30 Mar 2010

Oslo, Kristiania or Christiania – which one is capital of Norway?

To begin with, the city was founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway. The medieval town was located below the Ekeberg hills and the most likely interpretations of the name Oslo would be either ‘the meadow beneath the ridge’ or ‘the meadow of the gods’. Håkon V was the first king to reside in the city permanently between 1299 and 1319 and he started the construction of the Akerhus Fortress. Then the population of Oslo was about 3000 inhabitants. One, ca easily be confused by capital’s different names through the years. Oslo was shattered several times by fires and after a dramatic fire in 1624, the Danish King Christian IV (because of Danish-Norway Union) decided to rebuild town and named it Christiania. But the town got growth after 1814. In this year as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark had to cede the territory of Norway to the Swedish King Karl Johan. In this year Norway got its own constitution on 17 May and Christiania got its official status as the capital of Norway. King Karl Johan initiated the building of the Royal Palace and the Parliament building as well as the University, National Theatre and the Stock Exchange. The industrial era started along the river Akerselva around 1850. Christiana overtook Bergen and became the most popular city and in 1878 it was renamed Kristiana. In the years between 1850 and 1900 the population of Kristiania increased from about 30 000 to 230 000 mainly due to an influx of workers from rural areas. At the beginning of XXth century the rural municipality was merged and city enlarged. Oslo, the original name, was re-established in 1925 and the population from this time was doubled up to 590 000 in 2010.

Nowadays, Oslo as a capital of Norway is its cultural, scientific, economic and governmental centre as well as is a hub of Norwegian trade, banking, industry and shipping. The Oslo metropolitan area’s share of national GDP is 25%. What is not good for exchange students is the fact that in 2009 Oslo gained its status as the world’s most expensive city (sic!). Thus it has one of the highest regional GDP’s in Europe. Oslo contains an important maritime port with nearly 980 companies and 8500 workforces. Furthermore, some of the largest shipping companies, shipbrokers and insurance brokers are based in the city of Oslo. In employment sector, the service industry is dominant in Oslo accounting for more than 59% of jobs. Other employment areas include hotels and catering, trade, banking and insurance. The historical city has gone through big character changes as a result of fires and redevelopment. Most of the original town is lost in spite of some buildings built by Karl Johan and the more than 700-year-old Akerhus Fortress remains an important cultural monument. Here the memories of World War II also come out strongly. Many Norwegian patriot were executed here and after the war Vidkun Quisling – infamous traitor – was executed by firing squad. The term ‘quisling’ has become a synonym in many European languages for traitor. After war the period of construction of modernist concrete and glass low-rises was started. Now these buildings are regarded as embarrassing eyesores.

The variety in Oslo's architectural cityscape does however provide for some striking and often hauntingly beautiful sights. While most of the forests and lakes surrounding Oslo are in private hands, there is great public support for not developing those areas. Parts of Oslo suffer from congestion, yet it is one of the few European capitals where people live with the wilderness literally in their back yard, or with access to a suburban train line that allows the city's many hikers and cross-country skiers to simply step off the train and start walking or skiing. Vigelandsparken is one of Norway's most visited attractions with more than 1 million visitors every year. The unique sculpture park is the life work of the sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron. Vigeland was also responsible for the design and architectural outline of the park. A monumental artistic creation with a human message that is well worth seeing. Oslo has a large number of parks and green areas within the city core, as well as outside it. This is the biggest and most reputed park in Norway. Bygdøy is a huge and green area, famous also as "Museum Peninsula" of Oslo. The beautiful location, surrounded by the sea, makes it the most expensive Norwegian district next to Aker Brygge – a long commercial centre along the seaside. Oslo has a modern Oprahouse - Norway's biggest culture and stage institution. Oslo's new Opera House opened on 12 April 2008 and is now the home of the Norwegian Opera and Ballet. The spectacular building has a fabulous location by the seaside and was designed by renowned Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. I watched a German play – ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ and I realized that it was the last time went to see a random play. It was so boooring that I have almost fallen asleep! Especially when they sang in German and all my attention was focused on reading the English subtitles.

A glimpse of Oslo’s attractions you can watch in the short movie below. My favourite places are BI Campus, Domus Athletica Swimming pool, Aker Brygge and Karl Johan Gate where I’m spending the most of my time. Many of my friends as well as my lovely fiance expoited the opportunity and visited me in Oslo, for all of them thank you very much! We spent a gorgeous time together here.

