LC - Lisa Corduff Rebrand 2023-06

CwL on the road Ep 11 – Scandi Socialism: Life in Norway with Maria Doyle

LC - Lisa Corduff Rebrand 2023-19

Norway is known for its breathtaking fjords, Northern Lights, and… a tendency towards socialism. But is life greener, where it’s (pretty much literally) greener? 

Lisa dials in long time friend, Maria Doyle, who lives her life (and work) divided between her home on the West Coast of Australia, and with her long term partner in Oslo. And gets the low down on life differs in Norway.

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Prefer to read? Access the transcript here.

Lisa: I popped in the Facebook messenger chat between you and Carly, who’s producing this podcast at the moment, and realized that it was back in 2016 when we actually saw each other in person. What the heck? Maria Doyle, have you been on my podcast before? I don’t even know. I’m saying, welcome back.

Maria: I don’t know.

Lisa: It’s been a long time since we’ve known each other, but it has. I am talking to you, and this is a little bit backwards because I’m in Oslo, where you live now, and you’re back in Perth, correct?

Maria: I live half my life in Norway and half my life in Perth. So, yes, I would normally be in Oslo for the summer, but no, I’m not.

Lisa:So how did this mean? Can you tell the little story of how you ended up in Oslo? It was not the plan.

Maria: It was not the plan? No. My life advice for anyone who wants to listen is do not fall in love with Viking on the other side of the world. Kind of makes life feel a bit complicated. No, I was working, running my business and living and working from Bali and Perth. So I was up and down, back and forth. I had homes in both places, suited me down to the ground until I got a bit restless and decided it was time to do another round the world, which I hadn’t done for, like, ten years. And I’m a big traveler, big adventurer, I think country 46 or something at the moment. So, yeah, I decided to go and do a big round the world trip. And I just heard myself saying, I kept telling the same story because I was staying with friends. Everywhere I went, I was staying with friends. I think I stayed in a hotel for, like, three or four nights out of, I think, four months I was on the road and I just kept hearing myself saying the same thing. And that was I just can’t trust Bali enough to invest in a business there. And I looked into lots of things. I looked into, like, opening a retreat center and I speak the language, I’ve studied Indonesian, I’ve been in and out of Indonesia for many years and I just kept telling the same story. 

And by the end of the trip, I was like, all I can hear myself saying is, I can’t trust what I’ve got in. Just I can’t trust it there. I don’t feel comfortable liquidating a significant portion of finances to sink into this. Just it’s not for me. I’m done. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve loved it. And then Bali has a way of sucking you in and spitting you out when she’s done with you. And I kind of made these decisions and then came back, and then all these things happened, like, in a row. And I was like, okay, I get it. I hear you. I’m going. I’m done, I’m out. Thank you very much. Everything’s Wonderful came to a lot of realizations around how I’d lived in Asia a lot of my life and stood out as the big white woman. I was like, Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I continually putting myself in situations where I’m the minority, where I don’t fit in, where I’m trying to live and work in a culture that very, very heavily and highly regards marriage and children? And I am neither of those things. It’s very hard to crack into a community when you’re not kind of fulfilling the status quo in that respect. And I kind of really had to think, like, I sweat like a pig. Why have I chosen to live half my life in Asia?

Lisa: Am I really having a good time here? Is this really my yeah.

Maria: Like, what am I mean, I love Bali on so many levels, and I love Indonesia on so many levels. They’re just the kindest, most beautiful people you’ll ever meet. They’ll give you the shirt off their back. But, yeah, four years, and I’d seen and done enough. I was a single white woman with no husband and no children and trying to do business there I found incredibly challenging on a lot of different levels. So it was time. It was time, and I was ready to move on. And then I went to a party and I met a Viking, and we were friends for months. And now here we are.

Lisa: How long has been together?

Maria: Five years.

Lisa: Five years. Okay.

Maria: We survived a pandemic, so I think.

Lisa: If you survive that okay, so can we talk about COVID You were in Norway throughout that time now? I’ve just spent some time in Sweden where I’ve heard about how they handled it. Know, were criticized for their way of doing things. They were even know Norway was critical of the way that they were doing it. What was different and what was it like for you, especially as being an expat? So you couldn’t even get back to Australia? It was rough. Like, I remember your updates when you were trying to get back and things were canceled, and it was horrible.

Maria: Yeah. I think I had nine or ten canceled flights. Anything between three days and 3 hours before I was meant to fly. I could have gotten back to Australia if I was willing to fork out, like, 15 grand on a one way business class ticket and then another three grand in an airport in a quarantine hotel. But I mean, I was living with my partner. Living in Norway is not hard. I enjoy living in Norway and obviously love being with my partner. So it was kind of like, well, if you leave, you might not ever come back, kind of thing, because you just don’t in the middle of the pandemic, you remember what it like. It felt like it was never going to end. So I was not having a bad life in Oslo. I was enjoying my life there. 

