Over 80% of Norwegians consider Norway to be a near-perfect land to live in according to a survey discussed on NRK radio the other day. I imagine the small percentage that doesn’t see the relative Utopianism of the UN’s best country to live in, in the world, has never lived abroad. They’ve definitely never lived in Ireland, that’s for sure.
Every time I speak to my parents they recount tales of doom and gloom, and not just on the subject of the weather and the latest of their acquaintance they took to the church (my Dad’s euphemism for going to a funeral). No, the recession is biting hard over there, with unemployment soaring, public services failing and a property boom turned most emphatically bust. While there at Christmas I couldn’t believe the number of people I met casually who spoke of family and friends forced to work three-day weeks, something in Norway that is associated with quality of life and balancing work and family, not being forced to take pay cuts.
Novelist Anne Enright has written very eloquently on the topic of Ireland’s recession in an article entitled ‘Sinking by Inches’ in the London Review of Books here.
Coincidently after coming across Ms Enright’s piece yesterday, I received an email from a young Irish engineering graduate who has just arrived in Oslo with two friends in search of a better life*. ‘Our journey was motivated by a sense of hopelessness with the Irish economy, and a desire to check out the grass on the other side,’ he said, citing Norway’s low unemployment rate as one of the attractions here. I left Ireland 16 years ago with similar motivations and qualifications. There was no hint then to people like me that the Celtic Tiger was gestating for its short but dramatic life.
If this young man stays for the next year or so, I believe he won’t want to ever leave Norway. In my heart of hearts I now don’t want to either. But yet we are, as a family, committed to exploring other parts of the world and feel that there are other challenges ahead. We’d especially like the chance to live again in South East Asia where two of our children were born and where we would all benefit from exposure to very foreign cultures whilst enjoying a sense of adventure together.
My husband’s job finishes here in the summer and we expected that over the next few months he would get to consider his options in terms of location and job. What we didn’t expect was the phone call that came last Monday evening. His employer wants him to take up a position in …Ireland. Not only Ireland, but a very remote part of the west of Ireland; you could hardly move me further within the western world from a branch of H&M. And so on I joked as I coped with the shock.
We don’t want to go, for many reasons, some complex, some simple, both personal and professional. No matter where we move, leaving our near-perfect lives in Norway will be a wrench, but I have tried to console myself that in leaving we will resist the urge to 'play it safe' and open ourselves up to new possibilities and life-affirming experiences. What I didn’t bank on was going home. Will keep you posted.
*If by any chance someone reading is looking to employ an english-speaking Mechanical Engineering graduate, particularly if you have any connection with the bioengineering/biotech industries, I know a young man who'd love if you'd read his CV.