eXpat Files This week's expat has two lessons for us. The first concerns life in remote countries beginning with “N” where the mountains and snow are pretty decent.
Welcome to Oslo
The second thing Kane Archer's tale of moving from New Zealand to Norway and back teaches us is what it's like to be acquired by Cisco.
Over to you, Kane.
The Register: What kind of work do you do and with which technologies?
: I began working in the Tandberg TAC (Technical Assistance Centre) wrangling the RMA tickets for resellers with faulty equipment that needed repairs or replacement. Tandberg was (at the time) a highly regarded and world-leading corporate video-conferencing hardware company that was later acquired by Cisco. After a couple of years there I moved into the Reverse Logistics team handling RMA escalations, technical queries from the TAC techs and managing the third party companies that manufactured and repaired the equipment.
Back in NZ it's nothing so glamorous. Working for local government on their IT Helpdesk. Anyone got any jobs going? :-)
The Register: Where's home and why did you want to leave?
Kane Archer: Home is deepest darkest Waikato region of New Zealand. At the time my husband was working for a NZ company that was acquired by Tandberg and got offered the opportunity to work at the company's head office in Oslo. Several reasons to leave, primarily the money but also the opportunity to "scare ourselves" (aka expand our horizons) by experiencing a different culture, language and do a bit of travel while we were there. NZ is a very small, isolated country and it is easy to become rather insular and inward-focused until you get the opportunity to leave for a while and explore the world.
The Register: Why Norway?
Kane Archer: It's where Tandberg had their head office and main R&D group.
The Register: How did you arrange your new gig?
Kane Archer: The opportunity was offered by Tandberg themselves.
The Register: Pay - up or down?
Kane Archer: Up - by about three times what I was earning at the time in NZ, later it was closer to five times. They showed me the money!
The Register: How do workplaces differ between NZ and Norway?
Kane Archer: NZ is like Australia in that it has a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere for the most part; people don't tend to be quite so formal here. Norwegians are a lot more serious, formal and stratified with a rather dry sense of humour. Although once you get to know them better...
The Register: Will your expat gig be good for your career?
Kane Archer: Absolutely - having a big name like Tandberg/Cisco in your CV always looks good, not to mention getting to know and work with others from all over the planet. You get to work and play with some incredibly cool toys as well, and I'm all about the toys!
The Register: What's cheaper in Norway? What's more expensive?
Kane Archer: Cheaper? Absolutely nothing – Norway is one of the most expensive countries on the planet, including the tax rates (both income and sales/import taxes). About the only thing that is cheaper would be the education and healthcare, which is heavily subsidised or paid for by the state.
The Register: What did you miss about Norway when you went home?
Kane Archer: We're back home now, however the people we got to know while we were there and the physical country itself are the things I miss. Norwegians are very cliquey; they grow up in groups, go to school in groups, and socialise in groups. Breaking into those groups as a dirty foreigner is not easy but once you are accepted into the tribe they are wonderfully friendly, outgoing people. As a country, Norway has some of the most spectacular scenery and landscapes you'll find anywhere.
The Register: What's your top tip to help new arrivals settle in?
Kane Archer: Learn at least a bit of the language. While most Norwegians speak very good English, they respect you a lot more if you can get by in theirs. It also makes getting around on public transport a lot easier, shopping etc; the last thing you want to discover when you get home from the supermarket is that innocuous looking tin or jar containing some local "delicacy" instead of something more familiar :-)
The Register: What advice would you offer someone considering the same move?
Kane Archer: Do it! Do it now! Do it before you get too old and set in your ways. Experiencing a foreign culture is one of the most amazing and educational experiences you can ever have.
The Register: How easy is it to watch the All Blacks from Norway?
Kane Archer: Let's just say that most Norwegians wouldn't know what a rugby ball if one jumped up and bit them on their attractively ski-toned posteriors. Time zones weren't exactly conducive to watching any of the games live either. The interwebs are your friend in that respect.
The Register: Is there a Kiwi expat community in Norway? And should others embrace it, pop in from time to time or stay the hell away?
Kane Archer: There is, apparently, and much to my surprise at the time, although not in great numbers and nothing formal. I reckon you'd get more benefit from just experiencing the country through your own eyes and immersing yourself in it. While not harmful, I don't really think there would be much benefit in hanging around with other expats. That said, if there were more of them it might be a different story so depending on the country you're from, YMMV.
The Register: And because this is the weekend edition, what can you do on weekends in Norway that you can't do at home?
Kane Archer: Skiing during the winter, if you're into that – simply strap skis on and step outside your door and away you go. NZ has skiing but you've got to travel a long way to get to the mountains. Also the opportunity to throw yourself onto a jet and be almost anywhere in Europe in a couple of hours or less is rather neat. A weekend trip to Paris in the spring or a dodgy visit to Amsterdam is actually do-able from Norway.
Where have you lived and how did it go? We're always keen for more expat stories, so drop us a line and we'll give you the gentle eXpat Files grilling. ®