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When you moved to your new overseas home, what would you REALLY wanted to have been told about your new home country?

(57 Posts)
QuintessentialShadows Sat 06-Nov-10 17:01:49

As some of you know, I have moved back to my native Norway after 15 years of living in London.

Moving to London was exciting, as a 20 year old student, life was not so different to live as a student in Norway.

But, moving back to Norway, with a husband, and children, and having to deal with "adult" stuff such as housebuying, taxes, childcare, etc, was hard enough, even if I did actually speak the language. My husband didnt though, and did a 1 year full time course.

I am currently involved with my local chamber of commerce here, devising a fast track Norwegian language course, which should also contain important facts about Norwegian society.

It is very exciting, and I am really eager to get a good course off the ground, especially as my students will have to pass an accreditation exam.

My question to you guys, is the following:

What aspect of your new culture would you really have liked to learn about, if you were on a language course, with other adults from all over the world?

PortoTreasonAndPlot Sat 06-Nov-10 20:33:07

Um, moving to Belgium I read that Belgians tended to be very formal and family orientated. I did not realise that (unlike the UK) people in the workplace very rarely socialise with each other outside work.

So in my determined attempted not to be an "expat" I spent wasted months trying make friends with my colleagues and to build a social life that never materialised. I DO socialise with Belgians now, but they are neighbours, or parents of dd's friends. Not colleagues - though a couple were very touched to be invited to a BBQ we had. This was after knowing them 4 years mind.

So I would say the "rules" for when and how to mix with the locals are quite important grin

QuintessentialShadows Sat 06-Nov-10 21:13:26

That is an interesting point.

When and where to build friendships.


kreecherlivesupstairs Sun 07-Nov-10 06:54:30

In Switzerland, it would have been the rules. I made (apparently) so much noise that Kreecher wanted to call the police.
In Thailand, DO NOT put your foot on a coin to stop it rolling away. Kings head and all that.

Othersideofthechannel Sun 07-Nov-10 07:03:17

You've probably thought of this, but courtesy/manners.

I was taught in the UK if I walked into a room where other people were having a conversation, to stand and wait until they had finished and acknowledged me, or to say 'excuse me' if it was really urgent. Interrupting is rude.

In France, people always say bonjour and expect a response, even if they have walked into a room where other people are mid-conversation or even on the telephone! And hanging around 'listening' to other people's conversation seems nosy.

lostinafrica Sun 07-Nov-10 07:11:23

Things that will be taken as rude by locals.

Having lived in my current home for three years, but mainly among expats, I'm only now becoming aware of things that I still don't think I quite understand:

- when I go into my husband's office, I think I should be greeting everybody there - at least, that's what's normal among the staff

- when someone comes into a social gathering, they will greet everyone in the room - and I'll think, oops, I probably should've done that - or do they know everyone there?

- when I go into a shop, sometimes I'll say hello and be ignored, sometimes I won't say hello but the next person will. Is there an etiquette to follow? I don't know.

Things I have been told in advance and found useful:

- people will be really pleased if you speak only a couple of words of Arabic to them. It's so true: I've been told my Arabic's great when all I've said is hello!

- politics and religion are not taboo subjects: people love a good discussion!

Good luck with your course!

LIZS Sun 07-Nov-10 07:49:15

That we needed the equivalent of a tv licence blush, that it is deemed rude not to say who you are immediately on answering the phone, that you will be stopped by police for any minor infractions and fined on the spot (parking - nb. different coloured bays require diffferent permits - and not coming to a full stop at a stop sign <sigh>) but only get a fine for speeding cameras, that The Rules are strict and can be flexed by locals only (ie. washing machine usage times!), take carrier bags to the supermarket each time.

Unprune Sun 07-Nov-10 08:04:27

What's a normal level of involvement in a conversation. In some countries it's impolite to ask direct questions, or say 'no', or for a woman to start talking to a man. Which can scupper getting to know people a bit, if it's ok in Norway.

What the norms are for relationships and all that. How important is marriage, how common it is to have stepchildren and half-siblings or for a couple to have an open relationship. Do some people judge, and how are they thought of? Depending on which country the students come from, it can be really confusing. I say that as someone who was called a whore in class because I lived in a long-term relationship with my boyfriend. hmm

Oh and which words do foreigners commonly mispronounce in a funny way. Drill the correct pronunciation. eg Koreans would say 'piss' instead of fish, and then get really upset when laughed at (understandably enough). Japanese would say 'fuck' instead of fork. It saves a lot of distress on their part if you can nip it in the bud!

mummytime Sun 07-Nov-10 08:14:23

Oh my French dictionary used to have a code for how offensive a word was, so a mild word eg. fart would be "*" a mild expletive would be two, and the worse ones had three or four. So some kind of guidance on those lines, which words aren't too bad but are not for polite conversation.

