Norwegian national day celebration..in Scotland

The 17th of May is the Norwegian national day. It’s the date where we got our own constitution, in 1814, when we finally became free of Denmark, after being part of them for almost 400 years. Of course, we were then in a union with Sweden until 1905, but at least we were more free than we used to be.  We celebrate it every year, with children in primary and high school going in parades and singing national songs. Everyone dresses up, many in bunad, the national costume, and many watches the parade of the children. Afterwards there are usually games for children in most schools, and people generally eat good food, spend time with friends and family and celebrate. Of course, not everyone cares that much, or bother to join every year, particularly if you don’t have children or are in the stage between being a child and having children, but most people celebrates in some way.

Apparently there is a relatively big community of Norwegians in Scotland, or at least there were some sort of celebration in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. The largest one was in Edinburgh, where I went and met up with two other Norwegian friends, one who studies in Newcastle and one in Surrey. It was the first time I saw either of them in a while, so it was really nice to meet up again, and to actually speak Norwegian!

Typical of Scotland it was pretty awful weather however, with heavy and constant rain, as well as maybe 7-8 °C, which is not a very nice combination. We still went to the parade though, and so did quite a few other people, surprisingly many wearing their bunad. Made me wish I had mine here, so I could have worn it. It was a tiny band  in front, playing typical 17th of May marches and songs, and a lot of Norwegian flags. I wonder what the Scots and tourists thought, when they saw a bunch of people marching, everyone dressed up, with flags, singing songs and lots of umbrellas. Must have looked kinda strange.

Quite a few people..and umbrellas.

It wasn’t a very long parade, which I’m quite ok with, as it was so. much. rain. We followed it to the end, in the Princes Street Gardens by the Norwegian stone, where there were some speech and everyone singing the national song. That was pretty cool, standing in Scotland, in heavy rain, not being used to speaking Norwegian at all, and then hearing so many people singing this song together..I really enjoyed it and it made me feel all happy and, well, Norwegian again.

The Norwegian stone in the Princes Street Gardens, the women wearing bunad. And part of my umbrella. 

After that there were a short sermon and some more things happening afterwards, but as none of us are particularly Christian and we were pretty soaked by this point, we decided to retreat to a nice pub, where we spent the next 3-4 hours eating a good dinner and talking a lot. Great way to end the day!

How is your national day celebrated? Do you care much about it?

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Two weeks until departure – the end of an adventure

Today it’s exactly two weeks until I board the plane home to Norway (although I won’t actually be home until the day after, thanks to the cheapest ticket leaving me stranded at the airport in Oslo overnight because it arrives so late). The end of a bit more than 9 months living in Scotland. Sure, I was home over Christmas, for a whole month actually, but that was ok, because I knew I would come back to Scotland afterwards. When I go home in two weeks, I will probably not be back here for a long time. Which will be very strange, as I’ve been traveling regularly to Scotland the past year and a half before I moved here, thanks to my now-ex boyfriend. No more funny Scottish accents for me.

Ok, so I will be going home to do things like this, so it’s not like it will be that bad

There are negative sides to Scotland, as everywhere, and there has certainly been things I haven’t liked while being here. Such as some things I’m not entirely happy about at my university here. Or the ridiculous obsession with ID here. Or the huge focus on alcohol and getting wasted all the time. Or the way all most a lot more girls than I’m used to seems to think they have to wear a ton of make-up, 15-20 cm high heels and really, really, really short dresses every time they go out. It’s kinda sad to see them (unsuccessfully) try to walk , especially late at night when they’re often pretty drunk wasted as well.  Or, of course, the weather. Although that isn’t as bad where I live as it’s rumored to be. It completely lives up to its reputation other places though.