I was studying a full time Master’s, which was the only reason I was allowed in in the first place. Because by some, I don’t know, I think angels must have been looking after us or something. I’d applied for a student visa because we’re like, well, how are we going to do this with three months in, three months out? Schengen visas, tourist visas? How are we going to do this? So I very flippantly applied for a master’s degree program, thinking, I don’t want to do another Master’s. Like, I really don’t want to study, but if it gives me a couple of years where I don’t have to worry about visas, then I could pretty much not even do the study if I didn’t want to. Really. I could just use the study stuff. Oops. Don’t tell the Norwegian government that I did do the degree. I’ve got the degree, I did the whole thing. 

But, yeah, it was just very good timing because six months after the world shut down, my visa got approved and so I was able to go. So the Australian government let me leave because I was theoretically resident in another country. Okay, so, yeah, it was a bit of a difficult to get there in the first place. Once I was there, it was like, hey, full time work, full time study, full time everything. And my business is completely online, so nothing really changed with my yeah, I was people like, oh, you got stuck in Norway? I was like, no, that was a choice. I was choosing to stay in Norway. My situation living there was busy, and so time actually went very quickly because I was doing 18 hours days, pumping out assignments and then pumping out client work. And it was mad, but it worked. And I achieved a lot in that two years, happy days. But, yeah, the COVID thing was, Norway is a very compliant kind of society, so it’s very socialist. And I didn’t really understand a lot about that. And then I went and did a degree in international relations. So started learning about a lot of these different political and societal structures. And Norway is a very socialist, so everyone gets an equal chance at everything, which is amazing. And we’ve got a lot to learn from them. The government says wear a mask overnight. Every single person you can see is wearing a mask. When they said, you don’t need to wear masks anymore, everyone was kind of a bit reluctant to take them off. I was like, you don’t have to.

Lisa: Wear a mask ripping that thing.

Maria: Yeah, right. But, yeah, you’re going around the supermarket and I remember being in the supermarket and just out of habit, I’d put it on and then I saw someone not wearing one. And I was like, oh, that’s right, we don’t have to wear them anymore. What am I doing? Because it was just such a force of habit after a while. 

You had them in every jacket pocket, you had them in every bag. You had them all in the car, you had them everywhere. And so, yeah, I remember being in a supermarket and it felt like domino’s. Like I saw someone and went, oh, forget that. Ripped mine off. And then some other woman looked at me and then went hers off. And it was almost like we’re giving each other permission to rip our masks off. Which was quite OD. 

Anyway. Yeah. So they’re a very compliant society because they know that they’re looked after. But if the government says do something, they do it because they are really well looked after. I mean, they are taxed to the hilt. It kind of makes you kind of choke a little bit. And their cost of living is not low. Let their rent and their mortgages and whoa, like, it’s supermarket not so bad. Try and eat out. Which is why I kind of suggested you might kind of want to focus on self catering for this trip.

Lisa: I’ve got myself a kitchen. Yeah, it’s expensive.

Maria: Go find a supermarket.

Lisa: Yeah, we found one first thing we did. I mean, it’s actually quite fun visiting supermarkets in new countries because you’re like. What is what’s this?

And the kids like, we get to choose one thing each. Not today, not in Norway. It’s expensive. Anyway, we same. So yesterday when we arrived, as you know, there was just this horrendous rain event and I was getting warnings on my phone. So warnings were coming up saying, stay home flooding, blah, blah, blah, blah. But not just that. It started to freaking beep. Like it was a siren, like a little alarm on my phone. And it’s like, first time it happened to me.

I know he had a heart attack. What is it? Oh, my God, that’s my phone.

And I contacted Anna, my friend in Sweden, and she’s like, well, yeah, she said, and this is what I’m talking to you about, Lisa. The government is really in your life. Like, there is that people feel people would be cross if they weren’t getting notified about everything that’s happening all the time. They respect what they’re told. They are grateful for all of the communication that comes at them because that’s what she was saying with Sweden. They’re very community minded. If there’s a threat, we’ll do what we need to do. They tuned in every day at 02:00 for an update on where things were at with COVID and they just followed the rules. And I’m like thinking about us in.

Maria:: Australia and there is all the protests.

Lisa: And all the but we were given these really harsh rules to just if they were given that too, would they bump up against it or did they just not have to? Because people were just kind of sensible about the whole thing.

Maria: Well, to be fair, Sweden was very radical in what they were told to do. Like, basically, they were told, be adults. Right? Like, think about it. If you’re sick, if you’re elderly, if you are immune, compromised, stay home. Do not go to the supermarket. Do not go to the supermarket more often than you need to. Like, let’s be adults about this, let’s make our own decisions. 

