There are certain adjustments that one must make as an expat. When I decided to move away from Canada for the second time, at age 39, I had a much better idea of what awaited me than the first time I left, at age 27. I knew that I would have days in Norway when the cultural differences would become too much and I’d just want to go home, where everything was easy. I knew that there would be days when I’d be so inexplicably happy with my life that I’d never want to leave. But I knew on most days, my life would be very much the same as it was back in Toronto, except for the incessant threat of rain for 9 months out of the year, and the proliferation of my beloved fiskesuppe.
At first the confusion is constant, but as time goes by in my new country, some of the things that once seemed so foreign are now completely commonplace. Like the Vinmonopolet closing at 3 pm on a Saturday, brown cheese, and taking numbers from little machines instead of queuing. I get it, and although I didn’t grow up with it, it makes sense.
But despite this, there are still a few things that continue to puzzle and bemuse, and which have not become any clearer with time. And so, in my continuing quest to understand my adopted hometown, I present you with:
Everything I Still Don’t Get About Stavanger ( But Was Not Afraid to Ask)
5) Tattoo Parlours/Hair Dressers-If you were dropped down in Stavanger out of the blue, you really would think that most of us were a cross between Paris Hilton and a Hell’s Angel. Since I reckon that the average young person will have no more than 2 tattoos in their lifetime and needs only 1 haircut every couple of months, how can there be so many of these establishments? Is there a secret tribe somewhere in the fjords tattooing their entire community while simultaneously subjecting them to weekly perms and bang trims?
4)Graffiti –For a town that is as picture postcard as Stavanger, why is graffiti as prolific as it is? And it does seem to be left up for longer than it should. Of course, I don’t count the smoking pineapple doodle down by the Aftenblad building. That should be left up indefinitely. Cause every town needs a smoking pineapple.
3) The Raptor Dino-Bike- I have seen it once, outside Wayne’s Coffee on Klubbgata Street, but the monster disappeared before I could capture it up close. All I was left with was a grainy, blurred snapshot, while the owner of this masterpiece remains a mystery to this day. Unlike the Scottish version, Stavanger’s elusive monster comes with two wheels and is a convenient and environmentally friendly mode of transport. Take that, Nessie.
2) The Flea Market- I went there once. Amongst the most intriguing trinkets for sale was a photo album full of cat postcards. Cats playing with yarn, cats in a tree, cats sleeping on hot male model’s chest, all lovingly arranged in a faux- leather, bound scrapbook which someone obviously pulled out of their 8 year olds dresser drawer and decided to make a few kroner off of. I am not going to lie, I was tempted. If there had been some unicorns involved I might have even gone for it. As it stood, I decided against it since I would have to explain to Scottish partner why I spent 100 kroner on kitty-cat pictures.
1)That Alligator Statue- Come on, you know the one. It sits in the center of town next to Breiavatnet. It appeared overnight and I am pretty sure it was snuck in by a group of hooligans hoping to scare the crap out of the (very real) swans. A few weeks later I noticed another animal statue, this time of a beaver, outside H and M. Although as a Canadian, I believe the beaver is a proud and noble animal, I am unsure as to why said animal statues are appearing around the city. But as long as we are doing random beast statues around Stavanger, I would like to submit the following requests: pigeon, sloth, hamster, platypus, armadillo and… raptor. With or without the bike.