Updated 4 years ago

So, your partner has gotten a job in Stavanger, or your partner is a Norwegian living in Stavanger. Either way, you find yourself planning a move to Stavanger. When an individual relocates to a foreign place, he/she will most likely go through the 4 stages of culture shock. This article explores the 4 stages and more importantly, things YOU can do to overcome the stages!

Photo by Kalev Kevad

1. Wonder and Excitement aka Honeymoon Period

This is the time when you first find out you are about to move to Stavanger. You read up all you can about this new city and are excited about exploring the beautiful fjords and enjoying the cobble-stoned town. You gush with excitement to all your friends about the new language, culture and experiences you will be facing (I know I did!). You arrive in Stavanger and marvel at the scenery and enjoy the differences in food, fashion, social customs and culture. This period is exhilarating and full of exciting new discoveries, usually lasting a few days to a few weeks. However, this stage invariably comes to an end.

2. Rejection and Frustration

The second stage is often characterized by resentment, criticism and frustration. The wonder of exploring Stavanger has now gone away and the city seems too small to be interesting. Your partner has a job to go to and people that he/she can meet through work and your children have got school and homework to distract them. However it is different for you. Having few friends, you’re home most of the time. Your inability to understand the language might cause frustration for you when you are out buying groceries and not knowing that ‘ginger’ is ‘ingefær’ or you may find it really hard to get to know the locals. Taking the bus might seem to be the most daunting task because you simply cannot understand the bus guide. In addition, you may be so bored that you start to blame your partner for getting you in this city in the first place. (When I was in this stage, I remember picking stupid fights with my husband everyday after he got home from work simply because I was so bored and frustrated!) Before getting to this stage, it might be a good idea to check out the activities and clubs that you can involve yourself in.

INN (International Network of Norway)

Stavanger Chamber of Commerce and Industry has an INN Service Centre that will assist new employees and their families settling in the region.

INN offers an orientation program for newcomers, workshops for spouses looking for employment, morning and evening seminars (e.g- taxation and real estate), individual counselling, a helpline for questions, monthly and daily news in English, and an arena for networking and social events.

PWC – People Who Connect

PWC is an international English-speaking club, and they welcome anyone who has an interest in making new friendships, helping the community and expanding his or her cultural horizons, or who just needs help and advice in a new city. The PWC especially welcomes residents of Norway and expatriates who are not associated with the oil industry. Everyone is welcome to join.

The PWC strive to promote friendship and activities for everyone regardless of length of stay or whether they are residents, by providing information, advice and support to aid their adjustment to living in a foreign country.

Activities include

* Bridge
* Creative Arts Group
* Coffee Morning
* Library
* Mah Jong
* Tennis
* Tippy Toes – club for mums with children whose age stretch from pregnancy to preschoolers.
* Walking

Can’t find a group to suit your interest?? Set one up yourself!

Here’s how to find them:

PWC-Stavanger Club House
Gausel Bakken 107
British School of Stavanger 4032 Stavanger

Mailing address:
POBoks 297, Forus
4066 Stavanger

Email here.

UNICEF Monthly Pub Quiz

The UNICEF Pub Quiz is a fun and great way to meet local expats. This the only English speaking Pub Quiz in Stavanger, so put together a team (4 to 5 people) and don your thinking cap! Coming alone? No worries! A team will be found for you! Quiz nights are the second Monday of each month located at Martinique Pub.

20 NOK to play and all proceeds benefit UNICEF Norway. Starts at 7:30 PM. More info.

Finding A Job

FINN.no is the go-to site for all jobs. Jobseekers should be aware that spoken Norwegian is usually a requirement for finding work. Of course, there are exceptions as there are many companies who adopt English as the working language.

Information about English job vacancies in Norway is available from NAV, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare organisation’s website or telephone 0047 800 33 166 (freephone within Norway).

Below is a list of companies where I personally have friends (who do not speak Norwegian) working:

Acergy – a leader in seabed-to-surface engineering and construction
Aker Solutions – a leading global provider of engineering and construction services, technology products and integrated solutions.
Baker Hughes - A top-tier oilfield services company with a century-long track record.
BG Group - Integrated natural gas company, including exploration, production, storage, transportation and distribution.
ConocoPhilips – Third largest integrated energy company in the US and the fifth largest refiner in the world
GE Money Bank
Keppel Norway - system solutions and engineering services for drilling and electrotechnical disciplines.
Lærdal – a major manufacturer of medical equipment and medical training products based in Stavanger.
National Oilwell Varco – a multinational corporation which manufactures land-based and offshore oil drilling rigs as well as all the major mechanical components for such rigs.
Shell – a global group of oil, gas and petrochemical companies with a broad portfolio of hydrogen, biofuels, wind and solar power interests.
Schlumberger – a global oilfield and information services company with a major focus on energy.
Statoil – a leading energy company in oil and gas production.

