Posted by: Sarah | October 16, 2013

Selling A Car In Norway

Car

I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks.  Just before we left Norway i started to dabble on Finn.no – a website for selling everything and anything.  From big items like cars and houses to garden furniture and baby wraps.  You name it.  I sold it.  I was getting so much satisfaction that I start rooting through the garage to see what else I could get rid of.  Eliot did mention at one point that he was glad he had legs otherwise he probably would have been sold on Finn.

Anyway, selling a car is a little more complicated and I wanted to record the process here just in can any other expats wanted to do the same.  In the UK it’s easy.  You agree a price, you sign a bit of paperwork, send it off and hey presto…you’ve sold your car.  Not in Norway!

We sold our car to the lovely lady who looked after Lizzie.  I have to acknowledge her husband in this post because he was the one that told us how all this worked.  Here’s the process.

  1. Advertise your car is for sale – use Finn.no, put a sign in your car, ask your friends to share your Finn.no advert via Facebook – you’ll be surprised how far that method will get you in Norway!
  2. When you get a buyer, agree a price and complete a “Kjøps Kontrakt” or Sales Contract.  This is where you state the price, the parties involved and the agreed hand over date.  Your buyer will need to take this to the bank to arrange the money transfer.
  3. Complete the “Salgsmelding” or Sales Message.  This form has to be delivered to the “Statens Vegvesen” at least 3 days after the car is transferred to the new owner.  It’s easier if both you (the seller) and the buyer both go to the local Statens Vegvesen together and transfer the documents at the same time.
  4. When you make the trip to the Statens Vegvesen make sure you also take the “Vogn kortets del 2” which is part two of the cars registration form.  This is the document you get when you bought the car originally.

So in short, there are many forms and processes to follow but I think I’ve covered them all in order.  Hope this is useful if you’re selling a car in Norway!

 

Posted by: Sarah | September 22, 2013

We’re Back In Blighty: Norway Vs UK

I can’t quite believe that we’ve been back in the UK for nearly 3 weeks.  The longest we’ve been out of Norway since moving there four and half years ago.  So, what are our initial thoughts about what we miss from Norway and what are we enjoying about being back in UK?

Norway FlagWhat we miss about Norway..

  • Our friends.  Top of the list.
  • Fish.  TESCO just can’t compete on the quality of salmon nor the price.  Can you believe something is actually cheaper in Norway!
  • Being able to get everywhere easily.  In Oslo everything was accessible – if not by foot then by bus or by train.  We live in a village now so it’s hard to get anywhere without a car.
  • The internet.  I guess living in a capital city with possibly the best communication infrastructure in the world spoiled us a little.  We were regularly getting at least 20 Mb/s network speed in Norway – we’re now lucky to get 2 Mb/s
  • The landscape.  The landscape around Oslo is breathtaking – the forest, the fjord, the trees – amazing.  Now I step out of the front door to rolling countryside.  It’s still beautiful (and very British) but just different and not what I’m used to.
  • The coffee.  I never thought I would say this but living in Norway has made me quite fussy about coffee.  As the highest coffee drinking (per capita) nation in the world there’s a reason why the Norwegians are picky when it comes to coffee.  I’m struggling to find a place with the same quality.  Luckily I have my Nespresso machine.

British FlagWhat we love about being back in the UK…

  • Being close to family.  It’s so lovely to see Lizzie playing with her Granny, Grandad and cousin.  She absolutely loves it and giggles uncontrollably.  Priceless.
  • Friendly strangers!  Our rented house backs onto allotments where folks are growing fruit and veg.  I’ve taken the girls for a walk around there several times and we’ve met some lovely gardeners.  Hoping we might get some free veggies one day :-)  Since moving in, all of our neighbours have popped over to say hello – folks just seem very friendly.
  • Driving.  Fellow drivers tend to be more polite.  They use their indicators for a start so I know which direction they intend to travel in and they signal to say thank you when you stop to let them through.  I don’t like the speed though.  Everyone drives so much faster in the UK.
  • The supermarkets.  Oh my – a trip to ASDA is like a day out for me.  I wonder up and down the aisles in awe of the amount of stuff on the shelves.  The variety.  The choices.  It’s AMAZING!   I’m sure the novelty will wear off but I’m loving it at the moment.
  • Prices.  I bought a whole chicken, a pack of beef mince and 6 pork chops for £10!!!!!   I wouldn’t get a fresh chicken in Norway for that price.
  • Convenience.   It’s just so much easier.  I can pick up a prescription, get my eyes tested, buy a mobile phone, develop some photos, buy wine, flowers, homeware, clothes and food…all in the same supermarket!  This is such a novelty for me.  What’s more…I can get it all delivered to my front door for small fee.  Superb.

Lizzie starts nursery next week so we’ll see how that goes and how it compares to Norwegian barnehage.  I don’t think we can replace the wonderful Maria who looked after Lizzie at Amigos Barnehage.  She was pretty awesome and hard to replace.

Posted by: Sarah | September 2, 2013

My Norwegian Survival Kit

Well, I’m sat here on the eve of our departure from Norway after four and half wonderful years exploring this amazing country.  At some stage (when I have a little more time) I’m going to post a summary of our adventures but the best part of our adventure has to be the wonderful friends we’ve made along the way.

