Last year, I arrived in Bergen as an exchange student. Since then, I experienced a different pace of life from what I was used to in France. When I get in contact with my friends and family back home I often get asked about the cultural shocks I could have experienced living in Norway. I find it hard talking about this broad topic. Instead of speaking about the institutions or the history, I like to share with them the little things that make daily life pretty different.
One aspect I like to talk about that can seem oblivious to most of the locals is the general rhythm of the day to day life.
I come from the second biggest city in France and we have close to two million inhabitants. A typical day in Lyon is all about walking fast, constantly catching subways, saving as much time as you can. You never really get to enjoy the little things when you’re in a rush most of the time. Something I experienced in Bergen is, more often than not, the bus driver waiting at the bus stop for people that might be late. They take their time, and I rarely feel the rush. Also, while walking in the streets, I learn to slow down. The pace of life in Bergen feels healthier.
In Bergen, the courses are until 4pm whereas in my hometown, it’s possible to attend a class until 8 or 9pm. Also, being a law student and having a lot of reading, I tend to stay a little longer in general.That’s why after leaving late from university, afterworks is all about having a drink with some friends to get our head off work, after a long day. You usually don’t go back home before late in the evening. We have restaurants, bars and fast food all around the university, so everything is planned for afterworks.
In Bergen, I am getting used to having more time during the day for extra curricular activities. Students generally practice a lot of different sports, which I feel isn’t as important in France. Wine culture is embedded in the French way of life. Therefore, when I have a workday, I’m used to going for a drink with some friends or classmates. I don’t prefer one way the other but France does have a tendency to neglect the beneficial aspects of sports.
Social life in Bergen is by far the biggest adjustment I had to make when moving.
The way we interact here is more distant and polite. On the contrary, I would consider French people a little more straightforward. For example, there was a booth promoting a political party serving free coffee. My Norwegian friends talked for ten minutes before asking for a coffee whereas I asked one or two questions before serving myself a cup of coffee. In fact,the French are perceived as rude people so I guess our reputation precedes us.
As my journey is coming to an end, I have to say that I very much enjoyed living in this wonderful city.