Living and working in Bergen Hordaland, Norway , I am interested in history, reading, Art,fishing and of course Looking forward to meet up with interesting people, and make new friends : )
Where are you from, Ahmed, and what are you doing nowadays?
I'm originally from Egypt. I am consultant engineer in the field of mechanical engineering, mainly energy/oil and gas. Nowadays, I am working for a Norwegian engineering firm in Bergen providing technical support and consultancy services within Norway and worldwide.
Why did you choose to expatriate to Norway?
I did not plan at any earlier stage of my life to reside in Norway, but because of my work-related experience and because of the Norwegian oil and offshore industry, my company and I chose each other. I got a job offer that best suited me at that time. Besides, the company was interested in my potential as a candidate, which seemed interesting and challenging. So, here I am in Bergen!
What were the procedures to follow for an Egyptian national to move there?
Procedures, of course, start with determining the correct type of visa/immigration. For those who are moving to Norway as skilled workers, they need to receive a concrete work offer/contract from a Norwegian company or an international company operating in Norway. I then had to fill an online application form and choose the Norwegian Royal Embassy in Cairo to proceed with the application. Then, I booked an online appointment and prepared necessary related documents according to the check list provided in the application form (all the documents had to be translated to English or Norwegian). For other types of visa, the applicant should follow application requirements.
How long have you been in the country?
I have been in Norway since July 2012, that is more than three years now. I live all by myself here.
What has attracted you to Bergen?
Bergen is a very elegant and pretty city, surrounded with amazing fjords and lovely sights. I mostly like the calm lifestyle in Bergen, the spectacular nature, and of course the peculiar Norwegian style of houses, that is the traditional of course.
Was it difficult to find a job there? What are the local labor market's features?
As I mentioned earlier, I received a job offer before my arrival inNorway. To explain a little more, I work in a very specific field regarding rotating equipment and machinery. My filed of expertise is classified into four levels of experience, only 5 or 6 persons in Europe are at level 4 and I was lucky to be one of them. So, it was not so hard for me and my company to find each other, since this very specialized field is considered a small pool.
As regards the local labor market, Bergen is known by oil and gas industry including various services and suppliers, in addition to marine, fishing, and of course the various public services (education, health, personal assistance, etc.). Those are the main job areas I have noticed. Remember that speaking the Norwegian language is the main key to find a job in Norway.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?
Actually, this is a real challenge. When I first arrived in Norway, my company rented me an apartment for couple of months. Then, I had to go find my own place. Where (geographically) should I search? How? What is the best option? The problem was that the advice I received from colleagues varied very much. But in the end, I decided to choose something close to my office. I thought like it was a piece of cake: I search - like - rent! But I that found in Norway it goes like this: you search - view - then the owner (landlord) decides. So I was surprised! Still, I managed to find a suitable place. Buying an apartment or a house is trickier! Biding and biding, and then the apartment goes to the highest bidder.
The availability depends on whether you are renting, or buying. For newcomers, it is usually more reliable to rent. The rent can be anything based on the budget, from a shared room, to room to an apartment or a house.
How do you find the Norwegian lifestyle?
It's not so different for me, and also not exactly the same. The Norwegian society is very family-focused and it is not easy for a foreigner to go through. But when you speak about the Norwegian lifestyle, then you should mention first the family and a lot of hiking, fishing, boats, week-end parties and a good planning of time.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
Not up to my expectations until the moment. Maybe I did not try hard enough. Language and culture barriers never melt down. Norwegians are not very talkative and a bit conservative towards foreigners. But at the same time, they are peaceful and decent. So, one cannot complain. Adapting to the society in Norway is a big challenge. From the first glance, I noticed that locals never hang around with foreigners, especially the (obvious) foreigners. However, things are going really well with my colleagues and people I am working with. They are all great guys and I appreciate being with them. But outside work circle, almost no social expectations. Some will think that it is all about the Norwegian language. But the truth is that it isn't really the case.
What does your everyday life look like in Bergen?