Despite all that I’ve come to like Scotland and living here quite a lot. Ok, it’s partly because so many things is cheap for me, or at least cheaper than I’m used to. The scenery is pretty awesome as well, and I quite like Stirling, as it’s about the right size, not super close to any big place, but not that far away either, and how it’s surrounded with nature. Sort of anyway, like when I walked to the top of Dumyat. The real reason is the people though, both my wonderful flat mates and fantastic friends and the people here in general. Scottish people can seem sorta scary at times, not to mention hard to understand if you aren’t used to the accent, but they’re generally really nice. Some of it is probably the British politeness (which I think is a bit over the top sometimes, like saying sorry when someone bumps into you), which I’ve grown to like a lot more than I did originally. Of course, people most places are as nice, it’s just sometimes less visible. Like in Norway, were we can often seem rather cold, impolite and unfriendly for people who are not used to us. Or so I hear anyway.

My wonderful flatmates… Ok, not really, but I’ll miss seeing these guys as well.

What I will miss the most is my friends, in particular my amazing flat mates, who I’ve grown rather close to in the past 9 months. How can you not, when you live together for that long in a foreign country? I know I’m leaving soon, and the first of my flat mates is leaving in just two days, but I haven’t really realized it yet. Not on the emotional level, it’s just empty when I think of it. It’s like I assume she will only be gone for a few days before coming back. Of course I will be seeing them again, the first one in July when I go to Hawaii for 3 weeks, where she lives, but it will never be the same of us living together and studying in a foreign country. I’ll also miss the other friends I’ve made here, particularly the ones living in neighbouring flats, as some of them has become as close friends as my flat mates. I hope it won’t be too long until I see them again.

This past year (a year sounds cooler than 9 months) has been one of the best of my life

I’ll miss Scotland

Isle of Iona

It’s just so cool!

Isle of Iona is officially my favourite place in Scotland. It’s a small island on the west coast, which you need to take two ferries to get to, first from Oban to an island called Mull, then drive across it to get to the ferry to Iona, but it’s worth it. It probably helps that it was really sunny the day I was there, but the island is so, so beautiful anyway, and so peaceful. It’s also where Christianity started to spread to Scotland, literally the place it started, which is really interesting. Essentially an Irish guy, who later became Saint Columba, went to Scotland and was given Iona, and started spreading the word of God in Scotland. Which does seem to have been relatively successful.

The Abbey of Iona is now restored and can be visited, as well as there are remains of a nunnery nearby the Abbey. There are some really nice carvings and decorations in the Abbey, and there are these huge stone crosses which are really cool. A lot of kings and other important people over the years are rumored to be buried there, but how much is actually true is hard to know.

From the highest point (which is not really that high) of Iona, Dun I,  you can see almost the whole island as it’s not very big, and  it’s very much worth the trip up. For example, sitting there and eating lunch with the amazing view is pretty great. There is also quite a lot of sheep on the island, and since I was there in spring, there were a lot of weeks-old lambs, and they were just adorable. I want one now.

Why, of course all the beaches in Scotland looks like this.

Being on the beach was by far the best part though.It was sunny, the sand was so white, the water was so clear and turquoise it didn’t look like Scotland at all. I went barefoot most of the time on the beach, and it was wonderful. The sand was warmed up from the sun, so it felt like summer to walk there, even though I had 3-4  layers of clothes on my upper body. Even the water wasn’t actually that cold. If I had a towel and some sort of swim wear, I would probably have gone for a (very, very) quick dip in the water. Too bad I didn’t. We spent most of the time at Dun I and afterwards at the beach, until we had to go to catch the ferry back. At that point we were all sun burnt to some degree…which is sort of cool when it’s in Scotland it happens. 

Where is your favourite place?

Sunburns in Scotland..in March!

This doesn't count as clouds, not in Scotland

Scotland is known for being cold, cloudy, windy and rainy,  which in many cases is true. Even in the summer the average temperature is 15-16 degrees (Celsius to be specific), which is pretty cold for summer. However, last week, in March, it was no rain, and barely any clouds for well over a week. Now, that does happen sometimes, but this time it was actually warm. Warm enough for people to get sunburns. In Scotland. In MARCH. Actual sunburns. It was 18-20 degrees here for most of that time, if not more, as it felt even warmer in the sun. It was similar weather and temperature in other parts of northern Europe during the same time, but still, this is Scotland, and it rarely gets that warm here even in July!