21 Mar 2010

How to obtain Norwegian citizenship?

There are two main ways to obtain Norwegian citizenship:

(1) Descent from a Norwegian parent. A child (born in Norway or elsewhere) acquires Norwegian citizenship at birth if the father or the mother is a Norwegian citizen and it isn’t necessary the father to be married to the mother. Furthermore, a child under 18 adopted by Norwegian citizens acquires Norwegian citizenship automatically.

(2) Naturalisation as a Norwegian citizen. In principle, it is possible to naturalise as a Norwegian citizen after residing in Norway 7 years over the last 10 years. There are several additional rules to the naturalisation:
- it is necessary to not have a criminal record.
- citizen of the other Nordic Council countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden) may naturalise after a two-year residence.
- a person married to a Norwegian citizen may naturalise after 3 years residence during the last 10 years, provided that the total period of time resident in Norway plus the total period of marriage equals at least 7 years. The time of residence and marriage may be earned at the same time e.g. foreigners married to Norwegian citizens can therefore obtain citizenship after 4 years if they have been residing in Norway for at least 3 years. What is more, this rule also applies to non-married cohabiting partners and homosexuals in civil unions.
- an applicant for Norwegian citizenship must also give evidence of proficiency in either the Norwegian or Sami language or give proof of having attended classes in Norwegian for 300 hours, or being proficient in one of the Scandinavian languages.
- persons becoming naturalised Norwegian citizens are after acquisition of citizenship generally expected to prove they have lost or renounced any foreign citizenship they have.

14 Mar 2010

Why do people move to Norway?

The reasons for people relocating over country borders are many and complex. It could be due to necessity as a result of escaping war, persecution and disasters. It can also be because there is a desire to find work or get an education. A large number of relocations are family related. Many seek to reunite with family members that have already left to find work or take up education, or who have fled. There are also those who marry abroad and seek to immigrate. There are 459 000 immigrants (approx. 9.4 per cent) and 93 000 (approx. 2 per cent) Norwegian-born persons with immigrant parents living in Norway. Together these two groups represent 11.4 per cent of Norway’s population. Immigrants and Norwegian-born persons with immigrant parents are represented in all Norwegian municipalities. Oslo has the largest proportion with 27 per cent, or 160 500 people. Almost half of all the immigrants come from Asia, Africa or Latin-America. 2 in 10 immigrants have lived in Norway for more than 20 years, and 4 in 10 have lived here for 4 years or less.The history of immigration to Norway started after oil resources discovery in 1969 and may be divided for following phases:
(1) Initially in the 1960s was only about 50 000 immigrants – mostly people from European and other Nordic countries.
(2) First wave of labour migrants arrived from Pakistan and they were significant that they caused the introduction of the so-called “immigration freeze” in 1975.
(3) Thereafter, family immigration increased considerably. Since 1970s, family immigration has been mostly Thai, Philippine and Russian women that migrate to Norway to marry Norwegian men.
(4) In the mid 1970s, refugees were accepted from developing countries, such as Vietnam and Chile initially.
(5) In the mid 1980s, there was an increase in the number of asylum-seekers from countries such as Iran and Sri Lanka.
(6) Due to favourable lending and scholarship schemes, there has been a degree of immigration for education purposes since 1980, including countries in Asia and Africa.
(7) In the 1990s, war refugees from the Balkans were the predominant immigrant group accepted in Norway – a large number of which have already returned to Kosovo.
(8) Since the end of the 1990s, asylum seekers from countries such as Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan arrived.
(9) Nowadays the main immigration wave is due to labour reasons and mainly comes from new EU members such Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Baltic countries. The structure of immigrants in Norway nowadays looks like this:Unfortunately, this statistics doesn’t mention about immigrants, who live illegally in Norway. These numbers would be much more bigger than presented above.
In April 2008, the Government presented a new report to the Storting on Labour Migration (Report no. 18 to the Storting (2007 – 2008) (AID 2007, Labour Migration). The basis of the report is that in light of the demographic development, Norway among others has a need for immigration in order to cover future labour needs. It provides a thorough review of this need and takes its basis in the fact that it can mainly be covered in Norway. Mobilisation of unused domestic capacity is central together with continued immigration from the EEA area, but some immigration from countries outside the EU/EEA area may be necessary. The criticism aimed at Norway is that the increase in the number of unskilled workers to the country since 1990 is small, and that the share of foreign students from developing countries is small. Norway is commended for giving students good economic conditions and for covering large amounts of refugees’ expenses. But I believe that unskilled workers in any country is therefore not a positive thing, neither for society nor for immigrants. In my opinion it is vital to prevent increased migration leading to social dumping and the development of a new and ethnic-based lower class in Norway. Really, with a huge respect to all nations I realized that in Oslo there are too many poor migrants without any job or occupation and that is bad situation. They just live, perhaps in families houses, they don’t know Norwegian and have problems to communicate in English and they hope for a better life here. Or I’m wrong, because I realized this only from my observations. But I reckon that the immigration of unskilled labour must therefore be regulated according to the situation in the labour market. Unfortunately, there are too many generous incentives for staying unemployed offered by the Norwegian welfare state and therefore it even increases poverty in this country instead. On the other hand the poverty in countries, where immigrants come from decreases due to this policy, which is one positive aspect.

