Photo Credit: Asta
'I Feel That My Value And Contributions Are More Recognized In Norway'
Asta is of Senegalese origin, and was born and raised in a small town in Eastern France. Throughout her studies and initial years of her career, the 27-year-old lawyer has lived in various countries, including the US, the UK, Senegal, Spain, and France. Desiring more life and professional experiences abroad, Asta and her husband had been planning to move to another country in two to three years. However, as fate would have it, her husband was offered a position at a company in Oslo, Norway, and in March 2020, the couple ended up leaving Paris and making the move sooner than expected.
So far, their experience in Norway has been a very positive one. A few months after relocating, Asta found a job, and she is very happy with the country’s work-life balance. A big part of Norwegian culture revolves around enjoying family time and also spending time in nature. This has allowed Asta to take the time to discover the many beautiful landscapes Norway has to offer, from its fjords and mountains to the wonderous Aurora Borealis.
“I have been to Bergen, the second-largest city after Oslo and also the home of one of the most beautiful fjords and mountains in the country,” said Asta. “I am currently spending a lot of time being a tourist in Oslo, which is now my hometown, where there are tons of things to do: from the different Oslo fjord islands, the city peninsula Bigdøy, visiting museums, or enjoying the several sculpture parks the city has to offer.”
“One of my best memories so far has been a weekend getaway to Rjukjan, three hours from Oslo, where we were able to see one sixth of Norway from the top of the Gaustatoppen Mountain. What I really enjoy about Norway is that you do not need to travel all around the country to see its beauty; beautiful landscapes are literally everywhere.”
Although she misses her family and friends back home, Asta admits she does not miss the Parisian lifestyle. Living in Oslo, the country’s capital, she is able to appreciate the perfect balance between nature, beautiful scenery, and a great city life. She has embraced the Norwegian concept of “friluftsliv,” which refers to getting outdoors and enjoying nature. However, several of the changes that come with moving abroad took some getting used to.
For one, Asta has found that not speaking Norwegian can sometimes be challenging, especially when trying to establish relationships with locals. Though Norwegians are very welcoming and helpful with foreigners, they also tend to be a bit reserved. Luckily, despite Norwegian being the official business language in most companies, Asta was able to secure at a position at a company where English is the official language.
Another downside is that Norway is a really expensive country to live in, even though the minimum salary is very decent. Winter in Oslo is dark and long, but much more manageable than she expected. Summers there are beautiful, though, and pleasantly warm. The office culture has been the biggest culture shock for Asta, for several reasons, although in a good way.
“Norwegian companies are much less hierarchical than French companies, which is great from an employee perspective in terms of personal development and day-to-day work life. You also feel that your value and contributions are recognized. Another thing that surprised me was that there is a great deal of flexibility, especially for employees with children. You are not expected to work crazy hours at the office, but at the same time, people take very short lunch breaks and work efficiently in order to be able to enjoy their after-work life.”
Living in Norway, specifically as a Black Muslim woman, has been a very positive experience for Asta. Having grown up in France, she now feels more able to be herself and exist without having the constant feeling of needing to justify her presence in some spaces or explain herself.
“I feel much more comfortable in Norway, as France has become particularly hostile lately. I am also very aware that, as a French expat, I may have a form of privilege. But in nearly two years, I have not encountered any racist (open, subtle, or passive) remarks or behavior.”
“When I speak with other people of color that I have met here, I hear different types of experiences with racism, but in most cases, those instances have not gotten in the way of getting job opportunities, accommodations, nor ended in life-threatening situations, whereas racism in France is very structural. I have never let racism define who I am or my trajectory, but it feels good to just be.”
Having a huge East African population as well as expats from Ghana, Gambia and other parts of Africa, Oslo is home to a diverse community of Black people, which may not be the case in other parts of the country. In Oslo, Asta has been able to find some good hair salons as well as places selling Black hair care products for 4C type hair.
Having always wanted to document her travels, Asta finally found the chance to do so in Norway. Spending time exploring her new home country has pushed her to start her travel blog, www.spiritoftaramo.com, which she will be launching next month. You can also follow her via Instagram at @spiritoftaramo.
“Taramo refers to both the actions of walking and traveling in Djaranké, my beloved father language (part of the Mande language group in West Africa).”
As far as she and her husband relocating to another country after Norway, Asta says it is not entirely out of the question.
“Coming to Norway has been an amazing opportunity for us, not only professionally, but also in terms of life experience. We really enjoy the quality of life here, but we are also open to new opportunities that may come in the future, so we shall see!”