Please note the list above is not exhaustive. But it’s a start!

Check the EURES (European Employment Services) vacancy database. This is a register of jobs in countries within the EEA (European Economic Area). A list of regional EURES offices in Norway is available on the NAV website or from the Embassy. The EURES website allows employers and job-seekers to be matched up online.

Does your profession require you to be authorised by the relevant Norwegian authorities? Check here. It can take up to 4 months for your qualifications to get authorised so get on this as fast as possible.

Most newspapers carry a ‘Situations Vacant, Ledige Stillinger’ column. Try Stavanger Aftenblad, the main Stavanger daily.

For hiring agencies, click here.

Substitute/Supply Work at the International School of Stavanger and British International School of Stavanger

ISS accepts applications from local applicants for substitute/supply teaching. Please note that the school only draws substitute/supply teachers from the talent already legally resident in Norway. English fluency is a requirement for all substitute teaching opportunities, and experience teaching in an English-language international school environment is preferable.

BISS welcomes applications from teachers residing in the Stavanger/Sandnes area who are interested in supply/substitute teaching work at BISS. CV’s and contact details should sent to the Principal here.

Set Up Your Own Business

It is actually relatively easy to set up your own business here in Norway. More information here.

Join the Various Expat Groups Around

We at Stavanger Expats organize monthly coffee meet-ups and adhoc activities such as potluck meals and BBQs.

List of expat groups listed here.

Recommended: Stavanger Expats Yahoo group and Living in Stavanger Google group – online forums where you can get a wealth of information!

Facebook groups here.

Red Crossing in Stavanger

Red Crossing in Stavanger (RCiS) is a group which works under the Stavanger Red Cross. The main target is to contribute to networking for both Norwegians and Non-Norwegians by offering a wide range of common interest activities in English.

French Discussion Group
This is a new discussion group which will meet weekly, starting Thursday April 8th at 18.00. The group meets at the Red Cross house, Eiganesveien 95, and is open to everyone who wants to practise French. For more information, send an e-mail.

Norwegian Discussion Group
The Norwegian Discussion Group gathers once a month at the Red Cross House, Eiganesveien 95. The group will be led by native Norwegian speakers. Students at all levels are welcome to join. If you are interested to join or help out, send an e-mail.

Spanish Discussion Group
The Spanish Discussion Group gathers on Mondays from 18.00 until 19.00 at the Red Cross House, Eiganesveien 95. The group will be led by native Spanish speakers. Students at all levels are welcome! All queries can be sent here.

International Fun Fair
RCiS is launching a fun fair/ quiz race/ picnic in June 2010. More info will be posted when the details are in place.

Cooking Group
Red Crossing in Stavanger has an open Cooking Group which gathers together once a month in Stavanger Red Cross House. The Cooking group offers cooking lessons in English from a cook. The course is free of charge except for the cost of the ingredients which participants pay. After the course, everyone sits down and enjoys the meal together. Courses are held in the newly renovated kitchen in the Red Cross House in Eiganesvn 95, Stavanger.

Cooking Group needs You! To be able to organise Cooking Group events, RCiS needs people who can cook, but you do not need to be professional cooks. If you think you can cook and teach your magic to a group of 20 people or so, please send an e-mail here. RCiS needs You!!!

‘Share your time’
This is a group still on the planning stage, and will replace Exchange Market and add some more of that great Red Crossing spirit. This is planned to be a monthly happening, where the group meets for a cosy and very informal evening together. We need ideas and inputs to what you want to do on these gatherings. All queries can be sent here.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer for the Stavanger Expats website

Would you like to write an article to help your fellow expats in Stavanger? Contact us and tell us your ideas!

Volunteer for the Red Cross

The Stavanger Red Cross has a wide range of activities where you can contribute as a volunteer. Non Norwegian speaking volunteers are warmly welcome! Please contact the volunteer coordinators here or Tel. 51567171 and check for more information here

Volunteer opportunities at PWC

The PWC welcomes volunteers to help with the annual Arts and Crafts fair and also to help with the planning of various activities. Email here if you would like to offer your services.

Volunteer opportunities for Parents

Do you have children in the ISS or BISS? They may need volunteers for various activities and projects.