7 Mar 2010

More strange and weird things about Norway

Since January, when I posted about a bunch of strange and weird things about Norway, I’ve discovered more stuff like this:

(1) To begin with, social life. It is very common and socially approved that families are breaking apart, people divorce and remarry. Many live together while not married, they are called samboere (i.e. concubines). Samboere is legally equivalent to marriage. It is next prove for individualistic society: only you cont, not the group (family, friends).

(2) Studies. Much different from my school and I will develop this topic in the following posts. Good thing is, that teachers generally treat me as if I were on the same ‘level’ with them. Norwegian students seldom have and even show an awful lot of respect for their teachers. Every time when the course is finished the teacher receives a ovation. That is beautiful thing which is lacking in my country.

(3) Attitude towards foreigners. I mentioned that they are polite. It was just a first delusion. Never expect them to talk to you first, expect a lot of prejudice and ignorance about you, your country and your culture instead. That sad truth, but I have to write about it, because I experienced and witnessed many cases of Norwegian’s ignorance towards foreigners. They are ok with you when you speak Norwegian, even English is sometimes not enough. English revealed that you are temporarily in Norway and they feel like you are stealing their education or workplace. They are some exceptions towards low-qualified workers, which are necessary in this country and share respect. Generally, Norwegians are rather closed society and don’t want to anybody to intervene in their culture. They are several levels of closeness in a friendship. It might take a while before you get deep friendship with Norwegian. I recommend to be sensitive as to how much time both of you want to spend together. Remember, Norwegian men very rarely shake hands, unless they are gays. Interesting situation I experienced is when Norwegian woman looks straight in my eyes and talks to me without wanting anything else than a chat. That’s nice and unexpected. In Norway a woman can do everything that a man can do, going out alone, talking to strangers, having male friends in addition to her husband. Some woman will be insulted if you open the door for them, check it out!

(4) Politeness and manners. First of all, remember about directness, the polite form De (i.e. You) isn’t polite anymore. The prime minister is referred to as ‘Jens’. Say ‘yes’ if you want to come and ‘no, I’m sorry, I’ve got other plans’ if you don’t. Never say ‘yes’ and then not show up. Anyway, you are not required to refuse the first time to be polite. Most things in Norway similarly as in Germany begin exactly at the time given. Don’t be more than ten minutes late to a party. If you are late on classes, you will kiss a handle of the door (the Polish proverb!). What a irony when the bus and metro drivers are always late in this country, for f…’s sake!

(5) Sports. Norwegians have a craving for, which I like very much! When you are in Norway try to experience skiing, ice skating, cycling, running to Bergen or just throwing snowball. If it is so cold you have to move a lot, I’m not talking about your fingers and toes, I’m talking about whole body. I use swimming pool and gym very often and I appreciate this time. When I decided to rent skis for cross-country, it was too late and there were no more skis to rent. That’s a pity!

(6) Dress code. Imagine jeans and t-shirts in work. In Norway is possible, except jobs which require uniforms or suits. On the other hand, you should be more formal at parties. That’s ridiculous, totally different than in my country. Once, I felt really bad when I went to a party with jeans and my favourite polo t-shirt.

(7) Savoir vivre. Sometimes I really believe that Norwegians have a barbarian Vikings as their ancestors. For example famuous Norwegian Reach, which means just grab what you want on the table. They often serve alcohol in a Norwegian home – and definitely at a party – but it is okay to refuse. Alcohol is very expensive here, so they don’t be angry in case of refusal. Never expect that Norwegian buy you a beer in the pub, it’s expensive even to him. Otherwise you can expect that someone will steal you a beer if you don’t protect it.