Over the last few days I’ve received such wonderful gifts  – I’m calling it my Norwegian Survival Kit.  Here’s the summary:

My choir friend, Liv, bought me a selection of what the English would find to be oddly named food items.  Would we really eat Bog and Sodd?  She also bought me a selection of sweets and chocolates with the extra Norwegian letters Å, Ø and Æ – just so I don’t forget these additional letters of the alphabet.  The Laban Deilige Damer sweets in the yellow packet are a recent addition to the jelly men that were on sale after folks in Norway suggested it were unfair just to have men shaped sweets – there should be lady shaped ones too and so they were created.

foodpack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My wonderful friends at work presented me with two his and hers mugs in the Norwegian Marius design that is a famous knit pattern that many associate with Nordic clothing.  I had some wonderful chocolate hearts from Freia (the only chocolate brand that comes close to Cadbury’s in my opinion) and some fantastic Marius muffin cases.  I’m a mad keen baker so this was right up my street.  Thank you Cathrine, Ann Kristin and Tanya.

norwegiandesign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, our dear friends Line and Anders, gave us a bottle of wine together with chocolate and a book about Norway that’s written in both English and Norwegian so we don’t ever stop trying to learn the language.   So when I’m missing the country I can snuggle up on the sofa, grab a glass of vino and look at all the pictures that remind me of what makes Norway so wonderful.  Tonight they presented us with a photo album of all the great times we’ve had together.  Such amazing memories.  Thank you so much guys xx

bookwine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a little surprised (but quite relieved) that no-one bought me a packet of brown cheese.  That stuff really has to stay in Norway and not be allowed out of its borders :-)

Posted by: Sarah | August 28, 2013

Life Lessons From Norway

In exactly one week we will have the packers and movers all over our apartment as we catch a one way flight back to the UK.  It’s an emotional time.   I can’t believe that four and half years ago I was just as nervous moving to Norway.  We’re ready to start our new adventure in the UK (we’re building our home) but at the same time we’re leaving behind a wonderful life.

So what are the life lessons we’re taking with us from this amazing country?

norskdinnerBe home for dinner with the kids:  This isn’t always easy especially since my commute to work will go from a 10 minute walk to a 2 hour drive when I’m back in the UK.  However, the Norwegians seem to have a good system.  Given the barnehage’s (child care centers) close between 4 – 5.30pm and schools finish in the afternoon, parents have to go collect their kids.  They have the family time and then continue working in the evening.  So whilst the office may be deserted at 4pm, they catch up on work in the evening.  Family comes first.

badclothingThere’s no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothing:  I love the focus on outdoor living in Norway.  No matter if it’s raining, snowing or the sun is shining, the kids will be out in the playground.  They just have the right clothes on.  I really want to keep this up in the UK and try to keep Lizzie and Emma focused on playing outdoors and less on the computer…if that’s possible!

Eat fish…eat lots of fish:  I shall miss the salmon…the freshly cooked shrimps…the delicious sushi…BUT you can still buy fish in the UK.  I’ve been a regular visitor to the salma website where I’ve gleaned a few recipes on how to cook salmon in a number of different ways.  Rest assured, I won’t be cooking lutefisk anytime soon.  That’s pretty special…and not in a good way!

familyday

Sunday is family day:  You have no choice in Norway.  The shops are all shut so apart from restaurants, gardening stores  and the odd convenience store you have to make your own entertainment…but I like it.  It makes you spend time together as a family.  Go walking.  Sit on a beach.  Go for a picnic.  We’re going to try hard to keep this tradition going in the UK.  Going to be hard given ALL the shops are open on a Sunday.

National pride:  The Norwegians are incredibly proud of their nation and their flag.

norwayflag

I love the sense of pride you see on May 17th when everyone celebrates.  The Norwegians also love Britain.  Most speak excellent English (better than me in some cases) and love to travel over to the UK for football or shopping whenever they can.  Over the last couple of years the UK has had a few occasions to be proud of – the royal wedding, the queens diamond jubilee and the fantastic Olympics.   It’s good to be British.

birthdayflag

Fly the flag:  When both Lizzie and Emma were born, the first meal I was given in hospital came with a little Norwegian flag to celebrate their birthday and this carries on throughout childhood.  Quite often you’ll see a flag flying outside of a barnehage…it means that one of the children has their birthday on that day.  We’ll try to keep this up for Lizzie and Emma when back in the UK.

 

halfmarathon

Keep fit:  The Norwegians are a pretty fit bunch of people and many of them tend to be stick thin.  I’ve never been so motivated to get fit in my entire life.  Hanging around with this crowd got me fit enough to run the Oslo half marathon in 2010.   So, the lesson is to stay fit, stay off the cakes and keep slim.   Hmmm, we’ll see how that goes!

Appreciate the nature:  I’m really going to miss the amazing scenery in and around Oslo.

scenery

On stunningly beautiful days I often feel like I’m on holiday.   The Oslo fjord is such a breathtaking scene.  But Eliot said last night “perhaps we didn’t appreciate the beautiful scenes around where we lived before” and he’s right.  We’ll have the South Downs, the New Forest and the Isle of Wight near to our new home so time to put ‘tourist goggles’ on and view our own country in all its beauty.

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