I also went to take pretty pictures outside, like this one of the reflection in the river

Of course, I was mostly stuck inside avoiding  working on assignments I had conveniently forgotten about until it was getting very close to the deadlines. Bad timing there.

Then the weather went back to being normal, volatile Scottish weather, with rain, clouds and cold temperatures. Yesterday it even snowed and hailed here, and the hills in the distance are capped by snow. I’d like to think this weather won’t last long either, but I don’t really believe it.

 

Anyone else enjoyed the unexpected, nice weather in the end of March?

Losing my native language

It’s a strange feeling when you start having problems speaking in your native language, or when you fail to use the right word order, or even the right words. It almost feels like you don’t have a native language anymore, as your second (or third, fourth, whichever) language is not perfect, even if it is as perfect as a non-native speaker can get,  and you also have problems speaking your first language. I have that problem.

Ok, there are good reasons for it I suppose. Such as having a British boyfriend for 2 years, and thus speaking a lot of English with him, especially since it mostly was a long-distance relationship. About half my classes in the last few years in Norway was taught in English, and I’ve lived in Scotland since September. But when I more often think and dream(!) in English than Norwegian? Or when I usually don’t notice which language I’m speaking, which leads to me switching to English mid-sentence  without realizing when I’m speaking Norwegian with someone?

Flames are pretty! And relevant pictures are overrated.

Of course part of it is good, because it means I speak English well enough to not need to think before I speak, but I’d still like to keep my native language intact, and not feel like a foreigner who can’t speak the language properly when I return home. I felt like that about a year ago, when I had just spent a month with my boyfriend in Britain, and it took me  an hour after landing to even understand Norwegian without having to ask people to repeat themselves. I actually spoke English to the bus driver on the way home from the airport, as I couldn’t remember how to buy a ticket in Norwegian. Luckily everyone speaks English in Norway.

I occasionally have skype calls with my family now when I’m Scotland, else I’d probably have even more problems with Norwegian, even if it only happens every two weeks or so. It helps a little, but it’s also the only Norwegian I hear or speak in the course of months of a lot of English, as I don’t have any Norwegian friends nearby. It will be interesting when I move home in May, if I can get home from the airport without having to speak English or not…

Have you experienced language confusion? If so, in your first, second, etc language? 

“Do you have ID?”

Maybe it’s just in Scotland, or maybe it’s the whole of Britain, but they ask for ID all the time. Not just for normal, or at least understandable things like buying alcohol or going into a club. No, here in Scotland they ask for proof of age for the weirdest things, in addition to asking for ID every single time you buy alcohol. Even when I had just turned 18, I was only asked for ID occasionally when I was home in Norway and now, a few years later, it hardly ever happens at home. In Scotland on the other hand, I have no carry my passport with me anytime I think I might, maybe, possibly need it.

Buying alcohol

Ok, this is normal enough, it’s just that they ask every single time, almost no matter how old you are. One of my friends from last semester is 26, and doesn’t look particularly young, but even her they asked all the time.  Sometimes you will even be asked both when you enter a pub, and when you actually buy alcohol there. Overkill I say.

Knives

For big scary knives I can understand why you would want to check if the person buying it is old enough, but when it’sVeeeery scary knife... the type of knife you use to spread butter on your bread? The thing isn’t even sharp, and I doubt you could cut yourself with it even if you tried. Most people have several of them at home anyway, it’s not like it’s hard to get hold of one. Still, if you want to buy a new one, you have to show proof that you’re old enough.

Scissors

These might be sharper than those knives, but still, most people have these in their house when they grow up, or even use them in school. It’s not like it’s hard to get hold of one if you really want to. Why it’s so much more of a bigger deal when you buy one in a store is beyond me. But still, to buy a scissor, you have to show ID.

