Thursday, 6 August 2015

Living in Kristiansand

What is it like to live in Kristiansand, or Norway for that matter, as an ex-pat? Well I am from Australia and have been here 10 years, so here is some info from my experience.

Skreli in Lyngdal.
It may depend on which country you come from, but your initial reaction when arriving here will be WOW. The scenery is jaw dropping. I could not tell you how often I stop the car to take a picture somewhere. I once referred to Norway as "nature on steroids". Perhaps not an appropriate slogan for someone that works in the tourism industry but that is how overwhelming it can be here.

Stopped the car to take this picture of a boat going through the morning mist in Farsund
The greenest grass you have ever seen - the cleanest water, the freshest air, amazing wildlife at your door step and the sense of living in a small town community - which it kind of is - with a population of about 5 million people. I love it when people smile, wave or say hello because it feels like home - feels friendly - feels safe.

Green grass and lots of flags. Norway Independence day Kristiansand.
Admittedly I live in Kristiansand which only has a population of 87,000 but where ever you go it feels like that. I remember my first visit to Norway back in 2002. I had been with my Norwegian girlfriend (now wife with 3 kids, 2 guinea pigs, one dog, one cat) for about 6 months and she wanted to take me to her home town for her nephew's confirmation.

The bus ride from Torp airport to Kristiansand was an experience in itself. He was getting confirmed in May which is a very proud month for Norwegians and so there were Norwegian flags on 99.9% of the houses. I had not seen something like that before - well maybe in the United States.

And then there were the white houses and red barns, green fields and tractors everywhere.

Dont like: 

Brown cheese (goat cheese). Never liked it, but then again I am very fussy with cheese. 
Kumper: Round balls with meat inside them. Tried it for the first time at the hospital when we had our first child. Never touched them since.
Mackerel in tomato sauce: Yep that makes no sense.
Snus: it is not a food but tobacco and the locals put it into their mouth under their top lip which looks rediculous.

Do Like:

Love fresh salmon caught in the rivers here. I was never a big salmon fan before moving here - but am definitely "hooked".
Pirate burgers at fiskebrygga in Kristiansand.
Hamburger at Cafe Generalen in Kristiansand - a great burger.
Mackerel caught out past Kristiansand - you put a fishing line into the water with 5 hooks and get 5 fish afterwards. Easy dinner.
Moose meat - fresh after a hunt.
Bamsemums - chocolate bears.
Freia chocolate - I can safely say that it is the best chocolate i have ever had. When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I ate a packet of that EVERY DAY. (sympathy eating).

The Roads
Bad - well they are getting better. A road trip from Kristiansand to Oslo does have a freeway but it does not extend all the way to Oslo yet, so you will find yourself driving through small towns with speed limits of 50kmh at some points. 

I used to get frustrated with that road trip that I did often but now I appreciate it. I like to drive slowly through small towns so I can see what the locals there get up to. Sometimes we all need to slow down a little to take in our surroundings and appreciate them.

They also drive on the wrong side of the road! Being an Aussie (and a Brit) we drive on the left and these crazy Norwegians drive on the right. I still don't get it. 

Norwegian women
Well I married the prettiest one, but yes they are (as all Scandinavians are) beautiful. Let me say - also adventurous. They absolutely love the outdoors and sports. Just because Norway does have a cold winter and lots of rain before that, it does not stop these ladies. They are out jogging, walking, doing sports and keeping fit - I guess it is their Viking background.

So, if you would like to meet one, get fit and buy yourself some outdoor clothing - cause you are gunna need it.

A good reason to move to Norway.
Electronics, clothing are very competitively priced. Gone are the days of flying to others cities in Europe to buy cheap clothes or electrical goods. They are all pretty much the same. That being said, my wife does like to get her Guess jeans from the US. (Luckily her parents go there regularly)

Shopping in Kristiansand.
Norwegians love to party. In fact one of Europe's largest beach parties is in Kristiansand. It is called Palmesus and takes place in July each year. It is always sold out and thousands attend it. There are bars in all the towns and restaurants.