And I guess that’s when you’re in a socialist kind of culture, it’s like one for all off one. What you’re doing is directly impacting someone else so you don’t do the stupid thing. And Sweden and Norway are a bit different. Like, the way Norway dealt with it was different. They were nowhere near as liberal as Sweden and they did have a lot more rules, but people in Norway just sucked it up. They’re like, Right, you’re not allowed to have any more than one visit. You’re not allowed to do this. But if you had COVID, you could also go to the supermarket, because they were like, well, you need to eat. Just like correct. That is true, yeah. So you’re allowed to go to the if you had COVID, you’re allowed to go to the supermarket or the pharmacy, because that was considered essential services. And I will never forget the day that they decided to overnight, they decided to shut all nonessential services. So the only essential services were hospitals, supermarkets, pharmacies. That was about it. So that included the alcohol stores.

Lisa: No bottle shops being closed.

Maria:: They did it overnight. And there was such uproar. You are locking us in the country, you are locking us inside. You are locked. Come on. There was such enormous revolt and there were, like four kilometer lines of people standing in line to get something from the Vin monopoly before it closed. Because, of course, there’s only one alcohol store in Norway. It’s a chain, it’s mandated by the government. Everything’s very regulated. There are no specials, there are no cheap bulk discounts, none of that nonsense. So they found out very fast that people were not impressed with that decision. And it got reversed very quickly because there was such uproar. Like, come on, this is an essential service. Which is quite funny, actually.

Lisa: Well, no, it’s I mean, I remember in Australia, everyone just going, how come bottle shops are still open? And I was like, Because there’s a huge issue with taking away, obviously, understanding addiction and all of that sort of thing. Taking away an addictive substance as well can have really not good effects. Anyway, that’s funny. So they’re like, yes, we’ll do whatever you tell us, but you do not take away my yes, we all have our lines that we don’t want to cross. Okay, so tell me over here, is there stuff because this is what I’m always curious about. I think us Aussies, we do have this kind of rose colored glasses when we look at Scandinavia, and we kind of think that they’re just doing things very well. We’re kind of behind with quite a few things, even just I mean, hello, you’re a it. I’m just finding it more and more embarrassing that Melbourne does not have a train to the city from the airport. Why do we not have an airport train? It’s frustrating me for Perth’s.

Got that. Now, look, it’s embarrassing. I’m just go Perth, so but what do you reckon they do do well over here? Like, you’ve been here for a few years now. What do you reckon is working well here?

Maria:: So, much like, Norway used to be one of the poorest countries in the world, believe it or not, it’s now by far the richest country in the world. And the reason was because they essentially found natural resources in the I want to say 60s or 70s, they were found, and there was, like, a unanimous decision that those resources were the property of every Norwegian citizen. So the government at the time I mean, this is kind of like a massive generalization and probably not entirely true, but all the money that came from natural resources went into a government fund, trust fund, whatever it’s called. And so those resources belong to the Norwegian people. And so now there is, like, a trust fund. So essentially, if Norway sank and they had to dissolve Norway and Norwegians had to go and find somewhere else to live, there’d be like I think it’s like two or $3 million per person.

Lisa]: Wow.

Maria:: That they’d just like, go, thanks for being Norwegian. Here’s your paycheck, see you later, kind of thing, right? That wealth belongs to the country, so it belongs to every single citizen. So you’re so well looked after. But the people know they’re well looked after, and they know they’re being governed by a group of people who are managing the natural resources to continually give back. And things like, for example, okay, we’ve got a lot of hydro power. So what are we going to do? What are we going to do? We’re going to set up electricity to be I mean, this last winter, it was so heinously expensive because there was a bit of a cluster mess with the way they calculated how much they sold. Anyway, that’s another whole story. 

But basically, the money that comes in from those natural resources goes back into the Norwegian society, and therefore, people living in that society know that all that sovereign wealth. Like, think about Australia, right? Like, where does all the money from the mines going to an individual, right? Like, what the and the culture is kind of like that kind of compliance thing with Australia, like fighting the know, like, no, we won’t wear masks. We won’t do this, we won’t do that. 

We had a lot of conversations during the pandemic around this, and it’s like, do the Norwegian people just go, yes, Government, tell us what to do and we’ll do it? Because they know they’re being looked after and they know that what’s happening is fair. Okay, we’ve got an abundance of electrical power that comes from our natural resources. What do we do? We’re going to put it in place so that electric vehicles are a no brainer. We’re going to make it so that you get a lane on the freeway, that you don’t have to pay tolls on the toll roads, that you get a tax cut, the number of incentives. Our neighbors in two years paid off a brand new electrical vehicle with the money that they were spending on petrol and tolls for a prado to drive 45 minutes to work and back each day.