Glue

Glue is such a horrible thing, of course you can’t buy one unless you are old enough, because it’s sooo dangerous.. It’s ridiculous, sure you can technically sniff glue and slowly kill your brain in the process, but yet again, it’s a common thing to have in many houses.  It’s not hard to get it anyway, and you don’t have to show ID to use it no, just to actually buy it. My friend needed some to fix her shoe, but she had to go home empty handed because she didn’t happen to bring her ID, even though she’s clearly older than 18. Great logic.

Dangerous and hard to obtain item.Teaspoons

Yes, teaspoons, you actually have to show ID to buy teaspoons. Why? Because you could theoretically use them to do drugs. Yeah right, because it’s so very,very difficult to get hold of a spoon if you really need it for that purpose. I’m suuure asking for ID when you buy teaspoons in a store stops so many people from doing drugs…

I also experienced not being allowed to sit in a pub drinking a can of coke in the middle of the day while waiting for a movie to start, because we couldn’t prove that we were over 18. Fun times.

All these things I or my friends here experienced during the past 8 months, some of them happened several times. What is a bit strange is that I’m pretty sure I was able to buy razor blades without showing ID. Razor blades are clearly a lot less dangerous to let young people use, compared to things like teaspoons.

Of course I know that most of these rules are there just to protect the places from being sued if these items are used in bad ways. What’s really sad is that there is actually a chance of a lawsuit like that winning if it wasn’t for these rules.  I sincerely hope it will never like this in Norway, because it’s way past the border of ridiculous and unnecessary.

Do you have any similar stories of being asked for ID at strange places or for strange things, or is it just me?

“No hot water?” “No problem, I’ll just heat water in a kettle every time I do dishes”

Since I study at the university here, I’m staying in university accommodation, a flat with shared bathroom/kitchen with 5 other girls. It’s my first time living with people I didn’t know before I moved here, and I rather like it, they are all very nice. However, the flat does have some “special qualities” which makes it interesting and sometimes rather inconvenient to live here.

First floor, drunk people noisy at night, every night. From perhaps 11pm until anywhere between 3 to 5 am. This makes it fun to try to sleep with the window open at night.

The fridge is tiny,  and I mean, really tiny. The sort of tiny which is small when it’s just for one person. I had one of the same size when I lived alone in a flat last year, and it seemed small at times. This is a fridge shared by 6 people, two of us who are vegetarians, which means they always have a lot of vegetables to store, in addition to whatever other foods we use. Needless to say, there is rarely any system in there, as we have to just stuff things wherever there might be space, and we go to the store often, very often. Luckily it’s also very close by.

 You hear everything, because the walls are that thin. I can hear when someone open a drawer in the room next to me, or if they turn on/off the light. Imagine how fun this is if you are trying to sleep, while one of the others are still awake and the involuntary sounds they make just by being awake keeps you from sleeping. Or if someone has a nightly visitor.

No hot water, this is the worst one. We’ve lived here since September, and we still don’t have hot water in the sink, both in the bathroom and the kitchen. Luckily there is hot water in the showers, or we would have had to visit our neighbours to take showers.  It’s still pretty inconvenient to have to heat up water in a kettle every time we do the dishes though… We have tried to get this fixed many, many times, but so far it doesn’t seem to be working so we have sort of given up.

The kitchen in general have several minor features, in addition to the tiny fridge and no hot water, which makes it interesting to live in. Such as the fridge also leaks somehow. Some of tiles on the wall by the sink are not on the wall anymore, but in a pile on the counter, and it’s been like that since before we moved here. One of the windows won’t close properly, which in combination with an almost broken heater which is almost falling off the wall makes the kitchen freezing most of the time. Except just after we cook food. We also got a tiny table (tiny fridge, tiny table, seeing a pattern here), which is half the size as most other tables in the neighbouring flats. And we don’t have chairs (again, unlike neighbouring flats), no, we have stools. Which is just great for clumsy people like me, who will occasionally fall backwards/sideways when trying to sit on one.

Oh, and we have this fun, little bolt in the floor, which seems to be what’s left of a doorstop, but now only gives us pain when we repeatedly hit our feet on it. You should think we would have a reflex of not walking on it by now. (We don’t)

 But hey, it’s all a part of the experience of living abroad, right?