don’t you dare dream, you’re not Norwegian…

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Norwegian culture, not really sure

Had an interesting experience today, not really sure how I feel about it yet, angry or just resigned…

A job opening came up working for an employer I would love to work for, doing something that I would love to do, something I could sink my teeth into and something that I know I could do well.

Now, I have recently been working via an agency on a 3 month contract, and have been offered full time work directly for the business which  accepted.  The job is fine, the people I work with are nice and the general environment is very pleasant, the only hitch is that it is a job, not a career.

It is overtly physical and I spend a great deal of time outside, regardless of the weather and winter is closing in.  Some of my colleagues have recently commented that it got down to minus 25 in the work area last year.  Quite frankly, this worries me as it is not as if we are issued ski clothing due to the tasks we carry out, so I cannot help but wonder how my body will tolerate this type of temperature in ‘work clothes’.

Anyway, I had my attention drawn to the open position by somebody who works for the company and knows me from when I worked on the ski-lifts in Geilo (we get ski clothes) and reccomended me to apply.

I had just signed my work contract the day before and I thought the timing was typical, but thought, ‘why not?’  So an application was duly sent.

I dared to dream, to reach for my aspirations, to take a shot.

The next thing I know, the job agency, who is also handling this job call me and want to know why I have sent an application for this position when I have been offered a full time job at the place I am at now (they were unaware I had accepted a full time position).  I found this to be a little disconcerting and asked why I shouldn’t apply.

I was then informed that it could make the agency look bad, which I get, but at the same time I think to myself, ‘this is my life, this is what I do with over a 3rd of my time and I know I can do better, can realise more of my potential and hell, this is my dream job’.

After a lot of to and fro-ing, where I went into length about what sort of position I seek for the long term and that I have been open and honest with my new employer about my desires to secure a career position with a more international organisation, thus I am not going behind anyone’s back or deceiving anyone I was urged to not apply for any jobs for at least 6 months so as to not embarrass the agency.

Now, the way I see it is that it is a good thing for me to aspire to be the best I can, to make the best contribution I can in society and that if I do something that I like, that I will be better at it.  I also thought that if I objectively considered my current position, taking into account the fact that it is a position that has limited growth or promotional potential, will not include a great deal of training and being overtly physical, exposed to the Norwegian elements and taking into account that I am not a teenager anymore, that perhaps looking into potential alternatives and pursuing my aspirations was a good thing.

But again, the cold reality of life as a foreigner, an ‘utlending’ slaps my face with the cold fish of the reality that I must now operate within.

The paradigm, the ever present dogma of life in this god-forsaken excuse for a country is that as a foreigner, I am expected to work, to have a ‘job’ and to be eternally grateful for the privilege of living here.  I am not worthy of having dreams, aspirations, goals or expectations above my station.

Now, I have heard many similar stories from other ‘utlending’ in Norway, our previous experience counts for nothing, as all Norwegian business’s are world leaders at everything, so we have no competence, that our education is irrelevant or not good enough (we all know how the Norwegian education system is the best in the world and is reflected in the world school rankings) and that in essence, we just aren’t competent or suitable for any of the good positions.

But the basic stuff, the low paid, laborious, mundane and degrading positions, those that Norwegians deem themselves too good for, those we can do.

So, I am trying now to reach a decision, should I continue to struggle on, to dream and reach for something better?

Or should I just give up and trudge through my existence here, living my life by the rules and desires of others?

Not sure which one involves the less pain and will be easier to reconcile with my soul, if there is any left in this land that seems to suck the life right out of us.


  1. kba says:

    I don`t have any advice sadly, except to say that having experienced many of the things you write about myself in my time, my gut would be telling me one thing (which would have something to do with a middle finger in the air in the general direction of the agency) while the resigned realist would be really weighing up my chances of whether I was going to get the career job and then acting either way on the strength of your convictions.

  2. I think it is the strength of my convictions, my beliefs and world view that are actually driving me mad. I just do not understand this attitude that smacks of the ‘master race’ which I seem to regularly encounter.
    Unfortunately, I am a bit of a workaholic and therefore what I do is important to me, it is directly related to my sense of self worth.
    After 13 years of ‘jobs’, perfunctory tasks that are rewarded with a below average paycheck, I want more.
    One of the most frustrating aspects of working in Norway, perhaps more so in the employment environments that I have been involved with, is that for some reason, whilst we are considered unsatisfactory for promotion or consideration for the more desirable positions, we are lumped with vast amounts of responsibility and accountability that seems not to apply to our Norwegian co-workers.
    Trying to develop the Norwegian attitude to work hasn’t worked for me, I just can’t reconcile the ‘don’t give a shit’ attitude, perhaps it has something to do with my upbringing, but I just can’t see the point of going to work if I don’t care about it.

  3. Chrissy Anne says:

    I don’t think you need to ask if you should dream for something better, I cannot see why you would refrain from trying to reach your goals in life. I am familiar with the ridiculous way Norwegian companies treat non-Norwegians and have been shot down time and time again, even when I’m fairly certain that I would have been nothing but beneficial to the job I wanted and it was a requirement to have superb english (Being British I’d like to think I filled this requirement, and the rest if I’m honest.) but alas not being Norwegian there was a general sense that I wasn’t ‘worthy’ of the job.

    Agency or not its you doing the work at the end of the day and very much your right to choose what you want to do.

  4. SMV says:

    I guess the agency – and your current employer – are pissed off with missing out on a hard-working employee. Egg on face for the agency who had arranged for it all, just to see you walk out the door. I agree they could be a little more understanding, putting you first before those who pay their bills – the company you´ll be leaving. Good workers are hard to come by. However I fail to see that this is because you are a 1.gen immigrant from anywhere. I think it would apply to anyone who stiffed them, no matter if they are from Kirkenes, Selbu, Oslo or Perth. Don´t bite the hand that feeds ya…

    “God-forsken excuse for a country”?? Steady on mate – coming on a way too strong I think.

  5. Yeah, agree with you there, but I was venting.

    Just seem to see that Scandinavians secure positions where they have no real relevant experience, but for us, the standards are different.
    I have been here for 13 years and to be honest, my patience, and sunny optimism have just plain worn out.

    I have lived and worked in a lot of countries, but never have I experienced what I have in Norway. I have had bosses espouse blatant racist comments, been told that all foreigners are incompetent and been cheated out of wages, holiday money and the like.

    I suppose it is my fault, I was busy out in the world doing things, getting experience, building skills and applying knowledge. Learning from mistakes and developing my abilities and learning. Seems that despite employers regularly complaining that they can’t find people who like to work, will engage with the tasks and take responsibility, they prefer those who are in it for the pay-check and have for the most part just read about what they are going to do.

    And yes, I have a University education, but I believe that experience is equally important.

  6. Tammy says:

    Hello we are trying to get in touch with you we listed your blog in our new magazine Our Amazing Norway a publication for expats living in Norway. Please contact me so I can send you a physical copy!


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