Lisa:: What?

Maria: Right? Yeah.

Lisa: Thank God.

Maria: There’s another one I don’t even love.

Lisa: What the hell? What is happening?

Maria]: There you go. This is what we were talking about.

Lisa: Why am I getting a warning?

Maria: Flooding or something?

Lisa: I don’t know.

Maria: Is it in Norwegian or is it disappeared?

Lisa: It was all in Norwegian. I don’t know where to even find it now. I just turned it off because is.

Maria]: It in your text messages?

Lisa: No, it’s not in my text messages.

Maria: It’ll come again.

Lisa: It’ll come again.. Hang on. Did you know what that message was about? Extremely heavy rain, dear.

Maria: As in flooding? As in you cannot go anywhere. Welcome to Oslo. You can’t leave. Hang on.

Lisa]: We might need to we might need to get out and get some food, but yeah, no, we’ll be fine. I’m looking out and it looks quite lovely, but yesterday the whole mountain just would disappear. Rain, and then it would get a bit okay. And then it would just disappear. It’s quite amazing. Anyway, so they’re just doing things well, what about for women? What’s the deal here in terms of only because asking because hearing about Sweden and a lot of how their maternity leave expectations for working parents, like, both parents, just feels a bit different. She’s like, people don’t expect you to stay at work if you’ve got kids past sort of 4430 because you got to go collect your kids. I’m like, really?

Maria]: Absolutely. No, my partner, he goes to work pretty early, so he’s at work by 730 or whatever. But yeah, no, if you’ve got kids stuff on, you’re not expected to be there past 330. Really. I mean, 334. O’clock. Depends on how far away you live and that sort of stuff. I mean, childcare there is essentially free. I mean, it’s not but it is basically compared to what we pay. It’s free, obviously, like your taxes and whatever. It’s all very heavily government funded, but if you’ve got a kid in the barnahaga, the kindergarten, then you are expected to do, like, parent duty, like once a month or once whatever it is, once a fortnight. Depends on how big the barnahaga is and how many kids and whatever. But essentially, your work recognizes that as part of your civic duty. So you don’t have to take a leave day to do that. You don’t have to take a sick day. You don’t have to take like, that’s just part of your civic duty. You’re just doing the right thing by the community. So that’s considered a work day for you? Yeah, it’s next level.

Lisa: I said to her how we only get a certain amount of carers leave in Australia. She said, So if your kids sick, what, you just have to send them to school? I said, oh, you stay home and you don’t get paid if you lose?

Maria: Well, that’s the other thing. They’re blown. I was having this conversation with a neighbor who’s actually from she’s Icelandic, and she lost her job. And I was like, oh, my God, are you going to be okay? And she’s like she just looked at me like I had horns coming out of my head. And I was like, oh, you’ve lost your job, because we’re living in quite a nice area. Rent’s really not very cheap in these areas. And she’s like, what are you talking about? I was like, well, are you going to be able to don’t mean to get personal here, but losing your job in Australia, you’re okay with your rent and stuff? And she’s like, we’re talking about if you lose your job in Norway, you are basically on full wages from the government, your unemployment benefits. I mean, it’s not full full wages, but let’s just say ballpark figures, if you’re on 100 grand a year and you lose your job, you are, for a certain number, about amount of time. And don’t quote me on any of the figures here, but just take this as a generalization. Essentially, for the first month, you might be on, like 90 grand. On the second month, unemployed, 80 grand. Third month unemployed, 70 grand. Now, like I said, bit of a generalization, but your unemployment benefits go down as you’ve been longer and longer and longer unemployed because obviously you’re like wanting to get back to work, trying to find work. You want to get back up to your old salary. So the idea is, well, let’s just allow you to be your best self and go out there and look for work.

Lisa: Not stress, not work, not come at it from a place of horror and.

Maria: Not take any job because you can’t afford to put food on the table or know, let’s not stress the family unit. Let’s not stress the kids. Let’s not put the family into a position where they might have to lose their house or whatever, which it happens all the time in Australia, right? Like, someone loses their job.

Lisa: It’S panic and you can hear it’s like, well, I mean, if we did something like that, the bludges and the people would just take advantage of it. And what I love about over here is actually what I keep on getting examples of is actually people just want to live a really good life, do good things, work, raise good kids. Actually, that’s the basis of where we make our decisions is for people’s best interests because they have their own best interests. No one’s taking advantage of anything, no one’s ripping off the system. Where did that come from in Australia? What is that idea again?