How to do things is always useful, including where do you pay bills, and how to write a cheque. (I would also include what to expect at the doctors, as I found it very odd in the US to be expected to strip off for a doctors appointment, then lie under a sheet.)

Unprune Sun 07-Nov-10 08:44:57

Thought of another one.
How women and mothers behave/are treated. Some countries have different standards for mothers than for other women and much offence could be caused. (Have been on the receiving end of some very annoying comments. angry)

Also useful for them to know what sorts of civil crimes they could innocently commit.

Unprune Sun 07-Nov-10 08:49:10

And what is a normal, default facial expression and tone of voice. Is Norway a smiley sort of place or do people routinely look like they want to stab you in the eye? In some countries they think smiling is overrated but are perfectly lovely people.

QuintessentialShadows Sun 07-Nov-10 09:34:37

It is very helpful. Thank you.
I want to focus more on issues that makes the transition from their home country to here easier. Rather than to talk about democracy and the royal family.

My participants consists of one chinese person, two french, four lituanians, one indian and one of spanish speaking origin, so it should be very interesting. The course is conducted in English, making it very fast paced, as I will be explaning grammar and norwegian social issues in english. 50% of them are academics and researchers (within fishery technology), 30 % are working directly with fish, on boats and in packaging facilities, and the others I don't know.

However the royal family is a very good starting point, as the princess was a single mum when she met the crown prince. Huge big royal wedding, with the central figure a little boy that was future queens own child from a previous relationship.
And the fact that we have a lesbian bishop in a relationship with a woman, should perhaps tell them a little about our society. Second in line to be our next mayor is also a woman, in a lesbian relationship, with a teenage son from her marriage (now disolved).

We are all slappers. hmm

slim22 Sun 07-Nov-10 12:27:34

I can't stop laughing imagining you running a class along the lines of "mind your language" grin

brimfull Sun 07-Nov-10 12:41:03

We have hosted many french students and I am always amazed that they are not taught that it is polite in GB to say thank you .
So many of them came across as rude because of this. Especially forgetting to add thank you after no. Eg do you want a cup of tea? no thank you

flyingcloud Sun 07-Nov-10 13:10:54

Ha ha, ggirl - French people always laugh at me for say 'Non merci' and say it is so English. I would agree that day to day courtesy, manners is important and helps so much with assimilation. I think this is often the reason why foreigners complain of French people being rude because the French waiter, shop assistant, etc is shocked not to have been greeted politely before being asked for the menu, price of item etc. Foreigners often just ask the question without a "Bonjour Madame, Monsieur"

For me it would be the basic paperwork involved in living day to day life. What to take to the phone shop when buying a phone (and if you are on secondment how that works), so I needed proof of address in addition to a few utility bills, a RIB (bank details but on an official piece of paper), an extraite KBIS (another official piece of paper on my company's status) and a letter from a company director saying that I have permission to use the company credit card.

How to go about getting basic healthcare, who to visit in case of certain health complaints (dr, pharmacist, specialist, etc).

BaggedandTagged Sun 07-Nov-10 13:37:59

Tipping norms (always a frikkin minefield) and festival/holiday norms- what days are celebrated and how (I nearly committed a massive faux pas when I first moved to HK as didnt realise you have to go to the bank and get new notes for Chinese NY gratuities).

eg in Norway, do you always say "happy Christmas" to people, regardless of faith or is it more along the lines of the American "happy holidays"?

JeMeSouviens Sun 07-Nov-10 14:45:01

I'd thn things like:

How to open a bank acct- what docs you need
How to get your drivers license
Renewing your work permit
Any documents you need to carry on you at all times
Registering at a doctor/contact details of some of them
Contact details of the banks
Details of the different churches/faiths in the town
Ditto schools and enrollment process - if families will be coming over
Different utility companies/phone/cell providers
Shopping times (where welived innorway it was closed on Sunday which can be frustrating if you're not used to that)
Local attractions
Local clubs

Our company puts together a great package for expats and these are some of the things they provide info on

franke Sun 07-Nov-10 14:56:00

What JeMeSouviens says - all those bureaucratic things you have to do. BUT, and I know this sounds obvious, make sure it's completely accurate. e.g. when I first came to Germany many expat sites said that I had to go and register at the local police station whereas actually I didn't have to at all (although the rules may well be different from those outside the EU).

natation Sun 07-Nov-10 15:26:26

Depending on the sense of humour of your class, it might be quite amusing to start your lesson by watching a bit of "mind your language". If you are too young to remember or were not in the UK in that era, it's a 1970s series, quite racist but amusing.

