Every year people uproot themselves to move abroad. Some may relocate due to a job offer, others in search of a better lifestyle. However, leaving your country, family and colleagues can be tough, and require you to put in an extra effort when it comes to organizing your life, practically and socially. Meet Norwegians abroad, expats who share their experiences from their life and work worldwide.
Sverre Nodland from Stavanger works as Senior Consultant at Lloyd’s Register Consulting in Perth, Australia
Living in a new country opens your eyes and your mind. After the initial culture shock, things gradually settle towards normality. Ironically you feel a similar shock when going to your hometown to visit friends and family. You have slowly acclimated to your new lifestyle; behaving and acting as a local, and this may differ significantly from the life you shared with family and friends back home.
I am working as a consultant within the oil and gas industry. Choosing this career has allowed me to work in different places based on where opportunities present themselves. Stavanger is my hometown, where I also graduated. My first two working years were spent in Oslo. Thereafter, I lived three years in Houston, Texas, and now I have started on my third year in Perth, Western Australia.
The oil and gas industry in general goes through phases; there might come an industry boom, and other times there may be decay in the market, as currently seen in Norway. A major topic “down under” right now is the use of FLNG (floating liquefied natural gas) vessel. This is used to cooling the gas to approximately -162 °C to be able to transport more gas in a liquid form. This concept is favourable due to the fact that the gas fields outside Australia are located in remote locations and deep water; hence it is not possible either from a technology or an economical point of view to ship the gas through subsea pipeline onshore. However, as Australia is a high cost country (even Norway is sometimes considered cheaper), many of the big projects are sent abroad; typically to Asian countries such as Korea, Singapore and China, but also Houston, UK and Norway. This makes it challenging for the business in Perth as there are lots of competition for the available jobs.
Networking the Australian Way
Norwegian competence and technology developed since the start of Ekofisk in the late 60s, is now considered world leading. Therefore, the objective is to assist clients not yet familiar to such knowledge, in order to enhance safety for personnel or asset as well as being more cost friendly than current practice, is one of the major tasks for Norwegian companies trying to market themselves abroad.
However, being an “alien” makes it challenging to convince the client to engage with your services or products, as the trust relationship to the client has not yet been established. Network by who you know and trust may be more important than how technically skilled you or your company is.
Therefore, most of my job consists of talking to potential clients and let them get to know me; both on a professional and personal level. This networking is mostly done over coffee meetings along St. George’s Terrace which is the main street in Perth central business district. This is where most of the oil and gas companies are located. Here you will see people with their note pads drafting upcoming projects while enjoying the variety of coffees they have here; long black, flat white and my favourite long mac topped up. We also work closely with the Embassy and Consulate as well as other Norwegian companies which creates networking opportunities with the local players. Several of these functions are set up after business hours. Therefore, to make your business successful in this town it requires long days, hard work and a little bit of luck. This can of course interfere with family time; therefore it is important that this subject is well talked through and understood for all family members prior to moving.
Even though I feel blessed to travel the world, this lifestyle has its price. Things you take for granted at home needs to be established from scratch. Opening up a bank account, settling down in an apartment, locating the nearest grocery store, finding a doctor and dentist and getting a valid driving licence needs to be done. However, those are all easy tasks. The one thing that is really challenging is to find friends. People you can trust and talk to when you miss the ones close to you the most. As engaging in small talk is not really within Norwegian culture, as embarrassing as I felt, I had to step out of my comfort zone in order to introduce myself to new people and find friends. After having done such for close to six years now, approaching new people is now part of my nature; and this is probably one of the qualifications you as a person learn faster by moving abroad than being home.
Being based in a different part of the world gives you the unique possibility to travel to places for weekends and vacations. When I lived in the States, is was easy to go for a weekend to New York City, or Las Vegas, take a trip to Miami’s great beaches or go snowboarding in Colorado. However, Perth is the biggest isolated city in the world; where the closest big cities such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Sidney, and Brisbane are all around five hours flying time away. I still couldn’t get over the shock when I just completed a 26 hours flight from Perth to Stavanger and I had to fly to Bergen a couple of days later. Therefore, most of the weekends are being spent “around” Perth, where a top destination to visit is the beautiful wine district Margaret River, located 3 hours south. Here you can enjoy wine tours, visit beautiful white beaches with clear blue water, and most likely you’ll even see wild Kangaroos on the beach or at the wineries.