Maria: I wonder whether it’s this systemic. This is the conversation that we had again and again and again during the pandemic. Like, if you knew that your government was taking everything that they could do to make your life as easy as possible and they were taking all the natural resources that existed in your country and doing only things that were setting you up for success and for your kids, would you be anti government? Do you know what I mean?

Lisa: But the individualistic approach to our society, like every man for himself, kind of.

Maria: We are not a socialist culture.

Lisa: We are just end of story. And it’s so obvious when you come over here, you think about even just the way in which Anna’s life was set up. They live in a community and all the houses are kind of around each other and everyone’s sharing resources and everyone he’s an electrician, so he helps out with that sort of stuff in this part of this community and everyone’s I don’t know, everything feels different and I think we’re missing it. I think people in Australia are think and cynical and angry and feel taken advantage of or feel worried, generally worried about the future. That was one of the things that I was kind of interested in asking people when I was traveling around, like, what are you worried about when living here? What are you worried about? Because even I mean, having free medical and all of that sort of stuff, there’s just like pretty chill because it feels like things are taken care of.

Maria; Well, you are you don’t have to worry. Your kids are going to have childcare. You’re encouraged to get back to work, and if you can’t find a job and maybe it’ll see it’s okay, we’re going to give you what you’re used to getting anyway, but we’re just going to slowly decrease that over time so you don’t get too comfortable. Superannuation system there is ludicrous. So basically every company that you work for, you pay into their superannuation fund. It’s not called Superannuation, but it’s as close as what we understand it to be. 

And then you get a government superannuation as well, like a pension. But when I was comparing what happened to Australia and explaining what the pension was, the Norwegians were just looking at me, going, what? How’s anyone meant to live on that? That doesn’t even pay for groceries. I’m like, it doesn’t. If you’re on the pension with no assets, with no nothing in Australia, it would give you food, but you’d kind of need to have somewhere to live. Like you’d need to be back living with your kids or something. And they were horrified. I mean, basically, when you hit 65, if you’ve never even worked a day in your life in Norway, you get a pension, which is a living wage. It’s a wage. It’s like you go from earning money to on the pension, but you’re basically just going to a different form of getting a very similar amount of money in your bank account all the time. It’s a different world.

Lisa: So what do people hear? You’re at a dinner party with your Norwegian friends? What are they talking about? Are they worried about stuff? What are the topics of conversation?

Maria:: We do have a couple of Norwegian friends, but I think they’re probably a bit atypical. What they worry about is I would say more like divorce is something else in Norway as well. Okay. Oh, there you go.

Lisa: What’s it saying? Extremely heavy rain is expected. Take precautions, follow advice. Exclamation. Okay. Carefully consider if the journey is necessary. Got it. I’ve got it.

Maria: You’ll get to the supermarket, you’ll be okay. There’s nothing.

Lisa: It’s not even raining here right now anyway. Divorce.

Maria:: Yeah. So basically, divorce, the status quo is that you go to the office and you flip a coin and you choose OD or even. And that is the week that you get so you get the OD weeks or you get the even weeks with your children. It’s a coin flip. So they go for a week with Mum and a week with dad, and they alternate because all the other divorced kids in the street have an identical schedule. Most families switch on, I think, a Monday or a Thursday or something. There’s a couple of different kind of combinations, but it’s normally like a Monday or a Thursday. And so the kids have their friends in this neighborhood, and then they have their friends in that neighborhood. And then because if they’re divorced friends, then they’re doing the same switch. 

So they always see each other every other week. Makes total sense. And there’s no question over whether Mum gets custody or Dads gets custody. It’s like, no, well, they’re both your children. It’s 50 50. It’s a week. Choose OD or even. Done. And then you have every other Christmas you switch. And, like, the summer holiday. So I think you’ve got, like, six weeks. And so one parent takes them for three weeks, the other parent takes them for the other three weeks. So you get, like, a bit. Of a longer stretch in the big summer holiday in the middle of the year. 

It’s just fair. There’s no questions about it. Now, if you want to be an asshole to your ex, then you be an asshole. But there’s not like in Australia where men have to fight to keep the kids or they have to prove that they can provide a fit environment. I mean, I just think that’s off. And if you speak to any Norwegians about that, they’d like, what? Because men can’t look after children? What is wrong with your country?

I’m like, I know. So the things that our friends concern our friends is they’ve just bought a new house together. So they’ve both come from previous marriages. They’ve both got kids. His kids are a bit older. Her kids are sort of still primary school age. The things that are affecting them is like the one set of those kids, their dad’s actually in Australia and so how do we make this work with the pandemic? And that was hard. 