One thing that took a little getting used to is the fact that Norwegians like to have a "forspill" (pre party) before going out. This is usually drinks and or dinner with friends before heading to town. Do not be surprised if the bars appear empty at 9pm at night on a Saturday. By midnight, they will be full.

It can be difficult to get a job in Norway if you do not speak the language - the same was true for me. My background is IT which there is not a massive market for so I became a carpenter and worked at the local airport. I also ran my own IT business during this which eventually lead to a job with Visit Sørlandet (tourist organisation for Southern Norway)

My advice is not to give up if you struggle in the beggining - we all did/do.

Where I live
I live just outside Kristiansand in a very quiet place with a lot of farms in the area. (It is fair to say that almost all Norwegians live near a farm!) The tall grass and strawberry fields are fantastic - but not so nice when the farmers use manure to prepare for the season :)
There is also a skisenter at the end of our street - that is cool!

You will find fields like this all over Norway in the summer.
Making Norwegian friends
Norwegians are a little reserved. They seldom start a conversation with a stranger but they are very polite and will smile if you look at them. If you do not speak Norwegian, that can add to the difficulty but they all speak English - especially after a wine. I was very lucky when I moved here because my wife's cousin has a big network of friends and I got to know all of them.

Planning on moving to Norway?
Learn some Norwegian before you get here. When I started Norwegian language school, there was a girl from Vietnam that had read a Norwegian language book and she knew all the basics which actually helped her get a job straight away.

Planning on visiting Norway?
Check out the official tourism website for Southern Norway - great info and tips there.

My top 7 places I have visited in Norway

What you say? Where and what is that? Well it is actually a river in Kristiansand that leads to a fjord, the city of Kristiansand and the sea. I love it because I am fortunate to have a boat in it. A river cruise into the city during the summer, taking the kids wake boarding or just taking a swim in the fresh water is what I always look forward to doing.

River surfing Kristiansand.
Preikestolen (The preachers chair) is a cliff that is over 600 metres high and the hike is fantastic. The views on a nice day are breathtaking. It takes about 3 hours to drive there from Kristiansand. You need a good camera with you should you visit.

A picture of Preikestolen from a visit there back in 2003.
Lista in Farsund
I am (well was) a surfer, so the waves in Lista remind me of home. I could sit and watch waves breaking all day everyday and never get tired of it. The cool thing about Lista is that there is a lot of things to do there - a skatepark, a lighthouse and old fort and bunkers and tunnels. I am a bit of a war buff, so love the history there.

Windsurfing at Lista.
Rail biking in Flekkefjord
It is cheap, great exercise and site seeing all mixed into one. Visitors can hire a bike that goes on an old unused railway line through 19 tunnels, alongside fjords and cliffs in Flekkefjord.

The Rail bike adventure Flekkefjord.
Epledalen in Lyngdal
Epledalen is THE perfect place for camping with the family. Beautiful, quiet - has a forest a beach and accommodation if you do not want to take the tent.

Kids playing at Epledalen in Lyngdal.
Hiking in Kvinesdal
Kvinesdal is one place where the "Norway is nature on steroids" phrase is appropriate. Once you drive towards the town, the awesome mountains and valley with a fjord is picture perfect. A photographers dream. Not far from there is another great place for war history buffs - Knaben. It is an old mining town once used by the Germans when they occupied Norway during World War 2.
View from Utsikten Hotel in Kvinesdal. Photo: Jan KRafoss.
Coastline in Risør and Lygnør
Risør and the surrounding areas have an abundance of old wooden boats, white wooden houses and a charm that is unique. I have taken a boat trip around there and experienced it as a local. Very cool.

Kids playing at a little beach in Lygnør.
Well, I hope you found the information useful and if you do visit or move here, you will not be disappointed.
Adam Read @ Visit Sørlandet


  1. Love the reference to Lista. My grandmother was born there & immigrated to America in 1912.

    1. Lista is a lovely place. I go there often.

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