(8) Norwegian sarcasm. Norwegians often say the exact opposite of what they mean, you have to listen to the intonation to get true meaning. That’s annoying, I would never know how it is, because usually I’m sarcastic.

(9) Special social skills. It’s good to say ‘ja’ while inhaling air instead of simple ‘yes’. I was forced to learn saying ‘mhm’ at the right places.

Finally, I must say that both me and my country have already changed with respect to my exchange programme.

1 Mar 2010

Copenhagen – capital of Norway?

Currently not, but between 1536 and 1814, during Norwegian tributary to Denmark, it was a capital of Norway as well. In this period all the kingdom’s royal, intellectual and administrative power was centered in Copenhagen. Both, Kalmar Union and Denmark-Norway Union were called by Norwegian national romanticism’s officials “400-Year Night”.

By the way, Copenhagen is one of Europe’s oldest capitals with a royal touch – the monarchy in Denmark is the oldest in the world. I totally agree with quote from ‘Hamlet’ that ‘there’s something modern in the state of Denmark’, because somehow it encapsulates the spirit of the youthful dynamism present in this city. First impression, after arrived to Copenhagen’s harbor, was like cycling & jogging. Copenhagians really love to move even though it is Ferbruary and temperature is below 0 degrees of Celsius, they all year long have a passion for jogging and cycling even with children. Copenhagen is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Every day nearly 37% of all citizens (who are 1,2 million in urban area of Copenhagen) commute to work, school, shopping or just commute by bicycle and this causes bicycle rush hours and traffic jams!The government was forced to develop well bicycle lanes and paths system in and around the city. What is more, bicycle paths are mostly separated from the main traffic and have their own signal systems. For those who don’t have own bike the city provide public bicycles which can be found throughout the downtown area and used with a returnable deposit of 20 kroner. Now, I know why urbanists use term ‘copenhagenize’ to describe the practice of adopting Copenhagen-style lanes and bicycle infrastructure.

Copenhagen is sometimes called ‘City of Spires’, because vainly is looking for skyscrapers and high business buildings there. ‘City of Spires' is known for its horizontal skyline, only broken by spires at churches and castles e.g The Marble Church or Rosenborg Castle. Recent years have seen a tremendous boom in modern architecture in Copenhagen. Indeed, a political majority has decided to keep the historical centre free of high-rises, but several areas will see or have already seen massive urban development of modern buildings e.g. Royal Danish Playhouse, Black Diamond, Scandinavian malls and hotels. An ambitious regeneration project will create a new Carlsberg District, at the historical premises of the Carslberg Breweries that has moved the production of beer to Frederica, leaving a worth-to-see Carlsberg museum.

Another a must-see in Copenhagen is Little Mermaid (Den lille havfrue). This sculpture was commissioned in 1909 by the Carlsberg brewer Carl Jacobsen, impressed by a ballet ‘The little Mermaid’ based on a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen. From Little Mermaid is better to go ahead to Gefion Fountain and then go through channel coast just cross the Royal Danish Playhouse and Black Diamond, by the way see Royal Castle Amalienborg and Operahouse up to Nyhavn. These are truly exciting, cool and very enjoyable places to visit. In Nyhavn, it is worth to stay for a moment and taste Danish specialties like smørrebrød (open sandwiches) or pølser (boiled sausage) all perfect to match a cold beer Carlsberg. Smørrebrød tradition goes back to the birth of industrialism in Denmark. When people started to work outside their farms they brought leftovers to have for lunch at work and so it is: a piece of buttered rye dark brown bread and homemade cold cuts, pieces of meat, fish, cheese or spreads as an on-lay. Pølser is usually made of 60-75% very finely ground pork, very sparsely spiced with pepper, nutmeg or sweet spices. The most noticeable aspect is that its skin often contains a traditional red dye making it goudy red. Pølser is always served with mustard or ketchup or both and a roll, without cutlery!

To sum up, Copenhagen is the economical and financial centre not only of Denmark but also for Scandinavian-Baltic region. This city is rich in companies and institutions with a focus on R&D within biotechnology and life sciences sectors as well as IT and shipping industry. Since 1995 the Zealand region in Denmark with Skåne region in Sweden have been branded as the Medicon Valley in a Danish-Swedish cooperation.