And then trying to get the kids back and forth and this sort of stuff and they’renovating this new house that they built. So trying to looking at the cost of renovations and stuff because anything like that is exorbitantly expensive. Like, you think Renaults are expensive in Australia? Like times four, anything we pay for anything in Australia, times four for a new bathroom, times four for a new kitchen. It’s you know, do you buy something new? Do you buy something that you have to know, will you get, I guess, the same sort of things that we worry about but just on a different level so they don’t worry about the everyday stuff that Aussies would worry about. Are we going to have enough money? Like, at what point in our life do we have to stop working? That’s what a lot of my friends now like forty s, fifty s going, shit, I don’t have enough in super. What’s going to happen?

Lisa: Right? It keeps me awake at night. Do you think that they have a good work life balance? I don’t even like that term, but and I really do a lot of work with mums who feel very overwhelmed by just life, by just getting through the day to day. Do you think that same level of overwhelm exists here?

Maria: Well, the parents with kids. Like if you talk to my partner about his when he was recently divorced, and you get home from work and you’ve got 20 minutes to feed two hangry kids and then get them into their soccer uniform and off. To soccer practice, and then you’re there to whenever. And then they’re hangry again because I’ve been running around and it’s just like on repeat. 

If you’ve got kids in sports and stuff, there’s that kind of element. And being a single parent is obviously far more exhausting than having the pair of you kind of tackling all of those kind of duties and stuff. But I think, like the Norwegians I said this last year and I was kind of reluctant to post it on social media because I didn’t want to offend any of my Norwegian friends. 

So if any of my Norwegian friends are listening this does not apply to you, of course, but I wondered whether watching people come out of Hibernation right, so winter, people just like it’s very family, it’s very nuclear family kind of oriented. And then the minute the sun starts shining, which in somewhere like Oslo can literally be for a couple of weeks sometimes, like, summer can just be like, where the hell was the summer? We just didn’t even get hot, hot days. 

So it’s brief. So those days where it’s, like, beautiful and hot and not windy and not like it’s where you can actually sit out on the balcony and have a beer sometimes can be very few and far between, but they all want to be your best mate. The minute the sun comes out, it’s like, oh, you’ve got to come and have beer now. It’s almost like a sin to waste a sunny day. And us in Australia, we’re like, oh, another bloody sunny day, whatever. But I said, watching them come out of Hibernation and just be like, oh, my, like, it’s good weather, we’ve got to drink beer on the balcony. I was like, I wonder whether the term fair weather friend actually originated from foreigners observing Norwegian social capacity throughout seasons.

Lisa: For real?

Maria: I’m not joking. It’s just Norwegians would agree with me. It’s a thing they shut down and.

They become really insular and then they come out when the weather is good and it’s time to connect.

And of course you’ve got your good friends that you catch up with. It’s not everyone’s like that, but even just in the neighborhood and stuff, people become like that wintertime, it’s very family oriented, it’s very indoors, it’s very kind of I mean, there’s still kids sports and stuff, but obviously there’s less when it’s super cold all the time. But yeah, I just don’t know whether it’s because it’s a country that has so much bad weather that you have to make a life for yourself indoors. And then when the sun shines, like, you get out there and you celebrate it and you want to be super social and you want to be super communicative and talking to people and I don’t know, maybe that’s just the weirdo group, but no, it’s a thing. Yeah, it’s a thing. I’ve discussed it with Norwegians and it’s not just my community, it’s kind of everyone, I think, overwhelm in a different maybe overwhelm in a different way. I don’t think it’s part of the Australian culture. I mean, our social life is 24/7, if that’s what we want it to be. I think Norwegians on a whole are far more homebodies and far more family oriented, far more kind of they’ll talk to Mum and dad every week. They’ll talk to their brothers and sisters every week. Like the family is super important. And that’s kind of your network center.

Lisa: Yeah.

Maria: Where I think Aussies are way more like your next door neighbors and your friends from Uni and your friends from like my partner is blown away by how many friends I have and the community and the network that I’ve got here. He’s like, how do you know all these people? It took him a while to get his head around just how many people I’ve got in my network.

Lisa: Wow.

Maria: I’m like, well, I don’t see all of them every week, but it’s like anyone in Australia, we have these very random kind of mix of people that have come from all different parts of your life. Or is that just me being weird?

Lisa: Well, you are an awesome person that people want to be friends with, let’s just be honest. But I think that that was during COVID people did talk about that a bit, of not having to be anywhere, see anyone do anything. I think people do find it hard to keep up with their social lives sometimes, but you want to because it’s an expectation. I mean, I’ve talked to women for years, just learning how to say no and say no, it’s a family weekend, or I’m not going to do that because they’re pushing themselves to keep up with all of the things and be in the places and say yes to stuff when actually when we’re just doing life. And I mean, I know for me, as a solo parent, the only one who’s getting their lunch boxes done and all of that sort of thing, which is not a thing in Sweden. I don’t know if it’s not a thing here either, but they just send their kids off and they get fed beautiful meals at school. Great. But my energy is everything. I just don’t have capacity to say yes to all the things because if I do, I would be a puddle on the floor. So it kind of put it in for the spotlight. For me, I find it easy to say no to things because I need to be able to actually survive. And so over here, it seems like maybe that balance is just for this stage of life while kids are doing all of these different things. I mean, the weather makes it hard too, but we do things as a family. We catch up with people when we can, but when it’s hot, we have lots of friends and we do the things.

