PocketCultures reader, Anne-Sophie Redisch (Sophie), is a bilingual freelance writer and translator based in Norway.
I asked Sophie a few questions about her blog, Sophie’s World, life in Norway and travelling with kids.
How did you end up in Norway?
Norway is home. I lived in the USA during my university years. Later, I took advantage of our beneficial parental leave arrangements and spent half a year living in New Zealand with my daughters. I enjoyed it heaps – we lived in a sweet, little village called Devonport near Auckland on the North Island. But I always seem to return to Norway. It’s a good place to raise children.
In your opinion what are the top three places to visit in Norway?
Norway’s main draw is nature, so my primary recommendation is to get outdoors. Whether you visit during summer or winter, there are plenty of ways to experience nature – both with vigorous activities like skiing and hiking, or more relaxed, like a lazy stroll through Oslo’s Frogner Park with the fabulous nudes of sculptor Gustav Vigeland.
In Oslo, I recommend taking a hop-on hop-off harbour cruise in an old wooden sail ship, stopping at City Hall, Oslo Opera House and Bygdøy. Join the locals for a stroll on the roof of the Opera House. After all, this is a building for the people. And it’s a very cool building: the white marble roof slopes into the waters of the fjord like an ice floe. If you have kids along, don’t let them run too quickly down the slope.
Bygdøy is the best place to learn about Norwegian maritime history: from the Vikings through the great Polar explorers of the early 20th century, to more contemporary exploration of the seas. In addition to the Maritime Museum, there are Viking ships, the Polar ship Fram and Kon-Tiki, the rickety raft used by Thor Heyerdahl to cross from Peru to Polynesia in 1947. Bygdøy is also home to the world’s oldest outdoor museum, and offers pleasant nature walks and great beaches (clothing optional).
If you want to explore more of the country, I recommend hopping on the train to Bergen, one of the worlds top railway journeys. A tour called “Norway in a nutshell” can take you from Oslo to Bergen on trains and boats, across mountains and fjords. It’s a nice little taste of Norwegian nature. The tour can be done in one hectic, long day or in a more leisurely 2 or 3 days, perhaps spending a night along the Nærøy fjord. Both Bryggen wharf in Bergen and the fjord are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Could you describe a typical day for you?
I live in Drammen and work in Oslo, so after saying goodbye to my 9-year-old daughter, my day begins on the train. The commute is only about 30 minutes, and trains are frequent, so it’s a fairly easy start of the day. I’m a negotiator and it involves quite a few meetings. The typical Norwegian work day is from 8 am – 3:30 pm in winter. During summer, it’s even shorter, so we have lots of time for other activities during the long, white nights.
What language/s do you use to communicate?
I speak mainly Norwegian in everyday dealings. I used to work for the government, negotiating with the EU and bilaterally with various countries. Languages I used then included German, French, English and Italian. However, it’s been about 3 years, so sadly, my languages are becoming a bit rusty. I blog and write travel articles mostly in English.
Tell us about the culture and religions practised there
Many Norwegians are members of the Church of Norway, which is a Lutheran variety of Christianity. That’s more a result of tradition, though. I’d say most people don’t take religion very seriously. In general, Norwegians are a secular people.
From the time of the Vikings, Norway has been a very egalitarian society. If ever you think you’re smarter (or better in any way) than others, people will soon jack you down a few notches – whether it’s friends or the media. I think the Australians have a similar peculiarity – called the tall poppy syndrome, no?
Also, it’s a fairly equal society. The parental leave arrangements I was talking about above definitely include fathers as well. Unless a family wants to lose a substantial amount of the financial benefits that comes with having a child, the father is required to take his share of the parental leave. Can’t use the “my job is so important I can’t take time off”-argument, in other words.
How can people enhance their children’s experience of other cultures when they travel?
I think it’s important to introduce children to other cultures. That way, they learn early on that how we do things at home isn’t necessarily the only way.
In my experience, teaching the kids (and yourself) at least a few words and sentences in the relevant languages make a huge difference. Ultimately, travel is about the people you meet. My oldest daughter made heaps of little friends in Bali, when as a 4-year-old she learnt 8 – 10 words and phrases of Indonesian. My youngest won many a Bulgarian heart (and sweets) for saying blagodaria rather than thank you.
Explore Sophie’s World, to read more about her solo adventures and travel with kids.
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