Click here for information on bars and nightlife, sports, gyms, recreational activities, tourist attractions and more!

Sports and Outdoor Activities, click here

Hiking Information, click here.

Cultural Experiences, click here.

Sightseeing and Day Cruises, click here

Cinema: Stavanger and Sandnes both have cinemas, although the latter is newer and more comfortable. Thankfully for us foreigners, the movies are not dubbed in Norwegian. However, cartoons are dubbed so if you are watching them, be sure to ask for the showtimes of the original version.

Louise Rankin Communication Skills Consultancy

This company offers personal development and skills Courses, English Language training and Personal Coaching to help you pep up the quality of your work and your life. Also available are short sessions on general cultural adaptation issues, as well as detailed tailored sessions on specific cultures, which help raise your awareness of the facts and attitudes that lie behind the behaviours which may face you.

Learn Norwegian

Learning the language is an important part of integration into the local culture. However if you and your partner are only here for a short period, and your partner is not Norwegian, there really is no point in learning it as most Norwegians in Stavanger speak fluent English. If you do want to learn it, check out language schools here.

Go Back to School

Pick up a new language or go for other classes at Aftenskolen and/or Folkeuniversitet.

The University of Stavanger also runs some courses in English.

Spend Some Time in the Library

You can get a library card for free at the Stavanger Library. Enjoy books, DVDs, CDs and more!


Be sure to check out the calendar for events happening around town!


3. Regression, Isolation and Depression

For some, even being involved in the activities above might not be sufficient to relieve you of your disappointment with this new city. This might manifest as you being unhappy with everything and feeling that things will not be right until you’re on that plane, headed for home. Everything from home: the food, your friendships, your experiences are viewed to be far more superior than those in Stavanger. Therefore I feel that it is really important to maintain a good balance between getting involved in new activities and keeping in touch with your family and friends from home. Try to schedule a trip home at least once a year. (I find that going home during the dark winter months in Stavanger is very refreshing and helps with the boredom that sets in during this time. ) Be sure not to isolate yourself.

Make full use of the many technologies online to stay in touch with your loved ones from home:

Email: Get a free account from Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or any of the free email softwares out there on the web. You can send and receive messages almost instantaneously to as many people as you’d like.

Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. It is free to join. You can share your pictures and experiences and also see what your friends on the other side of the world are up to.

Skype: With Skype you can make free voice/video calls over the internet to other people on Skype for as long as you like, to wherever you like. You can also get competitive rates on calls to landlines and mobile phones home and abroad. The software is free to download.

Picasa is a software download from Google that helps you organize, edit, and share your photos. It’s free, and easy to use.

MSN allows you to chat online and send instant messages to your favorite people or groups. Download Windows Live Messenger (for free) for the ideal way to chat, play games and more!

Blog about your experiences in this new city. Putting your thoughts to paper (in this case, online) might help you get your frustrations out.


4. Adjustment and Adaptation

The heading says it all: the feelings of depression, anger and criticism gradually fade away as you embrace your new life, new friends and new experiences. Stavanger finally feels like home and you are happy here.

Tips to Speed Up This Process:

Maintain a positive attitude. Shops in Stavanger are closed on Sundays? At least the shops here do not have siesta time during the weekdays like they do in Spain.

Get to know the Norwegian culture. Observe what you like about it. Don’t focus on the negatives.

Have a sense of humor. Laugh about situations you find yourself in.

Get out and about – don’t just stay at home all the time.

Embrace change.

Be open to new activities, social customs and attitudes.

Try not to befriend only people from your home country. The tendency will be for all of you to keep harping on the good from home and the bad in Stavanger.

Be understanding. Do not expect Norwegians to go out of their way to include you. After all, the vast majority of us did not do that to foreigners when we were back in our home countries, right?

Never confuse your ability to speak Norwegian with your intelligence; it is easy to feel silly when you first start speaking it but there is no reason to. Norwegians are generally patient and appreciative when you try to speak their language. On that note, do not confuse someone’s intelligence with their English language skills.

Don’t hate the rain. Invest in a good pair of rainboots and a rainjacket and you’re good to go!

There will be days when you feel you fit in totally but there will also be days where you miss home so much you spend the day crying. And guess what? That’s perfectly OK! You might not go through the 4 stages in order, you might skip a stage or go back and forth between stages. That’s totally alright too!

With that, I wish you all the best and enjoy your stay in Stavanger. I hope this article helped some of you! Do share if you have any comments or tips that might benefit your fellow expats.


Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be. ” Eleanor Roosevelt
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