Maria: And school age kids are different. Like, your whole life is different when you’ve got school age kids because there’s sporting teams and there’s bits and pieces going on. But I don’t think observing what I can observe of my neighbors and just understanding Pear’s story and how he raised his kids and stuff, I don’t think there’s the overwhelm that exists in Australia from, I guess maybe you’d call it, like, kind of societal pressure to be part of a bigger community. I think they’re just far more family focused and it’s just different. It’s a different kind of lifestyle. But again, I’ve come into a partnership with teenagers who were kind of raised already, so I’ve got a very different view of that. So it might be interesting to talk to a Norwegian person who’s in the system. Yeah, no, but again, like, work life balance and work life family know, work cannot stop you from volunteering at sparnahage. Like, that’s what you do. That’s your civic duty. If your kid’s sick, you go home and you work from home. Like, no one even bats an eyelid. They are very supportive of any kind of family situation. So it’s a very family first kind of culture, for sure. That takes a lot of the stress away, doesn’t it? If you just knew that every single day at work, your family’s needs and priorities were totally understood and taken care.

Lisa: Of, it just feels quite far behind where we are. So just to finish off because my battery is going to die. Are you glad you’re here? Are you enjoying it? Are you happy in Oslo? Like, with the arrangement you’ve got right now?

Maria Yeah. Lisa, if you told me when I was 17 that I was going to be living half my life in Perth and half my life in Norway and doing two long hauls a year running a business from a box on a desk in a study, I would have asked you whether you were on mushies or something. Like, what are you talking about? That is ludicrous. I wouldn’t have any other way. Now that I’m here doing what I’m doing, it’s lovely. I get to spend half my life in Europe. Well, Scandinavia, I

 mean, in the Pandemic, it was kind of like, okay, well, the whole point of being in Europe is to go on these like, we went to Lithuania for, like, $150 return. Yes, you did, because that’s what you do. You can go to Latvia, Riga, like, all these amazing places. It’s absolutely I feel hashtag blessed, but I actually do. I know that’s a cliche. That was so overused. It was like I really do. I feel like the gods have shined on me for some reason. And yeah, it’s lovely. It’s dynamic and it’s challenging and it’s interesting. 

And I’m really lucky that my partner absolutely loves Australia and kind of just is besotted with the place, which makes it really easy because he wants to be here all the time. As it’s easy. It’s easy when you’re in a partnership where you love being in each other’s homes and places and people kind of not criticize, but how do you afford that must be so expensive. And it’s like, Well, I am going to my other home. I’m not going on European tours and paying for accommodation every night we are sharing our homes and our lives with each other, which it’s good.

Lisa: Is it easy to be an expat here in Oslo?

Maria: It’s very hard to break into the Norwegian social circle because much of like, what I just said is so family centric and it’s so insular that it’s very hard to break in and you need to be there for years. And just even this summer I was kind of like, I don’t know, I can’t come at this idea that you only want to speak to me when the sun is shining. I just find that really confronting. Don’t you want to speak to me when the weather’s shitty as well? You just live around there. You know what I mean? It’s OD in Australia. If it’s a shitty winter day, it’s like, okay, we’re cooking soup and we’d come and drink wine and cook of well, I mean, some Norwegians do, but obviously not the ones I know or they don’t involve me in it know?

Lisa: But it is hard to crack mean, isn’t that also, well, expats in so many different places? But I just wondered if there was a strong expat community here, like if you’d found people.

Maria: Look, there is. Look, there’s an Aussies in Oslo group, and I went and had beers with them the other day. They were hilarious. They were the most random bunch of people I have ever come across. Like, one guy turned up in vegemite shorts or something. I don’t know. He was the funniest guy I think I’ve ever met. And he was so awkward Aussie and like, yeah, man, I’m trapped in Norway. Bloody hell. It was hilarious. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed too much in my life. It was bizarre. 

So, yeah, if you want to find other expats, there’s loads of groups and stuff you can choose. I mean, it was hard in the pandemic because everything was shut down. But no, you can make friends, but you tend to kind of make inroads with other expats and then you kind of find your Norwegian friends in and among that, unless you’re like me and you’ve got a partner and then you’ve got his friends and you sort of got ready made friends there as. But yeah, it’s living in Oslo is fresh. I mean, you’ve got to remember I lived out in the middle of the Pacific on a coral atoll with no fresh vegetables for two and a half, two I don’t know, can’t remember how long it was. Two and a half years or something. 