I regularly travel around the world for short business trips. Sometimes, I travel within Norway. But on a typical working day, I will be working from 7 am to 5 pm, planning for the next day's tasks, going home to prepare dinner or trying a new restaurant. Then I proceed with one of the after work activities, such as hiking with a colleague, boat trip, fishing, movie or gym. On week-ends, I do my grocery shopping and hang out with some friends.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
Prices of course! That was like : "What?" The cost of living is so high in Norway, much higher than I expected. However, income compensates for the high prices, so it is more than fine in total. Then comes the rain. Bergen is a rainy city (most of the year). Also, it's somewhat harsher in winter than what I was used to, plus the very short daylight hours in winter and very long daylight hours in summer.
Any particular experience in Norway you would like to share with us?
Working offshore (in Norway) was a new experience to me. It starts with the offshore certificate training, including helicopter training. When I had to board a dummy helicopter, then this helicopter gets immersed into cold water upside down. I got to learn how to get out from the helicopter window and gap up to the water surface.
I also experienced both midnight sun and all day dark in the maximum North of Norway. I have been to Hammerfest in January and at that time, it's dark all day with no sunlight for 2 to 3 months. On the other hand, I have been very close to Svalbard in the North of Norway, in July. I then experienced the midnight sun and northern lights. I remember that I was on an oil rig, waking up every 30 minutes thinking that I already missed my shift that starts at 7 am, but actually the time was 3 am after midnight! That was a different experience of course for me.
Is it easy for an expat to live in Bergen?
As I said earlier and this is my opinion, the cost of living in Bergen is high in addition to loads of taxes. Mainly anything that includes human power is very expensive. Hiring any service provider costs a lot. So the expat will learn to be more self-dependent. Food prices are fine, but eating out is expensive as decent restaurants cost a bit higher than in other countries. Cars, fuel and taxi are also expensive. Is it easy for an expat to live there? It depends on what life standard he/she is looking for, and what kind of job and income are involved. There is a general formula: better job = higher income = easier life.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I would like to travel a nice place somewhere in the world for a change to an exotic destination. But in Bergen, as I mentioned above, there are a lot of indoor and outdoor activities: movies, boat trips, bowling and, of course, fishing. It is really one of the best spots ever for fishing.
Your favorite local dishes?
This will be disappointing I know, but hmm, Norwegian food has very limited varieties. Besides seafood, nothing is special.
What are the differences between life in Egypt and in Bergen?
This could be a huge comparison, but I will try to summarize. Egypt is a high population country with approximately 90 million inhabitants while Norway has around 5 million inhabitants. This affects everything in some way or another, like traffic, communication, lifestyle, life rhythm and pace.
It's calmer here in Bergen compared to Cairo, for example. It's more serious and more efficient when it comes to getting the job done. But in Cairo, there is more life and more feelings, talents and creativity.
What do you like the most about Bergen?
Nature, calmness, and efficiency.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
The spirit! The spirit of Egypt in everything, you can find it in life, work the warm feelings and the people who care about you and are eager to talk and consider your life as a part of their life. I also miss the food variety in Egypt. Egyptian cuisine is very rich and irresistible. Memories, memories, yummy...
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Norway?
Be prepared and plan for your next step. From a professional side, if you do not yet have a job, then you have to learn the language as soon as possible. Choose a sector to be your job target, for example architecture, education, health, restaurants, etc. There is no problem in starting with a temporary or generic job to cover your expenses or to improve your language and work chances. Make connections! They are the key to better work opportunities, either in a direct or indirect way.
Do not give up your dreams. You do not have to live with a bad reality!
You can of course change it but it will take a lot of effort. From a social view, make your small social circle once you come to Norway. This will be the only social spot for your entire life in Bergen. Also remember that respecting Norwegian traditions and culture is a must for expats and foreigners to progress and prosper.
What are your plans for the future?
To improve my career even more, by gaining more experience and knowledge. I will also be working harder towards merging myself with the Norwegian society.