Oslo, Norway

Linn MartinussenLife after London…

Since I last wrote for styleAble, a lot has changed for me. The biggest thing is that I’ve relocated. It came as much, if not more, of a shock to me as it did to anyone else.

I was having a hard time getting work after my department at the BBC relocated to Manchester, but I was never going to leave London to move back to my home country Norway. After all, I had worked hard to get where I was. I had a network, a flat and I sang in a gospel choir.

I actually made the decision in John Lewis, Bond Street as I was standing on an escalator going down. Thinking back, I had probably (subconsciously) built up to that moment for a while. But at the time, it felt like a split second decision.

I was with my father who was visiting. We were in John Lewis to look for an exercise bike. The pounds have been piling on and because I am quite small, I can’t weigh very much before I start to look frumpy. And not only did the pounds show around my waist, it showed in my face too – a family curse, according to my grandma.

I had no way of walking around where I lived in London. There were no parks near me and nobody to teach me the route. I didn’t feel motivated about going to the gym because I’d recently been harassed by an older man at my local gym and swimming pool, so I felt uncomfortable going back. The bike seemed like the best option. But all the bikes were too big to fit in my flat.

London Town

Today, my dad jokes and says that it was lucky we found a small enough bike. Otherwise I’d never have moved. I think my move back was inevitable. And I knew that I had too many problems to solve, both physically, but also mentally – I was struggling with loneliness in the daytime, I had to get away. There were other issues too, such as serious illness in my immediate family.

Two months later, just before Christmas 2011, I was on a plane to Oslo. My flat packed up and in the process of getting sold. I was happy and excited. I was going to settle back in Norway and my plan was to apply to do a master’s degree at the University of Oslo.

Going back to Norway was strange in many ways. First of all, I lived with dad. The house was big and I had a lot of privacy (and my old exercise bike), but I now had to be accountable for someone else. I wasn’t used to letting someone else know where I was going and when I’d be back,  as you do when you share a house – particularly when your housemate is your parent. Not that it mattered so much. I didn’t have lots of friends in Oslo and so apart from hanging out with my younger sister, my cousin and occasionally the two or three friends I had left; I spent a lot of time at home.

I wasn’t actually bored. I think I needed a proper break from everything. I got back into shape, lost all the weight and I applied to do a master’s in Nordic Media, an English language degree which is the same as media studies.

I learned my way around Oslo. Oslo is nowhere near as big as London, but for some reason it’s much harder to navigate, because the streets are not logically laid out. The transport system in Oslo is also a little more complicated. There is no such thing as special assistance except for on trains, or if you happen to meet staff as you get off the subway. The subway doors don’t open by themselves and quite often I misjudge what side of the train to get out of – pressing the wrong button until the train leaves the station. This said, public transport in Oslo have clear announcements and you get used to taking the buses, trams and subways after a while. It’s much less stressful for me now.

Oslo, Norway

One thing I have noticed is that Norwegians are much harder to approach than English people. Getting help can therefore be difficult when you need it. But on the other hand, you are much less likely to be approached if you don’t need help.

Oslo is also very multi-cultural like London and you can find most things here. However, I’ve not yet found a Caribbean restaurant. They sell cocoa butter in African stores and I can get fresh fruit and vegetables from Asian stores, so the variety is almost as big as in London. What is different is the air! It feels cleaner, and the drinking water is some of the best in the world. No, I’m not biased, it really is good.

As for the master’s program – I got in. I am in a class of 11 people from all over the world. We’re a tight gang. I am also a news presenter and reporter at Radio Nova, the student radio station for all universities and colleges in Oslo. I even have my own flat again, which feels good. It’s near the forest and a lake, so I can do all the walking I want…and the bike moved with me.

All in all, life is both similar and different from London and I am a much happier person.

I suspect that deep down, I’ll always be a Londoner, however much I’m trying to deny it. In the beginning, both my fellow students and professors thought I was British and if I ever ask for a cup of tea amongst friends, they often reply by saying “Oh Linn, you’re so English.”

And there is StyleAble of course. I may be on the other side of the North Sea, but luckily in these modern times, that doesn’t really matter. It feels great being back with the team!

*Linn Martinussen is a former BBC Journalist and regular contributor to StyleAble

London illustration