MotherMountainGoat Sun 07-Nov-10 19:56:11

Erm, franke I don't know where you are in Germany, maybe in your federal state the obligation to register has been abolished, but it certainly still applies in Berlin, for example, for all Germans and foreigners:

A. Sie sind gesetzlich verpflichtet (§ 11 MeldeG) sich innerhalb von zwei Wochen nach dem Beziehen Ihrer Wohnung anzumelden. Beachten Sie unbedingt, dass Sie diese Frist nicht überschreiten, da Sie andernfalls ordnungswidrig handeln und mit einer Geldbuße rechnen müssen.

Are you sure you don't have to register? Are you perhaps confusing the polizeiliche Meldepflicht (which still exists) and the Aufenthaltserlaubnis (which is no longer necessary for EU citizens)?

franke Sun 07-Nov-10 20:46:08

Who knows? German dh dealt with it all and that's what he was told 7 years ago. We're not in Berlin.

MmeLindt Mon 08-Nov-10 00:47:51

Agree with the swear words thing. DH had to tell a German colleague recently that although the word Fuck is used often in Germany (abgefucked jeans = torn jeans etc) it is really not the done thing in an American to say, "WTF was he thinking?". I also had to warn same colleague for using that same word in front of my DC.

Swearwords in other languages sound less offensive, for some reason.

Where to get basics. In Germany there not just a chemist. There is a Drogerie where you can buy shampoo, soap, etc. And an Apotheke with a dispensing chemist for medicine.

When we first moved to Switzerland it took me ages to find where to buy certain things. Sometimes they are not available where you expect them to be - cream of tartar in the Pharmacie for instance.

Recycling . how it works and where to recycle.

kreecherlivesupstairs Mon 08-Nov-10 07:21:08

I agree with the sweary thing. DD was horrified to hear a girl of her age keep saying shit. Apparently it is included in Roald Dahl books in translation.

tribpot Mon 08-Nov-10 07:57:02

I would definitely agree re: swearing. I remember a KLM lady being mortified when she said shit in front of me and had to explain it was a much more common word in the Netherlands.

I assume Norway, like Sweden, has quite strict rules about the eye contact during Skol, deffo worth covering.

Where to get stuff is an endlessly tricky subject. I remember asking a friend in the Netherlands where on earth to get a cooker hood filter paper replacement. Nightmare. Turned out to be Hema, which I had thought of as a department store.

If I was moving back to Sweden now I would want to know how to register with GP, how the health service worked in general, would ds have something like a health visitor (he's 5 so in the school system here but wouldn't be in Sweden). My dh is chronically ill so I would be anxious to know how to get involved with medical services. In reality this is our main barrier to ever going to back to Sweden (or anywhere else) - I'm just assuming the cost of the insurance would be prohibitive.

One colleague on arrival in Sweden did ask me where the nearest mosque was. I was like, dunno - Stockholm probably?! (500 km away). Turned out there actually was an apartment in the next town that had been 'consecrated' (term?) as a mosque.

Opening times for things, local 'curiosities' like can you only buy alcohol in the state-run offies (a la Sweden).

I used to get 'told off' in Spain for saying "thank you" too often. Also once got slapped on a bus for trying to speak in Catalan, not quite sure what that was all about. But that kind of local sensitivity is worth understanding - unlike my Swedish friend, who announced in Cardiff "well this is my favourite English town" and then refused to understand why both English and town were wrong

In Mexico it is highly rude not to say hello and goodbye (con permiso) to everyone in a room as you pass by. Expect to get charged more for stuff because you're white. (Not applicable in Norway where everything costs a bloody fortune anyway). In Mexico in those days it was unusual for a woman to go outdoors on her own, and you needed to be very careful around stuff like accepting a drink from a guy in a bar (indeed there were bars that were not licensed to serve women).

Merlion Mon 08-Nov-10 08:25:20

Definitely all the basics covered already like bank accounts, doctors etc but also

- how to get a 'local' mobile phone contract
- how to join the library and where they are located
- taxi numbers
- sports centres/recreational activities
- emergency services phone numbers

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