So when I’m in a place where I can use the public transport, I’ve got beautiful people surrounding me. I can get fresh fruit and vegetables from just down the road. Supermarket living is not that expensive. Trying to eat out is ridiculous, and we just reserve that for when we’re in Australia. There’s just no joy in spending $80 on a pizza and a wine. No thanks. Forget that. We’ll just cook for ourselves while we’re here, and it’s beautiful. I’m sort of really bummed that you’re not in Oslo when I’m there because we just could have given you such a different view, but just means you’ve got to come back and we’ll get to take you out my fjord and up to normalca and take you out into the hills, hiking and stuff, because it’s gorgeous. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place to I.

Lisa]: Mean, it was meant to be sort of the nature trip, the nature place. So getting out to see those well, you are. And we just kept getting told to stay inside. So it’s a bit strange. I’m hoping that tomorrow well, you got rain.

Maria]: Yeah, rain is nature look.

Lisa:It is. And it’s a beautiful view. We’ve got out here of some sort of mountain situation, which is just basically being rained on. Thanks for sharing this. I was just thinking as we were talking I’m talking to you because I know you so well, but no one else knows who you are. And I was thinking about how I originally sort of got to know you was you taught me how to teach. That was really like I worked with you years and years and years ago when I’d done small steps to Whole Foods and was like, I’m just basically giving them 100 billion things, and I’m not sure why they’re not getting to the end of this course. And you’re like, well, okay, Lisa, let’s just tidy this shit up.Let’s break that up.

Let’s break that up a little. And let me just tell you that people learn in different ways. They’re not all going to appreciate all this stuff. You’ve been amazing. Still, the things that you taught me, I bring to literally every single program I create. Just tell people what you do in case they want to come and or if they need what it is that you do.

Maria: Yeah. So essentially, I help people take information either out of their heads or out of their hard drives or out of shitty PowerPoints, and I help them create learning experiences that could be online, they could be face to face, they could be blended. It doesn’t really matter. But together we create either better PowerPoints or interactive online courses, workbooks assessments, teacher training manuals. It kind of depends on the client and what they’re trying to do with it. 

But essentially, we take their knowledge and we do something with it so that it’s a quality learning experience. Not a tick and flick, buy my online course and never see me again kind of nonsense experience. It’s more like, okay, how do people learn? What do they want? What motivates them? How are they going to get to the end of this program? How do we know they’ve succeeded? So we map it all out, we bring it all together, we make it look beautiful, and we get it done on a timeline that works for them and their budget and their skill level and their team. So, yeah, we tailor. 

Every client I work with is different. There’s not a single client that I’ve had that’s ever produced the same thing. And, yeah, I work for governments, organizations, small businesses, people like you. And, yeah, it’s a very diverse client range I’ve got, and I love it sometimes. I’ve just finished a project out in Tuvalu, which is out in the middle of the Pacific, and I was creating high school waste management curriculum, of all things.

Lisa: I mean, learn so much because people are bringing all of their learning things to you. So you’re just learning.

Maria: Oh, man. Neuroscience, how to make compost and everything in between, literally. I just love it. Do I remember it, Neil? No.

Lisa: But is it awesome? Yes. And is it helping people?

Maria: 100%.

Lisa:: You’re so good to work with. And you’re such an amazing person.

Maria: Yeah, no, it’s good fun.

Lisa: And I’m really grateful for all of your hints and tips for Oslo and connecting me up with someone who we might be seeing tomorrow or the next day to have some fun with.

Maria: Hope. I hope it’s good enough weather to get you up to Song fun. It’s absolutely gorgeous up there. I know. It’s one of her favorite places, so if the weather is even this much good, she’ll get you.

Lisa: We’re going. We are going. We’ve had a chill day today. We have to do it.

Maria: You’re right there.

Lisa: Yeah. Thank you.

Mari: You’re going to love it. You’re going to love it. She will make your time fun. And you’re going to have so much fun on that ferry to Denmark. Enjoy.

Lisa: So, are we going to see fjord? Are we going to see yes, you are.

Maria: Good. Because that’s what you’re going to leave at two or three in the afternoon or something. So that whole afternoon, you are going through the Oslo fjord and down, and you’ve got fjord on either side. And when you kind of get out to open sea, that’s about time for dinner. And then you go to bed. And if you wake up at 06:00, then you’re coming into Copenhagen and it’s quite open there. There’s no fjords or anything there, so it’s open. But, yeah, sleep late. You don’t need to wake up early because you don’t see anything on the other side.

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