Weekend in Oslo: a quick reconnaissance before starting field research in the summer 2016

Nobody in her right mind travels to Norway in the dead of winter. However, in order to prepare for field research in the summer, I decided to make a short reconnaissance trip to Oslo to make a few personal contacts and learn how to orientate myself in the city. I stayed with a Polish family of a friend I knew for years.

I flew to Torp Sandefjord Airport, located some 150 kilometers from Oslo. Flying to Torp from Poznań in Western Poland is dirt-cheap. Torp is a small airport, one of those hangar-airports with a few small shops and offices, located in the middle of nowhere. The plane was half empty and the small group of passengers quickly disappeared: some were welcomed by families and whisked off home in private cars, some moved towards minivans with labels Polski Bus, and only a few passengers wandered around asking for transport.

I took the shuttle bus. The bus schedule is coordinated with a train schedule. However, one has to jump off the bus and board the train within a minute. Luckily, there were very few passengers that were making the connection and we all got on board seamlessly to begin a two-hour journey to Oslo. It was Saturday afternoon and the number of passengers increased at very station; by the time we reached Olso Central Station many people were standing. Passengers were quiet, some worked-played on their mobiles, some listened to music on headphones, a few were smartly dressed.

The ticket costs 266 Norwegian Krone (28 Euro) for adults and is free for children. This was actually more than my plane ticket. The ticket collector came through to check our tickets at every station. She was polite, everybody around had a ticket. I bought my ticket on internet as it was suggested by my hosts.

On Sunday there were crowds of Norwegians near the central station returning from a skiing sport event, wearing skiing outfits or national colors and emblems. They were quite loud but differently than football fans in Poznań, who often sing very loud and shout when passing the streets after the football game. In Oslo fans were smiling and talking loud but made much less noise.

Even though there are some 40,000 Poles registered in Oslo, I didn’t hear much Polish spoken in the streets where I walked on Sunday and Monday. I spotted only one couple speaking Polish near the opera. There were young, dressed like most people, did not stand out from the others. I did not see any signs of Polish inhabitants on the streets.

The tourist information in the old train station offers free city maps. Do Poles come there? Previous research shows that Poles are usually joining their friends or family, relying on migration networks. My Polish friends living in Oslo know the tourist information thought they don’t need it. They buy tickets for cultural events and search for information on internet.

The old trains station has been turned into elegant restaurant hall. When eating in one of the places we are waited on by two waitresses. One, with a nametag Anette, starts to speak Polish to us when she hears that we are conversing in Polish. But why isn’t her name Aneta? Polish parents abroad often give foreign names but she probably came as adult to Norway. Is Anette easier to pronounce for Norwegians? What one needs to do to get and keep a job in gastronomy in Oslo? How difficult is it? Are restaurants, pubs and cafes one of the employment sectors popular among female Poles, as I observed in London?

A woman working in a nearby cafe looks very Polish to me, is she Polish? A Norwegian colleague mentioned that new migrants, among them Poles are more invisible because they look so similar. Does it mean they don’t want to stand out? Prefer to be “invisible”?

The Polish host family offered to help me with contacting other Poles before and during my next research visit to Oslo. They mentioned no interest in Polish Catholic community or Polish weekend school yet they know many Poles on various grounds.

The plane back to Poznań was completely booked; it was ten days before Easter. A majority of my fellow-travelers were men in their 30s and 40s. There were also a few women, some with children. A woman and two girls about 6 and 8 year old speak Polish and Norwegian interchangeably. Is it typical? What do Poles in Norway do to teach their children Polish? The family I visited spoke Polish at home incorporating some words, for example names of sandwich spreads in Norwegian. Both parents are Polish and children are preschool age. How is it in mixed families or with older children?

Lots of questions to explore during next research stays in Norway.

Izabella Main


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